Tag Archive for PLN

Developing Wild Readers

I’ve previously shared my learning from reading Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild, but am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear her keynote on her research and practices within this book at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention (#WSRA15).  I am always inspired by hearing and reading Donalyn’s work and want to go back into my own classroom to inspire students to read, but then I remember I don’t have a classroom.  So, as a leader, I just continue to share my learning with our teachers and model myself as a wild reader for our entire school.

Lunch conversation selfie with my PLN: Donalyn Miller, Tom Whitford, and Pernille Ripp

Lunch conversation selfie with my PLN: Donalyn Miller, Tom Whitford, and Pernille Ripp


Here is the Monday Musings post I’ll be sharing with my teachers:


Over the years I’ve shared my learning with you from Donalyn Miller’s books: The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild (previous posts are HEREHERE, and HERE). I’ve seen many of the practices we’ve learned about from her implemented in your classrooms: reading choice, book talks, stealing reading minutes, sharing your lives as readers, reading goals posted (students and staff), etc.

Even though I have read both of Donayln’s books, I was re-inspired by hearing her speak last week and to hear her story of how she came to research reading habits and write the book, Reading in the Wild. As the well-known Book Whisperer, she always got her students to read voraciously and couldn’t understand what happened in the next grade level up when her students stopped reading, because their classrooms didn’t include the same practices. Instead of blaming other teachers, Donalyn realized that she needed to help her students to truly develop the habits of lifelong readers, not having to depend on her to get connected to their next book to read. How do you do this?

  • Instead of requiring reading logs to track minutes (which most students and parents “fudge” anyhow) having students track their book titles read (that’s what adults do!).
  • Instead of having required amounts of time to read, having students learn and find times to “steal reading” minutes like most adults do, by always having a book with them.
  • Instead of making a specific book recommendation to a student when they finish a book, ask first: “What’s on your to-read list?” (After setting up the structure/habit for students to have a to-read list.)
  • Instead of recommending a specific book to students, she started making a preview stack of books that included books she knows the student will like but included different types of genres to expose them to.
  • Never give up on having a read-aloud, kids are never too old (that’s why there’s such a large market for audio books!) Use the read-aloud to expose students to different authors/genres/series that they may never try on their own.
  •  Help students to build their reading community. If you are their only source of book recommendations, then they will be lost without you next year.
  • And just for fun: skip the “selfie” and take a “shelfie”: a picture of yourself with a stack of books you want to read (or your favorite books)!

If you want to read more “nuggets” from her keynote presentation, there were many attendees tweeting from it and you can find them all HERE.

Take a moment to reflect on how you share yourself as a reader with your students and how are you promoting the habits of lifelong learners in your classroom?

Principal 2.0 Resources for #IPANewAdmin14

I’m excited to join forces again with Amber Teamann on July 25 as we spend a day with the new administrators in Illinois for #IPANewAdmin14.  Amber and I will be presenting:

Principal 2.0.png

Within this full day workshop we will share the power of social media for school communication, social media for personal learning and web 2.0 tools to keep up with all the work!

You can find our slides HERE and all of other links of resources HERE.

And please help us welcome these administrators to the Twitter PLN as we get them connected while we use the #IPANewAdmin14 hashtag!

Principal 2.0: The Connected Administrator

Yesterday Amber Teamann and I joined the great principals in Indiana for the Indiana Principal Leadership Institute (#IPLI) to share with them how Social Media can be a useful tool for school communication and for their personal ongoing professional learning.

A big bonus for us on this? Joining the great Todd Whitaker!


As promised to all those in attendance, here are our presentations/handouts/video clips:

3, 2, 1…Blast Off (Prezi on School Communication)

Social Media and Leadership…Where do I Start?

Podcasts for Principals

Twitter Island (I must give credit to Curt Rees for the Gilligan images!)

Getting Started with Twitter Checklist

Getting Started with Feedly to Follow Blogs

The Principal Meltdown video clip

Girl’s First Ski Jump – Remember, Social Media is just like this ski jump. It seems scary at first, but once you get going it will be GREAT!

You Know You’re a Connected Educator When…

Here is a cross-post from a post that I wrote for Edsurge. While I’ve written many posts about being a Connected Educator, this was a fun list to write! You can find the original post at Edsurge HERE.

CC by 2.0 Mike Licht

CC by 2.0 Mike Licht

1. The first words out of your mouth each day at school are usually, “Last night on Twitter…”

With Twitter it is easy to get sucked into conversations you never expected to have and to find ideas and resources that you didn’t even know you were looking for. Maybe you were just checking your twitter feed, maybe you joined in on a great discussion in a scheduled chat like #edchat, #educoach, #atplc (all things PLC), or your state’s educator chat. After being involved in a great sharing discussion on Twitter, it’s hard to “shut it off” and you just want to share what you’ve learned with others at school. I share the great ideas I find on Twitter by “Retweeting” them and sharing with my staff in my weekly memo.

2. Whenever a staff member in your building asks a question you can find many possible solutions on Twitter.

“Do you know of an iPad app for keyboarding?” “Can we look at other examples of standards based report cards?” “How do we get started with Battle of the Books?” “I’m struggling with ____ do you know any teachers that have been using this for a while?”

As a principal, I hear questions like this on a daily basis. Just because I don’t always know the answers, doesn’t mean I don’t have them. Prior to being connected on Twitter, I would have just sent out an email to the handful of principals that I know in nearby school districts. Now I turn to Twitter. I ask thousands of educators my question and find someone who’s an expert.

3. Need to meet up outside your building? You can turn to Skype, Google Hangout and Voxer.

Twitter is great to find ideas and get connected with others, but sometimes 140 characters just won’t do. To have more in-depth conversations I turn to Skype or Google Hangout. Voxer is great when you want to leave voicemails or walkie talkie back and forth with a group of principals/educators, allowing us to continue to have an ongoing audio discussion that all four of us can hear. Educators (both principals and teachers) are so busy, that it’s nearly impossible to find a large chunk of time for an extended conversation. Voxer allows you to leave each other messages (for one individual or for a group of people on Voxer) and pick up with the conversation whenever you have time to check in.

4. You read numerous blogs from other educators/administrators.

There are so many great educators sharing what works and what doesn’t. It can save you time from making the same mistakes. When I first discovered great blogs to read I would check each individual website weekly, wondering if there was a new post…but no one has time for that! Now I use the tool Feedly which allows me to subscribe to blogs. All I have to do is check Feedly when I have time to read the latest blog posts…no more wasting my time going to each individual site.

5. You look forward to attending conferences even more.

You probably enjoyed learning at conferences prior to being a Connected Educator, but conferences take on a new level of learning when you already know several of your “tweeps” (people you’re connected with on Twitter) will be there. Instead of just attending, taking notes on what you’re learning and thinking about it, you have others to discuss with and continue the conversation afterwards on Twitter. If there are many Connected Educators at the conference, then it’s likely that you’ll also get to socialize with them at a “Tweet Up” at the end of the day. It is very common for someone attending the conference to set a time/location for a “Tweet Up” (usually at a place for some choice beverages) and starting tweeting out the details with the conference hashtag so that anyone on Twitter attending the conference can meet up (thus the phrase “Tweet Up”) together to meet all their “Tweeps.”

6. Even if you don’t have time to blog/tweet, you do so in your head.

Blogging and tweeting can be such a great tool reflection. As stated in #4, blogging is not bragging; it is great to share your reflections online and get feedback from others in the comments to offer further suggestions or challenge your thinking. I only make the time to write a new blog post a couple times a month, but often find myself “blogging in my head” as I’m reflecting on something at school. Even though I don’t get to writing that blog post, the reflection process has been helpful for me.

7. You’re guilty of pulling out your phone to check Twitter while you’re in the bathroom.

I know I’m not alone. It only takes a minute to check Twitter. Find that minute waiting in line at the grocery store, muting TV commercials or yes, even in the bathroom.

8. You have learned more from Twitter than your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees combined.

I always intended to attain my doctorate in education. However, I have learned so much from being a Connected Educator that now I don’t feel a need to pursue higher education anymore. All this learning is at my fingertips for free. There is a wealth of free online learning opportunities; following the tweets of a conference hashtag as others tweet from it, joining in on free webinars that educators on Twitter organize, or joining MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) that you learn about from Twitter.

9. Your daily routine includes listening to educational podcasts.

Podcasts are a great way to continue your learning while walking the dog, cleaning your house or on your daily commute. I have first learned about the many choices out there via Twitter. Some of them include: Techlandia, TeacherCast, Choice Literacy, and any broadcast from the EdReach network. I love learning about best practices and new ideas from the tech/literacy/building level leaders that record these. Can’t find one that speaks to your topic? Then start your own! Just recently a couple other principals and I started the Principalcast Podcast since we couldn’t find anything specifically for principals.

10. You can easily recover from the isolation of your busy school day.

I like to refer to the isolation of busy educators as “Gilligan Syndrome,” which sets in when you get “stranded” and don’t know how to reach out to others for help. This is common for administrators, lone subject teachers or even busy teachers who don’t get to converse with their colleagues often. Utilizing the connections you make on Twitter is a great way to get yourself “unstuck;” you always have other educators to turn to when times get rough. To make the best of Twitter, figure out the strengths of the people you are following. You can always tweet out a question for everyone to see, but when you have a specific question it is great to know someone who is an expert on that topic to send a direct message to so you can talk to in a Google Hangout for further help.

*Gilligan Syndrome is a term that Curt Rees, Jay Posick, Matt Renwick and I have come up with as we present to educators in Wisconsin about becoming connected educators.

Getting Acquainted – the People, the Place, the Culture

While getting ready to lead a couple of sessions for New Elementary Building Administrators I turned to my PLN and tweeted out asking for people to share some words of wisdom on the People, the Place and the Culture.  By creating a google doc for everyone to add their advice to, I also wanted to show the power of being connected on Twitter and how easy it was to get great ideas from others just by tweeting out a question.

Since I’m connected with outstanding folks on Twitter, the google doc quickly filled and I then organized them into 10 categories, adding my own thoughts (that were originally given to me as a first year principal to think about).  So, if you’re a new building administrator or know someone who is, here you go:

Getting Acquainted: the People, the Place, the Culture

A Post for the Principals New to Twitter


I have previously written about how powerful Twitter in several different posts: My #1 Recommended Resource, Expanding my PLN on Twitter, Is Social Media Taking Away from Personalization and Relationships, and The #WIAmigos are at it Again) Anyone who knows me knows that I always promote the power of building your PLN (Professional Learning Network) through Twitter.  Principals have a lonely job being the only one in their position in their building, but by connecting with others on twitter, you are not alone!

I recently read a post by Tom Whitby, To Whom Should I Connect?, and was also having guilt about not recommending people on #FF (#FF is for “Follow Friday” when people tweet out recommendations of people to follow).  Twitter is great, because I find something new every time I check the feed, however, what’s even better is knowing the strengths of each person I follow so that I know specifically who I should go to with a question in that area.  I do follow over 3,000 people so I must say I don’t know the strengths of all of them.  In the past month I’ve started getting quite a few principals started on twitter so I wanted to share a page of recommendations of who to start following and why (some is copied again from this post).

Educators in Wisconson (we like to refer to ourselves as #WIAmigos)…

@CurtRees (Curt) – for RTI questions, because his school is a model school for RTI and has presented at a couple of conferences.  He is also a tech guru, currently getting his Doctorate with an emphasis in Technology Leadership and is one of the Techlandia Podcast crew.  As a principal he also does a great job of keeping his parents/community well informed through his school facebook and youtube channel.  He’s also been a principal far more years than I have so I call on him for general advice as well (along with his knowledge of random songs/movies from the 80′s).

@PosickJ (Jay) – his school was one of few that went 1:1 with chromebooks for their 4-8th graders and has some great tech gurus in his district.  He doesn’t tweet much other than how far he runs everyday (which also is motivating for me), but he hasn’t ignored my direct messages or emails.

@ReadbyExample (Matt)  is an awesome elementary principal focused on literacy and is a grant-writing guru.  His blog is filled with incredible information and often writes posts for the Stenhouse blog.

@Joesanfelippofc (Joe) is a Superintendent doing some incredible work in his district and leading his staff to be connected learners. I’m always amazed how many teachers I see from Fall Creek joining in on the #educoach chat each week. You can find out even more about Joe in this post.

@twhitford (Tom) a fellow elementary principal with great ideas and is constantly learning with others on twitter. I’m not sure if there’s a chat he doesn’t join in on, but he loves to talk PLC.

@Leah_Whit (Leah) another fellow elementary principal who also happens to be Tom’s wife. She is constantly reading, learning and sharing on twitter. She just recently started blogging and I look forward to what she has to share.

@ChadHarnisch-is a connected High School principal with a great deal of experience and lot of wisdom to share. He recently presented at a conference about how all of his teachers were teaching literacy in the high school…not just the English teachers.

@chadkafka (Chad) who is my go-to guy for anything google, because he is the google guru! He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator.  He used to lead the MobileReach podcast to share all kinds of great apps and advice for integrating mobile devices in education, but now has the Teacher Tech Talk Podcast.

@Taml17 (Tammy) who joins Chad on the Teacher Tech Talk podcast and shares awesome tech tools/tips. I love following her website to see what she’s presenting on.

@pernilleripp (Pernille) who started the Global Read Aloud project and is so reflective on teaching in her blog.  She is so sincerely honest about her practice and giving the classroom back to the students.

@gunnellAP (John) a middle school principal who took our #WIAmigos connections to the next level by starting the Sunday night (at 8PM) #wischat.

@jgulan (Jeff) I connected with Jeff at a conference to hear about how his High School went 1:1.  We have remained connected since then as our school embarks on this journey.  He has even volunteered his time to skype with our tech committee to talk more about their experience and answer any questions that we have had along the way.

I’ve met almost all of these colleagues in person at conferences.  If I hadn’t known them from twitter, I never would have sought them out at the conference to chat with them…I would have just attended sessions by myself.

Educators out of Wisconsin…

@mmiller7571 (Melinda) a principal from Missouri who started a podcast years ago that I found by chance and enjoyed learning anything I could about being a principal.  It was her podcast that led me to learn about twitter and online, 24/7 PD opportunities.  She also has far more years of experience than me so I’ve called on her for help with a variety of admin questions.

@shiraleibowitz (Shira) and @KathyPerret (Kathy) who both co-moderate the #Educoach chat with me every Wednesday night.  Shira is a Rabbi/Head of School in New York with a wealth of knowledge (how else would I connect with a Rabbi?) on coaching teachers versus just evaluating them.  Kathy is a very well trained Instructional Coach in Iowa, also with a wealth of knowledge.

@NMHS_Principal (Eric)  who is very well known of across the country for having his New Jersey high school utilize social media. He was recognized by NASSP as a Digital Principal Award Winner.  I’ve seen video clips, news articles and blog posts about him and his awesome school.  This past year I got to meet him in his person and hear him speak at the ASCD Conference (wrote about here). He has a new book, Leadership 3.0 that will be coming out in February I believe and I highly encourage all principals to get it when it’s out!

@patrickmlarkin (Patrick) was the principal of a Massachusetts high school has been in national headlines for going 1:1 with huge success (now he’s an Assistant Superintendent). He’s also known for being the 2012 NASSP Digital Principal Award Winner.  I’ve podcasted with him on the EdAdmin show and enjoy learning from his experience.

@Joe_Mazza (Joe) is an elementary principal well known for using social media to strengthen home-school partnerships.

@8Amber8 (Amber) is an elementary assistant principal in Texas who is constantly sharing great ideas for integrating technology.  If you’re getting tired of learning about technology, then she can talk fashion or Tory Aikman 😉

@L_Hilt (Lyn) was an elementary school principal in Pennsylvania and is now an Instructional Tech Coach. She is an incredible leader on integrating technology.

@Eduleadership (Justin)  A former principal, now director of The Principal Center. He has taught me so many organizational/time management tips to keep up with the crazy amount of workload a principal has.

@Cantiague_Lead (Tony) Principal of an Elementary School that has been awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award. I connect with Tony frequently on all things leadership and literacy.

@DrSpikeCook (Spike) another Elementary Principal that I don’t think ever sleeps!  He is always sharing his great ideas and I recently had the chance to hear him and some of his teachers speak at ASCD as his school was featured in ASCD/MCREL’s new video series on Classroom Instruction that Works.

@LeaderandReader (Mindy) Another elementary principal that I love to learn from. She is a true lead learner, constantly sharing her ideas on leadership, leading a literacy school, and Daily 5.

@casas_jimmy (Jimmy) A High School Principal full of energy, great ideas and known for being a HS Principal of the Year in Iowa. He started the #IAEdchat to connect the Iowa educators on Sunday nights at 8PM.

@plugusin (Bill) I recently heard Bill speak at a PLC Institute and learned so much that I attended two of his sessions. Bill is a middle school teacher that has written several books and is what I consider a PLC guru, yet he’s a “real live bonefied active teacher” (not an administrator).

@rondmac (Ron) a  principal that has a lot to share in regards to school leadership.

@hopeleaders (Raul) who I actually had the pleasure of working with during my 1st year as an assistant principal in Arizona. He was an awesome principal that taught me almost everything I know.  He’s now a principal coach in his district.  Even though I moved across the country, I can still keep learning from him via twitter.

@TeacherCast (Jeff) who started TeacherCast in New Jersey, which provides great podcasts to learn from, along with many other great resources for teachers/educational leaders.

@akevy613 (Akevy) another Rabbi/Principal with many years of leadership experience that I enjoy learning from.

Educational Gurus…
How else could I continue learning from my favorite Educational Authors or even ask 1:1 questions of Todd Whitaker“The Sisters”Jim Knight, and Donalyn Miller.

Connecting with great educators at #ASCD13

This is the first of several posts I’ll be writing to share about my awesome learning at the #ASCD13 conference in Chicago.  Of all the conferences I have ever attended, ASCD was definitely the best for 2 reasons:
1. I met almost all of my favorite “Tweeps” from my Twitter PLN in real life, which allowed me to have awesome conversations all day long.
2. There is such a huge variety of learning sessions to attend (over 400) that include top notch educators from around the country (i.e. Will Richardson, Regie Routman, Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Eric Sheninger, Jay McTighe, Jane Pollock, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the list go on…).
In fact my only complaint at #ASCD13 is that there are too many awesome sessions to choose from that I had some really difficult decisions to make each hour of the day!!

I have previously written numerous posts on the power of Twitter, like:
ASCD: Building a Professional Learning Network to Save you from Admin Island
Is Social Media Taking Away from Personalization and Relationships?
Using Twitter for 24/7 Professional Development

I felt sorry for some of the educators I saw at #ASCD13 that attended alone and sat by themselves in sessions and break times. I also drove there alone, however, was surrounded by educators that I connect with everyday on Twitter. I feel so connected to them that it was like connecting with old friends at my high school reunion and then continuing to have great conversations all day long no matter which session I attended.  My day started out by having breakfast with Eric Sheninger in the Press room and the day continued to get better!

I was pleased to hear Twitter recommended as a powerful tool by almost every speaker of the day, as a source for great learning. My favorite tweets on this topic:

So now, I just have to share pictures of meeting my PLN in person. Can you guess the Tweep? (for those of you not on Twitter, Tweep is the term for a connected “friend” on Twitter).

#ASCD13 Post: Turn the Battleship on a Dime: Keys to Initiating Sustainable Change

One of the great sessions I attended at #ASCD13 was on sustainable change led by the great Eric Sheninger, or else known as @NMHS_Principal. Eric was a phenomenal speaker and I took copious notes in his session (that includes many audience responses) as follows:

Why Change? We need to, because the world has changed, it is fundamentally different, we are in a globally connected world. How can we say we are preparing our kids to be successful to do what they want to do if we don’t allow them to use the tools that eveyrone else uses to be successful?

Why doesn’t change work?
It is done to people, no buy-in, don’t support the rpocess, always changing from one thing to the next, we give up before the learning curve is experienced, overwelmed by number of things to change.

Why has it failed in your school?
It goes against tradition, people are not given a chance to fail or take risks

Why is change so hard? People are so comfortable bc they are not challenged to think differently. Status quo, if it isn’t broke why fixt it, this too shall pass.

Why is change so hard?
Fear, void of leadership, no vision, lack of knowledge

Why is change so hard?
Instability, too many initiatives at once, resistance, one size fits all initiatives.

It’s difficult to transition a school or district if it doesn’t make sense.

It’s important to identify the obstacles
1. This is too hard
Change is not easy. Requires work, risk-taking, learnign from mistakes, and committemtn, no fear of failure. “The price of change is measured by our will and courage, our persistence, in the face of difficulty.” -Peter Block

2. I don’t have time for this
-most common excuse
-in a profession focused on making a difference in the life of a child. “I don’t find the time to learn and get better. I make the time to learn and get better.”

3. Lack of Collaboration
We already know who on our staff don’t want to collaborate. How do we get them to intrinsically want to change, becuase they might be better for kids. We can’t go to a one-size fits all approach.

4. Directives and Mandates
“You can’t force committemnt, what you can do….You nudge a little here, insprie a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create” -Peter Senge

5. Hierarchy in Schools
Result-inflexible, lack of freedom/autonomy to take risks, ideas are squashed

6. No Support
Time, resources, money, pd, etc.

7. Fear of change
How do we as colleagues, administrators help each other overcome fear and get others to want to change?

8. The Resistance (Naysayers and antagonists)

9. Poor professional development

10. Frivolous purchases
It is the beahviors/practices that make the purchases relevant and applicable.

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Zigler

Change begins with us. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

If you are doing something because you got a grant, can it be sustained? If not, then why are you doing it?

Change often fails if there’s not shared vision, or communication of the vision.

“Let the teachers decide what they need to get better.” @NMHS_Principal

The Sustainable Changes that have been made at Eric’s School:
grading (7 criteria to fail kids)
teaching and learning web2.0
independet open courseware study
professional growth period
AP culture
social media

Getting excited for the ASCD 2013 Conference!!!

Image from ASCD Conference Page

ASCD is one of my go-to sources for ongoing personal PD through the monthly Educational Leadership  and the numerous books published each year.  For years I have wanted to attend the annual ASCD conference and this year I finally get to, because it is going to be in Chicago (just a 2 1/2 hour drive for me).  While this conference has 3 days packed of amazing sessions to be offered, those that cannot attend can follow the twitter hashtag #ASCD13 or even attend virtually.  I will only be able to go on Saturday, but will be following #ASCD13 on the other days.  

If you’re planning to attend, make sure to download the app MyASCD2013 for a handy schedule and planning tool. I found it super easy to browse the schedule by time or speaker and simply “star” sessions I was interested in to narrow down my choices (from 400) down to a handful in each time slot. Here’s what it looks like so far:
Sorry, but the screenshot doesn’t make it legible to read in the image.

The #ASCD13 conversation has already started on Twitter as we narrow down our choices:

To which my response is…
In addition to the great learning at #ASCD13 I am looking forward to meeting some of the folks in my Twitter PLN for the first time or reconnecting again.  These folks include (but are not limited to): @KathyPerret @NMHS_Principal @Joe_Mazza @DrSpikeCook @tomwhitby and my #WIAmigos: @twhitford @leah_whit @ErinKohl @Joesanfelippofc   You’ll be able to find me in my #WIAmigos t-shirt

I have a secret…

I am leading a session on use of specific apps on the iPad for teachers in my building tomorrow and I am NOT an expert on any of the apps I’m sharing. That’s right. I’m showing how to use them, giving ideas of how they can be used and I don’t know everything about each of them and I probably can’t answer all the questions that may be asked of me.

But, I do know that if there are any questions I can’t answer I can tweet them out and am 99.9% sure that someone in my Twitter PLN will have the answer for us.  I have used Educreations in 4 classrooms, showing the teacher and the students all at once how to use it.  Each time, a student (or the teacher) discovered something new or came up with a tip to help everyone.  Every time I use it, I learn something new.  Even if I did become an expert on any one of these apps, the developers are constantly listening to feedback from the users and updating the features, so I would have new features to learn about each time they are updated. I also know that as teachers begin using the apps in their classrooms they will come up with great new ways of using them for student learning and share them with others.

We do not have to be experts at the tools…we have to be experts at learning and show students what it is like in real life to not know the answer or not know how to do something.  To be successful in life you need to know how to find it out.  Or as Will Richardson says we have to be able to “learn, unlearn and relearn.”