WordPress.com-105913My fifth year in blogging is now coming to an end.   My blog began with in the fall of 2008 over at blogspot, and then I migrated it here to wordpress in late January 2009.

Once a year– and only once a year, I like to share some reflections and statistics upon my year here at 21k12.

2012 sadly saw a small dip in the number of postings: down to 120 posts this year, compared to 150 last year, 165 the year prior.  My aim continues to be an average of 3 times weekly, 12-15 times monthly, and I say this because blogging is best practiced as a habit, as a regular discipline such as exercise, and when I fall off my routines and slow my pace, I feel a faltering and a fading that doesn’t serve me.  The longer I go between posts, the harder it is to get going on a new post.

But, I do allow myself vacations– and as I completed my third and final year as St. Gregory’s head of school last spring, I took almost two months off from the blog.  In my weeks working on the blog, I’m still maintaining the three (or even a tad more) weekly posts.

As for total page views, growth continued.   Last year I wrote that “my 70,000+ page views in 2011, compared to 29,200 in 2010 and about 16,000 in 2009, represents a second consecutive year of doubling my readership. ” I then said I had n0 expectation of doubling again in 2012, setting instead an ambition to climb from 70,000 to 100,000.

But I did double again, for the third year in a row, taking 2012 views to 142,000.


Let me be clear here: there is no possibility that 2013 will see a fourth “doubling” in views.   I’m setting instead a goal of 175,00, which may be itself ambitious.

In classic 20/80 fashion, it is only a very small number of posts and pages which generate the view rates in the five figures that support the high overall  totals.

One is my graduation speech page, launched in 2011, which, as I explained last year, I put up as a resource for principals and school-leaders looking for advice and sample speeches to give at graduation. Before posting this, I remembered vividly a few occasions when I was just days or hours away from a school graduation talk, and I jumped onto Google to find some samples for inspiration and format/templates, but rarely succeeded in finding useful examples.   So I thought I could be helpful by loading up a page that provides links to about a dozen of my past graduation remarks.   The graduation speech landing page generated almost 24,000 hits, every single one of them the result of a search engine search for “graduation speech by principal” or a closely related variant.,

The sample graduation talks which the landing page directs readers to generated another roughly 20,000 page views, the most popular of them being  Helping Others is the Real Victory, (3800), Struggle to Grow and Learn: Remarks to Middle School Students at Promotion (3400), and Map-making, not following: Learning, Leading, Innovating: (2700).

My most popular post here from 2012, at almost 15,000 views, was a post offering a roundup of favorite 21st century learning videos: Videos Suggested for Back to School Faculty Meetings and other educational audiences.   This was not only my most viewed 2012 post, but the Twitter count on this one astounded me, at almost 700 tweets, by far my “most tweeted” ever.

The 21st century videos post I pulled together in a couple of hours in August, sitting on my couch watching the Olympics.  After my summer travels, I was returning with vigor to my blog, and I remember thinking it was a good time to try to put up a popular post, one which would generate a little more traffic than the average– something less dense with text, something people would find useful and want to pass around.   It seemed to me too that it was the time of year when many principals and school-heads were planning their back to school faculty meetings, and it was a good time for an inspirational video to rally and motivate for 21st century learning.   So I intended and expected this particular post would be popular– but I didn’t expect it to surge as strongly as it did, bringing me my best-ever single day page view the day after I posted it, 1967.

Over at Connected Principals I did a similar thing in the beginning of August.  Knowing that many principals write a summer-time back to school letter for families, and knowing that the example of such a letter which I posted the summer prior had generated quite a bit of search engine traffic, I thought to myself maybe I can offer some suggestions for writing these letters– what tone to take, what to include, etc– in a post entitled  9 Suggestions for the Welcome Back to School letter from the Principal.  This one has now welcomed over 13,000 views, and holds the status currently for single most-viewed post for 2012 at Connected Principals by any of the contributors there.

Here then are the top ten most-viewed in 2012 posts (and composed in 2012).

  1. Videos Suggested for Back to School Faculty Meetings and other educational audiences (14719)
  2. “Best Ted Talk Ever:” Shawn Achor on Happiness and Productivity (4309)
  3. Beating the Cheating: Five Ways to Combat the Plague  (3726)
  4. Treating Others as Ends: Katniss Everdeen, Social Entrepreneurship, and the Ethical Imperative: (1560)
  5. Khan Academy and flipping the classroom on 60 minutes: the good and the bad (816)
  6. Play, Passion, Purpose, and Project Based Learning: Thoughts on Tony Wagner’s new book, Creating Innovators: (813)
  7. Formative Assessment, Practical Skills, and PBL: What’s Next On the Horizon: Pat Bassett’s NAIS Presentation (791)
  8. Networked Learning at the core of a new report on Innovating Pedagogy (702)
  9. “Flip Your Classroom”: the new book from Bergmann and Sams (584)
  10. Thoughts on Will Richardson’s fine 19 Bold Ideas for Change in Education.(572)

A few comments. (more…)

This has been composing itself in my head for nearly ten days, but, when her very life hung in the balance, as it did until today, it felt too soon to write about  Malala Yousafzai as a hero and role model.  As I tweeted and facebooked last week, I found myself so moved and affected by her shooting, but writing a full blog entry was hard for me to do– in part because I was still too emotional and too concerned.     But today the New York Times reports, “she is now able to stand with assistance and communicate in writing,” and it is impossible not to note the particular good news that she is able to communicate in writing now– because that is so central to her place and contribution to the world.

The past ten days, following Malala’s story, I felt particularly sorry not to be currently a school-leader, or part of a school community, which I have been for nearly every year of my life previous and which I expect to be again before too long.   Because if I were, I would take some extended time with students to view the video telling her story, to hear her voice and read her writing, to have moments of silence to hold her in our thoughts, and to share with students why I think they should view her as an icon of their generation.

This blog is intended to celebrate 21st century K-12 learning, and my particular vision of 21st century learning includes as a central element an empowerment of students to develop their voice and strengthen their skills and  problem-solving creativity to address real-world problems, using technology in every way possible to amplify these things.

Malala represents this so exactly, so brilliantly, so movingly, and all that much more because her particular cause is itself education and learning.   She is a young person, still only 15, but she has been an activist for girls education in Pakistan for four years or more, and a blogger since 2009, when she was in 7th grade.   Oh to be a seventh grade Social Studies teacher right now, (I’ve been one before), and take some time to read her blog, see the world through her eyes, seek to understand her motivation and world view, and then evaluate her as a role model.

Hear her blogging voice:

Do not wear colourful dresses – 5 January 2009

“I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms and come to school wearing normal clothes instead.

“So I decided to wear my favourite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colourful dresses. During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taliban would object to it.”

Several times this summer I wrote and spoke about Martha Payne, another awesome model of a justice-seeking young person using a blog Never Seconds to extend her voice and impact, changing the conversation and the meal plan in Scottish schools.

Malala Yousafzai But clearly Malala now has a profile of vastly greater significance.  With the entire world hoping and praying for her, she may have the full recovery she and the world deserves her to have, and thereupon, she’ll take draw upon her strengths and her resilience to become a global leader for peace and justice.

This possible future global leadership role, this possible future Nobel Peace Prize award, began with a girl who wanted to go to school, who was supported by families and teachers to advocate for her cause, who was enabled to seek this justice as part of her schooling and part of her learning, and who used technology and the web to broadcast her voice and share her vision and change the world.

(At the risk of seeming overly flattering and favoring a friend, for which I offer full disclosure and my apologies, I share the following post about an outstanding educational leader.)

Last week in Virginia, speaking to the Commonwealth’s fine independent school heads, I suggested they had a great model of educational leadership in their home state,   Albemarle County Superintendent Pam Moran.   I was asked, entirely reasonably, why I described her this way, and, caught off guard, I stuttered a bit in my answer, and disappointed myself in not providing a fuller explanation.

Curiously, that very same day, only a few hours later, I turned to chapter 7 of the book I was reading on my airplane home, a chapter devoted to the leadership qualities of the none other than Pam Moran.  In his book, Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works, author and former school principal Bill Sterrett writes “Moran and other tech savvy leaders believe it vital to help our students and staffs use technology effectively– not for technology’s sake but for learning’s sake.”

Drawing upon that book and other sources, including a recent issue of the New Yorker, I now aim to better answer the question: what makes Pam Moran such a fine educational leader?  She offers, I think, excellent exemplification of what in my presentation last week I explained are the 8 Steps of Leading Learning Forward.

  1. Developing Ourselves as Leading Learners
  2. Articulating the Vision and Modeling Digital Citizenship
  3. Collaboratively determining our intended learning outcomes
  4. Measuring what matters most, using technology.
  5. Strengthening our faculty professional learning cultures
  6. Promoting Aligned Teaching & Learning
  7. Putting in place the necessary tools
  8. Documenting & Sharing.

Step One: Developing Ourselves as Leading Learners

Sterrett’s chapter on Moran opens with an epigraph from her, which by its placement and its emphasis conveys that she too believes that leading learning begins always with a focus upon our own learning.

I’m convinced that we administrative leaders have an obligation to initiate new learning [and] become skillful in the use of tools that accelerate and advance our learning work.

Sterrett goes on to write that

She believes the onus is on the educational leader…to be aware of new technologies.  “I know that if I can’t stay current than I will not be able to get my colleagues to do the same.”

Social media is also, for Moran, a vehicle for reflection and intellectual growth.

Moran finds that contributing to blogs is a good way to reflect on her practice.  By articulating her thoughts in posts that draw on her experiences and refer to her vision, she is able to model the importance of reflection and meaningful conversation for the greater professional community…. “The ‘hurried child’ has become the ‘hurried adult’– I fear– to the detriment of deep learning.

Step Two Articulating the Vision and Modeling Digital Citizenship.   Leadership always contains as a key element strong communication with all constituencies, and sharing a vision of the future toward which one is leading.   Pam does so in many ways, including using powerful social media tools such as youtube, blogging and twitter.

One example can be seen in this compelling, snazzy, and effective video, articulating her district’s “continuing  journey toward quality learning:”


It is time for the annual year in review on the 21k12 blog.  Over the past year I have posted just over 150 times, which is down a tad from 165 posts in 2010, but is meeting my goal of averaging 3 posts a week and 12-15 a month.

In page views, I am happy to share that my 70,000+ page views in 2011, compared to 29,200 in 2010 and about 16,000 in 2009, represents a second consecutive year of doubling my readership.   It would seem unlikely that I will be able to see a third year of doubling, but it does prompt me to set a not entirely unreasonable goal of 100,000 page views in 2012!

2011 also saw my first ever 7,000+ month, June, and my first ever 10,000+ month, October.  Both records were entirely due to the success of my top two posts/pages of the year, a page about Graduation Speeches I posted in May (2700+ at present), and an October post about the New York Times article on Waldorf education and technology on Waldorf education (3300+ at present).

For each of these two cases, I executed a deliberate, and seemingly successful, strategy to attract visitors: two alternate, even opposite strategies.   For the first, Graduation Speeches, my strategy was entirely focused on drawing search engine referrals.   As May approached, I had a flash remembering all the many times I have confronted the need to prepare an upcoming graduation address as a school-principal, and my impulse at those times to seek inspiration from examples from other principals.   Accordingly, I googled “graduation speeches by school principals,” but found only very few useful search results.   So what occurred to me last spring, realizing I had a set of a dozen of my own past graduation speeches, was that I could provide this service for other principals, posting my talks and organizing them under one umbrella page, which I then seeded with a slew of searchable terms (see the post to see what I mean).  It seemed to work– not only did the umbrella page capture nearly 3000 views, but seven of the speeches linked to from that page each received more than 400 views.  (The most popular of the 12 graduation talks was Struggle to Grow and Learn: Remarks to Middle School Students at Promotion).  What I wish I knew was whether any of these many visitors found any value in what I shared, or even drew upon any of them for their talks– but I have no idea.

For the post about a NYT front page article on technology at a Waldorf school, I took an almost opposite strategy, seeking to be “first out of the gate”  in posting my reaction to the article that morning, and then using Twitter as best I could to “push it” to become viral.  After tweeting it out myself, I then spent part of the day watching Twitter as others tweeted out links to the article and tweeting replies that I had posted a reaction– and then seeing many of those tweeters tweet out my post to their followers.   That day I received 820 views of just that post (my previous one-day record for all views being about 500), and the next day, 709.  I realize “viral” is a highly relative concept, but in my little corner of the blogosphere, this represented by far my greatest “viral” success.

Now the list: Top Ten Posts from 2011 here at 21k12:

  1. Deeply Disappointed: Responding to the New York Times article on Waldorf education and technology (3342)
  2. Graduation Speeches (2740)
  3. The Flipped Classroom Advances: Developments in Reverse Learning and Instruction (2216) (more…)

ISAS teachers, Independent School Association of the Southwest, are invited and encouraged to attend this year’s biennial Teacher’s Conference, Teaching Matters.   This is an outstanding conference, remarkable for its national caliber speakers presenting at our regional event.   The opportunity to learn and be inspired, challenged, informed and perhaps transformed by thought-leaders like Michael Horn, Jane McGonigal, Heidi Hayes Jacob, Pat Bassett, and David Eagleman is not to be missed and may have a life and career length impact.  Be sure to view the slides above, all 7 of them, to see the quality of the program.

But don’t just come and listen: Come and Engage!  A group of us at ISAS are making a special effort to welcome and encourage attendees to become fuller participants via the engaging power of social media.   Become yourself a “voice” by the use of Web 2.0 tools.   We are hoping that teachers and educators in attendance will attend, laptops and smart phones in hand, and connect, comment, and contribute to the intellectual discourse by the use of facebook, twitter, and blogging.   Those of you who have experienced conference attendance in what I think of as the “third dimension” know already how stimulating and growth oriented it is to participate via Social Media, and those of you who have not– this is the ideal time to start.

I extend this invitation in my capacity as Program and Professional Development Chair for the ISAS Southwest Association.    (Please note my full disclosure that this and other forthcoming blog posts about the ISAS conference are less than entirely independent, but potentially biased by my leadership role in the association. )   I will be attending the conference myself, as one among several “official bloggers” for the event and as an introducer for one of the speakers.

Most of all, however, it is my intent as blogger and professional development chair to add value for this conference by enhancing its success and the engagement of its attendees by encouraging others to blog and tweet.   (more…)

At a conference recently, I was approached and asked for advice about resources for using skype in the classroom to connect with schools in other countries.   I started to answer the question with a specific suggestion (the Cool Cat Teacher’s Flat Classroom) when I stopped myself and took another tack in my advice-giving.

Instead, I suggested, I encouraged him to join the online community of educators, to join the network, and to be empowered to learn continuously rather than in discrete lumps.

Teach a man to fish and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and feed him as long as the fish supply holds out.  But create a collective, and every man will learn how to feed himself for a lifetime.

I am quoting from a brilliant new book, A New Culture of Learning, by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas.

Learning in an age of constant change simply never stops. In the new culture of learning, the bad news is that we rarely reach any final answers, but the good news is that we to play again, and we may find even more satisfaction in continuing the search. (more…)

Increasingly, I am writing posts for other blog-sites, and I have an inconsistent practice: sometimes I repost them here to 21k12, and sometimes I do not.  When I don’t, I’ll try to make a habit of providing links here for folks who primarily read me via this 21k12blog.  (If you follow me on Twitter, you know I always tweet out the links to posts elsewhere).

Yesterday, my first post for edSocialMedia went up; edSocialMedia has a tag line: Exploring the Role of Social Media in Education, a topic about which I am both intensely curious and very enthusiastic.   I am pleased to have been welcomed there as a contributor.

The post is entitled: “Dilemmas & Tensions of Blogging: Learning from Montaigne.”  Check it out if you are interested.

In the past ten days I have also posted two pieces to Connected Principals which I did not double-post here:

  • Salman Khan, Transformer— this post has generated far more discussion and debate in the comment boxes than nearly any other post I have written to date.

Happy reading, and, as always, I welcome and appreciate your comments.

Yesterday I was very fortunate to be joined by two terrific fellow school-leaders, Josie Holford and Michael Ebeling, to discuss blogging as Heads at the NAIS Annual Conference; our session was excellently moderated by Sarah Hanawald, Dean of Academics at Cannon School (NC).
Jason Ramsden was kind enough to live-blog the panel, which I provide below.
One additional valuable link for school-heads and principals interested in blogging: check out Connected Principals.
Friday February 25, 2011

Welcome to the start of day three here at NAIS’ 2011 Annual Conference. This morning we kick start the day in Blogging Heads: Three Heads Discuss Why and How They Blog.

Michael Ebeling, Peak Experience blog (Summit School, NC)
Josie Holford Compass Point blog (Poughkeepsie Day School, NY)
Jonathan Martin (St. Gregory College Prep, AZ)


We’re about 4 mins from the start of this session and the room is beginning to fill.


The edu-blog awards prompted a spirited debate on twitter in recent weeks, with many arguing that those of us in education who oppose awards in our schools should oppose the edu-blog awards.  One of my favorite tweets in that conversation argued that instead of awards, we in the blogging community should instead write a list of our favorite blogs.   I was inspired.

As an aside, I do not oppose supporting my students in seeking external awards: I love to see them compete and triumph outside my school community, and I like to celebrate their successes in doing so.   What I worry about, though, is that internal awards, where our students’ teachers select “favorites” among them, is potentially damaging to the strength of our school community. So with that as my standard, I don’t see such a conflict in bloggers who oppose in-school awards celebrating their edu-blogger award nominations.

The problem with any list is once you start it is hard to know how to stop.    There will inevitably be many fine blogs left off a list like this, so I offer my apologies to any potential exclusions in advance.  This list is is no particular order whatsoever.

1. Peter Papas is a former public school educator, now consultant, who blogs at Copy/Paste: Dedicated to Relinquishing Responsibility for Learning to the Students.   The sub-title alone represents its point of view compellingly; this is a great blog.  Peter seems to publish 5-10 times a month, and he is unafraid to write lengthy, thoughtful, academic posts which really inform as they inspire.   Copy-Paste has great themes which resonate closely with my own writing, but with sharper analysis and more thorough elucidation.     Some excellent recent posts include

2. David Truss is the independent school (international independent, in Dalian, China) administrator whose blog I currently most admire; he writes at Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts. He posts 2-5 times a month; he writes about his school-work and his educational philosophy interchangeably;  and he uses images powerfully.  He is also unafraid to write at length.     Some recent posts I admired include:

3. George Couros, a Canadian public school principal,  is a great inspiration to me, both for his work as architect and soul of Connected Principals and for his individual blog, The Principal of Change.   (more…)

2010 has been a great year blogging for me; this is my third year blogging, and each year gets better.   Blogging is a craft that could be called asymptotatic, as Dan Pink describes in Drive; there is no ceiling to bump into, no limit, and provides a stimulating challenge for the ongoing pursuit of mastery. Pink: “You can approach it.  You can home in on it.  You can get really, really close to it.  But you can never touch it…. Mastery attracts precisely because mastery eludes.”

In 2010 I posted over 150 times here at 21k12; over at Connected Principals, which was launched in August by the terrific blogger George Couros, I posted over twenty times (in many cases, those posts were re-posted from here at 21k12).

Readers of my blog don’t have the same perspective about the “success” or relative significance of posts that I do, because they don’t see the stats the way I do about visits.  But once a year it seems wise to share the dozen or so posts which seemed to strike a chord with readers.

What is nice to me about this list is that it corresponds very closely to my own view of my favorite posts, the ones of which I am proudest.  Below this list I add another half dozen that I wish had received as much attention as this list.

1.  Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”.  190 views here, 2001 views at CP.   Over 2000 views in a period of less than two months is certainly a personal record for my blogging.  One of my favorite aspects of this successful post is that its content was entirely the result of my learning as a blogger.  I had previously posted about Khan Academy, and spoke about the concept of inverting instruction there, but then John Sowash commented on that post about reverse instruction, and this new post was born from that dialogue on Connected Principals.  I should also thank here the attention given to this post by Stephen Valentine in the November Klingbrief and Shelly Wright who blogged about it here.

2.  Engaging, not Distracting, the Digital Generation: Responding to the Times’ Wired piece.  327 here, 890 at CP.     Like many others in my corner of the blogosphere, I was inflamed by the Times piece, and spent Thanksgiving week furiously thinking how to respond, and then poured my passionate indignation into this post.  I am so happy it struck a chord for others too; it was my most “retweeted” post, 121 times at CP. (more…)

Good evening:

Thank you for attending this session, and thank you everyone at NYSAIS, especially arvind, Alex, and Barbara for inviting me.   I want to open with a quote:

In this day and age, many schools incorrectly view successful education as an extremely complex process, but
the formula for a really first rate education is relatively simple: put highly qualified, caring faculty, and eager, bright youth together in a personalized setting with a robust curriculum – and let things happen.

There are plenty of sentimental reasons to appreciate this quote.   Some truths about excellence in learning are timeless, and I think we can still learn enormously from Socrates and Aristotle.   But my suggestion is that if you accept this idea whole-heartedly, you are welcome to head over to the bar early– go ahead and get yourself a drink.

I believe the world is not just flat, the world is spinning: faster and faster, and that schooling can not rely on the simple formulas of the past:

  • because what our students need to learn is changing,
  • because our understanding of how learning works is changing,
  • because the technology which enhances learning is changing. (more…)

To learn. Like many others, I read books and articles, attend conferences, workshops and trainings, and visit other schools in order to learn more about best practices and innovative new approaches.    But I know about myself that I will retain much more, and be much better able to draw upon and use that information in the future, if I write while I am learning, if I record the main ideas I am learning in writing, and if I reflect upon them.   So I write to learn, and if I am writing about these ideas anyway, I figure, why not share these writings.

To model learning. I think that educational leaders should publicly demonstrate that we too are learning and we too love learning: chiefs of learnings need to be chief learners.   Blogging is a great way to display the ways in which I too, like our students, am trying regularly to learn.

To share. Like all principals and school heads, I often speak (separately) to students, teachers, and parents, and sometimes it seems that what I say might be of interest to other constituencies or those who could not attend.   My blog is a great way of making these remarks available for everyone.

To showcase my school. There are so many things about my school I am proud of and which I want others to know more about so they will more strongly appreciate and admire my school (and perhaps choose to attend it).  My blog is a way to share great things happening here at school.  I can re-post the syllabus for a cool new class, write up what is said by teachers about their courses at Curriculum Night, or publish fine student work. (more…)