Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Easy Call

Well, it was an easy call, just not the one we thought we would be making. Technology, weather prediction software? Maybe we should have checked the almanac.

Have a great day!

Monday, January 28, 2008

School or No School Difficult Decisions

Normally, I like to peruse the blogs I read before deciding on a topic for my blog, but tonight the big thing on my mind is snow and ice. I can look forward to little sleep, waking up multiple times and worry over the decision of whether it is safe to have school or not. So many variables to consider and so little time to decide on what is one of the hardest decisions to make.

Why so hard? Partly because of the processing time, usually less than 30 minutes unless the snow and ice come at the right time in just enough quantity to make it an easy call. Partly because of the consequences of a poor decision; I've been there and don't want to revisit that anxiety and worry. Partly because someone almost always takes exception with the decision. Most importantly, because of the need to make the right decision for about 7000 students, their families, and the approximately 850 staff members and their families. Is it safe for the buses? Can staff get to the job site safely and on time? If we can get them to school safely, will the return home be safe? Can we trust the weather report and what one should we use? Are the parking lots and sidewalks safe? And on and on and. . .

Fortunately, I have good people collecting the necessary data and making recommendations. I hope that the weather report we are reviewing for tonight and tomorrow is accurate. If it is, tomorrow's decision should not be that difficult. And what would that be?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Guiding Questions for Technology Use

I found this blog entry by Jeff Utecht to be interesting. It reminds me somewhat of nested objectives and the work we are doing with Classroom 10. He shares his thoughts about evaluating the use of technology in classrooms using the work of Prensky as a starting point.

I remembered a Marc Prensky article in Edutopia in which he talks about the typical process of technology adoption:
1. Dabbling with technology
2. Doing Old things in Old Ways
3. Doing Old things in New Ways
4. Doing New things in New Ways

He then takes Prensky's process and turns them into the following questions.

What if we turned these stages of technology adoption into questions that an evaluator could use during the evaluation process?
1. Is the technology being used “Just because it’s there”?
2. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in Old ways?
3. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in New ways? 4. Is the technology creating new and different learning experiences for the students?

I believe we can and should consider using them in our walkthroughs and observations to collect data on implementation practices and for program evaluation. It would be interesting to hear what Cheryl and her Meteri colleagues think about this model. We should also be sharing our answers to these questions with each other as a way to check for common understanding of practice and developing system knowledge.

They can also serve as guiding questions as we make decisions on how to use technology to support learning and teaching in our classrooms. They can help keep us focused on the learning and not on trying to fit the tools into lessons. I know there are also many other considerations such as those around literacy that will also provide more direction, but until we have that direction these questions can help. If we find that our use is focused in the "because it's there" or the "old things in Old ways" areas, it should force us to ask some reflective questions about our practice and goals.

In the blog, Utecht goes on to share his thinking around each of the questions and another Prensky quote that makes one think about change in our profession related to our own experience. Are we examining all the elements he identifies for change. No, should we?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's Important?

I'm sitting here enjoying catching up on my blog reading and not really wanting to blog, but I had to share this one with you. We spend so much time wondering what to buy and worrying that what we buy won't last four years until we can replace it, as if it will still be what we need in four years. By the way, what is so magic about four years?

I believe I shared my thinking earlier that it isn't the vehicle that matters, it is access that is important. The teacher's comments in this blog reinforce for me this distinction. They also make me thankful for the opportunities we have with our tech levy and the community support. So much to be thankful for and so much to learn. Enjoy the reading.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What To Think Now?

What to think now? Just as I begin to better see and understand the connection between Classroom 10 and quality unit development in Dig Deep, I read this post from Dave Warlick. I have listened to parts of the conversations referenced in the blog that create even more dissonance. What is it that is most important in the education and preparation of our students today? Should we and can we, as a system, embrace what he suggests about technology being a platform? Are we missing something about social networks being a vehicle for learning?

I would welcome any feedback and guidance as we make critical decisions about what students need to know and be able to do and about how best to facilitate this in our classrooms.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Common Focus; the Beginning of Successful Change

Tomorrow, our leadership team continues our discussion of what Classroom 10 (our 21st Century Learning model) looks and sounds like. We have a definition and know the components of the model; what we need is to ensure that when we are in classrooms we have common focus and understanding of what we are seeing compared to what we should be seeing if the curriculum is implemented with fidelity. As a leadership team, our goal for the year is to ensure that when we visit classrooms we will make judgments that result in giving similar feedback to support individual teacher and team growth.

Given our varied knowledge and experiences this is a stretch goal for many of us. We will need to differentiate our delivery model and take advantage of the expertise that some bring to this work to support the learning of others. These are two strategies that we have not yet been able to successfully implement in our leadership staff development that I believe are now possible and necessary. It is possible because for the first time we are approaching that point where our team has a common vision and focus on how to make this vision come alive in classrooms.

Tomorrow when I speak to this I am sure there will be some eye rolling and desire to "get on with the work", but I will persevere through this because I have come to understand the importance of what the DuFours and others have identified as the foundation of Professional Learning Communities; vision, mission, values, and goals. In the absence of this foundation there will not be common focus and groups will struggle with persistence when obstacles emerge that drain energy and move the focus from students to staff.

I have many questions as we continue this work, but know that we will reach our leadership goal for the year. Can we successfully bring our vision to all classrooms? Yes, over time we can. It will take adaptive changes to our staff development model because current practices have not been successful at implementing and sustaining system wide change. One of those changes must be common mission and vision at the building and team level aligned with that of the leadership team. Only then will we be positioned to focus resources and identify practices that result in:

Quality Learning
Every Day
Every Classroom
for Every Child

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Enjoying Technology at Home - Learning at Work

I'm sitting at home with the Orange Bowl on TV and the Bear's wrestling match on my computer. We opened with a win; Kevin Tao our state champ from last year beat a tough kid from Kent Meridian. The picture quality was ok, but it was difficult at times to identify the score so I phoned my son who was at the match to make sure of the score. If he brought his lap top or I had my cell phone on me I wouldn't have had to make the phone call. Wow, what a way to watch a good football game (Kansas 17, Virginia Tech 14) while keeping up with the Bear wrestlers. Now we need to find a way for other sports to be video streamed. Do you think there might be a place for this in the classroom?

Earlier today I was able to give some feedback to Teaching and Learning staff from my observations of our early release on Wednesday with middle school and some junior high staff. I was pleased and impressed by the level of engagement of our teachers and the content of the learning opportunities. What became clear for me as we move toward implementing Classroom 10 was the need for us:
  • To spend more time with teachers focused on the broader learning embedded in our units. The conversations I observed were more focused on lesson objectives both in unit implementation and unit review situations. The natural tendency is for teachers to want to move to the specific lessons as rapidly as possible. We need to intentionally plan these learning opportunities to also focus on the thinking skills, Habits of Mind, and Outcomes and Indicators that we identify as the major learning focus. Until we make this shift, we can not hold teachers accountable for understanding and implementing Classroom 10 learning. This is especially important when we are first implementing new curriculum.
  • To ensure that our curriculum includes assessments that are aligned and measure the broader learnings in each unit. The assessments make the focus more clear and increase the likelihood that the curriculum will be implemented with fidelity, that whole issue of if it is tested it will be taught.

It also once again became clear that we are so fortunate to have quality teachers that care, that have the desire and capacity for continued learning, and that embrace the need for change if we are to provide young people with opportunities for success following their K-12 learning experiences. Add to this the expertise and experience that Nancy and her staff bring to this work, the leadership that principals and teachers have assumed in staff development, and a supportive school board and community and we have the ingredients for a Professional Learning Community to thrive. Oh, one more ingredient, GREAT KIDS!

Enough for now, have a great day.