Learning Through the Eyes of a Third Grader

It has been a long time since I have posted on this blog and I am VERY sorry for that. With my transition in employment over the last six months and so forth, life has just sort of gotten in the way. However, I am BACK! This week we had an incredible two days with the principals of Wake County Public Schools in partnership with Discovery Ed. We immersed our principals in a engaging classroom environment and rolled out our new Teacher Leader Corp PD plan for next school year. Exciting times for sure. The highlight of the day for many and especially me, was my nine year old daughter standing in front of over 100 principals and leaders each day and delivering how SHE loves to learn. It was all in her words and I could not be more proud as a father. Her words are powerful and should remind us all of how kids love to learn AND that they can articulate that to you if you only ask. If we do ask, then we have to be prepared to listen and respond. I’ve attached the link to the video. I hope it inspires you as it has me and so many others.

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The “Why” Game

For those of you that have kids you know exactly what the “why” game is and how it is played. Don’t you just love it when a kids asks why about 25 times within the same conversation. It’s because they are curious and don’t want just the facts. Sure they believe you and take your word for it, but they just want to know more. I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately and the implications for our classroom. I know as a parent the “why” game sometimes drives me nuts and I meet it with frustration, but the fact is that as a parent and an educator I should greet it with excitement and a desire to play the game. So what does this mean for our classrooms? The fact is that kids are going to play the “why” game with or without us. They want us to engage but if we don’t they have the means to find the answers. For example my 8-year-old now has an iPod touch and for several years has known how to Google her answers. She doesn’t really play the “why” game with me anymore because she knows how to access the information. She wants me to play, but doesn’t need me. As educators we should be thinking about how we can engage in that game with our students and be the facilitator. We now have a responsibility to spend more time teaching them to find the answers, validate the answers, communicate the answers, and collaborate with others on the answers. So let’s jump in and not lose a chance to play this age-old game.

Book Blog for my Kiddo

So this morning I finished the creation of a Book Blog for my daughter.¬† With getting ready to move and the number of friends she has all over the southeast, I was looking for a way for her to stay connected to her friends and to put her new iPod touch to use for something other than Temple Run. ūüôā¬† I am so excited about how this will play out.¬† The blog includes about 12 little girls and boys from ages 7-9.¬† I have simply asked them to post each time they read.¬† Their post is to include a short summary as well as how the book made them feel and if they would recommend it to their friends.¬† The kids can then comment on each others posts (pending my approval because little girls can get a little catty).¬† This is also a great opportunity for me to teach them all about digital citizenship.

So set up is really easy and free!¬† I used: http://kidblog.org.¬† I then set up the free WordPress App on my daughters iPod Touch and she was rolling.¬† Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or both try this out!¬† It’s a great way for your kids to learn Web 2.0 skills, gain their own voice in writing, and interact in a collaborative environment.

A New Chapter

This week I started a new job as the Assistant Superintendent for Academics in the Wake County Public School System.  Wake County is the largest school system in NC and the 16th largest in the nation.  Leaving Mooresville was without a doubt one of the most difficult decisions of my life.  The work and success that I was able to be a part of there was absolutely incredible.  I have quickly learned on day two of my new job, how that time in Mooresville prepared me so well for this new experience.  Wake County is a great place that has a lot of really exciting things happening and an incredible list of opportunities for kids.  The welcome here has been amazing.  I am excited to see what the future holds here as we look to new solutions for the use of technology in the classroom.  Stay tuned, that while I am not in a 1:1 district anymore, I am in a district where innovation is equally important. 

Gulf Regional Instructional Technology Conference

I am so excited to be in Baldwin County, Alabama presenting at the Gulf Regional Instructional Technology Conference.  Baldwin County is becoming a 1:1 district and will soon be a leader in the nation.  They have incredible executive leadership and a team that is committed to making this happen.  During the Opening Keynote tomorrow I will be talking with their district about the new way learning takes place for our kids and then later in the day will be talking with their leaders about Cultural Leadership as well as what to expect in year one of a 1:1 initiative.  Should be an awesome two days!  Follow me on twitter as I post updates from the conference throughout the two days!

The Profile of a 1:1 Technology Leader

This past spring I completed my dissertation and earned my Doctorate degree.  My research centered around developing a profile of the leader of a successful 1:1 technology initiative.  I had the great fortune to work with 24 different principals from around the country that all lead Apple Distinguished Schools.  It was a wonderful experience because at the time, I too was the leader of an Apple Distinguished School. Through my research I was able to create the beginnings of a profile that I believe districts and leadership development programs should consider.  The profile consists of five parts:  Facilitator of the Vision, Master of Communication, Coordinator of Support, Cultivator of Culture, and Focus on Improvement. 

Facilitator of the Vision РLeaders have to realize the disruptive nature of the type of change that technology creates.  Change related to technology is emotional for many educators.  A leader has to be skilled at inspiring their teachers and exposing them to problems and environments that get them to look at NEW solutions (2nd order change).  The creation of the vision needs to be created by a team that is empowered to share, challenge, and debate a new normal for their school.  It is the skilled leader that can direct and facilitate these types of conversations and shape them into a vision.

Master of Communication РThe principal CANNOT be the sole communicator.  The skilled leader is one that creates situations through book studies, curriculum redesign, discussions, etc. where the staff realizes the vision for the use of technology.  When the staff realizes or stumbles upon the vision, they then can see their personal place in the process.  Leaders also need to be very strategic in the staff the select to help communicate the vision.  Resistant teachers need to see trusted colleagues communicate and belief in the vision.

Coordinator of Support – The most successful leaders are those that have extended their own leadership influence by purposely developing teacher leaders.¬† Teacher leaders often carry more weight and value with a staff and ARE the front line of support.¬† Needs assessments are instruments that are used REGULARLY in a successful 1:1 school.¬† Teachers need to see that their immediate needs are being met through PD or through protected time for collaboration.¬† Teachers also need feedback.¬† If a leader is going to “require” the use of technology, then they have to be prepared to provide examples of excellence and feedback to those who need it.

Cultivator of Culture РCulture cannot be left out of the equation.  Technology change will create turbulence like a staff has never seen.  The leader has to create an atmosphere where teachers feel safe to take risks, share ideas, and experiment without fear of failure.  School leaders have to build in a web of support through coaching, mentoring, and professional development that will catch people when they fall.  The leader also has to understand how to balance coaching and accountability.  The move to 1:1 is a marathon, not a sprint.  The staff will go through stages of development all at different time, therefore the leader has to differentiate for the staff just as a teacher would in the classroom.

Focus on Improvement – Many 1:1’s around the country can’t produce any data.¬† The mere rolling out of a device for every kid gave kids some cool tools, but didn’t result in improved performance.¬† It is imperative that a successful 1:1 technology leader ties the use of technology to performance from the very beginning.¬† It is up to the school/district to decide what those metrics will be.¬† When a school or district goes 1:1 it is an example of tremendous courage on the part of the Superintendent and the school board.¬† There needs to be a return on their investment!¬† Staff must be evaluated based on their use of technology and the leader has to “keep score.”¬† It’s not a “gotcha” game, but it’s about fiscal accountability and more importantly accountability to do all we can for our kids.

This is obviously just a snippet of my research and I hope for any of you leaders out there that it sparks some thinking or gives you some ideas.