Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Hey! My phone really is smart!"

I'm officially convinced my phone is smart enough to make me change some of my work patterns. For starters, I'm writing this blog traveling back from Chicago. I recently upgraded my Blackberry and have had three breakthrough moments inside of a week's time.

First off the syncing software working seamlessly with my Macbook. This means my calendar is synced, my contacts are synced and my to do lists are available. Now I can go to meetings armed with just my blackberry, not necessarily my laptop. Someone out there could comment there was software out there for my older Curve, but I'll counter with I had lost faith after three failed installs and I gave up a year ago.

Secondly, I have been installing APs and going to websites on my browser and things are working flawlessly. When I got my other Curve almost two years ago I found it hit or miss for success in websites loading or APs doing what they promised. They mashup pretty well together right now and in a weeks time I've found many things for work and leisure.

Lastly, the documents, Google APs and general application software and websites are very functional. They are not watered down barely functioning versions of the computer versions. I was able to check my student's blogs while riding to Chicago Friday and register their grades Friday night (from my laptop at the hotel).

All of that doesn't include the photo posts from the Iowa game, getting state playoff results for people, my reading everyone's tweets while watching my kids in the hotel pool and getting caught up with my Goggle Reader reading.

The big thing is my confidence in my previous phone was low, due to problems I had early. This one has worked flawlessly and my confidence is soaring now that my smartphone is really smart!

Friday, November 5, 2010

My newest wordle

Wordle: Mr. G

Our Web 2.0 class is finally getting to Wordle. I was going to do it sooner, but we hadn't started blogging. Hopefully they've done enough writing to gain some insight. Mine is totally different from what it was 10 months ago.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Web 2.0/PLN class evolves, redefines "wait-time"

Two weeks into Web2.0/PLN class and the students and I have experienced some highs and some lulls. We haven't experienced a "low" but in the evolution of the class we've had moments were we've redefined the term "wait-time" and it is in that time where the "lulls" occur.

Traditionally the term "wait-time" has referred to those seconds separating a teacher's question and a student's response. I was molded traditional. Each second ticks like a minute when holding back the knowledge you want to bestow on students in a Q & A. If one of the smart kids didn't know, and I waited 30 seconds, I answered and performed a fantastic review of the concepts on the board. "There, they have it" I can think to myself and move on to the next question to engage the next concept.

Our new "wait-time" is the pause between defining the task and student-teacher interaction and/or student action. This "wait-time" cannot be defined and monitored, just tracked and it can be surprisingly minimal or lengthy. It's an open-ended proposition followed by a pause then action, discussion or both.

My first three classes were traditional, even though my intention was to have it be a blend of online resources, instruction with my guidance and facilitation. Day one was a flurry of group watched videos, Q & A, read and write, with registration into web 2.0 tools. Every step was coordinated and well placed, timed and tracked. I was a bevy of knowledge and had the 2-3 students who were engaged with me answering and feeding my passion.

At the end of the first day I had a moment of satisfaction, and old feeling from the days standing in front leading my Chemistry class through complex concepts. I sat down to write a reflection on my Google Doc and realized a couple things. First, I hadn't let go of the reigns at all during the day. I steamrolled through silence ignoring the majority by providing them the answers. Secondly, the performance high wore off and I crashed with a guilty dread pooling into my stomach. I had fallen into the same trap all traditional teachers - I grabbed control and were stimulated by the euphoria of executing a locked-in lesson. A lesson that was two weeks in the making and now I had to prepare for one in just a handful of days.

Over the last five days of class I've weaned myself of the majority of control. I dumped the first assignment and due date; I've introduced and re-introduced topics; I've given an open-ended assignment that will be ongoing and I've mixed in quick hitting videos with quick response activities. And we've talked, laughed and through all of it gained insight as to their skills and needs for the class. We've hit a scattered selection of objectives from the original course outline but I'm readying a cross-referenced curriculum guide to track what we'll hit cover and master. It's going to be like taking a connect the dots and erasing the numbers.

I've also been able to collaborate, watch and learn from Shannon Miller, who spent this past summer developing her course and helped get me started with mine. We brainstormed some ideas on a Google Doc and I have developed my own to help prepare and chronicle the development of my course at CAM High School. There are many differences that I can see right now, but the commonality is we are submerging students into web 2.0 tools and moving them towards the development of a personal learning network (PLN) of peers and adults. Her class is moving right along, and despite some changes in the original idea each class is experiencing the buffet of Web 2.0 tools and laying the ground work for PLNs. I have been able to follow Van Meter's progress through Shannon's Twitter and feel comfortable deviating from her course and letting our students progress in another direction.

Most likely our students, intentionally or unintentionally, will cross paths while establishing their PLNs. We could have forced the issue, staged the encounters and had a well coordinated meet and greet with traditional classroom control.

Instead we're going to take our time, and wait for it to occur naturally. And in that wait time my class and I will learn something and I will discover how to effectively start feeding my student's passion.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Coffee with a shot of PLN in the morning

I've often said this about myself - "It's only the completely obvious I miss."

For the past two nights, Shannon Miller, Shawn Holloway, Deron Durflinger Laura Horan and Bill Brannick have been collaborating on a class Shannon's piloting in Van Meter

It's been two nights of chatting and work that at the end of the day, it's better than a shot of 5 hour energy as the hours melt away. At the end of this time there is a product AND a fired up feeling about what you accomplished.

But why hadn't I thought to do this in the morning to get things started? To completely obvious.

This morning, instead sitting down with a cup of coffee watching to the same stories I saw on KCCI last night (horrible flooding in Ames, Colfax and Des Moines - prayers for everyone effected), I got back on my PLN.

I jumped on Facebook to see what my social network was doing and then opened tweetdeck to see what my PLN was up to. An article someone referenced sparked a reflection on last nights work, which prompted me back to the Google Doc about the class we were working on and added some thoughts.

Reading through what we have created so far, I saw it's evolving in a group and personal way feeling better and better about our direction. I updated my Diigo toolbar and located some reading and watching for later. This took minutes and I felt like the Army used to say - "done more before 6 a.m. than most do during the day!"

I'm now charged, focused, found a blog topic (actually two...will write the second one soon), wrote the blog, am ready for our Skype at 10 a.m., all the while finding time to get ready for the day.

Why didn't I think about it this way before? Instead of just getting all fired up at night I can help boost my day and send me out with the right focus.

PLN - a part of a balanced breakfast.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Aretha said it best - "R E S P E C T"

Respecting teachers as professionals goes a long way in the journey to transform the classrooms that we are charged to bring into the “21st Century”.

CAM High School in Anita Iowa has the advantage and the disadvantage of being a small school, where $150,000 can outfit the whole building with Macbooks and I easily work with teachers individually.

However, in terms of early adopters in a faculty of 21, we have only a handful to lean on for internal capacity.

After two years with one-to-one computers we’ve seen an increasing energy from staff for the evolving technologies and Web 2.0 applications. What started with the iLife Suite has broadened into many different possibilities.

We all know change is not easy and change does not always come about quickly. What I have found and believe is that mandates, deadlines and requirements placed on teachers can yield results, but also require another round of them once an administrative imposed time frame expires. There are negative feelings and a feeling of top-down pressure that pushes teachers to find the reasons why NOT to change. They don’t own the process, the administration does.

To get teacher buy in they must champion the cause themselves and time must be given to them to collaborate and develop strategies that work for their classrooms. I have rarely been disappointed in the work our teachers do when brought together to share their learning. It immediately sparks conversation and exploration into new areas for each individual teacher.

Our teachers have asked for things, and for opportunities to develop their skills. When we deliver on their wishes you see a step forward in the use and infusion of that strategy or technology into their classrooms. When we don’t, we stagnate or take steps backwards.

Now in year three of our initiative we will give them more opportunities to get together in person AND online. I will show them how to develop a PLN or PLC that may or may not include teachers and staff from within the building.

I predict that this move will motivate teachers as it has motivated my learning by the flood of current, useful and timely materials by them everyday. The respect I get online, in my network is incredible and that same respect will fuel my teachers as it has fueled and inspired my growth.

Will it happen for each teacher and the same time? Absolutely not. So imposing a requirement about how, where and when they should develop their PLN is defeating the purpose of the individual network.

Working WITH them, giving them opportunities to build our internal capacity through external contacts will move small groups at first and identify the few that may be reluctant. Then implementing strategies for those few will not patronize or insult the larger group that have made the change and keep them energized.

Respect your staff as professionals and let the early doubtful comments bounce off. If you keep working with them most will join you in the journey of discovery that happens when diving into a PLN.

That is the support that will assist them the most in moving their classroom into the “21st Century”.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Online learning - Week one in the books

Three teachers of mine and I are participating in OLLIE, a summer online learning opportunity through Heartland AEA 11 - facilitated by Evan Abbey, blogger extraordinaire (and blog baller), instructional technologist and area technology expert. I have just completed the first module and here are my initial reactions.

First off I have taken a couple grad courses online 6-7 years ago and have helped administer our Moodle site at CAM High School. I have experience, but my knowledge has many gaps that need filled.

The Facilitator is Key: Evan has been great getting daily announcements out, being flexible with some initial problems and communicating those as well as providing screencast instruction as needed. Each Evan "buzz" on my blackberry reminds me to touch base with the class at least once a week and has me done with the first week's activities on Thursday.

Don't underestimate the power of the forum Reading other's responses and my own, commenting and browsing has really helped me start constructing a vision of online learning from the fuzzy/cloudy one I had coming into the course. It gives you time to thing and construct your thoughts from information provided and created within the course and in the forum.

Learning takes place when you're ready: I sat down twice to work on OLLIE and just plain had to shut the laptop and do something else. While this morning I got on just to check the news update and ended up finishing the weeks assignments I still had to complete. Also sipping a beverage on your patio and reading an article as the sun sets is pretty cool too.

Personal connections online: Without talking, chatting, messaging or emailing I am feeling a personal connection to members of the group and the facilitator. Just listening to the screencast is amazingly calming and good to see and have available at your disposal. There are two people who follow me and I follow on Twitter taking the course and the connection started there has already started to grow.

Little things matter: Just knowing that the drop downs are for in Moodle and watching on the screencast has elevated my knowledge on "groups" ten-fold. I now have a new perspective on utilizing Moodle and it came from something I felt I didn't need to look at.

Modular learning is better: Being able to see things divided up, knowing that you need to complete a set amount of material to move forward basically is like defining objectives without listing them and droning on about "here are the objectives you need to meet...." It's nice to take a little time to jump around and look, have the organization right in front of you at all times, not just tucked away in a syllabus is huge. I see this as an important step in transforming education at the high school level as you can begin to individualize instruction for students better if the essential skills are taught in ways that are compartmentalized. If one module or skill is deficient, OR already mastered, you can move to another (not necessarily in order). This could be the missing link to breaking down Carnegie Units within the current systems between secondary and post-secondary institutions.

The experience looks to be the one I've been searching for and am excited to start Week two soon....or maybe Monday.

I get to choose.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

End of the Year melancholy - Pulling in the laptops and damage

Never mind missing the Seniors or lamenting about where the year went...the hardest emotion for myself and our technology director is taking the computers from the students and lining them up for summer storage.

I say that only kidding somewhat. Truth be told we had an amazingly successful pull in for the computers. We structured it a day before school got out so kids would have time to find "missing" items, we did it between the last two classes so we could get them put away and double checked. The procedure for 2nd year was 10 times more efficient and we didn't have to chase down four or so computers like we did last year.

Statistics for the day - 137 computers accounted for; all cases accounted for; two missing chargers. Zero noted damage. That was it!

Statistics for the year - Four busted screens; eight dead batteries; three failed hard drives. Approximate total for uncovered damage and replacements - $3600. We had double that in year two.

I credit our technology director and our staff for communicating with students constantly about care for the computers. Our "Homeroom" set up allows us quarterly bag and charger checks with rewards for perfect accountability. Constant reminders were broadcast in announcements and classes that if you have something missing you will pay for it, this instead of fee based systems that promote a disposable atmosphere. We had only one case of late in the year swapping (we found several during the year) and the swapper fessed up when confronted and we found his case anyway.

Our staff's conclusion is the students do value the computers and will take care of them as they know they will lose them to the repair room and do not want a loaner.

So we congratulated the students and staff on their efforts, and shut the door on a perfectly accounted for set of Apple Mac Books.

Oh where has the year gone.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Public urgency for change

Education's sphere of protection, it's operating autonomy is eroding fast. The safety and certainty of local control and geographical boundaries are being challenged by the "disruptive technologies" of today. And these challenges are coming sooner than later.

I spent some time with my brother recently and out of no where he asked, "Why can't we just change how we're doing things (in education)?" Sitting with us was his father-in-law who was, and still is, very active in school business back in our hometown of Monticello, Iowa. I was expecting certain affirmation of the way we've done and always done education and a more traditional outlook.

But instead I heard a retired implement dealer, who has sat in on more school board meetings than I have, champion technology. He echoed my brother's frustration and the need for changing the way we educate our students, especially at the high school level. A friend of his had given him a copy of "Disrupting Class" by Clayton Christensen and he was very much behind many of the ideas that the book, one-to-one and online learning advocates have been calling for recently.

Anita has long been a leader in technology use in education. So there can be a "been there-done that" attitude about it's integration in our district and within the walls of our school building. "We've always had technology," has been heard and I can understand the perspective of - "so what's different now?"

Nearly everything is different now. Our students need different skills, they need different learning stimulus, they can get their education anytime, anywhere from a multitude of credible sources. These are some of the realities and the fact two people, from different generations and randomly can see this confirmed my sense of urgency for change in education.

The system had better grow some legs that can move it faster than the snails pace it's moving now. Furthermore, those of us fortunate to have laptops in our kids hands need to pick up the pace as well. A one week seminar in the summer or a few hours before school starts in the fall will not suffice in terms of getting ready to assist students in their navigation their connected world.

The problem with the way we've done PD in the past is at the heart of the change issue. Instead of sitting and getting, teachers, administrators and non-certified staff all need to take control of our learning and get immersed using the very technologies our students need to gain jobs, maintain them and thrive in a new and ever-changing economy.

An economy and world that may not need as many of us, and ultimately demanding we have the very same skills to survive. Might as well learn them now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Are you getting your ticket for the unfinished plane?

We need a new analogy or medaphor or whatever it is when we say, "We're building the plane as we're flying it."

I'm an old science teacher, so I'm pretty sure it's physically impossible to build a plane and fly it at the same time. If that's the case whatever it is you are associating with this is doomed to crash and burn. I'll gladly sell back my ticket for another trip thank you.

Yesterday in our Principal's Role-Alike at the end of the i11i 2010 conference in Des Moines, IA, that sentence was thrown out as a representation for learning and teaching using one-to-one computers and other disruptive technologies. In the "unconference" room we trashed the same sentence because the Iowa Department of Education was using it to describe the Iowa Core Curriculum during it's trainings this past year.

We do not have the time nor the vision to plan out these two new, and rather ambitious, initiatives (build the plane on the ground). The two will require a lot of risk-taking behaviors and some trial and error. But let's not visualize ourselves 20,000 feet in the air attaching a set of wings. Not even Chesley Sullenberger III can land that plane in the Hudson. How about a more grounded thought like...

"We're setting out on a great expedition into the vast Jungles of Learning..." or something like that.

Like we can over-plan, we can over do. Those of us who are doing one-to-one and other progressive learning with Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technologies have many of the right ingredients. Let's develop a recipe for learning that everyone can enjoy.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Well, January 24th was my last blog post. That's a long time ago in "Blog Years." Enough to become even less relevant than I was before. A blend of writer's block, busyness, but more than those, a lack of clear message.

My last post talked about "getting into the classroom" and how important I felt that was and the forms it takes. I've started and deleted four posts since then because of the twists and turns each experience took my emotions and thoughts. And now, just days away from presenting at Iowa's "1 to 1 Institute" on April 7th, I've found clarity.

A blend of experiences in my school, online, in professional development and in the world in general as brought me to place, has given me a message for this Wednesday.

"If change is going to occur, it is going to have to take place at the Principal/instructionalist-teacher level, one teacher at a time."

This thought came from the "one block at a time" commercial about inner city transformation from that American Express commercial. Basically start with one, make it better and move on. They used a block and changed buildings, we start with a staff member and change philosophies through learning and empowerment.

Once you empower one, you use that teacher to work with others. Or you can work with more than one, but I'm thinking small groups (1-3). There is so much with technology that turns teachers off on the mere mention of things such as Twitter, Diigo, that a few would be the most. My hope is maybe we can get the exponential change needed to keep up with technology and system changes coming in the not-so-distant future. It will be a flat line with little visible change, but if we're all doing it and progressing forward, we'll hit that slope and take off!

We need to combine that with an "ask for forgiveness" attitude when it comes to things like the DE, Chapter 12 and all the regulations we see standing in our way. A little school in East Marshall county did that with virtual reality technology. A high, high official in the Iowa DE gave the principal serious push-back when he called them as he was implementing the initiative. The same official lauded their achievements just a short couple years later in Washington, D.C. introducing him and a student as educational pioneers. If we do great things, there will be a line of people ready to support us, who will not give us the green light - formally anyway.

The Iowa Core Curriculum and it's 21st Century Skills is enough of a green light for me. I can frame many of my ideas under their "modules" and the skills they've defined that our kids need. I can shape and find ways to validate activities requiring "seat time" until we flush that term and move on to something more meaningful and relevant.

Scott McCleod, Director of CASTLE facilitated a mind-bending session, for transitioning high schools for the 21st century. Public education has been viewed as the behemoth system that will not survive the rise of all of these disruptive technologies. Many of the best practice situations right now are from private schools. Scott was pressed by others about why he then spent so much time trying to be a resource for public schools. Looking off into some unknown distance he told us - "...maybe there is a faint, glimmer of hope in small pockets around the country in public education..."

I plan to be one of those glimmers that turns into a light.

I will present my experiences and ideas that shaped this conclusion at my session, and am toying with trying to get it broadcast somehow on the net (or at least video taping and youtubing later). Also at my session we will discussion and hash through some next steps for me and anyone else at different levels of technology infusion. The great thing is most in the audience will be at schools that are one-to-one or going there.

Getting one-to-one is a huge first step, but the bigger one I see is to move a staff forward. As for outsourcing a lot of this to providers from anywhere but the state of Iowa. I have a hard time believing my staff will not step to the plate and those who don't will not survive leaving us with a trainable, eager group of learners who will blend on-site coaching with all forms of online resources. We are currently trying to set up sharing of our Spanish teacher with three other districts.

Phew, finally and a lot to get out. Hopefully I will have more soon and I plan to do nothing else but progress forward with my journey to help shape instruction.

I will be posting resources to follow April 7th, or after, about our 1 to 1 Institute

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Get into the classroom

I have a note I hung above my desk in my first year as a principal that reads - "Get into the classroom". I wrote the note while taking administrative classes at Drake University and found it when preparing to move things to CAM High School.

Something so easy to say and think becomes hard when dealing with the management side of a Principal's day. Well intended walk-through schedules get put aside as students need disciplined state reports come due and money issues need discussed.

Then getting into the classroom can take several different forms. There's the formal observations that need to be done periodically; walk through observations that take different forms; and other inventories that need data collection. Now, I'm adding something new to my list - Teaching.

This Tuesday I am going into a Physical Science classroom to deliver a technology ENHANCED lesson that will serve as a different form of review for an upcoming "test". I am still a certified science teacher who taught physical science nine years.

We're also going to contrast my lesson against my classroom teacher's traditional style as he has two sections that day and he will be teaching one, and I the next. We will video both, test both and compare results. We've analyzed the two classrooms and they are comprised of a similar cross-section of students in all areas (ability, SES, SPED, ITED scores). I may even go as far as suggesting I develop an assessment for my class and he his and have them take both.

After the science classroom I am going to look to do similar things in my other core classrooms. It will be more about infusing technology and more of a co-teaching style, but never-the-less I plan to be doing some instruction.

I have even toyed with teaching a section of a class next year so that I have practical experience to share with my staff. I feel this will boost my credibility and give me a place to try somethings I know my staff will not attempt.

Getting into the classroom - an important component of change

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Administrative Report to the Board January

I am sharing this with everyone, because there is a current of information being exchanged everyday and is grossly misunderstood. Awareness, I believe, is the first step.

Technology in Education - more questions than answers: Categorically I have a few questions and comments for the School Board this month. The questions are meant for personal analysis to contrast against my comments. I have posted this report on my blog where you can give me feedback if you'd like, or ask more questions for me to answer at the next board meeting.

Question #1: How (and where) do you get information on your profession?

Comment #1a: Basically how much time do you spend looking at the latest information on your career or your interests? Personally I used to gobble up trusted magazines from my professional organizations or elsewhere. I pride myself as to being able to decipher the "Slant" or "Bias" the publication, judging from the publisher or writer. "Tech Magazines" of course promoted the best technology, especially that of vendors who contribute ads to the publication. I would pile the magazines up and get to them on a day I had time (okay, so many were recycled before I read them). One summer, a few years ago, I cut the pile up, sorted out by article subject, and used several during PD or teacher meetings the next year. It took me a couple days of organizing and planning and I used maybe 1/16th of the articles I cut apart.

Comment #1b: For the past couple months I have waded into the world of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs). I've blogged about it before, but I have jumped waist deep into Twitter. The word "Twitter", when spoken, invokes images of star athletes making comments during games, about coaches; celebrities promoting their narcissistic activities; Politicians raising money, talking policy, ripping each other. General disgust for those who have not unlocked it's usefulness. For me Twitter is a constant stream of information and ideas from some of the brightest, most dedicated individuals in the education/administration profession. Articles, videos, transcripts, studies and anything imaginable on a variety of topics, flows across my screen all day and night at home. A day doesn't go by where 2-5 articles about something I'm directly working on pops up on my "Tweetdeck" alert. I can click on the resource (always linked to a website), minimize my browser, go back to work and digest the resource later. You see I can still pile up great resources, send the links to my teachers, link them to our PD site and use them almost instantly. Comparing it to the cut and pile method I described in Comment #1a, it take minutes compared to days. I am still piling, but I'm not going to have to recycle the articles later, and if they're really good I can "TAG" them and save for later use.

Question #2: How reliable are your sources of information and how timely?

Comment #2: Now I'm not believing, applying or deeming every article, comment or feedback I get online as Gospel. But I get a variety of opinions, viewpoints and perspectives from all over the country/world from very credible resources. I am impressed at the amount of quality articles and videos I am exposed to and it's rare that I get unreliable information. Blogs generally give opinion and like reading editorials it's more thought provoking and reflective than informative (unless it's a blog of online resources). Reliability is definitely an issue, but it is in traditional media as well. The beauty of the timeliness of internet information is that if there's something out there that's fraudulent, word gets around fast. If you need to find out how to check into a website, what people think or have found out, it's just a keyword or search away. Also, you can have any credible site or source "RSSed" to you without searching and on Twitter you can "Follow" people you know are credible. The information is current, and usually refers back to older information for background and perspective.

Question #3: How much do you use Google, know about "Open Source" applications?

Comment #3: If the district wanted, we would never have to spend another penny on most types of software including Microsoft Office. "Wait, Office is what is being used today in most businesses!" While that is a correct statement, it's mainly because it's been purchased already and we have all grown comfortable with MS Office. Google Docs, Open Office and other online programs can provide a free alternative that reportedly is very compatible when using or exchanging information with MS Office users. I personally am going to upload my documents from my hard drive to Google Docs, take a couple of their tutorials and get some practical experience as I really don't want to pay Microsoft a sizable chuck of change anymore if and when we have to upgrade or buy the newest version. Google Docs would also provide the storage as would Gmail if we were to go to using their email. I have used Open Office (an open source application) on my PC at home and have found it a good alternative, it loads a little slower but is very compatible with my Apple MS Office program. Moodle, or Curriculum Management System (CMS) is open source and didn't cost us a penny (just the server space) where alternatives cost two to 10 thousand dollars to purchase and maintain. If you can buy a program, it's features are probably available for free online. Photo editing sites are incredible. It's a discussion that needs to take place as it could be an option for cost savings in the future.

Question #4: Have you seen, or used a "Kindle", and/or something similar? (A Kindle is an electronic book reader that Amazon sells publications at 1/3rd the cost of the book version).

Comment #4: We have a student at school who swears by hers and is bringing it in for me to see. This electronic device is book sized and has a "page" background, so it's easier on the eyes to read. I have read some free Google books on my Ipod Touch, which also has a Kindle "Ap" (Which I haven't used yet). The touch is much smaller and doesn't have the screen size for a lot words, but does display them large enough to read. I have read a lot of websites on my laptop and now on the Ipod and it is a totally different situation from reading a book. I still pick up a book and read and I still buy books to read. But that's me, that's someone who graduated in the 80s. We're looking to purchase a Kindle or two for the library and possibly the SPED department (ideas not action at this point). Bottom line is we need student feedback on all devices as we move forward with technology in education.

Observation: Yes, there are many, many questions without answers but that's mainly because so many more people (thousands apon millions) asking them. And there are people who can, almost immediately, answer them credibly. If not an answer, a comment to spur your thinking further.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A first step to changing education - "Share"

Deron Durflinger, Principal at the progressive minded Van Meter Community School District, went out on a limb with - "Pay Teachers $100,000 or More." I commented that he has moved to the end point, a goal, a vision and that is great. But we need to focus on the now. He's a forest guy, I'm a tree guy.

The tree I'm staring at has the word - "Share" engraved into it's bark.

He suggests a system where all students have access to the best teacher through blended classrooms where teachers have 50, 100, 150 or more students and get paid $1,000 per student. A discussion naturally ensued and Deron admitted he has more answers than what he could reveal in Pay Teachers $1,000 or more. The post was could have been five times as long based on his answers to the 8 and counting comments that given.

I would like to suggest we look at every opportunity to "Share". Share teachers; Share ideas with each other; Share ideas with the building; Share ideas with the community; and Share the Vision the 21st Century Skills portion of the Iowa Core Curriculum provides for us.

Share Teachers: Traditionally this means sharing with districts close, where the teacher leaves the building and travels to another. While this can still be done, we need to move to sharing via the internet and/or ICN. The use of Course Management Systems (CMS), like Moodle and or simply a Wiki, website or Google docs (for delivering basic instruction) would allow the teacher to be based anywhere and travel to any school involved - even if it were to be a ways away. All the students could be connected and the teacher could schedule reasonable school visits.

Share Ideas: I have a river of ideas and inspiration passing by my desktop every day through "Tweet Deck" and "Twitter". This is great and has changed my professional life for the better forever. However, I still feel we're operating as individual districts with a common interest, not a cohesive group that has both a vision and a working relationship towards that vision. Our one-to-one districts sat down once in Iowa, we need to sit down at least once a month. Maybe that's happening with other districts and they feel that's good for now. What can we do by next year?

Share ideas in the building: Don't operate alone and share your ideas with your leadership team and teachers. Provide ongoing professional development, including special meetings, virtual training and daily reminders. Get teachers to set up their own PLNs, including teachers in the building and out. Show them yours and show them how. Work to strengthen those who get it right away and target those who are close as you can devote time to them.

Share what you're doing with the community: Have a constant stream of information through your website, newspaper, blog and twitter to what you're doing. Give them the whys and be sure your staff and district are all on the same page. Educate.

Share the 21st Century Skills: Read them over again. It's a pass from the DE to do the very things we're tweeting about every night. When a parent questions, point to the skills; when a teacher questions, point to the skills; when a board member questions, point to the skills. "How can we post that video on Youtube," a parent asked me. My answer, "How can we not?" A simple review of the DE documentation shows that peer review and that kind of exposure is vital.

I think we have the opportunity to move forward yet this year, but time will quickly disappear if we don't start on the specifics.

Let's Share!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Challenge - accomplish a goal a day

Today's new technologies require a shorter attention span when it comes to goals. With traditional goal setting we tend to aim for a distant target, one we can...ummm...put off and do at the last minute close to the deadline.

A blogger in my Professional Learning Network (PLN) has challenged us to accomplish 30 goals in 30 days.

"What?!" you may say. "That's ridiculous."

Actually it's something I've been thinking about recently, the quick pace that learning in a PLN occurs is so radically different from anything I've every experienced. It requires releasing the notion of set plans, 3-5 year goal setting. Things change so fast...seemingly day by day, hour by hour and in some cases it seems minute-to-minute.

It's because someone can quickly send you a link that can challenge and/or change your thinking on a specific topic.

30 goals in 30 days. I bet I'll be blogging about it soon.

Link -