Posts categorized "Leadership" Feed

Crossposted at EdSurge: Think Before You Buy Edtech

This post originally appeared in EdSurge.

News alert! Here's some breaking edtech news:

  1. There is no magic piece of technology or other silver bullet that will transform education;

  2. There is no laundry list of technologies that you should have in your school if you are trying to create new learning environments;

  3. Buying technology first and planning later will likely ensure a struggle--if not a flop.

A principal recently approach me about what should be on her school’s "edtech wish list."  Her teachers were already using interactive whiteboards and document cameras and eager to expand their work. A new building was under construction. The school’s architectural team was pushing the principal to make decisions about tech implementation, even though the building would not finished for almost a year.

What do to? It as bad as trying to pick out a living room rug for a house still under construction.  Worse actually. There was no technology plan in place. No one had talked about how to tie technology to the school's missions and goals. The principal was running out of time. A "wish list" of techie toys would amount to little more than bolting some gadgets and software onto the learning process and hoping for the best. My prediction: a whole lot of unhappy teachers and students.

Sadly that principal is no exception. More recently, an educator in another country reached out to me via Twitter. He wanted to know how to use educational technology in his country’s schools--in bursts of 140 characters, no less!

“How can teachers in my country use Apple technology to teach in classrooms in comparison a Promethean Interactive Boards and Classflow?” he tweeted.

Talk about a (seriously) apples to oranges comparison. Even via email, I couldn’t begin to answer his question. I wanted to take him back a few steps: Where was the planning process--the focus on teaching and learning? Only then can we legitimately ask how the technology can support learning goals.  

These well-intentioned questions also demonstrate to me that as education professionals, we have a long way to go in providing resources to schools that are just beginning to think about edtech. Schools and teachers throughout the US are all over the place when it comes to being prepared to teach today’s students, much less students of the future.

First things first: our schools need to implement a systematic process to modernize teaching and learning in their schools.

My advice? Start with what you want to achieve with the learning process and let everything else follow from there.

Yes, this process takes time. Ideally it should happen as organically as possible, giving all community stakeholders a chance to buy in.

Take a look at the steps outlined last year in the Consortium on School Networking’s Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative and the Guide for Administrators. Here's more on mobile learning programs: This framework could be applied to any edtech initiative in your district.

Mike Muir of the Auburn School District in Maine recently keynoted the annual Illinois Computing Educators Conference, and shared some of his resources that can help in planning and implementing education initiatives.

Among them: this post on creating a shared vision, a foundational element to the implementation of educational technology. He also made a great case for teacher empowerment and including various stakeholders. (If this interests you, make sure to check out his work with the Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning and on Distributed PD as well.)

I can’t stuff recommendations for schools looking to innovate into a tweet, email or even shortlist. But, here are the steps that need to happen for a school to become a place of innovation. And yes, all the steps really matter!

  1. Find a way to truly listen to all stakeholders in your district. Run focus groups, hold meet and greets, conduct surveys in order to gauge the needs and concerns of teachers, students, administrators, parents and community members.

  2. Based on this data, invite a select group of stakeholders to serve on a committee tasked with conducting a deep dive into educational innovation.

  3. This group should analyze data collected in step 1, participate in group readings of relevant books and articles, and go on site visits to see the programs of exemplary schools that match your school’s culture.

  4. Once this innovation committee has had time to digest the aforementioned information, then the process for designing a thorough plan can begin. Starting with the creation a mission statement that reflects your district’s goals for teaching and learning and create a related vision statement specific to ed tech.

  5. With a working understanding of educational innovation, mission statement, and goals in place, proceed to develop a timeline for implementation over the course of three to five years. Review this plan continually and iterate on this plan as needed. The plans should change and improve based on your school’s experiences.

  6. Determine mechanisms for evaluating your teaching and learning plan, both qualitative and quantitative. Don’t wait for outside researchers to produce evidence that technology improves teaching and learning. Figure out how to measure the progress of goals as determined in step 4, reporting regularly to community stakeholders. If you’re expecting test scores to rise because of technology, you are barking up the wrong tree: it’s the quality ofteaching and learning that will improve test scores. Think about evaluating the impact of technology on other areas such as attendance, reduction of student discipline issues, and student engagement.

  7. Consider making your school improvement efforts transparent by blogging about your district’s work so that others can learn from you. Use this blog to showcase student work as well.

  8. Host site visits for other schools and even a mini-conference in which to highlight the work of your colleagues and to establish your school or district as a local leader in education.

One school that I've seen that really gets this process is Mercy High School, an Apple Distinguished School in Farmington Hills, MI. Last year, I worked with their school leaders to enhance plans to transition to iPads and to upgrade their use of technology in general. Entitled Mercy 2.0, this was a dream project to advise because the school leadership team shared a deep understanding of the issues at hand and had a united vision for what this project could do for their school. And they came together to listen to each other (and yes, to counsel from others including me.)

The Mercy leadership team made its thinking and efforts transparent through a blog, starting a student leadership team around tech, and held a local conference to showcase their work and to invite collaboration with other local schools. Read more about the work via various publications and courses that they’ve published in iTunes U.


It's fascinating to see such projects come together. I'll be looking for (and working on) other examples in the future along with  as my fellow innovation coach, Don Buckley. Let us know other schools that have followed some sort of process focused on teaching and learning that has resulted in exemplary education below! Where else would you direct people to look for examples of innovation done right?

Social Media and Mobile Learning Workshop at #CoSN14

New Leadership for Mobile Learning Project Director Marie Bjerede and I will be hosting a workshop next at week at the Consortium for School Networking's annual conference. The focus will be on using social media in conjunction with mobile devices and the purpose will be to give school leaders more direct instruction with using social media effectively. It seems that many administrators don't have the time and/or inclination to dive into the world of Web 2.0 tools, and we want to provide an opportunity for such types to play with tools that will potentially enhance their work. 

That said, we are not going to cover every single hot social media channel out there during this three hour workshop. Instead, we'll explore social networks and blogs and then dive into microblogging and social bookmarking. We could go to town by looking at YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., but we will keep things simple and practical for the scope of the workshop. 

All of these tools are almost rendered useless, however, unless one takes time to develop a personal learning network. This means you connect to others who share your professional interests and this increases your chances of learning about best practices, identifying great resources, and building opportunities for collaboration. During this workshop, we'll give advice on how to do this as well as how to develop one's online professional persona. 

Anyone is welcome to peruse our workshop materials (see below) and contribute to our networking survey. We'd love to have school leaders show how they are leveraging social media and connect with workshop participants. Please also follow our conversations on Twitter by searching for the hashtags #CoSN14 and #CoSNLML.  


Education Fast Forward #9

Make sure to tune into the ninth debate of Education Fast Forward on January 20. This  event is scheduled take in front of an audience of education ministers from around the world who are also attending the World Education Forum in London. It will also be broadcast  over the Internet, and recorded for those who aren't operating in the same time zone. Sponsors of this include Promethean and Cisco Systems. 

I've been invited as a special guest to my third EFF debate which means I'll be connecting to the meeting from New York via Telepresence, Cisco's impressive videoconference system. Two presenters and a moderator will start the debate and then invited guests, such as myself, will potentially contributing to the ensuing discussion. It truly is a global conversation as special guests and EFF fellows will be joining in from far flung corners of the world. 

You can see previous debates in the playlist below; I particularly recommend EFF #8 as Michael Fullan was one of the featured guests and he is always incredibly insightful into educational change. 

The featured speakers for EFF #9 are Senator David Coltart of Zimbabwe,  Vicky Colbert, founder of Colombia’s Escuela Nueva, and Ramji Raghavan, founder of India’s Agastya International Foundation. Ramji was one of our keynotes at last year's STEMxCon and I think you'll be inspired by all the featured speakers' work. 


Why Change?

Just had a conversation with a rural GA super and his tech director for a project I'm working on. They are modernizing teaching and learning in their district because they clearly understand that they have to change in order to meet the needs of their students and to prepare them for life in this increasingly complex world. Their teachers are on board with this, and are embracing the opportunities and tools that they can access. 

It's refreshing to meet people who get this, and it's occurred to me that there are districts out there who don't feel this pressure. If you don't feel pressure to change, if everything has always worked and your students are generally successful, why adapt and move forward with modernizing your institution? I think this is the crux of the problem i see in my travels and conversations... the problem is that here in the US, we have widely disperate attempts to move forward with updating teaching and learning. We're aren't experiencing the same conditions that maybe drive change. And, maybe administrators aren't getting out of their districts enough to learn from each other and to realize that they are falling behind. 


The privilege I have in my work right now is learning through visits and conversations with a wide variety of people working in the education field, and it's so fascinating to me the wide range of initiatives and work that are taking place in our schools and beyond. How do we "map this space" as my friend Betsy Corcoran of EdSurge would say? How can we present a fuller picture of the projects and possibilities that are happening forward thinking school districts? 


Just a few thoughts for today... 

Illinois, Do You Know?

Wonderful to see how the Shift Happens videos have morphed over the years.  Kudos to Scott McLeod and others who have contributed to the various versions.  Also, I'm thinking that we need a version like this in Illinois.  When are our state leaders going to get it? 

For those of my friends who aren't in the field of education, especially those with children,  please take time to watch this. The video touches on many ideas that drive the work that I, along with many others, do. Pass this along to your school leaders, and start asking what your district is doing to evolve in the 21st century. If your child's school is remarkably similar to what you experienced as a student, my guess is that difficult conversations need to happen. 

This is not about competition entirely... for me, this is about preparing our students sufficiently enough so that they participate in civic life and have choices in order to live their lives fully.


What Truths Do You Hold to be Self-Evident About Education?

Chris Lehmann: The Great American Teach-In: Listening to Students.

Sam Chaltain: What's Your Declaration of Education?.

What truths do you hold to be self-evident about education? Please join me and many other education stakeholders in exploring the state of US education during the Great American Teach-In (, scheduled to take place on May 10th. 

During this event, we will be examining what it means to be educated in the 21st century and formulating solutions to improve education. I believe that in order to do this thoughtfully, we must look within ourselves to identify and articulate our fundamental beliefs about the purpose of education. Participants will be encouraged to draft their own Declarations of Education in some format and to share these ideas with the world. 

The following questions were developed to help participants reflect and over the next few weeks, I think I'll tackle these in blog posts here in preparation for writing my own Declaration. I see this as sort of an cathartic exercise similar to NPR's This I Believe series. I hope you'll think about these as well and take the time to create your own vision of education.

1. When and where do I learn best?
2. What does an ideal learning environment look like?
3. How closely do our current places of learning resemble our ideal learning environment?
4. What barriers to learning/growth exist within our current environments?
5. What will we do to make our current learning environments more perfect places to work and learn?

I also am thinking about how to involve my own kids, ages 8 and 12, as I think they have opinions on this matter. I'd like to help them better articulate their feelings about school, and to think metacognitively about their learning in order to advocate for themselves. 

Let's change the current tone with education and focus on what works, what needs to change, and how we can do it together. 

Looking for Mobile Learning Leaders to Add to My PLN

The following informal survey is designed to promote networking around mobile learning and is open to anyone... organizations, admins, teachers, researchers, etc.

As the new project director for a yet-to-be-announced mobile learning initative,  I'm personally interested learning from those who are dealing with mobile devices for learning from a planning and deployment perspective. I'm specifically looking to add more school administrators who are directing mobile learning initiatives to my personal learning network, and I thought I'd create a list of such individuals on Twitter to faciliate networking.

Please add to yourelf to this list, if you are so inclined, and retweet!

The form can be accessed here:

The resulting directory is available here: