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]

Get It Done? No! Keep it Going.

It is amazing what can be done when leaders tap 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.

logo design by GBN student Matt C.

On March 2nd, this very thing, this empowerment is celebrated when our learning community engages in our 2nd Annual Teachers Teaching Teachers Mini-Conference, a day designed with elements of andragogy and professional development best practices*.

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

As stated in Professional Learning in the Learning Profession, by the National Staff Development Council, “when well-designed, professional learning helps teachers master content, hone teaching skills, evaluate their own and their students’ performance, and address changes needed in teaching and learning in their school”.

I believe that is exactly what our teachers have done with this day.

However, these days are only successful if the community avoids making them fragmented moment in time and instead makes them a microcosm for a coherent, well-designed approach to sustained, ongoing learning for all in a transparent culture of innovation and change. And that really is the point of this post. 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? 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?

Sadly, professional development is often too much about getting it done NOT implementing, adjusting, changing, and sustaining. When it is looked at as certain days of the year and staff developers looked at those days as things to get done, we are failing to create the type of culture that can fundamentally shift teaching and learning.

As James Hunt states, “I know of no better way to transform the outmoded factory model of school organization and the egg-crate isolation of teachers than to give teachers the tools and support they need and greater responsibility over what happens in their buildings to ensure that all students achieve”. This questions drives my thinking in terms of how can I make what James Hunt said a reality for our teachers and our students because that is what they need, what they deserve

Thus, as I look to the arrival of this day, I’m not thinking about it being done, a moment checked off my to do list.  I’m thinking about the effort of so many that went into designing this day. I’m thinking about the celebration that this day represents. I’m thinking about the energy and excitment that this day hopefully brings. But, most of all, I’m thinking in terms of the next 100 days and 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.

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


Hunt, J. (2009). Professional Learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council.

Hammond-Darling, 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.

Image designed by Matt C., a Glenbrook North High School student, for the mini-conference.

*okay, maybe some are my own hypotheses that I hope my doctoral research will come to be known someday as best practices.

[Tags] professionaldevelopment, gbconf09 [/Tags]

Teachers First?

I’m one that believes teachers should be actively engaged in most of the things they bring into the classroom especially when it comes to various pieces of participatory media. For example, I tend to see blogging as critical for teachers to be actively engaged with if they are to expect their students to do it.

At Educon this past weekend, the concept of whether or not a teacher needs to blog before having students blog was a point of discussion that had many different perspectives all valid. Since I’ve previously articulated my points on this topic, I’ll avoid rehashing these here but instead address one comment that struck me the moment it was said from a virtual guest (not sure who so please let me know if it is you) Vinny Vrotny that asked rhetorically something along these lines:

“Does a flight controller need to be a pilot to land planes or does a sports radio host need to play sports to discuss sports?”

Okay, I’ve heard these sorts of arguments on various subjects and while I would say the context is a bit different, I couldn’t help but want to respond to this point so here goes.

No, you don’t have to. Obviously, there are many who are quite successful at their job. However, these people have studied long and hard to understand their craft. They didn’t attend a conference on “Landing Planes in the 21st Century” or “Promoting Conversations on Meaningless Sports Topics as a Sports Radio Host” before deciding to land planes or host a radio show. They didn’t read an article and jump right into it.

So, let’s return to the question using this argument. It would say that even though teachers don’t necessarily have to blog before getting their students to blog, they must understand it both in breadth and depth through careful study, observation, and engagement (reading and commenting).

This is a great conversation and one that should be openly discussed. Again, I believe teachers should be blogging or at least have explored (and continue to explore) it broadly and deeply before having their students blogging. At the very least, teachers should begin the process with students and learn together. IMHO, there simply is no excuse for students to be blogging and teachers to not be engaged in some form.

That is just me though and I’m very open to the other perspectives that are out there on this topic.

[Tags] participatorymedia, blogging, web 2.0, modeling [/Tags]

Get Deep and You'll Get Bigger Ideas

I tend to experience a gag reflect every time I come across someone referencing revolution with web 2.0. That is why I was a bit surprised that I actually found myself reading and interested in a recent post on Remote Access that questions just how revolutionary the ideas in the edu blogosphere are if  not challenged or threatened.

While I’m not convinced what we are discussing is revolutionary, I’m of the mindset that much of the discussion is not being heard or what is being heard is poorly contextualized. Part of the reason I believe it is not being heard is the tendency to focus on pockets of excellence whereby the use of technology is still primarily a teacher’s choice not something being discussed in terms of systemic change.

What also concerns me are some assumptions that I also see as problematic if a “revolution” <gag> is the goal:

We know a lot of things. We’ve learned plenty about using social tools in the classroom. We know that kids blogging, taking photos and editing podcasts is a Good Thing. We know that kids have to learn to be safe online. We know that the important thing is not the tools (“Gotta learn Blogger”)  or even in the pedagogy behind them, but is in the different type of learning that these things make possible.

First of all, who is the “we” referenced? I’m going to guess that the “we” consists of those that would call themselves educational technologists. However, I would question that “we” have really learned “plenty” about social tools. I would question that we “know” that blogs and podcasts are a good thing — what exactly do we mean by good thing? In many ways, this is focusing on tools which the author says is not the point. Is it a good thing that students blog or a good thing that students are writing in a public space that is their own in which collaboration and communication can occur in a different context than without a digital space?

While I think the pedagogical piece is of critical importance, I do understand and value the point about different learning contexts. However, much of this is not really known and being discussed beyond “the students were so engaged”, which is a bit tiring in its use as a means of support for why to use participatory media.

I guess the question is more about are all these things we know a lot about the things we need to know for change? If so, to whom do we share this information? If not, what things do we need to know and to whom do we communication this information to spark this “revolution”?

The answer is in the post: research.

It was this part that really connected with me in this article. Not only that, it is why I don’t see the change or revolution occurring. There are just assumption after assumption being made especially by people that spend little time in schools outside of consulting gigs and more time reading all the hype in business books in order to push the latest fad or semantic revolution.

But I digress.

The great point in this article and why I find myself writing about it is the need to engage in quantitative and qualitative research to support our opinions, assumptions, and anecdotal evidence. There is a need to form partnerships with universities. There is a need for action research supported and sponsored by leaders in the schools and in conjunction with researchers at universities. This is also a why I don’t think we need to constantly think about something new. I’d like to see us get deep with ideas instead of living up to being a mile wide and an inch deep. This to me is getting on with big ideas — getting deep with what we already have!

Finally, I do think we need stop thinking teachers can’t do this and start engaging these professionals in scholarship — <gulp> dare I say a little Boyer in K-12 might go a long way. However, the key is the need to take what is being discussed amongst the various little networks out there and get universities involved to engage in solid research that helps legitimize what some are seemingly hoping people will just blindly accept.

Learning in Philly

I have the opportunity to return to Philly this year for what I hope to be another exceptional learning experience at Educon 2.1 filled with two days of discussion, debate, and shared inquiry with practitioners from all walks of education.

During this time, I will have the opportunity to facilitate two gatherings of minds. Each of these will take place in radically different formats but will offer unique opportunities for growth.

Gathering One

This gathering will surely spark a lot of discussion and some hearty debate about current trends and topics with Web 2.0 education. In the end, we will surely leave with more questions than answers but hopefully on a higher plane of understanding both in depth and breadth.

Title: Beyond the Web 2.0 Hype
: The past few years have seen an explosion of disruptive technologies that challenge the way we think, the way we operate, and the status quo of educational practice. Understandably, critical questions have emerged regarding the use of these Web 2.0 technologies in education: What does it mean to be well-educated in the 21st Century? Are there new literacies or are there new ways to attain existing ones? What impact is web 2.0 really having on students and schools? Can one be an excellent teacher without using today’s technology? Come prepared to discuss these and other critical questions.

Gathering Two

By using the Six Thinking Hat method of dialogue and the great minds in the room, this gathering will harness the energy, ideas, and experiences of each person as we work on the beginnings of a road map towards a multi-dimensional learning space.

Title: Developing Digital Learning Spaces: From Vision to Reality
: Yes, emerging technologies have great potential. But how do we make them work in our schools today? This session explores the implementation of a multi-dimensional digital space with three components—a course space, a student-content creation space, and a knowledge commons that supports both—and examines how they support the development of learning literacies. Come prepared to evaluate these three spaces and discuss the organizational readiness required to take them from conversation to implementation.


At the expense of sounding preachy, I would like to make one recommendation for those attending Educon this year: do everything possible to see and talk with the teachers and students of the Science Leadership Academy.

Yes, there are so many “names” to meet and many “virtual” friends to interact with in the physical. However, the most powerful part of last year’s experience and the impetus for much reflective thought came from the time spent observing classes on Friday, interacting with students in their various learning spaces, and listening to the passionate educators openly sharing with everyone.

[Tags] educon2.1, multidimensionallearningspace, web2.0 [/Tags]