Moving toward transformation…

catmull01One of the greatest organizational and leadership challenges behind any 1:1 program, where every student has access to a digital device, is ensuring transformation of the teaching and learning process. As we often hear, it’s not about the technology – it’s about what we do with it. Changing teaching, learning and leadership practices around the use of digital devices is critical for an implementation to be successful.

As the quote to the right suggests, organizations are by nature very conservative, even when isolated individuals within the organization create pockets of learning that evidence the vision. The greatest challenge for our implementation has been “scaling up” those pockets.

After three years of data collection (surveys, focus groups and the implementation of a walkthrough protocol), it’s clear that systemically, our students do not participate in regular, significant transformative learning experiences (using SAMR as a standard).  We have individual pockets which have not expanded content-wide, to grade levels, to buildings, etc.

So here is our question: For the teachers who are designing and implementing transformative learning experiences, what factors are critical to their success?  There are a whole host of possibilities: professional development, personal learning networks, knowledge of inquiry, level of technology skills, student attitude, clarity of vision, district leadership, building leadership…. But which are specific to our context? And what can we as leaders do to bridge any gaps, reenergize our implementation and ultimately take the idea of transformative learning to the system level?

Next week, a colleague (@lfuinihetten) and I will have the opportunity to dig deeper into this leadership challenge, working with 18 other school districts from across the country (no doubt with similar challenges), researchers such as Ruben Puentedura and Damian Bebel, and a team of facilitators from Apple, Inc. We are looking forward to the opportunity to explore our challenge and to lead positive change in our 1:1 implementation. More to come after next week….

What are the primary challenges with your 1:1 implementation? How are you addressing them?

The quote above comes from Ed Catmull‘s book, “Creativity, Inc.” The concluding chapter includes a bulleted list of ideas/statements that are worthy of reflection from every school leader. Check out the list here.


Impromptu Administrator PD

twitter7This past week was my first week as Superintendent in the Salisbury Township School District. While I have the advantage of having been an administrator in the district for 9 years, it was able to experience both challenges and exciting moments of learning.

One of the things I have enjoyed most, especially over the past several years, is the collaboration and exchange of ideas with my fellow colleague and collaborator, Lynn Fuini-Hetten. One of those moments was, for me,  a learning highlight of the week.

Early in the week during a meeting of all our leaders, one of the agenda items that garnered the most energy from the team pertained to a plan to ramp up our use of social media to engage parents, students and public around a new district hashtag – #stsdfalcons. During the meeting administrators asked for more opportunities to learn about and get comfortable with social media. Door opened…

On Wednesday, it was decided county-wide that because of cold temperatures and wind chills, school on Thursday would be delayed 2 hours. Lynn, always the creative thinker, came up with a great idea – let’s invite everyone on the administrative team – 14 of us at the moment – to a breakfast meeting for some digital leadership learning. What a great idea!

The meeting was optional, and we had 10 leaders in attendance. With little time to prepare, I pulled some pieces from an earlier presentation, and we used our time to help develop confidence and comfort with Twitter.  (Here’s the resource we used for this relatively impromptu learning.) Some leaders were totally new to Twitter and needed accounts while most others had accounts but had not used them in awhile. Near the end of our time together, the question was asked, “How can teachers use this in the classroom.”  Another door opened…

Here was a great example of using some new-found time to our advantage – developing our learning as digital leaders and creating synergy on the topic of social media that will likely work its way to the classroom. A highlight of my week and a great reason to be in Salisbury!

How do you use the gift of time for learning when it comes upon you during the winter season?

Is there a monkey on your back?

monkeyThere’s a polish proverb, Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpyLiterally translated, you get, Not my circus, not my monkeys. Basically, “not my problem.”

Over the holiday break I read the quick read by Todd Whitaker, Shifting the Monkey: The Art of Protecting Good People from Liars, Criers and other Slackers At first the title may seem a little jarring, but it actually has several valuable nuggets for all school leaders.

We all deal with monkeys. Whitaker describes a monkey as, “the responsibilities, obligations, and problems everyone deals with every day. You can easily handle your share of normal monkeys, but you can just as easily become overwhelmed when you get stuck shouldering other people’s inappropriate monkeys.” The challenge comes when people within the organization try to pass off their monkeys to other people who they know will solve the problem and do the work for them. Dealing those who like to pass their monkeys is a leadership challenge! Leaders actually do a disservice when they allow the non-slackers to take on the problems of the slackers because it robs the slacker of the opportunity to develop and demonstrate leadership within their particular role. Allowing the passing of monkeys reinforces a leader/follower culture rather than a leader/leader culture.

So how do you know when someone is trying to pass a monkey? Whitaker suggests leaders must always be asking themselves 3 questions:

  1. Where is the monkey?
  2. Where should the monkey be?
  3. How do I shift the monkey to its proper place?

And what can leaders do when one of the liars, criers and/or slackers is trying to pass the monkey? Whitaker, again, suggests three things:

  1. Treat everyone well.
  2. Make decisions based on your best people.
  3. Protect your good people first.

In the book, Whitaker details numerous scenarios, but following these three suggestions will place the responsibility for the monkey back where it belongs. As a leader, if you are intrigued by this idea of the slackers passing monkeys, be sure to check out Whitaker’s book! I found it very thought provoking. Reading it has provided me with a new lens through which to inquire into my world.

As leaders, we want to serve the people we lead. But a disposition to take on every monkey of the organization will overwhelm us. How can leaders still be servants and make sure the monkeys stay where they belong?

Twitteracy, Literacy and Generation Z – a few more presentations

sharelearnPresentations benefit both presenter and attendee as opportunities to share and learn. I enjoy sharing ideas, and developing a presentation always helps me to clarify my own thinking. And if others can benefit in that process, that’s a bonus! In the last post, I shared a presentation I did for the Keystone Technology Innovators/Integrators group in the Lehigh Valley. After writing that post, I realized there were a few other presentations I gave the past few months but did not share on this blog. So I thought I’d share them here as some may find the information useful and interesting.

Generation Z: It’s Complicated – – For this presentation we engaged in a conversation around two resources: a presentation on Generation Z from the marketing firm Sparks & Honey and the recently published book by danah boydIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.

Twitteracy: The What, Why and How – How can Twitter be used to develop and reinforce literacy skills? In this presentation I started with basics about Twitter and ended by sharing practical examples of how Twitter can be a powerful (and relevant) tool in developing the literacy skills of our students.

Approaches to Literacy for Generation Z – My colleague,  @lfuinihetten, and I presented this session to the Colonial Association of Reading Educators and the Moravian College Education Department. During the session, we explored the potential for technology-rich literacy instruction in four areas: (1) analyzing and discussing literature; (2) reinforcing reading and writing through digital storytelling; (3) crafting effective persuasive and argumentative writing; and (4) engaging social media to improve reading and writing skills. A podcast recapping the session is available on TLTalkRadio.

In February, @lfuinihetten and I are looking forward to our next presentation, Evaluating and Assessing Your Digital Learning Initiative: Keys to Success at both the AASA National Conference on Education and PETE&C. We will also be presenting The SAMR Framework: Leveling Tech Integration at PETE&CWe’ll be sure to share those as well! 

How do you share your knowledge with others? What is the value to sharing your knowledge with others at conferences and other professional gatherings?

3 considerations for transforming classrooms


What is the greatest challenge schools face using technology for teaching and learning? As a practitioner, the data I’ve collected both formally and informally suggests one of the greatest challenges is to use  technology in ways that transform the teaching and learning process (as defined by the SAMR model). It is often easy for students to use technology in ways that enhance the learning process. For example, using presentation software to create a final product or using online software to develop specific content area skills (such as math). It is often more challenging for teachers to design learning that is transformational, where technology is embedded in the process of inquiry for learners to connect and collaborate with other curious minds inside and outside of the classroom.

While technology can be a catalyst for change, merely placing digital devices in the hands of teachers and students will not bring about transformation to teaching and learning. We need more than devices. We need new thinking that combines proven practice grounded in the learning sciences with current technology tools and the leadership to support transformation.

Just before the holiday break, I had the opportunity to speak to a gathering of about 30 Keystone Technology Innovators/Integrators at Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit. In the presentation, I proposed 3 ways educators can take action to move classrooms away from the culture depicted in the video The Testing Camera and toward the culture of inquiry depicted in the video A Question, Waiting to be AnsweredYes…every school likely has pockets of transformation. The challenge to overcome is transforming learning on a systemic level.

The 3 considerations I proposed:

  • Inquiry – We have to fundamentally change the model from a push model of knowledge acquisition to one where student curiosity is a central focus and learning is a process.
  • Social media – We have to use the tools at our fingertips that will allow our learners to engage with a world of like-minded inquirers. Social media coupled with inquiry is very powerful.
  • Leadership – We educators need to take action. We need to stop talking and start doing. We need to be leaders in our schools.

Developing an understanding of effective pedagogy coupled with new technology and taking action to implement our new learning in the classroom will propel us toward transforming our classrooms system wide. For the presentation, I opened with a brief set of slides:


And then provided more resources and a few activities around the 3 considerations, working from this Google doc:


How are you working to transform your classrooms? Is there anything you would add to the 3 considerations? What are you doing to lead the change?