Friday, December 19, 2008

Use communication skills to foster rational conversations

With all the preparation for the holidays and the bringing together of friends and families, we often find ourselves involved in stressful situations. I invite you to take a few minutes and read the coaching reminder written by my friend, John Dyer. In a recent conversation, he and I talked about how the holiday season gives us a great opportunity to practice our communication skills with both colleagues and family. He writes:

One of the most difficult applications of the communication skills of coaching is to be able to use them when a speaker is in an extended emotional state, AND you are involved with or the cause of the emotional reaction. How does one maintain one’s composure and diffuse the emotion of the speaker so that the conversation can be rational and productive? It is not easy. Some possible suggestions for handling such a situation:

· Focused, sincere and genuine listening is essential. The listening set-asides are imperative. No autobiographical listening. No solution listening. AND, let us add two more in this situation. No “defensive” listening, and no “counter-argument” listening.
· Paraphrase is essential beginning with emotional paraphrase or combination emotional and content. Label the persons feeling. Examples may include: “ You are really upset about this”. “This is bothering you a great deal.” “You’re angry about how this was handled.” “You’re disappointed in me.” “You’re insulted because what I said offended you”. (Hey wait a minute – how come these examples are coming so easy to me?)
· It may be necessary to do repeated emotional paraphrases (3 or more) to allow the person to vent their feelings and lower the intensity level.
· What for evidence of the speaker’s reduced stress – slower, deeper breathing pattern, a reduction in the flush of the skin, reduced muscle tension, lower of pitch of voice and slower pace of speech.
· When the speaker is calmer present a thought provoking question that can focus the conversation on resolving the situation. Examples may include: “ What are some possible things we could consider doing to resolve this?” “What might I do to help rectify the problem?” “What might have to happen for us to avoid a similar situation in the future?” “How might I be more proactive in supporting you?” “What might be some alternative strategies that we could use in advance to make certain the situation doesn’t happen again?”

And I say with the smile – this is easy to say, it may not be so easy to do when you are equally involved emotionally – both in a work situation and maybe especially in a family situation.

Remember the coaching pattern: pause, paraphrase, pause and question. Your friends and relatives will be astounded at your conversational skills!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Developing a Better Focus

If there are two words in education we might soon tire of hearing, they are creativity and innovation. Yet, I can't help but be excited by the current focus on these two human talents, and I'm not alone. In this article from the New York Times, author and Systems Change 2005 Keynote speaker Dawna Markova illustrates the challenges for leadership in fostering these.

"The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder," Dawna says. "But we are taught instead to 'decide.' decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities."

In addition, to paraphrase, the focus on standardized testing often leads to a focus on preparing all students to be good test-takers, encouraging mediocrity and limiting students' abilities to achieve excellence in where their talents lie. Unless the brain has determined creativity and innovation to be worthwhile mental patterns by the time an individual reaches puberty, it will prune those areas to put more energy into the "critical" areas established.

For the sake of our future, it is imperative that we continue to find ways to focus on higher order thinking skills, from the first day of Kindergarten to graduation day and beyond, if we want our students to be lifelong learners who succeed in the 21st century.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Connectivism and the 21st Century Student

I received this video from Kathy Schrock's SOS weekly email. She always has interesting resources, but I just love the way this one provides a glimpse of life for the 21st century students. It was also an introduction to connectivism for me--I had heard of the concept but for some reason did not yet see it as an educational philosophy. Now I am working to merge connectivist thinking with the constructivist thinking for which I've been advocating to see how these philosophies work together.
The question I have for educational leaders is this: what kinds of systemic change need to occur in order to support this student? how will you make connectivist instruction possible for your students?
And on a side note, if you have not seen the original videos from Common Craft, visit for an easy explanation of practically any Web 2.0 concept and more.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What if?

I recently read the article "Cover the Material or Teach Students to Think?" In the article, former school administrator (among his many other educational roles) Marion Brady poses the argument that our schools need to pose the question, "What if..." more often to encourage student thinking. His premise is that our system is currently geared toward a knowledge-based economy, and our schools with their textbooks, tests, and focus on recall are outdated for today's era of rapid social change.
"Education leaders can take a crucial step toward getting students to use
higher-order thinking skills by drawing a sharp line between firsthand and
secondhand knowledge."

In other words, instead of giving students lower level taxonomy skills to prepare them to think, or failing to believe our students are capable of thinking, maybe we should encourage them to actually think, by interacting with the world and through using the available technologies to connect them with primary sources so they can learn to analyze information, draw conclusions, and create new understandings.

Making this shift is not an easy battle--educational policy, influential business leaders, the media, and high stakes testing all tend to focus on those lower levels of thinking, making the assumption, one can only guess, that by mastering facts a person can then use those facts to synthesize, evaluate, and create. As leaders, it is a daily challenge to structure a learning environment where teachers are encouraged to involve students in authentic projects that incorporate higher order thinking skills, to face down the testmakers and focus on learning instead of covering what will be on the test. But what if...?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Good Holiday Read

What Great Teachers Do Differently has been wafting around my world, and so I finally took it in hand and read it. It is a positive and energizing read, and it is a great handbook for LEADERS, too! The lessons here apply to life and work in general, and I'm taking away some gems. Author Todd Whitaker is a principal who shares his experiences in concise and interesting stories. One chapter that made a difference in my behavior already is one called "The Teacher is the Filter." He poses the question, "How is your day going?" And then continues: As educators, we hear this question many times a day. Our response not only influences how others view us, but also affects the frame of mind of the person who asked. What's more, we have choices about how to respond...You can smile at a fellow teacher and and say, "Things are great! How about with you?" Or you can respond, "That Jimmy Wallace is getting on my nerves!"--and all of a sudden Jimmy Wallace is getting on that teacher's nerves too (whether the teacher knows him or not. Whitaker then takes that lesson further by describing how important it is for principals not to share information with their staff about an irate parent, for example, because it serves no useful purpose. This is an authentic leader with real experiences on which to draw. Many principals with whom I get to work have a similar positive outlook, and it's energizing to be around them. You can literally feel it when you enter their building, because this attitude is contagious--teachers, janitors, and parapro's all "catch" it! And, most importantly, kids catch it, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Educators apply Cognitive CoachingSM skills

As more educators (teachers, administrators and retired administrators) across the state are learning the process of Cognitive CoachingSM, it is becoming evident that the skills and tools are becoming their default. As I travel around the state coaching educators who are currently involved in trainings or were past participants, I find they are eager to learn how to continue to develop their capacity. They want to push to the next level of coaching groups as they find using their skills in these situations valuable. A big questions is, "How do I coach and faciliate at the same time?"

So, what is coaching? Coaching is skill set. It is a capacity for effective communication. The fundament skills of coaching are: rapport, listening, giving wait time, paraphrase, probing for specificity, inquiry and the use of structures or maps.

This skills are learnable. Some of the strategies for internalizing the ability to attend to these skills at a level of automaticity include;
· Real time practice – applying the coaching skills
· Mental rehearsal
o Listening to the radio mentally formulate paraphrases to what you hear announcers speaking
o Listening to the radio or watching TV interviews, formulate questions of inquiry that you might use if you were a part of the conversation
o Listening to other people’s conversation mentally formulate paraphrases, questions or probing that you might use if you were in the conversation
o Select one skill that you want to acquire at a level of “unconscious competence” and devote intentional focus on that singular skill for an appropriate time period until you are confident that you do it automatically. (i.e. for the next two weeks I am going to pay serious attention to “rapport” etc.)

· With a friend or colleague ask them if you could practice your communication skills as you engage in a social conversation
· Using these communication skills in most conversations – it doesn’t have to be a “coaching” to make use of high level communication skills such as these. (John Dyer, 2008)

The Cognitive CoachingSM website is:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spark: Exercise and the Brain

While preparing a book talk on Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, I asked many random teachers and leaders if anything was happening with fitness in their school or community. No one had much to share...So, I gave my book talk at the Systems Change Conference and SUDDENLY, I'm hearing great things about fitness in South Dakota schools! Some standouts are described here:
The book confirmed what I had already noticed about my own exercise and how it enhances my mental functioning. Author Dr. John Ratey shares compelling research about improved test scores, overcoming depression, coping with ADHD, and many motivating stories and statistics. There are great reasons for encouraging exercise for kids, and I think it's just as important for us adults to benefit from and to model this transforming behavior. Here at TIE, we celebrate a colleague's birthday with an annual hike up Harney Peak. It's great for our brains, our bodies, our relationships, and our work! Are you doing anything to encourage excercise for the adults and/or kids in your schools? Please post them here--or at the Healthy South Dakota website. One idea can spark a movement...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Systems Change Speaker Keith Sawyer

This speaker braved the blizzard to get to Rapid City on November 7 to speak to educators who appreciated his low-key but informed approach to creativity and innovation. One idea he described that sparked my interest was how the Gore Company (makers of Gore-Tex) encourages innovation. The company allocates 10% of employees' time to explore something they feel has great potential. They do not need permission or approval to do this exploration, but they frequently collaborate. This unstructured time allows innovation to come from the bottom-up, which has kept the company viable, fresh, and competitive. Imagine what it would be like to have 10% of a day or a week to be creative or to follow a dream! It reminded me of some school leadership teams that I have seen at work...The synergy in those teams as they look at student work and plan instructional improvements can be extremely creative and energizing! It also supports my belief that everyone is creative...just in different ways.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Smart Boards - What a Phenomena!

Watching Jackie Jessop Rising manipulate the Smart Board was a phenomena. While I was hardly able to keep up with her maneuvering, it was even more difficult to transfer what I was seeing to how I might use it. And I really haven't figured that part out yet. However, I was so impressed with the capabilities of the Smart Board, that I started asking teachers questions about how they were using this tool. Several special education teachers started talking about how they are utilizing the Smart Board and they left me in the dust. I confess I really don't know what they were talking about. So, I did some research and WOW. Check out this website and and then log onto Anne Marie's blog.
and log onto the Talking Smart Boards & Much More blog.

As you work with teachers across the state, I suggest sharing this website with them. The site includes resources such as interactive websites, sharing notebook lessons, and an interesting section called "Sharing SMART Board successes.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am amazed at the vast number of websites that offer quality blogs, tips and lesson plans for using the Smart Board. Now, I just need to figure out how I can use it so I'll be look for Jackie!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Systems Thinking and Dynamic Modeling

Peter Senge and Systems Thinking
A report from Systems Thinking and Dynamic Modeling.
Peter Senge’s keynote address reinforced the idea that systems thinking is based on interrelatedness.
He supports the idea of systems citizenry and several teachers shared examples of how they are involving students in real world problem solving. Carol J. Petri, at teacher from Texas, shared a project in which high school sophomores tested water streams above and below their community and shared this information with city government officials. These students help shape restoration of the stream in their community.
Senge and others at the conference advocate student involvement in making meaning from the data around them and thinking forward to see how complex systems change over time. See more at

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Evaluating Technologies - NECC - 6/28/08

A report from the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC). One vendor, ePals, invites attendees to contribute to an online discussion about evaluating technology solutions. The framework is a great discussion starter for leaders who make technology decisions for their organization about any type of technology.

From the website:

How can teachers move beyond technology integration and authentically embed NETS (National Education Technology Standards) into curricula across the content areas to transform learning?


How does this service help students become global citizens in the global marketplace (e.g., in building innovation, literacy, critical thinking, creativity and responsibility)?

How does this service enable collaboration, teamwork and problem solving in the classroom?

How does this service address the needs of ALL students?

How does this service foster real-life learning experiences and independent exploration across the curricula?

How does this service create a safe and secure environment for teaching and learning?

How does this service provide professional development that encourages teachers to collaborate, share expertise and maximize student achievement?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tired of sticky notes?

Personally, I can't even begin to imagine this. I love sticky notes. I have to truly restrain myself from buying more sticky notes every time I go to an office supply store or even many gift stores now. But for those of you who have had enough of Dilbert, Garfield, or even that tropical multi-color pop-up sticky note block that was fun for the first six months and now you just want it gone...

Bob Sprankle has some ideas for going digital, and ditching the sticky note once and for all. Plus, Hotchalk is running a promo right now where you can get full access to their journals. And if you're not familiar with the Hotchalk resources, it's worth some summer Internet time to check them out (some are free, others have a small fee).

Image Source

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

21st C Skills & Any Century Skills

This presentation from Jim Moulton (Maine) is a fantastic focus on the importance of the appropriate use of technology to encourage student learning. Student learning. Project based learning can give students the authentic context for engaging students in the content to be learned. Also, if you have not yet invested the TCPK framework, do. Jim is right on target and every teacher should think in terms of possibilities the way he does.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Peter Reynolds Lists 6 Essentials

I hope you caught this recent article in District Administration, but if you didn't, you can read it online here:

Peter Reynolds is a beloved children's book author (The Dot) and a great technology innovator and founder of Fablevision. In this article, he's celebrating ISTE's addition of Creativity and Innovation to their standards. Here's part of #6 to entice you to read the other five: "Leadership:...Without enlightened leadership, none of our lofty goals for revolutionizing education can take root. We need brave leaders who can invent the future with their staff and with the next generation. We need leaders who live the new ISTE standards personally, rather than pass them along on badly photocopied sheets for teachers to pass along to their students. This is not the "pass it along" era. This is the "connected universe" era. Unconventionally constructed social networks are reinventing the world..." His other five are equally provocative and practical! maggie

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Balanced Leadership Academy

Have you heard about this opportunity from School Administrators of South Dakota?

The Balanced Leadership Academy is a series of five professional development sessions designed to help school administrators learn and apply effective leadership practices. It focuses on 21 key leadership responsibilities identified in research compiled by McRel. The program combines proven research with practical applications. School administrators will leave the program with the skills of knowing how to lead, why leadership is important, and when it's critical to provide effective leadership.

Leaders, like everyone else, need to take full advantage of opportunities like this to hone their skills, refresh their outlooks, and connect with other leaders for ongoing support. Whether you've just finished a professional development event, or it's been a while since you've done something like this, I would strongly encourage anyone in a leadership role to participate in this great opportunity.

For more information, click here, or contact John Pedersen at (605) 773-2525 or

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Teaching the Digital Natives

I love this quote from Steve Hargadon in April's TechLearning, so I'm just copying it verbatim. The bold-facing and paragraphing is mine.

You may think you don't have anything to teach the generation of students that seems so tech-savvy, but it really, really needs you.

For centuries we have had to teach students how to seek out information--now we have to teach them how to sort through an overabundance of information. We've spent the past 10 years teaching students how to protect themselves from inappropriate content--now we have to teach them to create appropriate content.

They may be "digital natives," but their knowledge is surface
level, and they desperately need training in real thinking

They live lives that are largely separated from the adults around them,
talking and texting on cell phones and connecting online. We may be afraid
to enter that world, but enter it we must, for they often swim in uncharted
waters without the benefit of adult guidance.

To do so we may need to change our conceptions of teaching, and
better now than later.


This website from School Improvement Network takes aim at all the negative publicity that public schools in the United States usually receive, and posits three short video clips focusing on the fact that leaders, teachers, and schools DO make a positive difference in the lives of their students.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Making Kids Googlable

On his weblogg-ed, Will Richardson askes administrators:

[...if you are Googling people who you might want to teach at your school, what are you doing to insure the kids in your classrooms are “Googled well” when they go for their own interviews? And I don’t just mean telling them NOT to post certain things online. I mean what are you doing to help students shape their online portfolios so that when their future employers or future mates run the search, what they find is not just a lack of negatives but a potential plethora of positives? Not surprisingly, the answer is basically “not much.”]

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dailies-Allison Knox Keynote

Each day, the director of a movie checks the dailies to see if the filming is acceptable progress toward the vision he or she has for the film. Allison used the analogy to encourage us as teachers and educators and especially as leaders to continually check our progress toward our 21st century learning goals. She shared statistics showing that 99% of voters think 21st century skills need to be taught in today's schools and the greatest skill needed by employers is critical thinking--with innovation coming in fourth, just a few percentage points lower.

We need to ask ourselves if our dailies are ensuring that our students will have critical thinking skills. We need to focus on the higher levels of the new Anderson taxonomy that puts evaluation and creativity at the top. We need to continue to campaign for creativity and innovation in our schools, and to provide evidence that students are on the 21st century learning pathway. How can we do this? What practical things are we doing already? What needs to change?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Power Up 2 Integrate Technology

Power Up 2 Integrate Technology
Kris Baldwin, Debbie O’Doan & Jackie Jessop Rising, TIE
Participants in this grant shared their experiences when they integrated Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.
They said the most beneficial aspects included
Enough exposure to wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, and other tools to now feel comfortable using them.
1. Paticipating in online classes that focused on one particular tool.
2. Student centered classrooms motivate low achieving students and engaged them in learning.
3. Gaining confidence that they can create a unit that is meaningful and engaging.
4. Seeing detailed units that other area teachers are using.
5. Powerup project wiki at to access resources

Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works

In answering the question, Why Technology? Roxanne Everhard made the statistics from Marzano’s work easy to understand and builds a case for reading and using the texts: What Works in Schools, Classroom Instruction that Works, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. From her experience, Roxanne explains to us “Our students and children these days demand technology, they don’t just want it, they demand it.” From Survey Monkey,,, Wikispaces, to blogs, Roxanne leads us through some Web 2.0 technologies. For more information on Using Classroom Instruction that Works, sign up for the online graduate course at ESA 6 or TIE. You can also call the TIE office or email Roxanne Everhard or Jackie Jessop Rising for more informaiton.

Technology Professional Development in Your School

Lisa Tolliver & Rodney Dally from the Wagner Community School District have created a new and innovative way to differentiate professional development in their district. Some of the new ideas included a rotational in-service day schedule (discipline training, cultural diversity, technology integration, RtI, and collaboration), earning two credits for participation and implementation of professional development topics, and (one of my favorites) compensation for improving their technology skills!

This was a great session on how to make professional development more teacher and paraprofessional friendly!

Indepth on Windows Movie Maker and PhotoStory

I was fortunate to work with a group of TIE participants sharing Windows Movie Maker and Photostory.

Feel free to check out my website that I used for this indepth.

Dr. Tim Tyson's Keynote Address

Dr. Tim Tyson shares the importance of schools not accepting the idea of “this is the way it is always been”. The world is changing and so should schools. Students need authentic learning experiences to get them excited about learning. Dr. Tyson asks us to think about questions such as:
What if students really wanted to learn?
What if they wanted to create content?
What if they wanted to connect with people to share?
So, how can we make learning irresistible, so irresistible that students want to do it, all the time?
At what age does meaningfulness start?
Ask our students what do you have to say that is so important that everyone in the world needs to hear it?
For more information on student projects, visit

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pat McGill Energizes Educators

Pat McGill started out this humorous and exciting session with stories of her own teaching experiences. Her positive energy spread throughout the room helping educators avoid negativity. One of her key points was that individuals motivate themselves; in education our job is to provide environments where the motivation occurs. Grow the gifts! Instead of thinking outside the box, she encouraged us to grow the box (story by Leo Buscaglia).

Leadership is the power of influence. Educators model, monitor, and mentor. Participants at the session then chose a psychometric shape. This shape indicated your personality traits.

Her five R's included being real, rural, ready, reachable, remarkable. She suggested we read the Four Agreements. And left us with lots of golden nuggets to reflect on!

21st Century Skills for Administrators

Kris Baldwin lead this in-depth session on how school administrators can use technology successfully in their school districts and buildings. One area of interest included finding out about people through websites such a My Space, Facebook, and Bedo or looking at teacher certification. Another good way to find out about someone is to "Google" their name. But, make sure that you put "quotes" around their name to narrow your search.

Kris also discussed how students are Digital Natives and we are Digital Immigrants. The students are changing, we need to learn how to change with them, and connect with them digitally. She helped us to create and use wikispaces,, and Blogs. These programs will meet students at their level, as well as helping teachers collaborate when they can't be together in the same room at the same time.

Kris has a wealth of information on her wikispace. Make sure to check out all of this digital information and begin connecting with your staff and students at a new and different level!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Teacher Leaders Unite

I found a great website where teacher leaders can go to learn about leadership, coaching and mentoring, professional communites, 21st century learning, classroom practice, and other teacher leadership information.

Under the resources link, there is a 21st Century link that takes you to many different articles and websites on why and how teachers can and should integrate technology into their classrooms.

Have fun looking around!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Good Leaders (Teachers) Never Quit

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Joseph Martin of the New Teacher University located in Florida. Among the topics he addressed were the following: the most common reasons teachers quit the profession; four "Fear Factors" administrators must be aware of when hiring teachers; three P's that administrators must understand about their teachers; and three things administrators must do to retain good teachers. According to Dr. Martin, the three most common reasons why teachers quit the profession are the following: lack of support (isolation); unrealistic expectations (too much to do & not enough time to do it); and, surprisingly, other teachers (experienced, negative teachers). Dr. Martin stated that student behavior was the fourth-most common reason why teachers quit the profession. In order to truly understand their teachers, administrators must understand teachers' "Fear Factors", which are (1) Time; (2) Approval; (3) Consistency; and (4) Quality. By "time", the implication is that teachers are afraid of wasting it. Their personal planning time needs to be respected & valued so that they believe they can complete their responsibilities. Second, some teachers get offended very easily. They need to perceive a "sense of approval" from their peers & supervisors. Third, some teachers don't want to change; they are afraid of doing things differently. These individuals need to be given very clear, simple directions when asked to do something new. Finally, some teachers are concerned with "quality", and need to be given time to do things correctly. The three P's that Dr. Martin refers to are: priorities; purpose; and pressures. Administrators need to understand teachers' individual priorities, preferably each person's top three. Second, administrators should try to understand each teacher's purpose for entering the profession; what drives the individual to teach? Third, an administrator should ascertain what pressures an individual teacher experiences, in order to know how best to help the teacher. In conclusion, all administrators (and leaders) should: serve with their hearts, not with their heads; the responsibilities should cause more heartaches than headaches. Next, administrators should focus on the purpose of their positions, not the payoff. Finally, administrators should be an example to their teachers, not an excuse.

From the Boardroom to the Classroom: Value-Added Leadership

Today I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Dr. Robert Marzano & Dr. Tim Waters from McREL (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning). One of the key ideas in the presentation was the emphasis on the importance of individual reflection. In order to become more effective as teachers & leaders, it is absolutely imperative that we schedule times (at regular intervals) to reflect on the specific strategies, methods, and practices in which we engage. As we work with administrators & teachers, it is part of our responsibility to ask questions that direct those individuals to reflect on what they are doing, so that they may consider new approaches to particular challenges that they face. While this may seem like common sense to some, Marzano & Waters have asserted that it is something that is not valued enough. They have also indicated that, contrary to many beliefs, the strength of leadership at the district level has a strong correlation with the academic achievement at the individual school level. Some people believe that the superintendent's leadership ability does not necessarily have a significant impact on the achievement of students at the school building level. Chief among the responsibilities of the superintendent should be the following: a goal-setting process; non-negotiable goals for achievement & instruction; school board alignment with & support of district goals; monitoring goals for achievement & instruction; and use of resources to support the goals for achievement & instruction. Again, it is not uncommon to observe some leaders who will focus on certain responsibilities, at the expense of others. However, the schools who are committed to doing what's best for students will take no shortcuts in ensuring that all of these responsibilities are met. Only when this occurs will students have the greatest opportunity for increased academic achievement and personal success.

Focusing on a Gradual Release of Responsibility

Doug Fisher, San Diego State University, held an outstanding session on gradual release of responsibility and how he trains districts to make this theory come alive in the classroom. The presentation included discussions on the prupose and modeling of lessons; guided instruction to differentiate, collaborative learning, and independent practice.

Most models include modeling, guided practice and independent practice and skip over the collaborative practice, which is where the student learning and thinking occur.

This session offered many insights on this process and made us truly reflect on our practice as professional development trainers. All too often we jump through the hoops to present our content, and don't include these steps along the way. This might be one reason that we sometimes don't see the changes we would like to see. It is a slow process, but if you follow the steps, you might actually see the understanding occur more quickly. Sounds easy, but remember, it does take time.

ASCD Update - Marzano's new book "Making Standards Work"

Robert Marzano was a featured speaker at ASCD discussing his new book, "Making Standards Work." We've heard Marzano speak before, and we have to say that this was one of his most interesting presentations. One piece of our work this year has been centered on Formative Assessment. Marzano's new book supports the Formative Assessment research by Stiggins.

Marzano's discussion about standards centered on the idea that standards have too much content and that we need to trim state standards by at least 1/3. One way to do this is to mesh all "Like concepts" into one standard. The book states that there should be no more than 15 topics, per content area, per grade level, per year.

Another topic discussed was creating scales or templates for rubric design across the building. The book contains many examples of rubrics.

The last topic covered was the controversial grading issue. If you are going to use a formative assessment scale, it doesn't make sense to use a 100 percent grading system, or when you average scores, you underestimate the knowledge.

With the work that we are engaged in for TIE and ESA, this book is a must!

Florida Merit Pay Plan

Merit Pay is such a hot topic these days. I found Forida's experiences reported in the St. Petersburg Times interesting. Click here to read more.

ASCD Update - Integrating Technology

After attending two technology related sessions here at ASCD, it is a confirmation that technology has to be seamlessly integrated into the curriculum at all levels. iPods: A Catalyst for Learning was a session designed to show participants all the wonderful ways to integrate iPods into the curriculum. The first and most obvious is to use them in foreign language or ESL/ELL courses. Students use the voice recorded add-on feature and record their voice for fluency, pitch, sound level and pronunciation. Another use for the iPod is in the math classroom. Students are recording their investigations and explaining how they solved the problem or describing in their own words the math vocabulary they are studying. The cumulative record for each of these examples can then be made into a digital portfolio. The theme here is to really let your imagination run wild with the potential iPods bring to the classroom.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Alarming Cost to Society of HS Dropouts

Henry “Hank” Levin shared statistics from a study which showed the alarming amount of not only financial resources that are lost when students don’t graduate from high school, but the effect on health, crime and welfare. This special feature session was The Enormous Returns to the Taxpayer of Public Investment in Education.
The US gains $127,000 when a student graduates from high school versus dropping out.
Approximately 3 out of 10 students are dropouts. The rate is higher for males than females. US lags most industrialized countries in graduation rates, and the dropout rate is rising, not falling. The data is truly alarming and goes without saying that as a country we need to refocus our energy on making high school graduation a priority. We are losing billions of dollars a year through lost wages and taxes and higher health and crime rates.
To learn more about the study Levin referenced or to buy the book with the complete results go to

We Need to get Behind Public Education-Frosty Troy

Frosty Troy delivered a keynote presentation that resonated with the audience of public school educators. Public school education is and has been taking a terrible rap and it is time to get behind it and support what educators are doing well. Troy said he no longer supports public education; instead he attacks those who attack it! SAT and ACT scores are at an all time high, at a point in American history when we are experiencing some of the worst parenting skills of our time. Public school teachers are expected to not only teach, but be the child’s spiritual advisor, counselor and substitute parent. Troy criticized the voucher system as well as private schools because of how it would negatively affect public education. He accused private schools of cherry picking the public schools, taking the best and the brightest and leaving public schools with the rest. Troy was an advocate for career and technical education; stating that fifty percent of career and tech. students go on to college and do better than the college prep students. Yet, the president has cut the funding to these programs. Troy reminded the audience that teachers are role models, having the highest credibility next to clergy in America; when teachers speak people believe them. It is time to stand up and be proud of American Public Education.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Alma Powell - ASCD Featured Speaker

It was exciting to attend ASCD's feature presentation of Alma Powell (Colin Powell's wife). If you have heard Colin Powell speak, you would have also enjoyed Alma's message. She spoke about the Whole Child; Whole Community. The one quote that made us truly stop and think today was, "Our kids are not failing, we are failing our kids." When Alma speaks of we, she has a heavy emphasis on not only the school, but also the community as a whole failing our children - we all need to come together to protect our children and our future. Alma has worked with high security issues in regard to our nation, but spoke about how educators are the security of our children and we need to step up and protect them.

Pam and Barb

37 Tips and Tricks to Ignite Learning

Doug McPhee from Coast Consultare offered a highly interactive session giving teachers tips and tricks for their classroom. However, as a leader and a professional development provider, this session had great application and was well worth the time.

Activities fell into three areas: Energizers (building the emotional environment); Processing Content (Building Personal Competence) or Integrating (Building Commitment).

Several of the tips were modeled after Garmston's Adaptive Schools and others were ones we have used. However, most were new to us and involved reflection and dialogue. Some examples include: Note to self, handshake-handshake-handshake; using boomerangs and using music.

Doug McPhee suggested as a resource.

Pam and Barb

Tomlinson and Jacobs-Icons of my time

Being in education for twenty plus years I am thrilled to be able to sit in sessions with the familiar names I have heard and authors I have read. Carol Ann Tomlinson was one of those familiar names that I now have a face to go with the name. Her session was unfortunately plagued with audio problems which she seemed to take in stride and was eventually able to share most of her presentation. I was “jazzed” to see the author she referenced in today’s presentation was our own System’s Change Conference speaker and South Dakota native, Gary Marx. Tomlinson used Marx’s body of research from his book, Ten Trends to emphasize the importance of differentiating instruction to meet the vastly diverse population we see in our classrooms today as well as future trends for what is to come. This session was an affirmation of what Marx had shared in November with Tomlinson putting the case of diversity icing on the cake.
Heidi Hayes Jacobs is another name that goes without saying as an education icon I have wanted to hear in person for some time. I was able to attend her session on Curriculum Mapping Update: Linking School-Based Collaborations to Global Learning Communities. What I was particularly excited about as I listened to the updates she shared about curriculum mapping was the emphasis she put on technology. Up to that point, I had not heard much about technology being present in education which I know is not true, but was starting to question if this group of educators had something against it. She offered some great technology integration suggestions for teachers to start using as they plan curriculum for the 21st century, which she reminded us is almost 10 percent over. She accused educators of using Brady Bunch Curriculum with today’s students.

ASCD preconference session - well worth the time

Robert Marzano’s What Works in Schools-Translating Research into Action is a publication many education leaders and staff development individuals are familiar with as an excellent resource. Tim Westerberg facilitated an engaging two day preconference session at ASCD entitled Leadership for What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. Westerberg combined research done by Marzano, Michael Fullan, Rick and Becky DuFour, Richard Elmore and many others. Over the course of two days participants from Australia, Canada, Iceland, South Africa and locations throughout the US developed a working knowledge of parts of five of the eleven factors Marzano identifies in What Works in Schools-Translating Research into Action.
A guaranteed and viable curriculum deserves the attention of educators if students are to be successful. I was struck by the staggering number of standards and benchmarks teachers are to get through in a limited amount of time. Given so many standards, teachers can’t possibly give justice to all of them. Participants offered insightful dialogue as to what can be done about it and where we go from here.
Another interesting discussion focused on Instructional Strategies and how imperative it is for students to know the direction and outcome of the intended learning. As important as it is for students to know where they are going is for students to know where they have been. “The most powerful single innovation that enhances achievement is feedback. The simplest prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops’ of feedback.” John Hattie.
A topic that I am challenged by that was addressed in this preconference session is grading. Westerberg had one slide that simply said, “Grading at most schools in this country (which he changed to world) is a mess and is unfair to kids.” I had not given the topic too much thought prior to this session, but am inspired to delve into the subject in more detail.
I could go on and on as I found the information relevant and timely. If you have had Marzano’s book on your shelf since shortly after buying it and reading it, I would suggest giving it another look. If you don’t have it on your shelf, go out and buy it.

The Power of Perspective

Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? How do you look at situations & circumstances? From your view, does the proverbial glass more often appear to be "half-empty" or "half-full?" Your answer to these questions may reveal much more than you realize about your leadership style and ultimately your ability to positively influence the lives of others around you. A phrase that has resonated deeply with me recently is the notion that, as educators, our work must become "profoundly personal" to us, if we hope to make a lasting difference in the lives of others within our circle of influence. This begins with our attitude. For instance, one individual has suggested that instead of labeling low-performing students as "at-risk" (which could be construed as a pessimistic view), we may want to consider them as students "at-promise." While this may not seem like a revolutionary concept, it may help to foster a change in the way that we look at the potential of students & other educational leaders with whom we work. When some individuals share stories of difficult or challenging situations in which they are engaged, it is not uncommon to hear them use the cliche "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." This, again, implies that a situation is "hopeless." A teacher that I met recently gave me a clever, thoughtful statement in response to this cliche: "Did you salt the oats?" In other words, have I done everything that is necessary to positively change a situation, or am I just going to choose to believe that there's nothing more I can do? I invite you to read the following: OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE. Does the statement read "Opportunity is nowhere?" or "Opportunity is now here?" Once again, just a small shift in our perspective can allow us to become more confident leaders and result in positive differences in the lives of those around us.

Rethinking Senior Year

My first session this morning was envigorating! Janice Dreis and Larry Rehage presented on "Rethinking Senior Year" a program they co-advised at New Triere High School in Winnetka, IL for twelve years.
The program started with a desire to Banish "senioritis" by creating student engagement through four programs 1)Senior Guidance Plan/Institute, 2)Year-long Senior Sevice Project, 3) Senior Instructional Leadership Corps (SILC) and 4)Senior Project.
The Senior Guidance Plan/Institute begins with a senior survey at the beginning of the year asking "What skills/information have you not received that you need for life?". Many students choose the same skills/information each year and roughly 15 topics are identified ranging from success in college, stress relief, and money management to more serious topics such as AIDS Awareness and STD's. Through out the year topics are addressed in the students advisory periods either by the teacher or by students who wish to present. Speakers are also brought in and special senior assemblies are held. Their goal is to hit the topics in as many ways and as many times as possible through the year. The program concludes with a Senior Institute Day where community members speak on the topics selected by the students.
Senior Instrucation Leadership Corps (SILC) is where seniors serve as teaching assistants in classrooms across the curriculum and across all grade levels 2-5 days week. They don't just make photo copies but act much like a student-teacher would and receive one credit for each semester. In 1998 New Trier had 26 seniors take part in this aspect of the program and in 2007 162 seniors participated.
The Senior Project takes place during the last 5 weeks of the school year. The seniors stop going to school completely and have an internship under a community sponsor. They must write daily logs and reflections, a time sheet, a sponsor evaluation must be turned in and the student presents their work to an evaluation committee. Which is graded on a pass/fail basis.
Lastly is the Year-Long Senior Service Project. The senior senate chooses a service theme each year which most often happens to be Habitat for Humanity. They take part in raising the money for the house, construction 3 days a week and do cross curricular learning about social, political, and economic issues surrounding affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity.
Through the many video's we watched it was evident that the seniors were engaged and loved what they were doing. It allowed for real world experience and I would have to agree that they are better equipped for life outside of high school.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Relationships Matter

After attending a two day in-depth session on High Poverty Learners: Research Based Practices that Work I would sum it up with two words, "relationships matter."
Out of the eight strategies our presenters William Parrett and Kathleen Budge discussed 1)effective leadership, 2)engaging parents and the community, 3)holding high expectations, 4)targeting low performing students (schools), and 5)build and sustaining instructional capacity; these in one way or another deal with relationships.
Relationships between teachers and students, parents and teachers are always stressed. However, there also have to be good working relationships between teachers and the district and parents and the district. I will focus on teachers and parents however through two routes. For many reasons parents stay away from schools but when the reason a parent stays away from a school is a lack of trust we wonder how do we fix that? I say one route is through the student. If we focus on the student by setting high expectations and creating relationships with them those relationships will hopefully be mentioned at home. When a parent realizes that their students teacher truly cares and has high expectations and that the student trusts the teacher I believe the parents will do the same and thus we've accomplished engaging parents and the community.
The second would be meeting the parent where they are at, literally. One of the stories we heard was of a teacher who had every meeting with a particular parent in the school parking lot. That parent had been a drop out of the school and therefore did not trust the school. So meeting the parent where they were at was essential. Another district went door knocking to invite parents to conferences and still another held parent teacher conferences over the phone or at the students home because parents did not have the transportation to get to the school.
Building relationships is not an easy job but building them is the foundation to having an even better school.

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Relational Leadership Skills

Quote: The higher up in the organization one moves, the less likely they are to receive honest and specific feedback about their relational leadership skills.

What has been your personal experience?

Pam and Barb (ASCD Conference)

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Visual Explorer Resource

During today's session at ASCD, Karen Dyer highly recommended this resource and we wanted to share it with you. The resource is expensive, but she stated it was well worth the investment. We've included a little bit of information about the product.

Visual Explorer: Picturing Approaches to Complex Challenges, CCL Press, 2001
Charles J. Palus and David M. Horth

In mission-critical situations many different perspectives are typically present, information and other resources are frequently lacking, and yet the responsible group needs to be coherent in its purpose and clear in its understanding in order to take urgently needed action. How do people find coherence leading to action in such situations? Through dialogue. Visual Explorer facilitates dialogue and helps groups reach a shared understanding about specific challenges. It includes 224 carefully chosen color images that invite examination and explication, and thereby acts as a resource for groups seeking to explore complex topics. Groups using Visual Explorer can collectively explore a complex topic from a variety of perspectives, building a shared understanding in preparation for making choices and taking action.

Pam and Barb

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Creating Effective Results Driven Teams: Making Leadership Work

Today's presenter was Karen Dyer from the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC. The session focused on the role of perception in impacting team effectiveness.

An interesting quote/discussion topic was, "We are measured not by what we are, but by the perception of what we seem to be; not by what we say, but how we are heard; and not by what we do, but how we appear to do it."

Another topic that was interesting to us was the concept of "Why Mangers Derail". Karen discussed how people don't derail because of the event, they derail because of the patterns they follow. The derailing factors include: 1) Difficulty in molding a staff; 2) Difficulty in making strategic transitions; 3) Lack of follow-through; 4) Poor treatment of others; 5) Overdependence; 6) Disagreements with higher management about how the business should be run or about strategies to be used.

Pam and Barb

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School 2.0: Technology and the Future of School

Over the past several years a number of technology trends have emerged that together have transformed our world, economically and socially. Our education system is not immune to these changes. From technologically savvy digital-natives, to the increasingly competitive global economy to the social transformation brought about by the internet, the students attending our schools and the expectations they need to meet have changed considerably. Mr. Magner will examine these trends, explore their implications for our education system, and discuss a collaborative approach to evolving schools to meet the needs of this changing world (Tim Magner).

On March 25th at 2pm, Tim Magner will be leading a webinar on School 2.0: Technology and the Future of School. To sign up for this webinar go to

High Poverty Learners

Dr. William H. Parrett, the Director of the Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies and Professor of Education at Boise State University, has shared some thoughts that have given me a new perspective when working with staff & students in high-poverty schools. He suggests that HPHP (High-Performing High-Poverty) schools have staff who are characterized by the following: (1) Caring Relationships; (2) High Expectations; (3) Courage & Will; and (4) Commitment to Action. I would like to focus specifically on the last three attributes: high expectations, courage & will, and commitment to action. In working with superintendents, principals, and teachers, I have found that most of them understand the importance of caring relationships. However, many of the leaders in our schools are so focused on "maintaining the status quo", that they are clearly inhibited in their ability to make decisions that might ultimately result in higher student achievement. As Dr. Parrett has suggested, many people are too "enamored" with the challenges or obstacles that apparently prevent them from meeting the needs of students. As he has stated, we must remind ourselves to "Stop admiring the problem(s)!" We understand that challenges exist when working with high-poverty students. But then we must ask the next (and most important) question: What are we going to do about it? The final step is to have the courage & will to take action. We must not be satisfied that we "have tried" different options. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the opportunity for success of ALL students. As Richard Elmore has stated, there are three questions school leaders must ask: (1) What do we want students to know?; (2) How will we know when they've learned it?; and (3) What will we DO when they have not learned it? Once again, it is imperative that we encourage our leaders to exhibit the courage and will to commit to action that will ultimately result in the opportunity for success for all students....NO MORE EXCUSES!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Technology in Teaching

While doing some research for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, I found a blog devoted to creating a conversation around "technology in teaching and learning." The blog entitled "The Fischbowl" is created by the Technology Director, Karl Fisch, of the Littleton Public Schools in Littleton Colorado and is intended to be a staff development blog for Arapahoe High School Teacher exploring constructivism and 21st Century Learning Skills. Mr. Fisch uses XPlane to create an awareness presentation that is informational and persuasive. Though not all of the information is new, he does give the reader permission to use the presentation as is which might be a time saver for any of you presenting on 21st Century Skills.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seeking AP teachers for Learning Power Program

We often ask ourselves, "What do we do when kids' don't get it?" But what do we do when kids already know? One answer is to offer kids Advanced Placement courses. That isn't always easy because many South Dakota schools are small, located in remote areas and do not have the staff to teach advanced courses.

In an effort to address the needs of students who already know, through funding from ExxonMobil, the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) has awarded nearly $2 million for a statewide pilot project called Learning Power which will offer high school students online Advanced Placement (AP) courses in math, science, and English.

Students and teachers will be offered financial incentives to participate in the Learning Power program. We are seeking names of teachers who are currently teaching or have successfully taught AP courses to become part of a select cohort and participate in this program. If you know of any AP teachers in the areas of English, math and science, please submit their names to me or Dr. Parry.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Contrast to the US Approach

TechnicallySpeaking@TIE: Contrast to the US Approach
Click on the link directly above to view this blog post on TIE's Technically Speaking blog.

Food for Thought: Parker Palmer on the Democratic Experiment

Parker Palmer on the Democratic Experiment Recorded on February 19, 2008 at the Commonwealth Club of California and presented by Minnesota Public Radio, Parker discusses America's democratic experiment -- how rash decision-making undercuts what the Founding Fathers set out to create, and how important tension is for the practice of democracy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Using Cell Phones in the Classroom? Why not?

Educators, it is time to embrace change again. We learned to incorporate computer technology into our classrooms, why not cell phones. Here are some great ideas on how to use cell phones as teaching tools.

In the article "Cell Phones in the Classroom" , the authors from McGraw Hill discuss how students can use the different functions on a cell phone to supplement learning.

·Calculators. Although most schools have them in math class, other classes that don't have them on hand for students can benefit from number crunching. For example, social studies students studying elections can quickly determine percentages of electoral votes or other scenarios. Science classrooms can use them to perform calculations related to fieldwork.

·Digital cameras. Not all schools or classrooms are outfitted with digital cameras, although many can benefit from them. For example, students can use them to document a variety of things for multimedia presentations or reports. Fieldtrips can be documented and incorporated into digital travelogues.

·Internet access .Many phones have wireless Internet access, thus opening up a world of possibilities for class use. Science students might conduct fieldwork and submit their observations or data to either an internal or external data gathering site. Students can subscribe to podcasts that you produce or offered by a multitude of other sources.

·Dictionaries. Students in literature and language arts classes can benefit from being able to quickly query the definition of a word. Additionally, students who are English learners especially can benefit from translation dictionaries which are becoming available on cell phones.

Another article, "Using Cell Phones as Teaching and Learning Tools", lists these great ideas as well as a video presentation on how to use cell phones in the classroom.

1) Have students type their own cell phone novels. Make sure to okay this with parents in advance! Text messaging can be expensive without a prepaid package!

2) Have students make a photo documentary using the camera function on their cell phones. After they take a sufficient number of photos, they can upload them to sites such as Flickr and type narrative descriptions for each picture to share with classmates, family and friends.

3) Have students create educational podcasts with their cell phones (or home phones) using free services like Gabcast that allow users to record podcasts using their phones. The podcasts can then be uploaded to blogs or other multimedia sites to share. Thanks to Liz Kolb for sharing this idea!

4) Have students text message their parents homework assignments so that after school there is no confusion as to what is due the next day.
For more ideas on how to use cell phones as teaching, learning, technology and literacy building tools, check out this excellent video presentation by Liz Kolb filled with ideas on how to incorporate cell phones into classroom and homework activities

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Using Technology: Change in Student Teacher Roles

When students are using technology as a tool or a support for communicating with others, they are in an active role rather than the passive role of recipient of information transmitted by a teacher, textbook, or broadcast. The student is actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons. Moreover, when technology is used as a tool to support students in performing authentic tasks, the students are in the position of defining their goals, making design decisions, and evaluating their progress.

The teacher's role changes as well. The teacher is no longer the center of attention as the dispenser of information, but rather plays the role of facilitator, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity. As students work on their technology-supported products, the teacher rotates through the room, looking over shoulders, asking about the reasons for various design choices, and suggesting resources that might be used.

Project-based work (such as the City Building Project and the Student-Run Manufacturing Company) and cooperative learning approaches prompt this change in roles, whether technology is used or not. However, tool uses of technology are highly compatible with this new teacher role, since they stimulate so much active mental work on the part of students. Moreover, when the venue for work is technology, the teacher often finds him or herself joined by many peer coaches--students who are technology savvy and eager to share their knowledge with others

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Technology Leadership

Knowledgeable and effective school leaders are extremely important in determining whether technology use will improve learning for all students. Many school administrators may be uncomfortable providing leadership in technology areas, however. They may be uncertain about implementing effective technology leadership strategies in ways that will improve learning, or they may believe their own knowledge of technology is inadequate to make meaningful recommendations. Because technology is credited as being a significant factor in increasing productivity in many industries, some people believe that more effective use of technology in schools could do more to improve educational opportunities and quality. Research indicates that while there are poor uses of technology in education, appropriate technology use can be very beneficial in increasing educational productivity (Byrom & Bingham, 2001; Clements & Sarama, 2003; Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker, & Kottkamp, 1999; Valdez, McNabb, Foertsch, Anderson, Hawkes, & Raack, 2000; Wenglinsky, 1998). How connected are you to technology in your school district?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mentoring and coaching promote collegiality/student achievement

The number of teachers leaving the profession is increasing, according to a May 2006 study from the National Education Association. The study looked at trends in the teaching industry in the past five years: About half of new teachers quit within the first five years because of poor working conditions and low salaries. Twenty percent of teachers say unsatisfactory working conditions keep them from wanting to stay in the profession, while 37 percent blame low pay for their decision to quit. Nationwide, more than 3.9 million teachers will be needed by 2014 because of teacher attrition, retirement and increased student enrollment. School districts across South Dakota continued to be affected by the loss of teachers as they leave the field for early in their careers for other jobs.

A consensus is growing among policy makers, administrators, researchers, and professional organizations, that educational improvement occurs when schools promote the professionalization of teachers. Effective schools research has linked collaborative activities and collegiality among teachers with gains in student learning. Consequently, programs such as peer coaching and mentoring are being widely advocated. From "Research Update", Institute for Educational Research, Glen Ellyn, IL, USA. These programs are being advocated because they provide the support teachers need to be successful thus keeping them in the field of education. You might read this article for a detailed report about mentoring and coaching.

Successful teacher induction programs have strong mentoring programs supported by coaching. The coaching process provides structure, tools and processes allowing mentors to have conversations that encourage and stimulate teachers to grow as a person and within the education community. Evidence-based research links cognitive coaching with an increase in student achievement as collegiality among teachers deepens.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Classroom "Walk Throughs"

Many of the schools I work with are training principals to use 10 minute "classroom walk throughs" as a method of teacher evaluation. I've never felt very comfortable about this process and now I know why. Read what Jane Davis has to say. To read the entire article go to the December 2007/January 2008 edition of Educational Leadership.

According to Davis, the idea behind classroom walk-throughs is to look "at how well teachers are implementing a particular program or set of practices." Classroom walk-throughs are a formative assessment tool that should focus on improving school-wide program implementation. They were never intended to be used as individual teacher evaluation tools and in fact, using them in that manner may very well backfire for a district.

Since so many of our South Dakota schools have decided to use this process, it is worth our time to become familiar with the research surrounding these latest educational process. According to Davis, the limited research varies in usefulness and effectiveness, but she does identify several studies that outline when classroom walk-throughs are useful and when they aren't. For example, Davis describes an in-depth study of three urban districts conducted by the RAnd Corporation. Their findings indicate that "administrators find walk-throughs more useful that do teachers" as teachers are rarely given individual feedback. However, used effectively, they become a vehicle for identifying school-wide professional development needs and that may be a good thing.

Davis warns against implementing a classroom walk-through program "when the purpose is murky or when trust among teachers, principals, and central-office staff is low." Under those circumstances, "walkthroughs are likely to be perceived as compliance checks, increasing distrust."

Web 2.0: Block It or Embrace It?

TechnicallySpeaking@TIE: Web 2.0: Block It or Embrace It?

Click the link directly above to view this TIE blog entry.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Research shows both sides of change

Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker contains a section on the complexity of change. DuFour and Eaker offer fourteen research findings regarding the failure of school reform:
The change moved too fast—people were overwhelmed.
The change moved too slowly—people lost their enthusiasm.
The change lacked strong leadership from the principal.
The change relied too heavily on the leadership of a strong principal.
The change was too big and attached too much at once—people change incrementally, not holistically.
The change was too small—organizations need a more aggressive, comprehensive shake-up.
The change was top-down without buy-in from the faculty.
The change was bottom-up without the support of the central office or administration.
Gains were celebrated too soon, and the sense of urgency was lost.
Gains were not recognized and celebrated, and the initiative lost momentum.
Schools were unwilling to change—they were steadfastly committed to the status quo.
Schools embraced every change that came along and careened from fad to fad.
Leaders failed to develop a critical level of support before initiating change.
Leaders mistakenly insisted on overwhelming support as a prerequisite for initiating change; this stipulation ensured implementation would never occur.

These paradoxes speak for themselves about how important balance is within the change initiative. The leader needs to know the participants within the change—which research finding fits the participants of a particular educational community?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Do Schools Do Enough with Inventiveness?

Interesting results from a survey of teens released from the Lemelson-MIT program that portrays both positive and negative news for schools (unfortunately eSchoolNews went for the sensational headline focused on the negative: Top News - Survey: Schools fail to teach innovation).

First, teens are optimistic that innovation can help solve many environmental issues today (72%) and that they could invent some of these solutions (64%), especially compared to only 38% of adults surveyed (interestingly, half the adults were 18-24 years old).

While a vast majority of teens (79 percent) believe there is value in
hands-on project-based science-technology-engineering-math
(STEM) education and learning in high school, they also believe schools can do more to prepare them for innovative work:
The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that more than half of American teens (59 percent) do not believe their high school is preparing them adequately for a career in technology and engineering. The disparity is more pronounced among some groups historically under-represented in these fields. Nearly two-thirds of African-American teens (64 percent) and teen girls (67 percent) believe they are not prepared in school for these careers. News: Press Releases

The director of the program believes this type of learning is doable for schools:
"Learning to invent is really no different than learning to throw a touchdown pass or play the trombone," said Schuler, noting that 40 percent of the teens who are most confident in their ability to invent are most likely to believe their high school is preparing them for a career in technology or engineering. "It takes practice. Students need the opportunity to get their hands dirty and invent," he said. "Generally speaking, there’s not enough ‘learning by doing’ taking place in today’s high schools, and our survey found that students recognize this."
. . .
"Support for new approaches in STEM education needs to start from the top," added Schuler, noting that the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that nearly one-third of American adults (30 percent) were unable to identify a presidential candidate who they feel has the most effective plan for improving this type of education in high schools. "Our nation’s proficiency in STEM education is an important issue to an overwhelming majority of people – 94 percent of adults and 80 percent of teens believe the U.S. needs to be more proficient. As we enter an election year, we hope to see increased attention and clarity from candidates around these issues."

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More 21st C Skills

Here is some interesting information about the impact of technology on schools, published last October. It provides a glimpse of how Web 2.0 tools are and will continue to play a role in teaching and learning, emphasizing the importance for school leaders to understand this medium.

School districts across the country are revising their academic curriculum to give students more 21st century learning opportunities, according to a survey issued today by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the organization’s annual T+L Conference here.

Among those districts that are revising their curricula, 85 percent reported that technology is playing a part in supporting the changes, especially in the area of using technology tools for project-based learning (83 percent), distance or online learning (nearly 57 percent) and upgrading math and science equipment and facilities (nearly 52 percent). A majority of districts (nearly 53 percent) said that they are using new interactive web tools, such as wikis and blogs, in the classroom.

Read more at the NSBA website.

More 21st C Skills

School districts across the country are revising their academic curriculum to give students more 21st century learning opportunities, according to a survey issued today by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the organization’s annual T+L Conference here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Real, Ideal, and Breckenridge

I am not endorsing this conference, but it is a new one and brings together business, community, and education. Here is part of what the website says:

"Focus on Education, Innovation 2008 conference
The theme is the real and the ideal.
Innovation 2008 will focus on what’s next in the social, cultural, and methodological dimensions of education, as well as in technology for education.

We believe that bringing together leaders in education, business, academia, and government in a conference environment organized around these themes will produce significant new ideas, perspectives, and initiatives.

While the goals of the conference are ambitious, there will also be ample time for networking, skiing, and enjoying the beauty of the Colorado Rockies.

Please join us at Innovation 2008, April 13 and 14, 2008 in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado "

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Good facilitation depends very much on good communication skills.
Good online facilitation depends very much on good online communication skills.
How true.

Near the beginning of January, Jacki posted a link on the Connect-Ed blog about, the December wiki space of the month. It is an enormous wealth of resources.
One resource of particular interest to leaders would be the Facilitating Online link. The resource explains several skills needed for good communication and good online communication.

Keep In Touch With Educational Policy

One of the roles of educational leaders is to keep their finger on the pulse of policy issues affecting education. If you are interested in the agendas of the South Dakota Education Committees check out these websites:
H-Ed and S-Ed

If you'd like to listen to meetings live visit:
House Ed Audio Senate Ed Audio
(because these are live sessions, you will only hear audio when someone is really there)

General information can be found at:
Statehouse and Legislature

Friday, January 11, 2008

Leadership Winds of Change

This article provides a great overview of to what educational leaders need to pay attention, especially in the area of instructional technology. The sailing metaphors are just a bonus. Check out this amazing sailing photo on flickr.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Success Stories

Bruce Oliver, the editor of Just for the ASKing, has compiled a list of qualities that successful leaders exhibit. He includes twelve characteristics:
Oliver tells a brief story about someone who possesses the quality.

The full article can be accessed at H:\subject matter\leadership\October 2007 Just for the ASKing! -Talking Out of School Conversations with Successful Leaders.mht

Oliver, Bruce. "Talking Out of School: Conversations with Successful Leaders” Just for the ASKing! October 2007, Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development (Just ASK), Inc. Copyright 2007 by Just ASK, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Leadership Linked to Student Achievement

Leadership has significant effects on student learning, second only to the effects of the quality of curriculum and the teachers’ instruction, according to the 2003 task force on Educational Leadership.
Maximizing collaboration skills empowers institutions and the leaders within those institutions to reach their goals. School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results by Robert Marzano focuses on administrator and teacher leader qualities and responsibilities that affect student achievement. Marzano describes twenty-one responsibilities for leaders: situational awareness, flexibility, discipline, monitoring, and outreach are the five that correlate most highly with student achievement.
For more information on this topic see , or or register for a one credit asynchronous book study at before Jan. 16 2008.