Archive for June 2, 2013

What does it mean to be the "Lead Learner"?

Image from Thornhill Primary School
  When people hear the word “Principal” I am sure that most picture someone sitting in the principal’s office, waiting for students that have been kicked out of class.  As our roles change, the term principal no longer seems to fit.  I have found “Lead Learner” to be an ideal role title that I strive to achieve each day. “Lead Learner” is a term that I have often read from others on Twitter, although I believe this term was first coined by Principal Joe Mazza (who calls himself a Lead Learner, not a principal).
Doug Reeves states that “expertise is not developed based upon the mystical ability of professionals to get it right the first time. Rather, it is based upon the willingness to try techniques, get feedback that is honest, accurate, specific, and timely, and then improve performance” (Elements of Grading, p.69).  As administrators and “lead learners” of our schools, we need to model and nurture this idea for it to become a “way of life” in our buildings.  If teachers see us in their classrooms only with the “evaluator’s hat” coming into their classrooms with a “gotcha” each time, then they will not be as willing to try new techniques, they will just continue to perfect the techniques that they know and have already been using for years (whether they are effective for student learning or not).
By acting more as a “Lead Learner” we are not only “talking the talk” by telling our teachers to continue their professional learning, but we are also “walking the walk” by continuing our professional learning and being transparent about it.  What does a Lead Learner do?

  • Join teachers to outside conferences they attend to help support their implementation of new things learned.
  • Start/join teachers in a faculty book study.
  • Join a Twitter book study…#Educoach will start chatting about Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess on July 10th.
  • Read professionally and share what you are learning with teachers.  I also like to be the Lead Reader in my building by having my email signature include “I am currently reading:______” and update this with each new book title I read. I also have a sign on the school library door that shows what I am currently reading so that all students see me as a reader. (These ideas were from Donalyn Miller)
  • Share your professional learning/reflections in a blog.  In addition to my personal blog, I also share a weekly post on my staff blog called “Monday Musings.” In this weekly post I share reflections on something I am reading, learned or reflections on what is happening in our building.
  • Connect with other educators outside of your building. Twitter is one of the best tools to build a Professional Learning Network (PLN) to see what others are doing, learning and sharing.  You cannot search on google for something that you don’t even know is happening on other schools, but you can often learn about it from what other educators are tweeting.
  • Be a resource finder. If there’s something that a teacher wants/needs to improve on or learn more about, find resources to help support them.  Learn about it with them.
  • Have “No Office Days” where you are actually teaching in classrooms, not just observing.
  • Listen/reflect on feedback given to you from teachers and use it to improve.
What else do you see Lead Learners doing? What else should they do?

My Summer Reading Bucket List

If you follow my blog then you know that I’m an avid reader with a goal to read 55 books this year(you can read it in this post). So far, I have read 31 books since January and have a stack of books that have piled up that I look forward to read this summer. My only problem is that I have so many stacked up, it’s hard to make a “what’s next” plan.

Here’s my professional reading stack:

I am currently reading The Multiplier Effect with our district admin team and we will be moving on to Cultures Built to Last as we attend the PLC Institute in July. I will also be reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (who I was so fortunate to meet at the ASCD conference) for the #educoach chat starting on July 10th.

As I’ve previously written about (in this post), I’m trying very hard to not be so boring and also make sure that I read fiction, so here is my “reading for pleasure” stack for the summer:

What’s on your summer reading bucket list?  Can you read any in either of my stacks to help persuade me to move it to the top?

My Twitter Video

I just discovered a neat new Twitter tool this week thanks to others in my Twitter PLN.  It’s just for fun, check it out:

Click HERE to watch it

Sometimes the Answer is SO Obvious…

I have been using Evernote for probably two years now and cannot survive without it. It has literally become my filing system and my brain…for almost everything.  I often share ideas with interested teachers on how it could be used. Just today I was speaking with a colleague about how challenging it can be to keep up with documentation of communication with parents, staff, and outside agencies and how difficult it is to find those notes when you need them. I shared with her my notebook system (which is quite embarrassing, because of how messy it is) and she asked, “Why don’t you just use Evernote since you always use it?”

Image from Appsmylife

This colleague does not even use Evernote, she’s just heard me talk about it all the time…I felt like a fool when she shared this obvious solution with me!

Even though I had a system of tracking in the margin of my notebook, I realized I could easily use the checkbox feature in Evernote, along with different font to record any follow-up documentation. I started using it right away today, because even though it’s summer break, I still had 6 voicemails to return and found it so easy. Again, such an easy solution that was just so obvious I couldn’t even see it!

As I move into my summer work (catch-up, planning for next year, office cleaning, etc.) I will be on the lookout for other obvious things I can be using Evernote for to make my life simpler.

How to Support My Teachers with our 1:1 Initiative?

Image from teach.com post

In my last post I shared that we are going 1:1 with iPads in all of our preschool through 5th grade classrooms in our building. Now, my question is how can I lead/support my teachers to use them in meaningful ways to transform learning? We are fortunate to have an Instructional Media Specialist that is extremely helpful in supporting teachers to try a new tool. We also will be investing in training from Certified Apple Trainers. But what can I do?

This past year I did go into a few different classrooms with the iPad cart to “borrow a class of guinea pigs” to try out new apps that I had learned about from my Twitter PLN. I had read about how the app was used in the classroom and wanted to try it in the classroom, while also exposing the teacher to it. I have always felt it has been important for me to not just be in classrooms observing, but to teach and support teachers as well. My goal in this was to also model for teachers to take risks, try new things and reflect/share with colleagues on what worked/what didn’t work.

In my Friday Focus post each week I have also included a section called “Blogs, Pins & Tweets…Oh My!” where I often include ideas on using the iPads.

Over the summer I hope to continue to learn and answer this question: What else can I do to encourage, support and lead teachers with the iPads? Here are some of my current ideas, but I hope some of my PLN (Professional Learning Network) will share ideas with me as well:

  • Start a wikispace this summer to start adding resources/ideas to. I would also give teachers access so they can add to this as well. I just need to figure out how to organize the wiki (i.e. blogs, apps, grade level?)
  • Continue to find app ideas for teachers to use themselves on their iPads. My iPad has become an extension of my arm in terms of how useful it is to me everyday. I’d like to continue to share how it can be a beneficial tool for them.  How can teachers that work with just a few students at a time on specific skills use theirs? For example, our reading interventionists that follows a very prescriptive intervention program will likely not be using the iPads with students, but I’m sure there are productivity apps they would personally benefit from.
  • Always incorporate teacher iPads in our staff meetings somehow. I’d like to plan ahead and create a google doc for each month’s staff meeting agenda, post it on my staff blog and have a part of the agenda be for a staff member to share an app or iPad use from their classroom.
Where will I keep finding my ideas to share with teachers?

Please share if you have any ideas to help me!

We’re Going 1:1 with iPads!!!

Image from Ergatron.com

Can you hear my excitement already? You read that right…we are going 1:1 with iPads in all of our preschool through 5th grade classrooms in our elementary school.

Since I have learned from so many other blogs about integrating technology I plan to share our learning here, but also hope to get input from others on questions that we have.

Here’s what led up to this 1:1 decision:
We are a small district with preK-12 all in one building, which allows us to share technology even though we still function as separate schools in our three separated wings. Over the years we have continued to add technology: each building level has a computer lab and every classroom has a SMARTBoard. This past year we added several carts of devices: Lenovo laptops, netbook minis, Macbook Airs and iPads. This allowed classrooms the opportunity to try out different devices and explore with what device was preferred if we should go 1:1.

Our District Tech Team put in a lot of work this year exploring schools that have gone 1:1 to see what works, what didn’t, etc. They surveyed all staff and all students K-12, using the results to determine that in our district, the best place to start implementing 1:1 would be in our elementary (we did find other districts that started with the high school). This team developed a 3 year plan that ends with our district being 1:1 in every grade. The tech team presented to the school board a couple of different times to build their understanding of this initiative, which led to a unanimous vote for the purchase of the iPads for the elementary next year. Right after this decision was made, we began sharing information on our website for our parents/community to see, which can be found HERE.

So, now that the decision was made, what’s next? Well, our tech people have been working like mad to get this large iPad order ready, along with the admin team planning when to bring in the Apple certified trainers. With any new initiative, the support must be there so we have decided to budget for training from Apple. We also had a logistical meeting with the elementary teachers to discuss how apps will be loaded, how ipads will be stored, etc. Here are some of those logistical details:

  • Each classroom will have an Ergatron charging case.
  • Each iPad will have Otterbox cases
  • iPads will initially be set up with apps by grade level as requested by the grade level team
  • Teachers will have full access to make their teacher iPad their own (this year they had department ipads all with the same apple account so they couldn’t individualize them)
  • As additional apps are requested they will be added to what will basically be our school App Store, which will be created using Casper Software.
  • Additional wifi access points are being put into every classroom so that we have enough bandwidth for all of the additional devices.
  • Every classroom will have an Apple TV to be able to project from any iPad to the SMARTBoard.

I think that’s it for logistics. My next post will be on how can I support my teachers to transform instruction with these new iPads?

If your school or classroom has gone 1:1 are there any logistical issues that you encountered that we should know about? Please share if you do!

Edited to add:
Someone on Twitter asked me if students will be taking the iPads home with them? We have decided that at least for the beginning of this 3 year initiative students will not be bringing them home. A major reason for this is that our K-12 students all ride the same buses home so we were concerned about middle/high school students knowing that our students had iPads in their backpacks and if this could potentially cause theft issues. 

Know you’re in the good old days…

Here is cross-post of my final Monday Musings post from my staff blog for the school year…inspired by one of my favorite t.v. shows…

This year was the final season for one of my favorite t.v. shows, The Office. I’m sure you can all relate to having one (or more) shows that you have come to love, have watched every week for years and then feel a great sadness when it comes to a close.  You’ve grown to know each of the unique characters as if they were actually a part of your life and can even make connections to events in real life.  It sounds silly…I know, it’s just a t.v. show.

 If you are not familiar with The Office, the character Andy Bernard in the image above had left the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company to pursue other ambitions and returned for the last episode as the crew said their farewells.  When he came back to all of his colleagues and friends he realized how good he had it before he left and said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you leave them.”

As I watched this final episode, I couldn’t help but think of our Dodgeland Family.   Just as any year, we’ve taken on a lot this year. There were times where we may have felt stressed, overwhelmed, or thought that the grass might be greener somewhere else, but as I’ve shared before, “the grass is greener where you water it.”

 The work that we do at Dodgeland every day makes it a truly amazing place for our students to learn and grow each day. It is a school that I am proud to be a part of and to send my own children to. I want to thank each of you for the hard work you have put in every day to help each of your students achieve their greatest potential this year. Use this last week together to enjoy your students and colleagues or as Andy Bernard says, “Know you’re in the good old days before you leave them”