July 2010


My contribution to Leadership Day, 2010:

I have had the incredibly good fortune (for which I am so grateful) to be an educational leader for 13 years now, but only in the past several years have I sought to be come an educational leader– and it’s been a great ride, one I wish all my school leadership colleagues will take!  Here is a smattering of thoughts on techniques for 21st century ed leadership, with one most important message: today more than ever, leadership is about learning, and those of us who aim to lead learning must be ourselves Chief Learners in order to be Chiefs of Learning.

Focus on yourself.   You must become the change you wish to see in your schools.  Unfortunately, this can be hard if we are, as I think I was, trapped in a fixed mindset.  Carol Dweck’s book Mindset was critical to me; she explains how there are only two mindsets, fixed and growth, and many of us, students and even more so adults, are trapped in a fixed mindset.  In this, we think we are what we have been, and cannot become something different.  We think that to seek to grow, to learn, to change will demonstrate weakness, flaws, or failings.  We think that if we have not been, in our past, digitally savvy, then we cannot change ourselves.  But if we take Dweck and adopt a growth mindset, there is nothing we cannot become.

Having adopted a growth mindset and made the pledge to learn and grow, start learning.  Reframe your own self-image as Principal, Head or Superintendent; you are not just Chief of Learning but you are Chief Learner, you are Learner in Chief.

Learning is not just about reading more widely, or attending more conferences (though those aren’t bad ideas).   We must also learn in the field, visiting other schools with all the frequency we can possibly find, and make it a priority to do so.   Visit widely, and do your research: where are the schools that are doing the kind of work you most want to do in your own schools. (more…)

This is a post inspired by blogging friend and colleague Josie Holford, who did a great post last week on the topic Advice for New Teachers.   Let me quote a couple of my favorite of her points before adding my own.

  1. Assume that your older colleagues want to be helpful and see you succeed. This includes administrators. Invite them to your classroom. Ask their opinion. Ask to see them teach – or whatever it is they do. See if you can find a project of theirs in which you can participate.
  2. Sign on to Twitter. Follow the smartest people you can find in your areas of interest. Build a great PLN – personal learning network – of the wisest and most helpful people you can find. Follow people with whom you agree and those who challenge your assumptions.  Follow people like you; follow people not like you. One place to start looking: Twitter for Teachers wiki.
  3. Take advantage of the opportunity to work with students outside the classroom – clubs, teams, school trips.
  4. Learn from failure, learn from practice, learn from collaboration with colleagues, learn from theory. Most of all – stay a learner.  [One of your chief roles in the classroom is as Chief Learner, not just Chief of Learning] And here is Cybrary Man’s website of resources for new teachers. He is Jerry Blumengarten and twitters @cybraryman1

Thanks Josie: And now some of my own to add (readers, please add your own by using the comment box); some of these first appeared in a comment I left on Josie’s compasspoint blog post.

1. This can be counterintuitive and counter to how you were taught, but try this:  Problems first.  Invert the normal paradigm where we used to deliver the content, information, and skills first, and then ask the questions. Ask the questions, pose the problems at the outset, and then envision yourself a mountain climbing guide roped in with your students as you facilitate them in climbing up the mountain that is the challenge.  (See Ted McCain’s Teaching for Tomorrow for a fuller discussion of this). (more…)

John Medina’s Brain Rules is a great read: fun, breezy, informative and applicable.  The website too is an awesome collection of resources.

One of the coolest growing practices in teaching today is that of the experimental teacher, one who deliberately, and collaboratively, tests techniques in learning as an active educational researcher, and draws conclusions about best practice from first hand trial and error.

For those educators practicing this, Medina’s book is a great resource: in every chapter he provides examples of brain-research based practices which should, he argues, improve learning.  But don’t take his word for it– try it and assess the results.   (And then publish them on your classroom teacher blog!).

Below are 10 of his suggestions especially well suited for such classroom experimentation.

1. Exercise so boosts brainpower that learning is enormously enhanced when students are engaged in light exercise during or in times adjacent to learning.   Medina recommends treadmills under each student’s desk, which seems a bit impractical.   What if a classroom, in a 75 minute period, divided the students in half, sending one group out for a five minute brisk walk halfway through the lesson while the other group review notes, and then quizzed both groups afterwards.    Which group would perform better? (more…)


At the Edu-Blogger Con East, the  first session, is about Glogster as a tool for learning in classrooms.

Participants share, and one enthuses about universal design of learning (UDL).    She offers a big endorsement, particularly for the classroom poster board program as an alternative to the normal paper posterboard projects so often used.

GlogsterEDU participation among students is equally split among elementary, middle, and upper schools.  The original glogster is a social network site,  “mostly used by teenage girls who use it express their angst.”   Now, more and more schools are using it as an online scrapbooking, journaling, and poster making site.   EDU Glogster is entirely separate, and has no links back to glogster.

As schools like our own, St. Gregory, adopt 1:1 laptop programs, we need to become better informed about options and tools for classroom use.  As at most schools, our students regularly do posters for presentations, but with each student having a laptop, the opportunities for them to do work like posterboard presentations online.   Glogster seems a great tool. (more…)

Earlier this week I attended my first ever “unconference”: EdubloggerCon East, hosted at Boston’s Park Plaza by the November Learning Group.   A big thanks to Alan November for providing the venue for free.   An unconference is a new concept, but not that hard to explain.  One of our two excellent facilitators, Lisa Thumann (@lthumann) has provided a nice explanation on her blog, but let me offer a quick summary.

Simply put, when a venue has been established, perhaps by donation, the word is put out by Twitter and blogs that there will be a gathering of folks with a common interest, a wiki is established to manage the attending and the agenda, attendees offer up potential sessions,  and then as the event opens, introductions are made and the plan for the day finalized.

The event I attended, as it would appear, was for folks who blog and tweet about education, and more particularly, about 21st century learning and the reform movement advocating for technology integration, 21st century skills, and web 2.0.  There were about forty of us, I would say, in attendance, and I made great connections and learned a lot.    I was only there for the morning, and enjoyed a very informative session about Glogster EDU, and then participated vigorously in a second session, on the topic of Rethinking/Renaming 21st Century Learning.  I really want to thank both Lisa Thumann and also her excellent co-facilitator, Liz Davis (@LizDavis).

Another version of an unconference is an “edcamp.”  I felt priviliged to sit next to and learn more about edcamp from one of its Philadelphia founders, Dan Callahan (@dancallahan).   Edcamps have only just begun, and similarly they are all about free or very inexpensive “meet-ups” of educators who conduct professional development by sharing resources, collaborating in a peer-to-peer learning dynamic, and using the power of the web and wikis for communicating key information and distributing resources.

The question for me becomes then: Edcamp Tucson?   Who is in? (Share your enthusiasm for the concept by using the comment box on the post here).    I am tempted to try to work with Tucson folks for a mid-fall event (early November, anyone?) and use our centrally located campus to try to promote a Tucson wide Free Edcamp event.