Category Archives: teaching

The Shifts Aren’t Always Seismic

We hear so much about transforming education: it conjures a vision of lightning striking and suddenly everything is new. But, I wonder if transformation happens in small often imperceptible ways.

For instance, this article on open education resources is mostly about the concerns of commercial providers. But buried deep in the last paragraphs is a shift in how schools approach both teacher work and professional development:

The department official agreed that adopting open resources can require teachers and other staff to devote much more time to content selection and curation than they otherwise might. “It definitely takes an investment,” he said. But he said a growing number of districts are finding ways to pay teachers for that work. Some of them are redirecting existing money spent on professional development to do so.

Two big points here: paying teachers to do the work AND repurposing professional development funds. I’m hoping the latter means that they are also repurposing professional development, counting the work of review as PD.

Investing this time can lead to a better understanding of the curriculum:

Teachers and administrators said they gained a much stronger understanding of the curriculum, and they were heavily invested in making sure it made sense for their classroom peers and students.

Rethinking teacher pay and professional development could be one of those small changes hidden in larger conversations.


On Choosing Resources: An Anecdote

This semester afforded another reminder of the need for differentiation. In addition to other articles and online resources, I use two texts for my ed tech project management course:

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)

Scrappy Guide to Project Management

The PMBOK Guide is the widely accepted industry standard for project management and at least a few students have thanked me for including it as they were asked about their familiarity with it during job interviews. It’s not an exciting read by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a comprehensive approach to the process.

The Scrappy Guide is part of a series and take a seriously light-hearted approach to the process of project management, revealing the sometimes chaotic underbelly that PMBOK mostly ignores. She includes some excellent exercise ideas for team building and planning along with ways to avoid some of the well-known pitfalls of project management.

So, two books that cover the same topic in much different ways and for much different purposes. I think they complement each other and I wouldn’t give up either one of them. Students tend to either love them or hate them. This semester, one student told me how much he disliked the Scrappy guide: too messy for him. Another student told me PMBOK gave him a headache. I wondered if their personal preferences have any bearing on how they might function as a project manager.

But, it was also a reminder that differentiation is essential at all levels. I also include a “video of the week” in the course and take advantage of videos created by






Quick Reactions to #Satchat

All of these could be longer posts but I need to go outside and battle the weeds some more, so for now, you get a punch list of things I am thinking about after being part of the #satchat Twitter chat:

1. I bristle whenever I hear someone say EVERY and ALWAYS whether it’s about testing or rearranging the room or, even, coding.

2. I believe you can be passionate about your work but also have other interests. Teachers who do not participate in tweet chats are not bad teachers. We shouldn’t make teachers feel guilty about not being passionate enough to devote every waking hour to their work.

3. If we–leaders, coaches, teachers–truly believe that collaboration ala Twitter or other media is an important part of professional learning and growth, we must find time for it in the work day. If there isn’t enough time, then we either get rid of something else OR we lengthen the work day OR we find some way to give credit for it like we do when you take a graduate class.

The Course of the Course: A Leadership Journey

June is a wonderful month for taking a class….if you’re not teaching a class! Or classes, as in my case. I’m doing what a friend called marathon teaching: two sections of an eight-week, two nights a week, course in technology integration. They meet back to back on Mondays and Wednesdays with a 20-minute break in between. I’m teaching for almost six hours straight. While we spend a lot of time exploring and creating, it’s still exhausting. And yesterday I spent a whole day at a Google workshop. I had a chance to learn something myself but there was no time for working on my OLE ideas.

So, in the interest of getting something out there, I decided to just use text. I am working on a series of videos about the course using Evernote to annotate and Screenflow to capture but the production is standing in the way of the ideas.

I’ve been thinking a lot of the idea of the “course.” We associate courses with sports: the golf course is the one that came to mind most easily. Everyone starts at the club house, equips themselves for the game, moves from tee to tee with the group.Everyone’s goal is the same but the process of getting there is going to be different. But what they do when they get to the tee may be very different: they can choose different tools and different strategies. Depending on who they are, they may even tee off from a different spot.

The ultimate goal of my course is to answer the question: What does an effective ed tech leader look like? What core beliefs can help a leader make good decisions around the integration of technology? How can a leader inspire purposeful change that moves beyond a focus on tools to a larger vision for innovative practices?

Each stop in the course will be one of the ISTE Standards for Administrators. I already use these standards as the outline for the course. There are particular activities that I want all students to do but then I also want to throw out opportunities for them to explore the standards and their indicators through some “choose your own adventure” style activities.

We’ll all start together in the clubhouse, equipping ourselves for the journey. We’ll each need a blog where we can share and report on our learning. We’ll use the built in blog tool in Google Sites (assuming I use that again), and I’m also going to ask them to create a Diigo account as I think that’s the best tool for saving and sharing web-based resources as well as being able to annotate webpages. For now, that’s all we need. The rest will come later as part of the assignments.

I don’t think we’ll necessarily go in order for the standards. I like to start with Standard 3 which deals with professional practice. I’ve listed the required and optional ideas for each indicator. You must do the two required activities and at least one of the optional activities.

3. Excellence in professional practice
Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.
a. Allocate time, resources, and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration
OPTIONAL: Write a professional development plan for your faculty that addresses the barriers of professional development. (So…what are the barriers should probably be the first question in this adventure.)

b. Facilitate and participate in learning communities that stimulate, nurture and support administrators, faculty, and staff in the study and use of technology
REQUIRED: Create a learning community for yourself. Choose a network and networks that you will engage with over the next 15 weeks. Then, engage.

c. Promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital age tools
OPTIONAL: Write a communications plan for your school: how will you work internally and externally?


d. Stay abreast of educational research and emerging trends regarding effective use of technology and encourage evaluation of new technologies for their potential to improve student learning
REQUIRED: Create and use a feedly account

OK…something is written down. Now on to teaching…

#VCUAltFest Big Idea

I had the privilege of attending  #VCUAltFest this week, sponsored by the Academic Learning Transformation Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University. Not a conference, this festival of learning included opportunities for listening but also sharing. There were powerful discussions both in and out of the rooms, and I added new colleagues to Twitter and Feedly. Not all these folks attended live. I participated in the Twitter Journal Club activity and was able to connect with lots of thinkers all over the world.

I don’t want to lose the excitement of new ideas, particularly those that came out of the #hackJAM. It focused on “hacking” the syllabus. Lyndsey Durham and Jon Becker, the co-facilitators, have already reviewed the session. What I want to do is meet D Jennings’ challenge:

My idea is to reorganize my fall “ed tech for admins” course into a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA). I have some first thoughts:

1. We’ll start by “equipping” our toolkit for the adventure, choosing from various social media and curation tools that each student will use.

2. Blogs will serve as the adventure journals so students can share their adventures with me and their classmates.

3. I feel like we need some shared vocabulary and foundation so the adventure will have touchpoints based on the ISTE Standards for Administrators along with the Virginia Uniform Performance Standards for School Principals. It may be that we have multiple adventures that originate in these standards.

What else am I missing? I think I’ll do some CYOA research starting with this list from Reddit.

Thanks to Tom Woodward for the idea and to the rest of the AltLab team for an amazing event!

Now…for the rest of you…what idea are you going to run with?