August 2010

I’m delighted to have been invited to keynote (1st time!) an independent school educational conference, the NYSAIS Education and Information Technology Conference (NEIT 2010).   I will offer two main presentations, and an additional session during the Open Space format.

Learners-in-Chief:  The Importance of our Own Learning in Leading 21st century Schools.   Our society, our workplaces, and our digital tools are changing faster than ever before, and there is no way for us to lead our students’ learning if we are not leading in our own learning about these changes.   This session will consider the significance of the growth mindset and how to strengthen it in ourselves and our students, and will offer suggestions in how we can best practice and facilitate adult learning in our schools.

Aligning Assessment and Data with Mission: Choosing the Right Measurements for School Improvement.    What gets measured is what gets done.  We can’t manage what we can’t measure.  The measurement is the message.  Assessment matters. Assessing effectively what we most want our students to be learning, and collecting the right data and using it appropriately,  can be very valuable in the messages we send about our priorities and in how we use the results to plan our school improvements.   This session will address both important reforms in internal assessments and also several 21st century data collection tools schools can use for these purposes. (more…)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Someone tweeted today: “when is the last time you were in a K-12 classroom that was not your own?”–with the clear implication that this happens far too rarely in our work as educators.  I agree; I don’t think I visited another school’s classroom in action in the entire decade I was a teacher, and only rarely visited another classroom in my own school.

This morning I visited Empire High School in Vail, AZ; it has received some acclaim for the quality of their 1-1 laptop implementation, even in the New York Times. Our visit this morning was lovely in the warm way we were welcomed and toured; it was unfortunate that a monsoon storm last night had crashed their system, and, we were told, they had the worst internet outage in the past five years this same morning we were visiting!

So unfortunately, our classroom visits were a bit compromised.  Classes we saw were engaged, but not online; one senior English class had underway a remarkably participatory conversation about the meaning of existentialism in Camus’ Stranger.   A Spanish class was devoted to showing students techniques for creating virtual flash-cards; (more…)

  • Back to Homepage.Continuing my review of HSSSE materials, seeking to learn more about how schools are using student engagement data (in part in preparation for a presentation next month).     One great source of information is in the 2009 report, a 25 page letter on the HSSSE data from 2009, and, more importantly, case studies in how the data are being used for school improvement in five schools or districts.

The only independent school profiled, Explorations Academy, takes its HSSSE data very seriously.

When the HSSSE data come back to the school, there are usually two kinds of initial analyses that emerge from the data: One set of responses are the “congratulations,” the things that students affirm the school is doing well.

Another set of responses are the “eye-openers” for staff, the areas that students say need more work…the school works on these issues, through “robust” staff discussions in which “HSSSE figures pretty prominently”; assumptions are uncovered and tested, and student engagement data are used to plan programs and processes, driven by an important central question: “Will something new gain us an additional unit of educational growth?” (more…)

Next month, as previously mentioned here, I am presenting at the US DoE’s Annual Private School Leadership Conference, on the topic of  Aligning Data and School Mission.   They have asked me to speak particularly about HSSSE, the High School Survey of Student Engagement:  I will also discuss CWRA, the College Work Readiness Asssessment,  and MAP, the Measurement of Academic Progress.

In preparation, I am doing some researching to learn more about HSSSE, which we have administered here at St. Gregory since 2009.   On Friday, I had a terrific hour-long conversation with Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, HSSSE’s ED, and he offered me a set of resources that I am now reviewing, and will be sharing and discussing on my blog this week.

I have also launched HSSSE user groups on two nings, both on ise-net for independent school educators and at EDU-PLN for the broader audience.

Ethan is portrayed in the video above, which is a nice gentle introduction to the administration at one public high school in Indiana. At this school, they had received a grant to update instructional strategies, the principal explains, and HSSSE gave data to them about how students viewed learning.   (more…)

My remarks at New Parent Night

Welcome to St. Gregory; we are so glad you are joining our school community.    You have come at a very exciting time, both in the history of our school and in an important moment in our national conversation about K-12 education.   This is a time of great change and energy in thinking about what and how our students need to learn in our fast-changing world.

A great example of how our school is changing and aligning itself with contemporary best practices is our new Wings program: 1:1 laptops at St. Gregory, by which every student has a laptop (netbook) and uses it every day.   This is a key step in the development of our educational program where our students exploit the power of digital technology to collaborate, communicate, and create on-line– and develop exactly the critical skills necessary for success in our new global economy.

Our teachers are fully embracing, with good enthusiasm and great attitudes, these developments and this new era in learning.    What is more, they are learning too.  One of the most exciting aspects of this new era of technology integration in learning is the way our teachers are, each and every day, learning in their classrooms and growing in their skills.  (more…)


Unconferences” and “edcamps” are gaining momentum as new professional development vehicles; we now increasingly recognize that as educators we learn well, sometimes we learn better, from our peers and colleagues than we do from the “experts,” and we learn better collaboratively, better than we do on our own.

If these are true, then wouldn’t we benefit from professional development that is in our own hometowns, with other educators, in an open-source, free or low cost, manner?   Unconferences seek to make this happen.

I attended my first “unconference” in July, in Boston: EduBloggerCon East, hosted by the November Learning group, and facilitated by the excellent 21st century learning bloggers and trainers Liz Davis and Lisa Thumann.  Lisa has a helpful blog post explaining unconferences; to quote,

What is an unconference?

  • A participant driven gathering of people talking about a common theme (more…)

The video above is great: energetic, polished and professional, informative and inspiring.    It is among the best of its genre, and it make the case: learning needs to adapt to changing times.   In the video, the school district shows a few short glimpses of 21st century education in its schools.

Over at the fine blog The Innovative Educator, Lisa Nielsen has posted it, and challenged a select few educational admin bloggers (not me, but that is ok) to match the video by making one of our own, showcasing 21st century learning at our schools.

If the school couldn’t produce a video message to convey what it is they have to offer for students, what does that say about the school. I think this is a challenge all parents should ask their schools to meet.

On behalf of St. Gregory School, we accept the challenge.  I have already begun meeting with my fine sophomore student videographer, Derek Jobst, and we are preparing an outline and aim to have it completed within a month.

I am beginning to envision some real-life St. Gregory scenes for the video:

Sixth and ninth graders editing each others’ writing on a shared google doc, and then “turn it in” to the teacher by clicking on the share button and sending the invite to their teacher.

Ninth graders presenting their history reports to their classmates using their choice of prezi, bubbles, or glogster EDU. (more…)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

We have a Creativity Crisis in America, Newsweek reports: our children’s creativity is declining, and is doing so exactly when it is most important for it to improve.  The Newsweek report comes from the excellent Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, who are double-handedly transforming the way we understand children and learning via their fine skills at popularizing scientific research on these topics.

At St. Gregory we speak of Creating Leaders and Innovators; the Partnership for 21st century Skills puts creativity as one of their four critical C’s for our era, along with critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.    Fast Company recently reported that the single most important trait of successful CEO’s is creativity.

Dan Pink cracked open this idea for me so powerfully six years ago, with what I think is his still compelling Whole New Mind.   As automation, and outsourcing overcome the workplace, the value we all can add is in our creativity and our ingenious, inventive, problem-solving.  We ourselves, and our students too, must adapt to survive, must move with our times, must think anew how to make a difference, knowing that simply fulfilling an already defined role is not going to be enough to be valued and employed.

Newsweek’s Bronson:

The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care.

But, there is a crisis in this critical area:

Creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. (more…)

Dear NAIS:

It is the time of year again when you solicit nominations for the NAIS Board, and it is very generous of you to do so.  There are many fine educators and school supporters on the NAIS board now, but I believe there is something missing from the mix.  As a fairly close observer of our terrific independent school association over the past several years, I have been increasingly awed by the growing role of our ed tech directors as a enormously valuable NAIS brain trust.

Our ed tech directors are not just expert in, and informing us about, educational technology; increasingly as you listen to them and see what they are doing, you recognize that these folks are leading the way in thinking about and guiding us fellow independent school educators

  • in how learning is changing,
  • in shaping schools and the classrooms of the future,
  • in effective professional development for our faculties,
  • in communication and collaboration among independent school educators,
  • and in the nature and process of change in schools.

These folks are excellent educators and great promoters of our independent schools; as members of the board, they can and will greatly and positively influence the agenda that is set and the advances that we make for our association.

I have a list of about a dozen suggestions below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.   I am not lobbying for any particular candidate– these folks are all great– but I do want to implore our association to add an educational (or academic) technology director to the board.

Howard LevinHoward Levin is Director of Academic Technology at Urban School (CA), and a main contributor to that school’s excellent Center for Innovative Teaching.   He is a guru, I think,  about the intersection of technology and teaching, and is very thoughtful and articulate (and widely published) on how our students can and should use laptops for organizing, publishing, communicating and collaborating online.

bigenhocChris Bigenho, at Greenhill School, has been an architect of the NAIS schools of the future program at the Annual Conference, and provided a terrific service at last year’s annual conference as the mastermind of the shared blog and twitter feed for NAIS attendees.   He consults widely and blogs brilliantly; he is a sharp thinker about cognitive development and draws upon that knowledge to inform and shape our understanding  about technology and learning in a very impressive way. (more…)

Less than a week ago, an excellent blogging and tweeting school administrator, George Couros, created a new shared blog: Connected Principals: Shared views on education from a group of passionate school administrators. I am delighted, even exhilarated, to be participating, and to have this opportunity to join forces with other blogging ed. admins in a project like this; in less than a week it already has had over 3000 hits!   It has also created quite a buzz on twitter, with a hashtag of #cpchat.

Blogging, and technology use in general, is sometimes depicted as atomizing and anti-social; there is a myth that by being on computer we are isolating ourselves and narrowing ourselves.  This could hardly be farther from the truth, and Connected Principals is a great example: there is not a chance that without blogging and twitter I would find myself in collaboration with these fine folks from across the US and Canada.

What is especially exciting about this endeavor is that not only are we all ed. admins who blog, but it is a greater connection than that: we are also a set which shares a particular set of guiding principles.   These are not a tightly narrow set of principles, but nonetheless, they are, I think, an inspiring set of ten, a set that calls upon us to be principled principals: idealistic, passionate, and devoted to the right kind of educational reform.

Site creator George Couros drafted the initial list, and then solicited and drew upon feedback from the group of us participating.   You can find the list on the site here, but I am going to paste it in below because it is so great, (with full credit to George Couros): I think it is informative to my visitors here at 21k12blog  about my own principles.  I am delighted George included my two suggested additions; the last sentence in number five, and the first part of number ten (though George added the lovely last sentence to it).

The following guiding principles are the basis for the views represented by the contributors of Connected Principals:

1. All of our decisions focus first on what meets the needs of the children we serve.  All other elements of our decision making process are secondary to this objective. The students we serve are our greatest resource in schools. (more…)

As I look ahead to the coming year, I realize I have too many goals and plans,—but I cannot restrain myself, there are so many important, exciting, and meaningful things to do in going forward as a school community. The following list is primarily a list of educational program and school community goals; I am still developing an important parallel list of important institutional, organizational, and financial goals.

Our two major educational advances for the year are WINGS, our 1:1 laptop/netbooks program, and our new Advisory Program.

  • Wings: 1:1 Laptops is big, and a big project; by way of laptops/netbooks being in the hands of each and every student each and every day, I am sure we will become a more productive, more dynamic, and more engaging learning environment.

  • As for the advisory program, in many ways this is just a very natural, incremental, comfortable next step from the homerooms and other forms of very good rapport and relationships St. Gregory has always forged with students. (more…)

My opening remarks to the St. Gregory student body, the morning of the first day of school.

Welcome to 2010-11!

A popular saying urges us to remember that there are only two things we really need to flourish in life: roots and wings.

I like the saying;   it provides a lovely metaphor simplifying the many strands of what what flourishing requires into two simple metaphors:   Roots and wings, a sense of connectedness to our community,and a sense of freedom and empowerment to go out confidently into the world and accomplish our goals.

I worry about false dichotomies—I resist people trying to trap me into making choices I don’t want to have to make.    There is a book I love that calls upon parents and schools to ensure children and students spend more time in nature and argues that kids are so much healthier when they spend more time outside and in direct contact with the earth, the sky, the water.   Get dirty and be happier and healthier. It surprises some people when I say I love and endorse this notion, because sometimes they think I only want kids to spend more time on computers.   I don’t.  I do think computers are great for learning and growing,  but I also believe fervently that it is so important for us all, kids and adults, to spend more time outside.

We must resist the narrowing effects of Either/Or Thinking, and embrace the Both/And.

And so it is with Wings AND Roots.  I think people sometimes think that because I want to see more computers in learning, they are believing I want less face to face time, less interaction among peers and between students and teachers.  But I want both, and I don’t want to be cornered into a false dichotomy.

Fittingly, and charmingly, Wings and Roots correspond precisely to the two big changes we are making this year, laptops and advisory—because we all need stronger wings and deeper roots. (more…)

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