Hamlet, Facebook Style

The creative ones always find interesting ways to mashup the classics with modern media. Such is the case with Timothy McSweeny’s Facebook News Feed Edition of Hamlet with lines being done as Facebook updates. As you read this, ponder how you would react if a student submitted this as their synopsis of the book or creative writing assignment.

McSweeney’s Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition)

Horatio thinks he saw a ghost.
Hamlet thinks it’s annoying when your uncle marries your mother right after your dad dies.
The king thinks Hamlet’s annoying.
Laertes thinks Ophelia can do better.
Hamlet’s father is now a zombie.
- – - -

The king poked the queen.
The queen poked the king back.
Hamlet and the queen are no longer friends.
Marcellus is pretty sure something’s rotten around here.
Hamlet became a fan of daggers.
- – - -

Polonius says Hamlet’s crazy … crazy in love!
Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet are now friends.
Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.
Hamlet thinks Ophelia might be happier in a convent.
Ophelia removed “moody princes” from her interests.
Hamlet posted an event: A Play That’s Totally Fictional and In No Way About My Family
The king commented on Hamlet’s play: “What is wrong with you?”
Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind.
Polonius is no longer online.
- – - -

Hamlet added England to the Places I’ve Been application.
The queen is worried about Ophelia.
Ophelia loves flowers. Flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers. Oh, look, a river.
Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don’t Float.
Laertes wonders what the hell happened while he was gone.
- – - -

The king sent Hamlet a goblet of wine.
The queen likes wine!
The king likes … oh crap.
The queen, the king, Laertes, and Hamlet are now zombies.
Horatio says well that was tragic.
Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, says yes, tragic. We’ll take it from here.
Denmark is now Norwegian.

Blogging for LeaderTalk on Education Week

It is with great excitement that I mention that I recently started blogging for LeaderTalk on Education Week.

If you are probably aware of all the wonderful things that Education Week offers, but if you haven’t looked at the blogs they offer, you are missing some great articles and discussions:

  1. Bridging Differences
  2. LeaderTalk
  3. Curriculum Matters
  4. Digital Education
  5. Eduholic

It is a humbling experience to write about my experience and growth as a leader in education.  I owe so much of that to the excellent mentors that continue to guide, shape, and ground my growth in this area: Dr. Riggle, Dr. Williamson, Dr. Pryma, Dr. Tarjan, and Dr. Schilling.

Okay, the whole Dr. thing there makes me really nervous when I see it all lined up that way — time to stop blogging and go work on my research.

[Tags] leadership, blogging [/Tags]

Obama's Did You Know, Friedman, Pink, and 21st Century Impression

President Obama’s recent speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on the subject of “A Complete and Competitive American Education” provided a number of interesting topics worthy of discussion.

First, Obama addresses quite clearly what he believes to be the purpose of education: to produce high quality citizens capable of competing globally all for economic reasons. In other words, ECONOMICS! In fact, he made it clear that education needs to do a better job in this digital age of creating these 21st Century citizens:

America will not remain true to its highest ideals — and America’s place as aglobal economic leader will be put at risk — … if we don’t do a far better job than we’ve been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world.

And,  Obama employs a Friedman-like argument that education is failing as we fall behind other countries and lose ground in a global, creative knowledge society, and  Friedman). While a point that many have countered, it is rather interesting how he tied it all together in the drive to live the American Dream:

And yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we’ve let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us. Let me give you a few statistics. …What’s at stake is nothing less than the American Dream.

After the non-actionable rhetoric, there is a clear picture of how he plans to reform education so that all students are on a path towards higher education and a path toward economic success.

  1. Merit Pay
  2. Early Childhood Education
  3. Research-Based Best Practice tied to Fiscal decisions
  4. Better standards and assessment
  5. IMHO, a round about way of calling for a National set of Standards or coalition of states wrapped around the sme standards
  6. 21st Century Skill focus: “like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity”.
  7. K-16 Student Data Tracking
  8. “recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers.” or money, mentoring, and merit pay
  9. Charter Schools: “promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools. One of the places where much of that innovation occurs is in our most effective charter school”
  10. Enhance after-school programs
  11. Rethink the school calendar
  12. Student Accountability
  13. Commitment to Higher Education for All
  14. Parent Ownership

Through it all, the one statement that stood out to me is the one I just don’t think we are prepared to do for a variety of reasons:

The time for holding us — holding ourselves accountable is here. What’s required is not simply new investments, but new reforms. It’s time to expect more from our students. It’s time to start rewarding good teachers, stop making excuses for bad ones. It’s time to demand results from government at every level. It’s time to prepare every child, everywhere in America, to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world.

How will Obama go about making this happen? How will he work with the NEA? Teacher quality is proven to be the most important factor in student achievement and improvement so the answer to a return to academic glory in the United States seems pretty clear cut. It is really easy to say “I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences. The stakes are too high. We can afford nothing but the best when it comes to our children’s teachers and the schools where they teach”. The “how to get there” with the current academic structure is the conversation needed.

This surely isn’t a revolutionary speech full of revolutionary ideas (seems like he watched Did You Know and Learning to Change, Changing to learn and read Friedman, Pink, and The Partnership for 21st Century Skills). However, it surely raises questions and discussion points about where Duncan and Obama are attempting to take this country’s education system. Many ideas for which progressive educators have been wanting to discuss for years while others they’ve feared being attached to reform.

Regardless, let the conversation begin!
Final Point

“government policy will make any difference unless we also hold ourselves more accountable as parents — because government, no matter how wise or efficient, cannot turn off the TV or put away the video games.”

Really? How 20th Century is that statement in a speech pushing 21st Century?

[Tags] education, obama, educationreform [/Tags]

Model, Model, Model

The more I witness it, the more I am convinced that leaders must model practices they wish to instill and be the change they seek in the school. While there are many qualities that define great leadership, modeling and being the change are elements essentials.

In other words, model, model, model!

Yes, these might not lead to profound changes but without them, it becomes a lot more difficult.

I’m blessed with an associate principal that embodies all that is right and good with leadership especially this concept of modeling and being the change. Two years ago, we made the decision to start using wikis in our all school workshops and institute days for planning, designing, and sharing in a transparent way. Today, wikis are a part of who we are, a part of our daily lives.

The same is true for Google Docs as a means of transparent leadership and more efficient ways of doing business.

Today, another example of modeling took place as teachers entered the faculty meeting after school and saw this displayed prominently on the wall:

Now, I don’t expect nor would I really think it is intelligent practice to have every teacher using Poll Everywhere. And, that really isn’t the point. In fact, it had very little to do with the tool itself but more to do with a consistent message that instructional technology is part of our daily conversation as we move towards a day where it is natural part of our learning community.

As I’ve said before, school leaders embracing and engaging with participatory media in all facets says so much to the faculty: take risks, fish down the hallway, be innovative, be open, try new things, failure is a step towards success, and web 2.0 is here.

When I talk about systemic change, I don’t talk about the iron fist that defines top down leadership. I talk about leaders enriching the lives of their teachers and instilling a sense that we can move together towards something greater as an innovative culture.

Today is not going to change our culture. But, the culmination of many days like this will go a long way towards a continued understanding that we must continue to evolve our practices and never become content that we are good enough.

It takes time. It takes patience. It takes vision and passion. It takes great leaders. It takes open teachers. It takes modeling from all!

[Tags] leadership, innovation, modeling, web2.0, systemicchange [/Tags]

Leveraging Twitter Search

In my ongoing quest to best harness the network in which I’ve woven together, my recent use of Twitter and Google Reader has yielded two things:

  1. Diversification of those I’m following and leveraging on Twitter
  2. A wealth of interesting resources and great discussions

So, here is what I am doing:

  1. Searching Twitter using key terms that are of current interest to me: professional development, C&I, methodology, edu research, etc.
  2. Create RSS feed for each and place into Google Reader
  3. Check feeds at the end of the night for relevant resources, discussions, topics, and people

While nothing earth shattering here, it is quite an effective way for me to better leverage my little corner of learning and stretching.

[Tags] twitter, google, googlereader, network [/Tags]

Adult Invasion Equals Change of Hangout?

I remember seeing one adult skating around then another and before I knew it, every time we went to the bowling/skating rink, adults were there in full force.

We soon found a new hangout and that pizza parlor held up for the remainder of my youth. In fact, I have some of my fondest memories at that pizza joint but it would have only taken a few adults to force us somewhere else.

You see, I don’t think it was so much the place but that the place was our own. It was a place where adolescents could be adolescents but also adults by way of being the oldest there.

Now, don’t jump off this post just yet. This isn’t a trip down memory lane, I promise.

I bring this up because of the latest Facebook trends that show  adults have not only entered the building, they have entered in great force according to Inside Facebook: “45% of Facebook’s US audience is now 26 years old or older and the fastest growing segment in the US: Women over 55, up 175.3% in the last 120 days.”

What does this mean for teens and college students? Will they flee for “a place they can call their own”? Should we as adults invade this place, this sanctuary?

These are questions to ponder especially for teachers who I’m hearing, often as I cringe, about connecting with their students via Facebook as some sort of course learning space.  While I find it wonderful that educators are looking to leverage social networking and seeking new ways to connect with their students, I wonder how many have really talked to their students about how much they want adults, specifically their teachers, connecting with them on Facebook. In my conversations with students, the overwhelmingly majority state that they don’t want their teachers using Facebook educationally.

And can we blame them? This is their skating rink, their mall, their arcade, their pizza parlor.

And, Facebook is still their place as the overall numbers show:

But, as the aforemention trends show, this is changing.

So, how long will they tolerate this adult invasion?

After all, the past, virtual or not, tells us that we can invade their space all we want. They will just find a new and even better one that we can flock to in a few more years once we accept it as valuable long after they have.

Images come from Inside Facebook

[Tags] insidefacebook, facebook, socialnetworking [/Tags]

My Heart is Pure

This past week was really rough.

For the first time in my professional career, I questioned the basic values that define me: why do I share, why do I protect, why do I go 24/7, why do I believe team over everything, and why do I care. You see, I saw with clear eyes for the first time selfishness, ingratitude, truth massaged, cut-throat, and “out for me” mentality that crushes hope and success.

This brought me to an all time emotional low professionally, a low that I could hide from 98% of my colleagues but not from two. And, it is these two that I’m eternally grateful because they painted the picture that needed to be painted:

1. Never Break Who You Are

Surely, this is a lesson that goes back to kindergarten but it is something that didn’t make a lot of sense until recently.  And this week, I questioned whether I should be what I see others being. The look of stunned shock on a colleague that I trust so much was enough to make me sick that it even crossed my mind. As my colleague said in so many words, now isn’t the time to move away from who you are; now is the time to show them who you are.

2. Keep Growing, Keep Going
Everything is a lesson and everything is an opportunity for growth. When the values and ideals that made you remain, these moments that are disappointing and frustrating lead to something greater because the goal is something greater. In other words, I fear failure because I want so much for education, for my teachers, for my team, and for my students. It isn’t about me and those have been the values that have made me who I am today.

And with many words of wisdom, this quote arrived strategically: “’Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They’re what make the instrument stretch-what make you go beyond the norm.‘ The question is how will this challenge define you?”

Not really a question if your heart is pure, if you are a true leader.

Thank you! You both know who you are.

Discussing Institute Days

I am of the belief that the best institute days are not so much about learning, as much as a commitment to it. They are not about moments of community but a continued commitment to it. They aren’t so much about the day but what the days ahead will bring.

Those are the things I value when deciding upon and designing our institute days as was the case with our 2nd Annual Teachers Teaching Teachers Mini-Conference on March 2nd where we again tapped the shoulders of professionals in the classroom to give them a greater responsibility and a stronger voice to encourage the personalization of learning opportunities designed as a community.

Key Elements of the Day
Best Practices in Professional Development: The key to designing this day was a focus on best practices in professional development and adult learning as a microcosm for a coherent, well-designed approach to sustained, ongoing learning for all in a transparent culture of innovation and change:

•    Choice
•    Collaborative
•    Application and collective inquiry time
•    Connected to practice
•    Art and science of teaching
•    Teacher Driven
•    Diverse
•    Learning not Training
•    Transparent
•    Informal and Formal
•    Modeling
•    Networking
•    Intensive, Challenging, and Thought-Provoking
•    Aligned
•    Internal
•    External

Establishing Tone: The notion of an institute day for many brings about negative feelings and frustration over wasted time. Thus, it was critical to set a tone that this was more than just another  institute day. This is why a conference approach was selected for its ease of creating an atmosphere of celebration, community, and change. Not to mention, it allowed for the selection of a keynote speaker to establish and set the tone for the day for which David Warlick did exceptionally well.

Stakeholder Involvement: It is critical that these days are not created in isolation but include the voices of those in which the day serves: teachers, administrators, and students. However, this does not mean merely a the setup of a committee. It is about that committee gathering insights, concerns, and ideas from their colleagues and sharing these together so that all voices are included. In many ways, it is about a transparent process and design.

The Next Approach: For me, I’m thinking in terms of the next 100 days: how we will extend the learning in breadth and depth, implement the proof of concepts in a systemic way, support the collaborative investigations with just-in time movements, sustain the energy to push forward for new heights during the Dip, and adjust the sails of our learning community in order to maintain a culture of change and innovation without restriction.

The Symbolic Nature of the Day
This day was important for what it represented symbolically .   In fact, the value in this day was the coming together in a celebratory way as a community reflecting upon where we were, showcasing how far we’ve come, and taking first steps towards where we are going.

Does learning occur on this day? Absolutely!  But the day is a celebration of community, a celebration of life long learning, and a celebration of change.

This is a strategic approach where each step is designed to reenergize batteries, assess and evaluate who we are as a learning community,  and coming together in the spirit of a continued belief in growing, stretching and pushing.

Our institute day was designed with those pieces in mind, with the driving question always on how do we encapsulate the spirit of community and the celebration of change and growth past, present, and future.

This day laid out how we want to approach professional development and adult learning. But, the true test of how successful these approaches are does not come from the day but how we live up to the day: create energy, address concerns, foster risk-taking, encourage creativity, push the boundaries of innovation, promote collaboration and sharing, offer just-in time learning, focus on methodology, drive change, and stoke the passion of these professionals on a day to day basis!

Next year, we will come together again in the spirit of celebration as a community, life-long learners, and change agents in a change culture.  By coming together in celebration, we will better understand where we’ve come from again: evolution of presentation to a greater degree of breadth and depth, diversified offerings, presentations exploring new heights, new innovations, and new discoveries in the spirit of teaching and learning in the 21st Century, enhancing our methodology in the spirit of best practice, and more and more voices behind heard.

What are we, as building leaders, doing to create this culture? What are we doing to avoid the “wasn’t that day great” mentality that paralyzes the community, culture, and learning if left at just that? How are we leveraging the wealth of information in NSDC’s Professional Learning in the Learning Profession report? How are we making sure our approach is not espoused theory but theory in use?

These are elements that drive our approaches.

When you look at your formal learning days or institute days, what are these meant to accomplish? What are the goals for the day and how do these build upon or lay a foundation for the daily professional development work that shapes teaching and learning? Are these days painting a picture that says this is it or does it create a sense of celebration and continuation of something much greater?

As Lao-tzu stated, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and institute days should be about those single steps and the celebration of the many steps along the miles and miles of the journey. What about your institute days?


Darling-Hammond, L., R. Chung Wei, et al. (2009).Professional Learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council.

Logo designed by Matt C., a Glenbrook North High School student
Photo of NetGen area by Rafael B. Iriarte

A big thank you to all the presenters and the GBN technology advisors, teachers, Art 4 students, instructional technology department, and administrative team for all their work on this microcosm!

[Tags] gbconf09, professionaldevleopment, adultlearning, institutedays [/Tags]

Writing in the Digital Age

With the digital age upon us, participatory media shifts traditionally held concepts of communication and collaboration. Today, publishing is ubiquitous, but when should writing become public? When should it be exposed to engagement, critique, and connections? The very notion of writing needs to expand to include digital, connective experiences that evoke 21st Century Literacies in ways not possible with traditional means of writing. As well, writing needs to be collaborative and independent of time, space, and place.

When washing your car, there is a need to evaluate current practices to determine what remains, what evolves, and what is removed. This is especially true if the notion of connectivism is to be deemed a legitimate learning theory whereby networking is not only encouraged but fostered. What does this do to writers when their networks continue to expand and diversify in depth and breadth? How does convergent media and connective technologies challenge the notion of what it means to be a writer and the notion of writing as a secular act for amateur writers?

The notion of writing is at a tipping point. In fact, just this past week, NCTE released a Call to Support 21st Century Writing stating “this is a call to action, a call to research and articulate new composition, a call to help our students compose often, compose, well, and through these composings, become the citizen writers of our country, the citizen writers of the world”. This represents a new day in the world of writing making conversations surrounding writing even more intriguing. How will we evolve? How will we accept or reject NCTE’s position?

Bud Hunt
says, “Writing in a technological world means that we, as writers and teachers of writing, need to be aware of these choices and how we can best utilize them to have the intended effect on our various audiences”.

But is awareness enough?

NCTE says, “It’s time for us to join the future and support all forms of 21st Century Literacies, inside school and outside school” and that is the direction all teachers of writing need to begin taking today.

[Tags] writing, participatorymedia, web2.0 [/Tags]

I'm A Doodler… deal with it!

I had a hard time keeping focus in school from the time I can remember. As soon as junior high came, teachers started getting all over me about my “lack of attention to my education”. I was a hands-on dreamer: drawing, writing, tapping, sharpening pencils, throwing things away, and, yes, searching for any excuse to get in the hallway — the place of freedom.

Sadly, teachers would often take my notebooks away from me and get angered by my inability to live up to my abilities.

The habit never went away no matter what the teachers said or did, so I was happy to see a recent article in Wired Magazine, A Sketchy Brain Booster, saying this sort of doodling might help people to concentrate.

Thought for the day: Maybe we are just too focused on the image of the student we were instead of understanding that learners are unique and manage the learning environment differently. What else are we telling students to stop doing, put away, and turn off all in the name of “focusing on the class”, which might be better said as focusing on the teacher? How many students are we turning off to education because it doesn’t fit our limited model of how students should act? How many things do we frown upon because we just don’t understand?

Today, I still hide my doodling but now it is in meetings instead of just saying, “Hey, I’m a doodler. Deal with it!”