Thursday, September 27, 2007


I heard a new word yesterday used in our Technology Summit meeting. We should be "embedding" technology, not "integrating" it into our curriculum. I knew I had recently read about this and had seen the visual that was used during the meeting. Where was that, a sometimes difficult question with my current short term memory capacity.

So, where did I go? Right to my RSS feeds. I found it this morning in a short period of time, but two things struck me as I was looking. If I had bookmarked it using the tag "embedded" I could have found it much more quickly. I am almost embarrassed to say it, but I have still not been able to successfully change how I store and process information. I still, at times, print something so I have a hard copy instead of using the tools available to me that I know work. Old habits are indeed difficult to break, but I still keep trying.

The second thing was the importance of the information, who should know, and how we make decisions about when and what to share. If you read the site you can see the importance of the fundamental shift he suggests. Yet, if you were not at the meeting you might not be aware of it. Critical people in our system with responsibility for curriculum development were not at the meeting to hear this shift in how we think about technology tools. I know I still use the word integrate. Yes, we can become overwhelmed with information, but we need some structure in place to share "critical" information that will impact our work. Again, who and where will this take place. Right now I err on the side of sending a lot to a few people in the Teaching and Learning department. Sometimes I think they may have seen it because they read similar blogs and literature, but I send it knowing they can quickly delete. Should I be sending more to the ELT, to others?

This shift in thinking and action is important because it talks about the tools becoming a part of the learning environment, not something we try to fit into a lesson. It is why I think one of our priorities must be in identifying what it means to be technological and informational literate. Embedding this into the documents that drive our curriculum and then identifying for teachers and students the context for that learning, creates the situation described in the Thinking Stick. If you go to the blog post for the next day the conversation is continued with examples from classrooms.

If you keep these thoughts in mind and read this post about the future of textbooks, it makes you wonder what the classroom of the future needs to look and sound like.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Inbox Zero": Is it Possible?

I want to share some information from Wesley Fryer's blog about e-mail and the concept of "inbox zero", or an empty box. I have shared my thoughts with many who have inboxes that take up to two hours a day and always "refill" by the next day. The reading resonated with me because I always try to leave the day with nine or fewer in my in box. Sometimes it is difficult, but it has forced me to consider how and when I respond. The number nine is arbitrary, but it works for me.

In the blog he identifies the work of two others, David Allen and Merlin Mann, that talk about edges and building walls so that we control e-mail and not the other way around. One thing that caught my attention was the thought of mapping what we say are the important things to do in our job against what we do. Where would answering e-mail be in this comparison?

I have not yet reached "inbox zero" and don't know that it is even a target for me. I do know, however, that when I made the decision to move to "nine" it opened up time for other things. I took the time to view a video by Mann with some ideas on how to make this happen. It is about an hour, but the presentation is 32 minutes with questions. You may want to view it if you find yourself spending hours daily trying to reduce your inbox.

Enough for now, have a great day.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wiki vs. Google-docs: Which to Choose?

Well, I had the same problem again that is part of the reason why I haven't entered anything for awhile. This time I asked Walt to problem solve for me. After a few minutes the problem fixed itself. Of course I waited too long to post and had the same problem, but obviously it again changed to allow me to post. The good news is that I can blog, the not so good news is I probably didn't do anything last time to make it work and I still don't know what to do if it reoccurs. Oh, the frustrations of a beginning blogger.

I came across a question in Doug Johnson's blog asking what is the difference between Google-docs and a wiki. It made me feel good that even he was struggling with this. I have had conversations with Dawn and Kimberly about this because they prefer a Wiki and I prefer Google-docs. I think that it may be partly due to the fact that it is for each of us the first thing we tried. Based on the number of changes posted to their recent wiki, they win hands down as I have not seen the same success with my principal Google-docs site. I wonder if they think by ignoring it my latest new fad will just disappear. I just might surprise them soon though.

Anyway, I liked reading the comments to his posted questions. It made me change some of my thinking about these tools. I wonder what it would feel like to get that many comments. Boy that was wishful thinking.

Enough for now, have a great day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Me and Business Meetings!

I just encountered my first real issue in trying to create a new posting. I ended up pushing a lot of new keys that took me to places that I won't remember, but I did learn how to delete a post and ended up here.

After our Tuesday ELT meeting I have now rediscovered my inability to plan for and facilitate quality business meetings that contain a mix of discussion and action items. I spent time planning and discussing with others items that needed to be included and the time that each would require. Once again, it didn't work. Though something of value was realized it should not have taken four hours.

I don't want to believe that I am that bad at facilitating because I know quite a lot about the process, but it is becoming more and more difficult not to own that judgment. I would guess that the parking lots are certainly supporting that conclusion.

In an effort to feel just a little better, I am wondering if it may also be a question about traditional business meetings in a system of 7000 students, 800 employees, and about 25 administrators sitting in a room with different issues, needs, mental models, and ladders that we bring. Perhaps meeting the second week with what I now see as a ridiculously long agenda added to the problem. The principal C & I meetings have a different feel though they to sometimes seem to have some of the same characteristics that trouble me in our ELT business meetings.

I would welcome any suggestions you might have for me. How do you make your business meetings dynamic opportunities that people can't wait to attend?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sharing from others

Thought I would share an e-mail from Amy about an important learning from the first week of school at TMS. I think I need to get a copy of the book. What have you learned that would be important for the other members of your leadership team to know? Sharing our experiences and seeking support and feedback are indicators of the professional learning community that we aspire to become.

I just have to follow up on our conversation on Wednesday. --If I had a blog, it would go on there. After going through classrooms on Friday, I had a whole new perspective on the internalization of using active learning strategies to "review learned information." I saw strategies we taught on waiver days last year or things I have modeled in almost every classroom I went into. It was an "ah ha" for me that I/we have taught active learning strategies as a way to review information. The next step is to teach active learning strategies to give information or have students discover information. One of my teachers also gave me a book to read "the Zen of Teaching" (takes less than an hour to read) which emphasizes the importance of the first day as an opportunity to bond with students and gives examples on how to do that. Next year, I am going to use pieces from that book to really set up the importance of first day. I need to find a way to help teachers realize that the "ritual" of going over all the rules and expectations in front of the class for the entire 60 minutes is a TTWWADI. Kids know how to behave the first 4 days of class, not going over the rules the first day won't change that.

While I know engaging activities will only bring us to Classroom 5, until we train teachers on integrating habits of mind/thinking skills into lessons, it at least takes us to a place where students will want to be in the classroom.

I also read the following today in the Blue Skunk blog that you might have heard me say a few times, though I have not yet reached the conclusion about burning it all. I agree that we need to be WILLING to, but I have faith that we can meet needs without this step. Teaching them to teach themselves is a fundamental shift that must be made for these young people to be successful when they leave us. I need to reflect on the concept of the learning lifestyle as opposed to lifelong learning, but it sounds and feels good.

The schools that I attended in the 1950s and ’60s tried very hard to teach me how to be taught. I believe that this is one of the shifts that we have to achieve as we try to retool classrooms. We need to do less of..
teaching kids how to be taught,
and instead,
teach them to teach themselves.
I think that the point is not that everyone is going to have 10.2 jobs between the ages of 18 and 38. Many of us will only have one job. But how many times will that one job change? 10.2 times? Perhaps not, but when it changes, who’s going to teach the new skills?
We need to stop teaching literacy, and teach learning literacy.
We need to stop teaching literacy skills, and teach literacy habits.
We need to stop thinking about lifelong learning, and instead, work toward every student leaving our schools with a learning lifestyle.
We need to be willing to take every piece of furniture our of our classrooms, clear the walls, burn it all, and start all over again. The world has changed that much.
Anything less is an insult to our children.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I spent the better part of the last two days in meetings. Yesterday, with Nancy, Dawn, and Connie we focused on the T&L department, priorities, relationships, and processes. It was a very rewarding conversation for me with decisions that I believe will move the system forward and focus on what principals want; a documented curriculum. Nancy and Dawn were very open to reflecting on what we have done and what we may need to do to bring closure to this work that will then allow us to shift our focus to instruction. It would have been a good one to have video taped to use as an example of a skillful conversation where all participants shared private thoughts and used our communication strategies. How blessed we are to have these two people supporting our work.

Today, in one of my meetings I shared some of my thoughts about technology needs with Dawn, Walt, Kimberly, and Ethan. I am concerned that we will become so project focused that we will lose sight of the need for documentation of technology skills as well as applications. I am also concerned with the expectations that are being created for these people to be the support for all staff member's questions and needs. We need to revisit and reinforce the need for a common understanding of job functions and priorities for these people.

I am so thankful to be working here with quality people focused on important work. Though advancing in age I find myself energetic and even more committed to assisting you in our Classroom 10 work. I look forward to skillful conversations with each of individually and collectively.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Can Relate to the FEAR FACTOR

I came across this article in one of the blogs I read about the Fear Factor. It describes me before this summer very well. I was the one very comfortable and PROUD that I could use e-mail, WORD, Excel, and Powerpoint. On the other hand, I was becoming better read about other things like blogs, wikis, social benchmarking, . . . the list goes on, but unwilling to try them. I was fearful that if I couldn't figure it out where would I go, who would help me without making me feel stupid, and a whole list of other excuses. Finally, about the first part of August I just said ok get with it. If you can't use it why expect it of others. Of course, now you have to put up with me in more ways than before.

I believe the same is true for all of us. We will be expecting our teachers to creatively use technology in our classrooms and many will have this built in fear factor such as If I push that button will it make it all go away. I like the suggestion in the article about creating the opportunity for exploration with support! I have spent a lot of time over the past month learning through mistakes and I have learned that asking someone more knowledgeable than me or willing to learn with me makes the experience more productive and fun.

Where are you on the fear factor continuum? What are you exploring and who provides the support? We all have our reasons why we may not be currently engaged in new learning around technology: no time; I have enough on my plate right now; Walt and his people will do it. I wonder what reasons teachers will have and how we will respond to their reasons?