Sunday, June 29, 2014

ISTE 2014 Presentation - Becoming a Digital School Administrator

Below I am sharing a pdf version of my June, 29, 2014 ISTE presentation: Becoming A Digital School Administrator:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Horizon Report, iOS 8, Google Classroom and other Nifty New Stuff

NMC Horizon Report > 2014 K-12 Edition
The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 K-12 Edition will examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry within the environment of pre-college education. The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 K-12 Edition is the sixth in the K-12 series of reports and is produced by the NMC in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and made possible via the support of HP. 

Apple Introduces iOS 8 And Texting Will Never Be The Same
Now when you get a notification for a text message or a Facebook comment, you can respond from whatever app you're in. So if you're looking at Twitter and you get an iMessage from your mom, you can quickly respond without leaving Twitter.
Why Google Classroom won’t affect institutional LMS market … yet
Google Classroom is a slick tool that appeals to individual instructors whose schools use Google Apps for Education. . . .The tight integration of Google Drive, Google+ and GAE rosters allows for easy creation of course sites by the instructor, easy sharing of assignments and documents . . . . But these features are targeted at innovators and early adopter instructors who are willing to fill in the gaps themselves.

Why Formative Assessments Matter
One of the first things I did was put sticky notes on every student's desk. at the end of class they had a chance to summarize what we did that day and ask any questions they wanted. They could put their name on it or could remain anonymous. Either way I had a good indication of whether my students got it or didn't. And I could make those on-the-fly adjustments for the next class or for the next day. Now we have virtual sticky notes like on Wallwisher and LinoIt that make this process that much easier. 

Developing Digital Literacy Through Content Curation
With the amount of content that is shared on the Internet every minute, it’s no surprise that many people feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information out there. This is why content curation is becoming an essential digital literacy skill for teachers and students. The act of curation requires critical and creative thinking, as decisions are made around what to keep, what to discard and how to connect and present ideas.

Blog as Portfolio

Thursday, June 19, 2014

MOOCS, White Whales, Google Hangouts, etc.

Creative Commons Photo by Steve Snodgrass

AOL Chief’s White Whale Finally Slips His Grasp
As a graduate of the Google school of dreaming big — when he worked there, Mr. Armstrong helped expand a sales force that clobbered much of the rest of the media economy — Mr. Armstrong is nothing if not a true believer. Even though Patch is being dismantled or perhaps sold off to various partners, he still believes that he had the right product in the right space, and that he just ran out of runway.

Even when test scores go up, some cognitive abilities don’t
In a study of nearly 1,400 eighth-graders in the Boston public school system, the researchers found that some schools have successfully raised their students’ scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). However, those schools had almost no effect on students’ performance on tests of fluid intelligence skills, such as working memory capacity, speed of information processing, and ability to solve abstract problems.

Who Says Math Has to Be Boring?
Nearly 90 percent of high school graduates say they’re not interested in a career or a college major involving science, technology, engineering or math, known collectively as STEM, according to a survey of more than a million students who take the ACT test. The number of students who want to pursue engineering or computer science jobs is actually falling, precipitously, at just the moment when the need for those workers is soaring.

3 Reasons Why the School Principal Needs to Tweet
Trust me, any school leader that's afraid to make waves and try something new will not like this idea. Not at all. But any school leader that cares for their students and recognizes that the world students are growing up in is vastly different from the one she grew up in, recognizes that the education system needs a facelift and she has the power to make it happen. Now, she has the ability to tell the world how great her school is.

Harding Google Hangouts
After meeting two other Iowa teacher-librarians on Twitter, Shannon McClintock Miller of Van Meter and Sandi Ellis of Dallas-Center Grimes, Harding PK-4 teacher-librarian Sarah Staudt was inspired to use Google Hangouts. Ellis and Staudt devised an educational, technological way to celebrate Picture Book Month in November.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Baker's Half-Dozen Quotes

I've worked with many educators who are reluctant to jump on the tech bandwagon because they've been burned one or more times. Enthusiastically adopting a technology and then losing access to equipment or training can be disheartening. Adapting curricula to technologies takes time, effort, and determination.  —Elise Braden

There are many schools with a culture that supports technology and
innovation, but I question whether it is a majority of schools. Technology in education has been introduced in bits and pieces as it developed. Few schools had systematic plans for integration. Many were required to have what were called five-year plans, but five years in technology is a lifetime. Dog years don’t even come close. Many schools are playing catch up in this age of technology.  — Tom Whitby

It is not the manager's job to prevent risks. It is the manager's job to make it safe to take them. — Ed Catmull

Photo Credit: nico.cavallotto via Compfight cc

I’ve been arguing for a while now that “average is over.” It has to be when every boss has cheaper, easier, faster access to software, automation, robots, cheap foreign labor and cheap foreign genius that can produce above-average so easily. Everyone needs to find their unique value-add, their “extra,” and be constantly re-engineering themselves if they want to obtain, or advance in, a decent job that can’t be digitized.  —Thomas Friedman

We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.
— John Dewey.

Technology can never come first. The first step in creating any technology is to gather a set of agreed-upon user requirements. I believe that one of our problems is the diverse set of users that can never agree upon what the requirements should be.  — John Rovito

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Technology in Mercy's Fine Arts Department

I asked Susan Smith, Chairperson of Mercy's Fine Arts Department to guest blog about the many ways students acquire valuable technology skills through their courses.
“Having a diversity of perspectives leads to better decision-making, more relevant products, and makes work a whole lot more interesting.” 
On May 28th, Google published statistics related to the demographic composition of its workforce. Only 30% of Google’s worldwide employees are women and the gender gap is much greater when one compares the number of men (83%) and women (17%) in tech jobs at the company. While the report about the lack of diversity at Google was no surprise and the reasons for the lack of diversity in tech careers are complex, it was another reminder to me about the importance of helping young people aspire to careers in technology and design. Throughout the past year, I have had other such reminders in my work as the art department chairperson at Mercy High School, an all-girl school in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Sophomore Lucy Devine created this logo using Adobe Illustrator in her Graphics Design Class
The most powerful message came from fellow Mercy graduate, Heidi Bliss, who is the Project Manager for Global Creative Resources at General Motors in Warren, Michigan. At the beginning of the school year, she contacted me asking if we could collaborate to promote awareness around creative careers for women at GM. We met and agreed that one of the obstacles is that students and parents are not aware of all of the career paths available with a background in art and technology. Heidi followed up by creating a brochure that highlights the wealth of companies seeking talent and statistics regarding the purchasing power of women. She also arranged a special presentation for our students bringing two young designers who were highly recruited during their art school years and who now work at the GM Design Center. The presentation affirmed for me what I already suspected - that a career in design encompasses a well-rounded background in both the humanities and science.
This is the philosophy that drives Mercy’s Design Foundations course, which is entering its third year. Ninth graders learn the technology skills needed for multi-media projects, and the design principles that will make those projects competitive. Furthermore, Mercy’s art department has expanded its technology offerings from a single advertising course to two courses covering a wide range of computer art topics - Photo, Film, and Animation and Graphic, Product, and Web Design. Improving the awareness of career options in artistic and technological fields is one of the goals of this curricular change.
7_DEVINE_LUCY_baseball back view
Lucy used SolidWorks to create this eye-popping image* for her Graphics Design project.
These courses also provide an overview of several different software programs. Mercy High School has consistently invested in professional software that can give the students a feel for the working world. These programs include the Adobe Creative Suite, Apple’s Final Cut, and SolidWorks. Students in Graphic, Product, and Web Design are assigned a fictional company for which they design the logo using Adobe Illustrator, advertising materials using Adobe InDesign, a website using Adobe Dreamweaver, and a company product using SolidWorks. While the students do not cover every bell and whistle in these programs in a semester, they leave with a good overview of the purpose of each program and a portfolio, which they may take to a college or job interview to show their new skills. 
One component of Mercy High School’s mission is to empower girls to be life-long learners and to be leaders in their prospective fields. Certainly, Mercy should continue to capitalize on its diversity drawing from over seventy metropolitan Detroit communities and encourage young women to become leaders in technology and design fields in the future. --Susan Smith ('84), Mercy High School Fine Arts Department Chairperson
*Lucy used a Wikicommons image by Jiří Sedláček (aka Frettie) for her SolidWorks piece.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Commentary on “5 Ways to Influence Change”

George Couros, a very popular speaker on the educational technology circuit, recently posted 5 Ways to Influence Change to his popular blog.  I found it very thought-provoking, matching his suggestions against my own experience.  I recommend that you read the entire piece.  I have quoted fragments of George's original (in black) in order to give my own comments (in blue) some context.

1) Model the change that they want to see.  Although this might seem extremely “cliche”, it is the most imperative step for any leader in leading the “change effort”.  Many organizations talk about the idea that people need to be “risk-takers”, yet they are not willing to model it themselves.  Until that happens, people will not feel comfortable doing something different.  It is also the difference between talking from a “theoretical” to “practical” viewpoint.  

Naturally, I applaud these comments-- I have curated an entire iTunes U course called Becoming a Digital School Administrator which centers on the theme of leaders “walking the walk” with ed tech.  I also will be presenting at ISTE 2014 on this very topic.  Surprisingly, not a great deal of academic research has been done in this area, though what little has been done supports the importance of leaders modeling tech use.  My experience that when leaders fail to practice what they preach it detrimentally effect the pace of tech adoption.

2) Show that you understand the value that already exists. The word “change” is terrifying to some because it makes them feel that everything that they are doing is totally irrelevant.  Rarely is that the case.  I have seen speakers talk to an audience for an hour and people walk out feeling like they were just scolded for 90 minutes on how everything that they are doing is wrong. 

I think I have been quite guilty of failing to recognize the value of past practices.  Blinded by my enthusiasm for the new, I have likely created the sense in some of my colleagues that I deem their past practicesas worthless. Of course this is not how I actually feel.  George has given me very good advice here.
IamNotUnique via Compfight cc
3) Tell stories. Data should inform what we do and is an important part of the change process, but it does not move people.  If you look at major companies like Coke and Google, they use stories to elicit emotion from people.  Of course they have numbers that they use in their process, especially when it comes to stakeholders, but organizations know the importance of telling a story to make people “feel” something.   To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you make a connection to the mind. Stories touch the heart. What is yours?

I’ve seen George speak and he is a very good story teller.  Maybe I’m not. But I have found that when I tell my story I am sometimes dismissed as an anomaly.  The most effective “story teller” I have seen at my school is Joe Gerardi, the chairman of our Religious Studies Department.  He has been evangelizing the adoption and use of our new LMS. He begins by authentically stating, “I’m not a techie, but [this new tech thing is great]”  and “If I can do it, anyone can do it”.  I believe that this kind of personal testimony helps convince other novices to take the leap. 

Bring it back to the kids. 
Most educators got into the profession because of a strong passion for helping kids, so when we reduce who a child is to simply a number, or teaching simply to a process, we lose out on why many of us became educators. To help kids. . . . A 10% difference does not create the same emotion as watching a student talk about something they learned or have done.

I’ve produced some eye-opening student testimonials.  In fact I had a set that were so powerful that Apple Education sought to use them in several contexts.  That said, the student testimonial for the innovative practice only goes so far.  The teachers have to be very confident that they can replicate the new, “best practice”.

Get people excited and then get out of the way.  I have been to schools, watched administrators encourage their teachers to embrace something different in their practice, and they make that change impossible to do.  Giving the answer that “we need to change the policy before you can move forward” not only encourages the detractors, but it kills the enthusiasm in your champions.

I would give Mercy High School an A+ on this score.  As a private school we have the ability to be agile in response to new ideas.  My predecessor encouraged all of my new ed tech ideas when I was in the classroom.  And the administrative team I belong to now shows personal interest in new ideas and tries to “get out of the way” on creative innovations.  We also put our money where our mouths are to the extent possible.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Peer-to-Peer Professional Development

Mercy High School has put significant time and resources into professional development (PD) for the past three years.  The impetus of this was Mercy 2.0 which included the adoption of the iPad as a 1:1 device, becoming a Google Apps for Education school, and adding a new, required Design Foundations course to our curriculum.

With Mercy 2.0 we offered several PD formats.  In some cases we brought in and paid for highly skilled presenters and trainers.  However, the after-school workshops and drop-in labs led by colleagues within the building seemed to produce the best results. Peers have instant credibility and know their audience.  I don't regret any of the help we purchased from professionals.  But the peer-to-peer training made a real impression on me.  I admired the generosity of the trainers and the willingness of our staff to take advantage of the help.

2012 Professional Development Drop-in "Lab"
We are taking another major technology step into the next school year.  And all of the professional development has been peer-to-peer.  The decision to replace Moodle with Schoology as our learning management system (LMS) was made by teachers and advocated to colleagues by teachers.  Their leadership in this endeavor has been impressive.  Besides evangelizing the move, these teachers also became early adopters during the school year that has now ended, trouble-shooting issues that will save their colleagues a lot of trouble.

During the busy month of May, the following teachers lead after-school workshops for their peers that were allwell attended:

Schoology Overview / Lisa Robinet (Social Studies)

Using Schoology Calendar / Susan Smith (Art)

Communicating with Schoology / Alison Kline-Kator (Religious Studies)

Uploading Resources to Schoology / Jan Wampuszyc (science)

Creating Rubrics with Schoology / Lisa Robinet  (Social Studies)

Creating Quizzes and Tests with Schoology / Joe Gerardi (Religious Studies)

In the summer we will be offering one-to-one tutoring through our drop-in labs.  The persons above will be joined by the following volunteer tutors: 

Abigail Youngerman (English / Social Studies)
Angela Harris (English / Social Studies)
Eleasha Tarplin (Dean of Student Affairs)
Lauren Marquard (World Languages / Social Studies)
Renee Loubert (World Languages).

Any major systemic change like this has its hurdles, but the peer-to-peer PD is effectively laying the ground work for such a significant transition.

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