Students as People

I recently visited a professional development session facilitated by teachers from the Science Leadership Academy (SLA). I was only there for a few minutes, but I was really impressed with how the teacher described his interactions with students. He treated them like they were real people.

It made me think about my experience reading Leadership and Self-Deception a few months ago. The book shows how to get out of the box when dealing with others–that is to treat others as people rather than objects. Before reading the book, I didn’t realize how the way we view people is directly related to how we treat them.

So hearing this teacher from SLA talk about treating students like people really resonated with me. Unfortunately, some teachers treat students like objects. They believe they are justified in their poor treatment of students because of the way that the students act. I hope that teachers who treat students like objects could hear a teacher like this one and be moved by his words.

The Importance of Process in Personalized Learning

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to personalize the learning experience for our students. I think of personalized learning as a large umbrella with many ways to achieve it. One that comes up a lot is project-based learning.

I see frequent formative assessments as a requirement for personalized learning. Teachers and students must have a way to gauge student growth and need. Frequent formative assessments–including observation of student performance–are key to gauging growth and determining need. Projects produced by students are an easy way for teachers to do non-traditional formative assessment as well.

I’ve read the Metiri Group paper on Student Engagement and was alarmed by the description of process in engagement. I was reluctant to yield importance to process, because I’m a big proponent of multiple means to achieve an end. I was concerned that measuring process would inhibit development of different processes.

Then at the School CIO Summit on June 27th, I think I got the point. Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) from the Science Leadership Academy was talking about his school’s emphasis on inquiry-based learning. He was explaining the power of failure as a learning experience, and it struck me that by measuring process we were talking about the process of the learning experience.

Of course it would be wrong to measure the quality of the end product alone because our best learning experiences occur when our end product doesn’t meet our expectations. I have never doubted the statement, but I hadn’t considered how it would actually look in the classroom.

I’ve heard some people express skepticism about personalized learning as an umbrella for other types of learning such as project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, etc. I think I see the point of the skepticism if you don’t believe that there’s a place in all of these types of learning to measure the process. I think every learner is different, and I want to give each one the broadest choices for learning and showing what they’ve learned. The challenge is probably measuring the process given different student choices. I believe the pay off will be worth the effort to do so.

Thanks to the School CIO Summit (#tltechlive) for putting together a great panel to really make me think about this issue. I can’t wait to see what our teachers will do in 2015-16 because I know it’s going to be good.

Evolving from “the” LMS to a Digital Learning Ecosystem: Reflections from Learning Impact 2015

A big topic of conversation at this year’s Learning Impact Conference was the digital ecosystem. There seems to be a great deal of consensus around using interoperability standards to pull content together, but I think we don’t think enough about using interoperability standards to pull systems together. Tim Beekman said that “the LMS” should be a combination of products offering the services K-12 needs. This idea really resonated with me, and I think as my district moves forward we should be looking at the services we need rather than the products that we need.

My Digital Leap Accelerates: CoSN 2015 Reflection

CoSN 2015 was thought provoking for me just as it always is. I heard some new ideas, and I heard some old ideas in new ways than I had heard them before. I’m categorizing the ideas into two main areas–leading school leaders and supplanting instead of supplementing with digital resources.

Leading School Leaders

Michael Fullan (@MichaelFullan1) was the first keynote speaker at the conference. I heard him speak about assessments many years ago. I liked much of what I heard at that time, and I was looking forward to hearing more. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find him talking more about leadership now, and I really identified with what he had to say.

One main point he made several times was that leadership must happen from the middle. For example, for change to occur within a district, the middle leadership–the principals–must lead the district through the change. I hadn’t really heard the term before, but it made me think of the concept of hardwiring (from Quint Studer’s Hardwiring Excellence) a habit. Hardwiring means to do something until it’s a regular, natural occurrence. The principals must be invested in the leadership initiative to make it happen at their schools. They must believe in it, see it the same way as the other leaders, and lead their staff toward it. Michael Fullan called the leader the Lead Learner–someone working in a collaborative and cooperative way with the other learners to move the school or district forward.

My big take away from hearing Michael Fullan speak is that I must find ways to communicate my ideas about how to move the district toward our shared vision. At the CETL Summit on Thursday, there was a session on communicating with leaders. I didn’t get any kind of magic method to communicate. What I heard was communication with other leaders should be frequent, short, and diverse. Above all else in communication, I have to find ways to enhance relationships with individuals and build trust.

Supplanting Instead of Supplementing with Digital Resources

I’ve spent years telling people that I want technology to be used in the classroom as a supplement to improve learning. I believe an effective teacher doesn’t really need technology to effectively teach students, and I believe that students don’t really need technology to effectively learn. So when I’ve heard people talk about replacing traditional learning materials with digital learning materials, I’ve never really been a fan. However, hearing David Irwin speak about digitization of learning (electronic versions of print) versus digitalizing learning (resources designed for digital learning) had a big impact on my thought process. It made me realize that as long as keep supplementing with digital resources designed as supplements to traditional texts, we don’t have much opportunity to make the full transition to digitalizing learning.

iTen Wired Summit 2012

The iTen Wired Summit held on September 14th was a great opportunity for me to think about some mobile computing issues. My favorite session was Nathan Clevenger’s breakout on Mobile Application Development Strategies. As he was talking about software development, he said, “in mobility, it is all about the user experience.” Maybe I’m so quick to embrace mobile technology because for me, it’s all about the user experience whether I’m thinking about mobility or not. I was also intrigued by his discussion of apps versus web. He also used the terms native and cross platform so at first I thought he was referring to web as cross platform and apps as native. However, I think his distinction was deeper than that, and I’m excited about the opportunity to read his book, iPad in the Enterprise, which I won. I think my main point from the entire discussion on this topic was that there’s not one right answer for everyone. In his keynote, I also enjoyed his characterization of a CIO who didn’t embrace the iPad as someone who didn’t want to lose control. In IT, I think we’ve focused on control for a while. For me, control has always been about making it easier. However, I’m convinced that we won’t be able to control the vast technology environment out there now so we must move away from the concept of control. I also enjoyed Larry Hyde’s concept of UYOD–use your own device. His point was, “who cares if they bring a device because we only need to be concerned with whether they are using their device on our network.”

CoSN 2012

I’ve just spent a few days at the CoSN (, #cosn) annual conference (#cosn12) in Washington, DC. It was a great Conference, and I left it feeling validated about many things we are doing in Escambia County schools but pressured to do more.

The conference theme was reimagine learning, and most of the sessions focused on what we should be doing in our twenty-first century schools. My validated ideas included increasing our bring your own technology initiative, improving our wireless infrastructure, and developing our local instructional improvement system. These were all big themes at the conference, and essential to adapting our schools to the twenty-first century.

As we adapt to the twenty-first century, however, we should be looking at some other things including increasing total bandwidth, providing more professional development to our teachers and administrators to help them adapt to the twenty-first century, and developing appropriate policy to assist our schools in embracing mobile technologies in the learning environment.

One of the first sessions I attended was with Larry Johnson from the New Media Consortium. He said that he worried that our strategic thinking is based on a world that no longer exists. He compared the early days of radio to where we are today with mobile technologies. Although I often think about the how many of our classroom environments aren’t preparing our students for life in the 21st century, I had never thought about how we need to change our strategic thinking to make that happen.

I spent several hours listening to presentations by staff from Forsyth County, Georgia, and vendors supporting them. Their size is similar to ours, and they are several years into a bring your technology and digital content initiative. Before beginning the initiative, they spent approximately $100 per student per year for instructional materials. Most (70%) was spent on traditional print materials. Today they spend approximately $30 per student per year for instructional materials and most (60%) is spent on digital content. Their bandwidth is over six times what ours is. They believe most of their students have 2-3 devices at school every day. Their professional development focuses on engaging students in their own learning by having them collaborate to create content to demonstrate their critical thinking skills and by communicating an understanding of real world situations.

One of the final keynote speakers was Travis Allen, founder and CEO of The company provides services to help schools adapt to meet the needs of today’s mobile learners. He was a very engaging speaker. I don’t know how his company’s services are, but he was personally very impressive.

My Favorite Tweets from #CoSN12

@OfficeofEdTech: Our ed. system is perfectly aligned to prepare students for a place they will never live or work. -Mark Edwards

@hobsonjill: Higher Ed instructors don’t study best practices in learning so they don’t model it. Here’s a place to make change!

@OfficeofEdTech: We need to make learning fun is wrong idea. Learning IS fun – we just need to connect it to things they care about. -Douglas Thomas

@OfficeofEdTech: Allowing students to come up w/questions that matter to them is SO important. Questions more important than answers. -Doug Thomas

@ChrisB_SW: Doug Thomas at #CoSN12 “in communities you learn to belong”

@oysteinj: Doug Thomas: in collectives people belong to learn #cosn12