Leading the Net Gen., Part 2, Will Richardson

Will Richardson’s words, whether presented via a live session or found on his blog, Weblogg-ed, always inspire me to rethink.

Richardson stressed that we have to start rethinking our linear way of doing things. Education is in a moment of severe transition. My absolute favorite words of the day?

“Buckle up: you’re going to have to be open to the changes and shifts no matter how uncomfortable they make you.”

Richardson made the point that the shift in education is not around technology;  it’s around curriculum.  Consider the following:  if we know reading and writing are changing, what are we doing about it to change what our students are doing differently? He encouraged the educational leaders in the room to stop talking only about technology and reflect upon current curricular and instructional practices. How are we getting our students where they need to be?

As I tuned into Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ live Elluminate session last night, I realize she echos this sentiment as well. Her book, Curriculum 21, is currently sitting on my desk, waiting to be devoured.

This summer I will work to brainstorm and plan K-6 professional development opportunities for teachers in the areas of curriculum and technology, thus I appreciated Richardson’s remarks on offering PD to teachers: Don’t schedule how-to workshops; make it a prerequisite for teachers to learn the skill/tool BEFORE the workshop. At the workshop, make connections to curriculum, develop skills, and collaborate to produce meaningful, actionable plans for student learning. This recent blog post by Terry Freedman explores professional development in technology and highlights quality resources for those in tech integrator and admin roles to consult.

On a personal note, I appreciated having the chance to showcase this blog and be featured in a take-a-look-at-what-Twitter-is-all-about session in the afternoon. Richardson asked for a show of hands from those who blogged, and my lonely hand sloooowly went into the air. 🙂 I was glad it did, although at first the shock of seeing your blog plastered on three giant screens in front of hundreds of administrators is a tad bit intimidating. He offered compliments on my use of linked text and some of the content of my posts. We examined my ClustrMap, and it was affirming to see the diversity of visitors that read my blog!

The day’s take-away ideas from Richardson are that the most important aspects of successfully infusing 21st century skills into our classrooms are to model, emulate, and show the shifts in your schools. Consider your classrooms to be laboratories for learning, and realize that  in every lab, there is failure. Expect failure, yet try to mitigate it to yield positive student learning experiences.

Next year my elementary school is taking a cohort of admin and teachers to participate in Powerful Learning Practice,  “an ongoing, job-embedded opportunity built around emerging social Web technologies.” The great minds behind this endeavor are Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  I have confidence that the cohort I’ve selected has the enthusiasm, energy, and desire to be the catalyst for positive changes and will work collaboratively to set the stage for rethinking teaching and learning in our school. Read about the Year 1 experiences that await us.

Many thanks to both Jason Ohler and Will Richardson for an amazing day of reflection and inspiration.

Leading the Net Generation, Part I, Jason Ohler

Last week I attended a conference at IU13 – “Leading the Net Generation” – featuring Will Richardson and Jason Ohler. The conference was designed to be a two-day experience with several different presenters, but due to snow days and the school year extending into the original conference dates for most of the schools in the county, it was reconfigured into one day of immersion into the minds of Richardson and Ohler. Not too shabby! This post highlights the information shared by Jason Ohler.

Ohler began the morning with his keynote, asking us to consider, “How do we open doors for our students?” He remarked that his most meaningful teachers opened doors for him to engage in new types of learning.  Ohler also defined

Literacy- consuming and producing the media forms of the day, whatever they are

In the past, students were simply consumers of information. Now, students have Screasals (screen+easels); what some adults consider a simple phone for communication or a laptop for consumption of information, students use these tools to create! Students need to be able to write well whatever they read! Ohler goes on to explain the differences between Web 2.0, Web 2.1 (read, write, paint) and the evolving Web 3.0 – read, write, paint, THINK.

Ohler emphasized ensuring our students understand and create with visually differentiated text (from large blocks of text to collage) and need command of  the DAOW of Literacy:


Ohler also made a convincing argument for storytelling in the classroom. Since infancy, children have been engaged with story. They want information delivered in story format and respond emotionally when done so. Teachers should strive to incorporate story elements and storytelling into instruction and student initiatives. This will result in more meaningful learning!

This conference was for administrators, so naturally, we wanted to know how we can best support our teachers in these endeavors. Ohler presented the acronym CARES in summary of what administrators need to do to help teachers and students in their digital literacy and learning journeys:

Compensation – pretty straightforward (not always possible monetarily) but provide other types of compensation that make taking risks worthwhile for teachers
Assistance – provide needed resources and personal assistance; research grants and other opportunities to bring new resources to your schools
Recognition – celebrate those teachers who are taking risks with learning and literacy!
Extra time – get creative with schedules, provide opportunities for teachers and teacher teams to work on projects on company time
Support risk, pilots – if a teacher comes to you with an idea, support that risk; encourage teachers to participate in pilot programs; allow them to show you what learning opportunities are out there!

I enjoyed learning from Ohler last week and encourage all of you to explore his blog, which contains plentiful resources for educators.

We can all list reasons why not to branch out and take risks in the classrooms. Ohler’s final words:

Turn your concerns into goals.

Develop capacity in your teachers, administrative teams, students, and school community, and you can attack the concerns in a productive manner. Go forth and open doors!

Technology and student engagement

“Student engagement is the product of motivation and active learning. It is a product rather than a sum because it will not occur if either element is missing.”

Elizabeth F. Barkley (Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty

What are the best tools you’ve found to improve student engagement with the content/lesson and promote interaction and collaboration in your classroom?

After reading a post by Gary Hopkins on Mouse Mischief, I’d be willing to give this a try in our classrooms. We’re mounting more Smartboards in our classrooms next year, and this week I went into a fifth grade classroom to show the teacher what Smart Notebook can do. While I was able to bring students up to the board to manipulate parts of the rock cycle and label the layers of the Earth, I really didn’t feel as though what I was presenting was any more dynamic than having students interact with graphic manipulatives in groups at their seats. I think I will need to do a better job helping my teachers learn the best ways to encourage student interaction and engagement with the boards.

I am open and excited to hearing about other tools/tips/tricks you have for classroom teachers to make the most out of their interactive boards and any other tools you’ve used/seen used with great success.

Source: Pics4Learning

Top tools?

I feel like in the past year I’ve been surveyed to death, but each time I sit down to complete one, I trust that whomever is compiling the results of said survey will use the data for good. Not evil. In an attempt to “make sense” of the plethora of online resources/networks/communities/tools that are available to educators, I will be surveying district elementary staff to determine their:

a) current comfort level with the technologies/tools within our district

b) desired uses of these tools to impact student learning

c) professional development needs with these tools

d) experience in using online tools for learning

e) participation in PLNs – both online and face-to-face organizations

We are working to compile a resource site where the best 5-10 resources are easily made available to teachers for use with students, complete with tutorials and professional development opportunities/support to help the technologies be successfully integrated into the classroom.

I’d love to hear from my PLN about their “go-to” resources and tools. If you could only use 5 online resources with elementary students, what would they be? If you could master the use of any 5 technologies, which ones would you choose? Why?

I consider myself lucky to be surrounded and supported by experts in education and educational technology through my PLN. Not a day goes by when I don’t learn something new, and I wish the same for my teachers and students. Hopefully this resource will be a step in the right direction.


Inspired by #edchat’s Tuesday night discussion about the meaningful use of interactive whiteboards in classrooms, I began to ponder: Should I purchase more of these tools for use in my building next year, when I have 5-6 mobile SMARTboards already that aren’t being used consistently (and frankly, may not be used meaningfully when they are checked out for classrooms?) I have two Promethean boards that are installed in a third and sixth grade classroom. These teachers received training from Promethean personnel and use the board throughout most of their day with students. They are quite comfortable with the resources available to them, and both have created their own resources as well as utilized those found through Promethean Planet. But are they using resources that engage learners? Could they use similar displays on an overhead projector? Or with a document camera? Or their laptop used with an LCD projector? Are the students truly engaging in curricular content through the use of the boards?

I posed this question to someone who I feel has a keen handle on the vision of educational technology, Aaron Eyler @aaron_eyler, in response to one of his latest blog posts, Interactive Whiteboards and the Future of Educational Technology. He was gracious enough to address my concerns in the post The Battle of Educational Technology: Software, Hardware & Funding and What to Do About It. I think all administrators should read and understand the points addressed in this point. I guarantee you my technology department, comprised of hardworking people who are not from the field of education, will not stumble upon this post, or anything like it, as they begin to plan for next year. I was approached by my tech director with the following scenario: The tech budget is thinning. The other two elementary buildings plan to utilize some of their available funds to buy IWBs (of a third platform, Polyvision- do I want to bring three different platforms into my building?), so could you also buy some Polyvision boards for your building? Initially, I thought, I can see what I can do, but just like your tech budget is thinning, so is my building budget. I thought, How can I not purchase IWBs if the other two buildings are perhaps bringing more boards to their buildings? Will our teachers be disappointed if their principal, the newly named Elem. Tech Integrator, chooses not to purchase more boards for their classrooms? Some would (although they may not understand the reasons why the decision was made). Others may not notice if there were five new boards rolled into the media center tomorrow.

Read insights about this topic from other educators here: Interactive Whiteboards: Engagement is not Interaction from Christopher Rogers @MrRog3rs. His stance is that IWB are a great, traditional tool, but not interactive. This post from Steven Anderson @web20classroomentitled Interactive Whiteboards: Sage on the Stage? summarizes the points made in #edchat about this tool being an instructional tool, not a tool with which students can engage while learning content.

My job as elem. tech integrator is to work to integrate technology and 21st century skills into the curriculum. Sound familiar? Cliche, I know, but I will be working with our academic curriculum, finding points of essential learning that lend themselves nicely to tech. integration opportunities, and helping teachers infuse the technology and the skills of student collaboration and creation into the curricular units in a seamless fashion. It is a daunting task, but we have a great teacher and admin team who will able to rise to the challenge. Since technologies are changing every second, my hope is that we’re not writing technology-specific goals into the curriculum (“All students will know how to format a word processing document with 1-inch margins using Microsoft Word” – reallly, we need to put that in writing?!!!), but rather opening teachers’ eyes to the learning opportunities that technology tools and the crucial 21st century skills framework can offer their students.

So… I think I have a plan. Or at least a vague idea of what might be some sort of a plan in my head.

1. Approach my admin. team and tech. director about the fact that I do not want to purchase additional IWB for my building until I know a) my teachers will use them b) my teachers will be trained adequately c) teachers can prove to me through the use of the IWB, students are learning essential content in new and meaningful ways.

2. Tell my teachers about this. Express my concerns that the technology we have is not being used. Last year was my first year as their principal. I noticed the SMARTboards lined up in the media center every day, gathering dust. I brought in SMARTboard training for one of the first in-services. They showed a greater comfort level with the technology following that training, but use still isn’t at the level where it should be.

2. Start to research interactive tablet options. I would rather have a tablet in the hands of every student than an IWB in the front of the room where only one teacher and one student can interact simultaneously. Invest in more sets of student-response “clickers.” We have one set each with our Promethean systems, and teachers and students use them productively. We have one older, fully functional Senteo system that was not used once last year. It was used two-three times this year. By a student teacher. 🙂

3. Invest in: mounted ceiling projectors in every classroom and encourage my tech director to beef up our bandwidth (it’s horrid) and get the infrastructure ready to go for file sharing and flawless use of the internet throughout the school day, in all classrooms. If my teachers are guaranteed to have an LCD projector in their classrooms every day, they can plan to integrate the use of Web 2.0 tools through the use of their laptops. Every single one of them has a laptop. How lucky are we?! By nature, many Web 2.0 tools are collaborative. Hopefully through their use teachers will begin to see the power of allowing students to engage in this type of learning. Invest in more digital cameras and video cameras for creation opportunities. Invest in more netbooks and/or laptops for students. One cart per grade level would be ideal.

I don’t know if this plan is worth beans, but it’s where my thoughts are right now. I would appreciate feedback from anyone who has walked in my shoes in attempting to plan for technology purchases for a building, or from teachers who can offer insight into preferred technologies to use in their classrooms. I am also very interested in learning more about the tablet options that are out there. Thanks again to #edchat for inspiring this discussion and helping me to ponder what my students really need.