Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crowdsourcing Education Solutions

I first watched this video through the lens of learning about urban agriculture and surviving in a food dessert, but then I started to think about how educators should be using this R&DIY method described in the video to bring new ideas and solutions to the forefront in education. Watch the video and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Doing it the Right Way

Why do you root for Garmin? My seventh year old asked me the other day. My answer was that I like to support organizations that do things the right way. I think that their story is one that shows a decade of doing something the right way produces results. This is true for schools, business, and in sport. Enjoy this great video about teamwork and success.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gamification Holds Great Potential for Struggling Students

This is a thought-provoking TED talk about gamification, and the promise it holds to transform spaces in the education framework.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Five for Friday-Links and Ideas

Parker Palmer's interview on this blog touches an incredible number of things that have been a part of our greater conversation as a school this semester from: empathy, democracy, the right way to do education, space and time for reflection. Great read.

It appears that the work behind game based education continues to find its footing in a variety of areas. This article is another clear example that game based learning is another strategy to hook kids into high level learning.

Many of us have been talking about items that we need to explicitly teach to our students. One of them is digital citizenship. Here are 15 great resources for us to consider as we build capacity in this area.

In our quest for high levels of technology integration, it is essential that we know what tools are available for students. Here are the 2011 Top 100 tools as rated by Center for Learning and Performance Technologies. Try a new one, and share a few more.

Seeing the big picture. The Horizon Report is a great annual report about the future of technology in schools. Take a short look at the table of contents, a medium look at the executive summary, or the long look by reading the whole report.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media-THE CLIFF NOTES

What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media-


First, I want to thank Chris Lehmann and Scott McLeod. They are two wonderful leaders in changing the momentum when it comes to school leaders and their learning. There book, "What School Leaders Need to Know about Digital Technologies and Social Media" is a great effort to crowd source all of the areas of learning that school leaders need to be introduced to in order to be effective in preparing unique, creative students for the future. I truly believe that it should be required reading for every Missouri principal attending the spring conference in March.

I've worked hard to stay informed about a lot of the topics in the book, so I needed to dig a bit harder to leave with new tools and knowledge from this text. The remainder of this post is my effort to synthesize this book into digestible chunks for those looking for new tools and ideas for this schools.


"Today's information landscape requires a wide and exciting range of skills involved in exposing the value of the information we encounter, employing the information by working the numbers that define it, expressing ideas compellingly to produce messages that compete for attention, and habitually considering the ethical implications of our use of information."

Chapter 1- Blogs...

"One of the great educational benefits of the read/write web, and blogging particularly, is the opportunity for the student to become a 'teacher' by presenting material to an audience. When we teach, we learn."

As schools try to truly think about their acceptable use policies, they should begin with learning in mind, not policing the Internet.

Bud the Teacher provides sample AUPs

David Warlick's AUP options.

Chapter 2- Wikis...

Incredible example of how wikis create the space for great learning, The Flat Classroom Project.

Chapter 3- Podcasts and Webinars...

"Podcasts and webinars offer opportunities for educators to shift the time and place of their learning, listening to, and reflecting on ideas to the schedule and location most convenient for them."

Ongoing professional development at K12 Online Conference

Incredible content at the iTunes U Channel

MIT Open Courseware provides great courses for staff, students, and parents.

Incredible podcasts for teachers and leaders at EdTechTalk

The Education Podcast Network has great example for teachers looking to have kids learn through podcasts.

Chapter 4- RSS and RSS Readers...

"We must be able to manage, analyze, synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information."

Great way to search for blogs on the Internet,

Great tip: Want to track every time something is mentioned on the internet. Do a Google News Search and then subscribe to the results page in your RSS reader.

Another tip: Want to get a specific twitter feed into your RSS reader. Go to Twitter searchpage, enter the hashtag, and subscribe to the results.

"Although there are tremendous ideas within your local learning community, there is a larger discussion about these same ideas worldwide. Your teachers can participate in the global PLC, often called a personal learning network (PLN)."

Chapter 5- Digital Video...

"Video production allows teachers an opportunity to teach media literacy. "

"Teachers must model all parts of the moviemaking process, beginning with brainstorming filmable ideas and continuing with how to storyboard and write in script format."

Images and Music here at

"What do we want to show an audience to tell our story?"

Chapter 6- Virtual School...

Chapter 7- One to One Computer...

"What is the worst consequence of our best ideas?"

"The challenge then become to reimage the classroom to make it the place where students and teachers come together face-to-face to create share knowledge."

Chapter 8- Free and Open Source Software...

Chapter 9- Educational Gaming...

There are some incredible virtual science opportunities here from BYU

Chapter 10- Social Bookmarking...

Really good social bookmarking options. Evernote and

Chapter 11- Online Mind Mapping...

Mind Mapping Options with Mind42

Some see mindmapping as "mapping that is creating learning containers"

Opportunities to share on mind maps. Wallwisher.

Chapter 12- Course Management Systems....

Interlude- See Sally Research: Evolving Notions of Information Literacy

"Transliteracy, the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media."

The Evolution of Information Literacy

-For Digital citizens, attribution is still the right thing to do.

-Intellectual property issues require more sophisticated discussion, as Creative Commons becomes an alternative to copyright and as learners themselves remix media.

-The read and write web has created a genuine audience for students work.

Chapter 13- Online Tool Suites....

"With some clever set-up, Google Calendar can even be used to send updates to community members at a public website, via e-mail, and through Twitter or Facebook."

"The killer application, though, for educational leaders, may be the Forms feature."

Chapter 14- Twitter...

100 Inspiring Ways to Use Social Media in the Classroom

"Twitter affords educators the opportunity to create a personal learning network."

"The benefits of these networks can be enormous as educators are able to assemble a collection of literally, "the best and brightest" practitioners from around the world, individuals with whom the average teacher usually would never have the chance to interact with or learn from."

Chapter 15- Online Images and Visual Literacy...

This can be accomplished in part by providing teachers and students opportunities to explore media that supports Creative Commons

"Such skills include reading pictures as you would read words in a story and developing meaning from those images by themselves, together in a sequence, or hyperlinked throughout a network."

"Another critical aspect of decoding images is analysis of the information found in advertisements as well as visual representations such as charts, maps, and charts."

Chapter 16- Mobile Phones and Mobile Learning...

“Today’s mobile phones are no longer just talking and texting devices, but sleek digital Swiss army knives.”

“Following are three issues that should be addressed as part of a mobile safety lesson: digital footprints,;public record; and sexting, bullying, and other inappropriate uses.”

Monitoring software for phones.

Students can use a website such as GPS Mission for outdoor learning or to become familiar with a new environment.

Students can use in physical education to keep track of their time and distance for bikes, hikes, and runs.

Instant response systems at: and

Older students can write their own text messaging novels

Ignacio Estrada: “If children don’t learn the way we teacher, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”

Chapter 17- Social Networking…

Example of School District online

“In today’s socially networked world, not only do principals and leaders need to be aware of what the physical image of their school portrays but also what is portrayed by the digital image of their school- and people’s reactions to it.”

“There is no one single place that a school can be; it must exist in many spaces simultaneously.”


“What do we learn about computing and critical thinking by knowing how to create a Powerpoint presentation? The answer is nothing. It certainly doesn’t teach you how to think critically.”

Incredible Data on Big Food

Conglomerate American Food Infographic

Source: Frugal dad

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reasons to Look Here

There are many reasons that I hope that people come to this blog, but the most important to me is that there is an opportunity to learn and think. I've been consulted lately that it is important that I talk about my thinking and leading out loud. Many times, we have thought about ideas, problems, and solutions in our own head to exhaustion, but we have never floated the ideas, etc. to our most valuable collective brain, our PLN. I have come to truly embrace the learning that comes from this group. I have also come to realize that not all school leaders are embracing either of these ideas. I hope that this blog can continue to lead in this area for those administrators in my area and state. Though I would be foolish to believe that my blog is making this big impact nationally, I do believe that it is helping many in a number of smaller pockets. For this reason, I want to float it out their for review for an edublog award for 2011. It is also wonderful to see how you stack against other school leaders, so I'll take this opening to do so.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five for Friday-Links and Ideas

This seems like a great set of video for our work surrounding entrepreneurs

Our friends in Maine have been doing 1:1 work for a solid chunk of years now, and they have a number of webinars about teaching with technology. Check them out here.

As we ask our students to digest and analysis more data, it is important that we teacher them to tell the data story in a variety of ways. This is a great post about why infographics matter.

As we look at our bees and their work as pollinators, this is a great video.

Don't know if you have been following this debate on pizza as a vegetable in school lunches, but it makes me thankful our school lunch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting Drilled

I'd rather be in the wall on a set play 18 meters from goal and get drilled by the ball or get drilled by a 90 mph fastball off the batting helmet than get drilled at the dentist. I have a true wizard for a dentist. She is smart, gentle, thorough, and tells it like it is, but none of this matters when you lying in the chair for two hours. There is anxiety, pain, and need for lots of pain medication and nitrous oxide.

I always enjoy having the headphones on as they start to drowned up the drill, but today, they turned on James Ingram. I didn't realize that he had so many "hits". I listened to "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tale three times. I didn't think that my visit could get any worse.

Survival...In the end, I emerged from the chair, a bit poorer, a bit loopy, and certainly with some better teeth.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Marathon Hangover

Not sure what to think about this morning. My body feels better than it has ever felt the day after a marathon, but I feel totally disjointed. Maybe it is having a day to recover (I stayed in Maryland last night), maybe it is not having the next thing to plan for, or maybe it is a chemical, electrolyte issue, but I'm definitely calling this a marathon hangover.

I'm just starting to process yesterday. I bonked and survived. I dreamed big and went for it. I was a part of the ninth largest marathon in the world. I was overwhelmed to the point of crying twice at the finish. I saw the best sunrise on the nation's capitol from Arlington Cemetery. I felt surrounding by great people and lonely at the same time. I wonder about my training, too long? just right? did it matter?

As I fly home and slide back into routine, I know that the weirdness of today will pass, but it leaves me wondering what exactly am I supposed to take away from these moments.

Some day I will be a 3:30 marathoner, but it won't be on a day with I try to be a 3:25 marathoner. Just fading toward normal....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Running in Baltimore

August and Everything After was one of my favorite albums by Counting Crows. It reminds me of the college years, and as I sit watching in snow in October near Baltimore, I am reminded about the song Raining in Baltimore. It is a late track that didn't get any airtime, but it is the sort of song that tells a great story. Tomorrow, I have a chance to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. The weather, though awful right now, seems like it will be perfect. The event seems organized and ready, and 30,000 people are ready to take on the challenge. There are a lot of stories that I'm sure could be told. Every marathoner has a story about what it took them to train for this race, their first marathon, or the obstacles that they have overcome to join a ranks of being called a marathoner. My story isn't that special, but it started in November of 2002, about ten years after playing my final high school soccer game. I wasn't kind to my body over that decade. I weighed 208 pounds. I still remember the day that I stepped on the scale. I had recently bought some clothes for work that were a bigger size because my boss noticed that nothing fit me anymore. I was getting married in five months, and I realized that I looked awful. In March of 2003, after having been married for about a month, I entered my first race, the St. Patricks Day five mile. This race is more of a sideshow with beer at the end, but it served as the first of many races over the last eight years with tomorrow being my first fly-to marathon. I'm staying with friends in Bethesda. It is great to be in the spirit of someone's home, and not a hotel room on this cold day, but I'm longing to be home. It is hard to be away from my family to do something so selfish as run. Over this last ten years though, running has kept me sane as I learned to be a dad. It has allowed me to lose 30 pounds, and maintain a new level of health. Running has opened doors of community with others, and it has given me some legitimacy to my campaign against obesity in schools. Running has shown me my community through a new lens, and running allowed me to see the God given beauty of the natural world. Who knows what tomorrow has in story for me? I'm prepared physically and mentally, and now, it is time to run.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Five for Friday-Links and Ideas

After getting caught up in baseball playoffs for a month, I am back to my blog. Hopefully, this weekend, I'll be flooding the zone with blog posts. Here are some resources for now.

Looking for free ways to get students involved in class with response clickers. Here are some options.

Great piece from Carol Dweck on Mindset.

Does our 1:1 environment lend itself to a flipped classroom? Interesting story...

Here is a great animated commentary on how our brain functions...

How to teacher kids to multi-task while maintaining focus.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hiring the right people

This is another guest blog from my administrative intern, Nate Lischwe. Nate has been immersed in the MRH culture throughout this first quarter, and we continue to have conversations about some of the big questions in education. This post is some his thinking on hiring the right people. Enjoy.

In today’s educational landscape, an open teaching position in the St. Louis area often produces upwards of one hundred applicants. Thus, the importance of effective hiring is magnified. I remember reading about “getting the right people on the bus” from Jim Collins’s book Good to Great, and my teaching and graduate school experience has served to strengthen my belief that having the right people in our schools makes everyone’s job much easier and is better for our students. With this point established, how does a school leader hire the right person from a stack of resumes that approaches the thickness of a ream of paper?

Effective hiring starts with a purposefully developed application process. School leaders should meticulously examine each aspect of this process and make sure that it accurately reflects the values and needs of the school and its students. The process should not only include penetrating questions that give the school leader a picture of the applicant’s teaching practice, but also give the applicant a chance to actually put that practice into action. To give a clearer picture of what this process should look like, let’s use data-driven instruction as an example.

In a pool of one hundred applicants, a majority of candidates would probably be able to say that data should be used to drive instruction. But what does this actually mean to the candidate? We as school leaders have to go deeper.

The applicant should be able to give concrete examples of how he/she used data to improve outcomes in previous experience. The applicant’s resume should show concrete examples of the teacher using and producing results from data-driven instruction. The resume should also show quantifiable achievements and should showcase the candidate’s abilities as a teacher, collaborator, and leader. For example, the statement “taught math” on a resume could be enhanced to “planned and delivered instruction in 7th grade math” and “led students to at least 5% improvement each year on the 7th grade mathematics MAP test.” Statements like these help to differentiate the applicant’s resume. The school leader at this point has probably significantly narrowed the number of applicant choices, but more work still needs to be done.

The leader should have the applicant show a tracking system that he/she has used and demonstrate specific examples of how the data is used to increase student achievement. However, the school leader could go even farther.The applicant could teach a model lesson, and the school leader could critique and evaluate it through the lens of data-driven instruction, as well as other characteristics of an effective teacher.

Another challenge that a school leader faces in the hiring process is how to learn the intangibles about people. This skill can be harder to master than other parts of assessing a candidate. Part of the solution is dependent on the school leader’s intuition, but the hiring process can be crafted to help bring out these intangibles in candidates.

The Harvard Business Review suggests the following three steps in hiring to assess intangibles:
1) Determine which intangibles you want and are most important for success in the open position.
2) Craft targeted questions that reveal a candidate’s personality traits.
3) Distinguish real from rote by assessing signals consciously and unconsciously given by the candidate.

Steps like these help shine the light on applicants who go beyond saying the right things and actually put them into practice for the benefit of students and screen out applicants who simply know the right things to say. While no hiring process perfectly guarantees the best hire, purposeful development of a process with a focus on student achievement can go a long way in this direction. And in the end, our students are the people for whom we as educators work.

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's Like Comparing Apples to Oranges

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

What do students want to know about education?

Great wiki for 1:1 educators...Are you still trying to figure out the best way to teach with laptops, collaborate with others here

Please watch this video. Tavis Smiley does an incredible job of shaping why we have to double down on our commitment to our African-American boys. 

This global report card site is getting a lot of buzz. See how we do compared to Canada.

This story mentions three areas of low hanging fruit to improve schools. What low hanging fruit are we missing?

The Wisdom of Steve Jobs

Thanks to Kevin Grawer, the MRH High School Principal, for this gem. Exploring, playing, discovery are all road to learning. There isn't such a thing as tangental knowledge. Every piece of information connects.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Guitar Player

I received an e-mail today from another blogging gig that I work on weekly. It was a simple watch this video; you may be interested in the movie that we are creating. I bit, watched the preview, and I think that this seems like an easy way to support the work of artists. Our world is a better place because kids and adults are creating art in its many forms. We work hard at my school to promote the arts in all of their forms. I encourage you to watch this trailer, support the film, and support the arts in your local schools.

The Guitar Player Movie from The Guitar Player on Vimeo.

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

Great series of posts about technology as a tool in education

Education videos from the Aspen Ideas Festival

Are we asking the right questions? Are they asking the right questions?

If you get tired of the Kagan timer tools, here are some other options. 

As we look for ways to communicate with our students about what success on a daily basis looks like, it seems like this tool could help form high-level, clear objectives.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Are you Flipping it?

I have been intrigued by the concept of the flipped classroom since the concept started floating around a few years ago. I have haven't seen a teacher live that has attempt to go this route, but there is certainly a need to maximize the time that we have with kids, and allow our 1:1 environment the space it needs to be effective. Kids learning asynchronously at home can go a long way to creating the extra time that we need  to close gaps and reach more standards. Here is a great infographic on the flipped classroom by the folks at

Five for Friday-Links and Ideas

I have been a little slow getting all of the systems of the year up to speed, but I'm hoping to get five links on the blog each weekend.

A BLOG WORTH READING.. I really have enjoyed Josh's work. It was great to first learn from him, then talk to him, then meet him last summer, but now I'm finally sharing him. The professional relationship paradigm is so different these days. I'm not sure that I'm lock step in his camp on homework, but he has some great thoughts, and this is a great blog to follow.

 100 Teacher Video Sites: Love that they are by subject Need Education's a great list.

Here are a couple of great sponge sites for vocabulary. HERE and HERE

This is a must read to keep our arms around the varied opinions on technology in the classroom. Can we answer WHY technology integration is a big part of education?

9/11- Finding Heart in Tragedy

I've spent a lot of time avoiding the pain and tragedy of a number of events in my life including all of the 10 year anniversary productions on 9/11. I'm not sure why. The event changed a nation, and created a new playing field for my girls 3 and 6. I watched the unveiling of the flag on the field for the Rams game, and I was moved. I wanted football, and I got patriotism. I heard a great sermon this morning about how suffering ISN'T tied to sin, and that religion don't sit at the heart of evil (not what Hitchens would have us believe, wonder what he knows know). 9/11 for me is about the individual stories, and the folks at StoryCorps capture the pain of the event in this video. I'm still struggling with this event, and the emotion of the day, but the struggle makes me a better person, and hopefully, a person filled with more hope, more love, and a new commitment to teaching my middle schoolers about the value of taking time to understand why people believe what they do, and walking in other people's shoes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On the Road to Burlington

I am quite excited about the opportunity to visit a new state, Vermont. I don't have many left, so it is always special to hit a new one. We will be taking a group from school to learn about sustainability and green schools from a number of great thinkers in this area in Burlington. It is an opportunity to share, collaborate, and see how others are trying to bring the concept of The Commons and healthy communities to their space on this planet. There is also another huge benefit, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Burlington is the home of a new flavor also.
There are just some moments in life that you assumed would be left to the original laugh, but it is nice to have a chance to watch it all over again. Enjoy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Art of Listening

I have been working on becoming a better listening for a number of years. I think that, at times, my mind moves too fast, and I fail to relax into the beauty and insight of the words of others. This video was helpful in my continued journey to find the will and skills to listen well.

Friday, September 2, 2011

We are the Frontline on Obesity

My kids @mrhmiddleschool did a great job talking about our dedication to community health and wellness as well as our work to build stewards of the environment.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Systems Thinking Matters?

For the last three days, I have spent time learning about Systems Thinking in the Classroom. It was great to be a school leader in a room of teachers from second grade to tenth grade, just learning, not leading or directing traffic. The training was built upon the work of many people including the work of Peter Senge made popular through the book the Fifth Discipline.

Systems Thinking training looks at a number of areas, the first being the habits of a systems thinker. These thirteen habits really tapped into the ideas of critical thinking, deep learning, and bringing a larger perspective to the daily learning of students. Some of the habits of the systems thinker include: observes how elements within systems change over time, generating patterns and trends, changes perspectives to increase understanding, and considers both short and long-term consequences of actions. Taking these ideas to my staff as essential areas of growth for our kids seems like an appropriate first step for bringing this training to life for my staff.

The training also examined a number of structures that promote individuals being able to bring sense to complex situations, and in a world of global interconnectedness, it is so important that work in systems in an essential part of our students' lives. We talked about looking at Behavior Over Time Graphs which examine patterns and behavior, and we examined the Ladder of Inference that allows us to see that our beliefs and perceptions impact our action.

We spent time looking at the Iceberg Model, which allows us to use events, structures, and behaviors to dig deeply into the mental models that we hold. Another essential structure was the Causal Loop Diagram which provided a way of looking at reinforcing and balancing loops. Ultimately, these loops were broadened to look at the archetypes that emerge from these loop patterns. It was definitely a new lens to view so much through.

A couple of other structures that we examined were Stock Flow Diagrams and Connection Circles, both ways for kids to tell the narrative of science and social studies. We also looked at a number of ways to use the structures to examine literature in a rational way. It is good to step away to grow, and I'm ready to have some fruitful conversations with my teachers about using these items in their classrooms, but it will take some time for me to lead using these structures. I think that I will find myself reflecting using these tools, but to use these structures as a way to grow the capacity of my staff may take a bit longer.

It would be great to connect with some school leaders using these structures in their daily leadership efforts.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Technology Literacy Isn't Optional

Nothing like a good infographic on a beautiful breezy day. Hope everyone storing energy for another great week.

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Friday, August 19, 2011

Five for Friday is Back

I hope everyone has launched into a great school year. The MRHMS staff is doing incredible stuff around teaching expectations and preparing students for extensive use of cooperative learning through the year. Enjoy the links.

Don't forget that you can make each of your kids matter...

If you are looking for team or class ideas that extend off of our two-hour movie project, here is one that students could do in the neighborhood or over the course of the a semester.

Looking for ways to have an easy student response clickers needed. Try this.

The annual PDK survey about schools is out. They do a great job looking at schools from a variety of angle, good make for a great conversation starter for students too.

Nick Sauers does a great job with his blog on 1:1 schools. This post contains some ideas for teaching students a variety of ways for their voice to be heard in the classroom and beyond.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Instructional Coach

To start this school year, we have moved to a new model for our teams. We are now wrapping the resources of six teachers around our teams of 80 kids. This includes the four core content teachers, a special educator, and an instructional coach. I'm excited about the flexibility and nimble nature of our new construct. Here is a sample of the increase in idea and innovation flow that seems to already be stemming from this shift. Here is a recent e-mail from my instructional coach to the team.

This is the easiest access to resources from multiple federal agencies. Unlike the actual federal department sites, this one is arranged by subject area and topic making search features much easier. Take a look at the animated science demonstrations. I didn't dig in here long enough to be sure they are your GLE topics, but it looks promising.

Thinkfinity: This is a collection of interactive demonstrations for students. You can search by content area and level. I left up the link to National Geographic's Living Landscapes lesson as it might complement your geography unit and give students tools they can use if they want to investigate further. The Read, Write, Think Section of this website has powerful interactive tools for teaching reading and writing skills.[]=Interactive&chkGrade[]=grades%3A6|grades%3A7|grades%3A8&chkSubject[]=Social+Studies

Thinkquest is a project based learning competition where students design educational websites. From the link below, you can view winning projects or get info on the competition. As we discuss authentic work and project based learning, I'm hopeful that the projects represented on this site will get us thinking.

This is a site from the national institute of health. There is lots to link to our sustainability efforts. Of note are the computer based interactive resources for students as well as the career finder tool that allows students to match their interests to careers in science.
This math forum site has lots of free resources including online math puzzles and problem of the week. Students can ask "Dr. Math" their math questions. I thought this might serve as an outside expert as kids think about authentic work.

Here are free sheet music sites, for historical connections. The final site has multimedia resources to explore musical genre.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Leadership Day- The New Map

Leaders must stop leading their fellow educators into the woods without the new map. The new map avoids the pitfall of the forest, the downed trees, the sink holes, and the swarm of bees. The new map also gives us a new path to success that isn't always the most effective or most efficient, but it is the path that is centered, student centered. The new map isn't just a revision of the old map. It is a brand new way of looking at things.

The new map has features on it that no map has ever had. The new map is education with the technology of the future fused to the core. The new map allows schools to rewrite the definition of success. The new map has answers to the questions that have plagued us for ages.

Does anyone want the new map? It is THE way forward. Can you truly LEAD without it?

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Principal as a “Compassionate Agitator”

This is my latest guest post. Nate Lischwe is passionate about urban education and educational reform. After serving as a math teacher for six years, he is working full-time as a student in educational leadership. Nate is completing internship hours at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School. Please be a part of his mentoring by commenting below.

The K-12 education landscape is currently undergoing rapid change throughout the United States. Change as we see it today has taken many forms, and the urgency of the situation in our education system is increased by the fact that American schoolchildren’s academic underperformance as compared to students in many other nations. With this context in mind, the challenge for today’s school leader is to effect systemic change (being an agitator) while also valuing stakeholders who are working in the system (being compassionate). While I am only starting to explore the education landscape through the
lens of a possible future school leader, my teaching experience has given me insight into this issue.

As a 2005 Teach For America – St. Louis corps member, I am well-acquainted with educational change. Teach For America continues to grow as it works toward its mission of eliminating the achievement gap, but the organization also draws some criticism. I came face to face with many of these criticisms early in my experience as a high school math teacher. Did I have what it takes to successfully teach my students after not studying secondary education as an undergraduate? Did I truly care about the school and the students, or was I going to leave the system as quickly as I could and just use the experience as a resume builder? These questions were legitimate, but I provided answers to these questions over the next six years, by teaching, learning, collaborating, coaching, tutoring, serving, laughing/crying with students, and doing seemingly everything in between. I won the respect of colleagues by simply putting in a hard, honest day’s work and by caring for the students, day in and day out. In addition, my students answered the call by working diligently and consistently posting high academic achievement.

What lessons does my experience hold for school leaders about being a compassionate agitator? First, we must set high expectations for ourselves and for our colleagues, and we must set an example by working honestly and purposefully to achieve those expectations. Second, we must show that we respect and care for our colleagues by trusting them and collaborating with them in achieving goals, not just in their classrooms,but in the school and in the larger context in which the school exists. If we as leaders set the example by practicing these two ideas, we can build a system in which educators join together and successfully effect the change that we all desire: increased academic achievement by our nation’s students.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Retreat Prep

I'm about two weeks away from my staff retreat, and as normal, I have a thousand things swirling in my head. As a school leader, it seems that there are moments of clarity, where all of the puzzle pieces fit together, and other moments, where you are overwhelmed with the complexities of the work that we do. The remainder of this post won't probably show this transition from jumbled to clarity, but I hope that it sparks a few ideas for everyone preparing for the first weeks of school.

There isn't enough passion in education. I have been reminded of this over and over this summer. From the book, Passion Driven Classroom to the Guidelines for Passion-Based Learning to my leadership development with Peter Senge at Camp Snowball, it became clear that the idea of passion has slowly been sucked out of the joy of learning. How do we bring it back? Why do we need to bring it back? Those are two of the questions that I hope to explore in the time that I have with my staff in a few weeks.

At times, people associate the terms passion and mission, and I think that it is true that the concepts of passion, mission, and vision are wrapped into a necessary dance for a successful learning environment. The idea that teachers and students can't wait to arrive at school each day to grow in their understanding is an essential aspect of a healthy school. In June, as a staff, we talked at length about the overarching enduring understanding and essential questions that naturally emerge from our expeditionary learning and our curriculum convenant. An exciting document emerged that I believe can be the compass for our work for many years to come. This document, currently in draft form, waiting for feedback from teachers, students, and parents, explains our dedication to growing in a deep way about the concepts of stewardship and responsibility, perspective and change, and collaboration and community. Rarely does a school have a clear way forward that goes beyond test scores or chasing an old definition of success, but I believe that our depth in understanding our curriculum based on our work with D2L and our constant desire to grow and revise our work to maintain the curricular edge has unique placed us on a progressive road to greater success. During Camp Snowball (the Systems Thinking, Sustainability, and Leadership Capacity building conference in Tucson), Peter Senge and Michael Fullan continued to talk about having a shared vision in a school, but they emphasized that it isn't about what the vision is, but it is what the vision does.

The growth of MRH in the last decade was based on a model of curriculum reform that takes the long view to success. It looks at both building the culture and the program. Both areas of schools have to be strong and complement each other for success to be maintained over time. Reform in the area of culture has three essential areas: the compelling educational vision, a positive environment, and a desire for continuous improvement. Reform in the area of program also has three essential areas: personalized service, a curriculum covenant, and instructional best practices. Continuous work in these areas by the people in this room and people that have contributed and now left the district have left us with a foundation upon which the next decade of excellence can be built. This success can be seen in a number of measures including our discipline data, student achievement data, and more recently our results on the EXPLORE test. Our students now have every opportunity to learn everyday at a high level in a learning environment that truly promotes learning.

We should be passionate about the foundation that has been laid, and we should be passionate about the fact that we are doing the right things for kids. We should tell our students, parents, community, educational colleagues, and global collaborators about the incredibly healthy school that is making a difference for kids. I love telling our story. I passionately defend our work with expeditionary learning and technology integration, calling them difference makers and a true path forward to growing students in a way that is chasing a new definition of success in schools.

I also want to be passionate about the road forward. There is no time to put the car in neutral as too many schools plateau and becoming as Michael Fullan called them "cruising schools". We still have too many students that leave us without the skills, understanding, and spirit that they need to be successful after school. We still need to find ways to build systems that are nimble and can adjust quickly to needs of students as well as systems that are regenerative so that when one member leaves us the institutional knowledge and system capacity isn't lost.

As I looked to the next decade of growth, I first started with me as a leader, asking myself, "How can I grow as a leader so that my students and my school have the greatest chances for success. After serving as an assistant principal or principal for the last eleven years, I have decided that I must also find a new level in my leadership, and I again turned to the word passion. There have been times in my career, where the voice of fear has crept into my leadership. I feared not fitting in. I feared getting fired. I feared that taking a stand would result in more personal harm and good. This fear has led me to push some of my passion for kids and their success away, so that things would be peaceful. I truly believe that the next phase of my leadership has me leading from the power that comes from the heart, emotions, and feelings that drive the human experience. Schools can be peaceful places when the adults don't have their emotions for kids in the forefront, but they will never be places of excellence until we can bring our personal passions for education into a fostering community setting where people support each other on this deep level.

System Thinking uses an iceberg model to describe the idea that events and actions stem from deeper places that can't be seen from the surface. Our personal and organizational mental models truly drive our actions, and it is important that as a growing school culture that we take time to dig into our mental models about education, schooling, learning, opportunity, and community growth. When these things are on the table, we have new found opportunities to grow. Different folks talk about the levels in different ways; Systems Thinking talks about how events are caused by the structures that we have created which are shaped by our deep mental models about the situation. Simon Sinek in his TED talk
calls it the Golden Circle where healthy, passion-drive organizations work, dream and market their work first from the deep level of why they do the work, then how they do the work and finally to what the work is. This is similar to the systems thinking model, and we as an organization should work to make decision with the why at the forefront of all of our decisions.

As I looked at our programming through this lens, it started to help me organized why, how, and what we do for kids. At the heart of why we do our work is preparing students to be leaders, scholars, citizens, and stewards for our community and larger once they leave MRH high school. The how we go about developing these skills and understandings comes from a set of growing best practices that are at times school-wide, and at times they are specific to your subject and classroom. It is our job as a collective to grow and learn in these areas from each other. This year, I hope that we can place additional emphasize on five areas that appear to be ripe for leveraging our system forward. These are: producing excellent student work as discussed and demonstrated by Ron Berger and through our own projects and work, building classrooms with a greater sense of cooperative learning using the Kagan strategies with the support of our cooperative learning coaches, redesigning our grading practices so as to create a fair and accurate system that supports the learning of all students, infusing high levels of technology integration so that our 1:1 platform can be fully unleashed to allow for greater student learning, and generating daily learning target that can bring clarity for students to the question, "Have I been successful in this class today?"

Then there is the what we do. Our daily work with students to build trusting relationships that foster risk-taking, critical thinking, and empathy go a long way to achieving our goals. When we create engaging daily lesson that value the voice of students, it builds capacity and momentum for learning. When we have deep knowledge of our subject area, we can be magicians about how to get our students to proficiency in their understanding, and on a daily basis, we can promote high levels of academic study and support the behaviors that surround it. From our June meetings on PBIS, we left with the idea that we would like to focus on students being: prepared, engaged, reflective, able to persevere, and be academically driven.

With some additional conversation, we can continue to grow our common understandings of the why, how, and what, so that we can all begin to document our work in these areas. We have an opportunity to show our students, parents, and community that a successful and healthy school can and should defined beyond the test scores that arrive in August, but to do this, we have to provide an unprecedented level of transparency in our work. Through our technology grant, we were awarded four digital cameras for each team, an HD video camera for each team, and a set of iTouches for each team. This should provide the resources necessary to document our excellent work on a daily basis and through our lines of communication; e-mail, newsletter, YouTube, Twitter feed, Flickr, and Facebook, we should be able to reshape and reinforce the images of our building. This level of communication is necessary when you are a school doing things a bit different, not cruising and trying to redefine success and excellence.

As a team, it will be important for us to shape our goals for the year in the next few weeks. When we left the 2010-11 school year, we left with some broad areas to build goals (Building Student Mindset, Finding New Levels of Achievement, and Creating the best Possible Expeditionary Learning Program). These seem like good places to start our conversation in August and September. As always though, I hope that we can be Better Today Than Yesterday Last year, I asked if it was possible for each of us to find 5-10 people that do our job as well or better than us to collaborate with throughout the year. The idea was to build a professional learning network that spanned throughout the country. I'm not sure how many of you took that challenge, but for me, it has been personally rewarding to work with principals in Canada, Boston, Memphis, Springfield, MO and Australia. This is a still a great challenge that I hope that you would consider, and a challenge made easier by the learning network enhancer than comes through being on Twitter. My new challenge comes from Camp Snowball, where Michael Fullan discussed the need for educators that are truly passionate about not only changing their classroom and their school, but are interested in changing the face of the education system. He called for them to begin thinking about how their work can bring success to other classrooms and other schools besides their own. He believes that only through hoisting ourselves into the next circle or system above our current control can we be the change that so many of us desire, so how can your work aid the success of another teacher or school outside of MRH.

Being passionate about our work is the way to an enjoyable everyday. It is the way to make change in the lives of individual students, and being passionate means the opportunity to serve with joy, but being passionate most importantly means taking positive risks for kids. I encourage each of you to doing the things that you have always wanted to do in the classroom, don't save your ideas for a different day. Let's bring a wall of learning energy crashing down on our students, so they know that we care deeply about their future.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Discipline in Modern Education- A Guest Blog Post

I was recently approached by someone interesting in being a guest blogger for Principally Speaking. I had never thought about sharing this space with anyone, but it felt right, and so we are going for it. If you are interested in adding to this blog, I welcome your ideas and thoughts.

Discipline in Modern Education by Lindsey Wright

Although we are well into the 21st century and have developed several alternative approaches for educating students, like holding classes at an online school instead of a brick-and-mortar campus, many teachers still rely on traditional discipline methods to keep control in the classroom. The majority of these techniques involve time-tested protocols such as giving warnings, keeping a child in from recess, keeping him or her after school, or sending the student to the principal’s office. In some cases teachers have blindly adhered to such practices without considering if there might be a better, more effective way to gain and keep control of the classroom.

However, there are other teachers who have been significantly troubled by what they see as the shortcomings of a time-honored tradition whose day has come and gone. Yet traditional discipline methods are still embraced in the majority of schools across the U.S. How can teachers begin to implement a more enlightened approach to discipline in the classroom?

Any experienced educator has long since learned that children in the classroom have a way of feeding off of a teacher’s energy. If the teacher is nervous, distracted, stressed, or angry, the students seem to have an innate ability to pick up on these negative emotions and find a way to exacerbate them. In order to avoid such a situation it's important for the teacher to remain calm and centered, particularly when taking disciplinary action. Meditation is an excellent way to achieve this, as it allows the teacher to find and develop peace and strength within. Students can also benefit from this quiet time, as studies have found that students have improved tests scores and better classroom discipline when they mediate.

Another key to enlightened discipline is getting to the root cause of the behavior. When utilizing this method, the teacher works closely with the student, and even the parents, to discover why a bad behavior is repeated. The goal is to then come up with a plan to address the issue so that it can be overcome. Once this happens classroom discipline will inevitably improve.

If none of the other approaches to seem to be effective, teachers can also try limiting classroom rules. Having some rules is always a good idea as they establish behavior standards that help students know what is expected. However, try to keep them brief and have as few as possible. Ultimately, it is through methods such as these that teachers can promote better discipline and develop more positive relationships with students.

Lindsey Wright, writes for She can be contacted via e-mail at

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Blast-5 for Friday- Links and Ideas

Incredible set of technology integration tools....
This is a super easy format.

Could our kids create something for TED....
Part of our work with the creation of excellent student work is the development of authentic audiences that can push the quality of the work. It would be incredible for students to submit and have something accepted for TED-ED

This is the preamble for The Earth Charter Initiative- Values and Principles for a Sustainable Future. I thought that is is a power text for kids to dissect to dig into the concept and importance of sustainability.


We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

How to implement e-portfolios...

Incredible resource for teaching the Civil War

As we add more technology to our classrooms to create depth in learning and transparency in our work. Here are a couple of links:

I really enjoy the way that infographic communication information to the visual learning; would be interesting to see our kids create some really good ones.

Just like the Thinkfinity site, this seems to have some great lesson ideas that fit with our units.

Incredible collection of tutorial videos for teachers and kids to grow with 2.0 tools. Log in as a guest, and there are hundreds of videos to learn from. Assign videos to advanced learners to continue their growth.

iTunes App Store launches "Apps for Teachers" section

This seems like a nice set of learning games for kids from our friends at Brain Pop.

We need to continue to find space for kids to reflect on their work in meaningful ways. This is a great blog post with resources.

Teaching Tomorrow's Skills to Today's Students

Don't take the easy way out.... Great post from a great principal

Crowdsourcing an Interview

Yesterday, I was less than an hour from conducting an interview, and I had an old set of tired questions in front of me. I could have used them, but I decided to crowd source the interview questions, and many of you were there to help. It was the real-time help and brain power available to everyone as they develop a solid PLN. The new questions helped make the interview more enjoyable for me, and it provided a fresh set of questions that elicited some great responses from the candidate. Below is the list of questions as requested by many of you. Yesterday was a clear, easy way to see the power of learning from the bunch.

What do you do when your students don't learn?

What are you going to do when you hit a problem you don't know how to solve? or, when you feel like giving up?

Please share a significant failure that you have experienced. What was it ... [and its effect on you]?

Describe a time when you had an effective interaction with a student. A time with a struggling student, what did you do to help?

If a parent/colleague/administrator walks into your room, what will they see/hear/smell? Why?

What is the most important thing to walk into a classroom with organization or imagination?

"Tell me what 'thinking' looks like in your classroom"

What do you enjoy most about listening to people?

What instructional practices and/or pedagogy will you use or implement in your classroom that will ensure student success?

What influences student success?

We often talk about educating our students to enter the global society. What would a learning environment look like/be to support this?

How do you plan to "lead" in your classroom, school, and district? Describe your professional learning goals and how you are currently addressing these?

How do you view professional development? How do you keep improving yourself? What is your students’ role in your classroom? How do you address different needs?

Tell me about a time you failed and what you learned from the experience.

How did you/will you integrate technology into curriculum?

Do you use social media for professional purposes, e.g. chats?

What is the role of technology in education? Give an example of how technology can be used to transform the learning environment?

How do you engage parents? 2. Do you believe that every student can learn?+

What have you learned this week and who are you learning with?

What will the classroom look like in 30 years? Will there even be teachers?

What were the last three books you read?

What is the purpose of education? Why should students come to school?"

What is your definition of an exemplary teacher? How will you support or realize this definition in your teaching?

What does it mean to be part of a team? How do you see yourself as part of a team?