Sunday, April 17, 2016

Classroom Visits

     So I have been doing education for quite sometime, about 23 years as both a student and educator.  One of the things that I have enjoyed for most of my professional time is a great classroom visit.  As I think about going to visit the The Ron Clark Academy this week, I want to share some other places I have seen and how they have impacted me.

First I love being in a classroom watching students learn.  I discovered this while working at a K-12 school as the music / technology teacher and a third grade teacher allowed me to come watch her work.  I didn't know what to expect but I was blown away because she was amazing not that I had never seen good teaching before, but I had never been on a level where I was so out of my element and seeing students being transformed right in front of my eyes.

I began visiting many other classrooms during my planning time and I embraced the differences in the teachers and applauded the great things they were all doing, but I wanted to see more.

I got my opportunity when I was asked to go with a team to visit some schools in Chicago that were doing projects similar to what we had been discussing.  So 12 of us took at trip to the Windy City to see Evanston Township High School  and New Trier High School.  Both of these schools were amazing by the standards I set for a public school.  Swimming pools, high academic achievement and jazz bands.

It was at these two Chicagoland schools I realized that the influx of private school in my city was not the cause of the limited education received in some of the public school.  Those schools had staff members collaborating at local caf├ęs during school hours, some were off researching to bring the best back to the school for pedagogy or curriculum.  At the time both schools were nationally ranked academically and both happened to be playing one another in post-season basketball.

There was a living breathing culture at both of these schools.  There were goals that were shared by the staff and everyone seems to want their fellow teachers to accomplish these goals they had set for their students, Excellence.

A culture of excellence and a culture of learning was what I would say about both these schools.  There were no signs about GRIT or MINDSET the kids just knew what they were there for, and it is my belief that the teachers pulled it out of them.  Watching one gentleman at work I could see how he could motivate any student to spend hours on a project that may not work but they would keep trying. Striving for excellence seems to be a part of the DNA in both schools, and I like that.

I need to get all of my teachers to this point.  Not to these schools but to a place where they can motivate the students to thrive to want more out of their learning.  To have student internalize the desire for their personal academic growth, I want them to teach that.  From that standpoint I can see students motivated to do their best for themselves because they know they can do it.

Next Stop High Tech High and the Clarksville-Montgomery County schools.

Try this again.

So I am back... I've decided that I will write even if I don't have a massive volume of info to put on here.  My music composition teacher would tell us, the more you write, the more you write.  He also would say you can wait for inspiration, but inspiration doesn't pay the bills.  Thank you Dr. Temko for your words that have such with me.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Successes, Challenges, and Resolutions

So the year has ending.  I have had some great things happen in my career and now I have been asked for my reflections for this past semester with a focus on my successes, challenges, and resolutions. Here we go:


I have had a many great successes this past semester, not all in the classroom but it was all a part of my education. Here is a few successes:

  • I have an amazing assistant principal this school year which has enhanced the success of this school year.  She has a knack of complementing me in all the areas where I need to grow.  I am amazed at how her energy and positivity has assisted in transforming the school so far.  Together we have created an environment where all teachers are willing to go the extra mile for their students.
  • We have moved to using a lot of cloud based resources instead of the hundreds of emails and notes. The teachers have embraced using Google Drive to share files with each other and with students, and more and more are seeking to use Google Classroom with their students.  
  • Working with various PLNs to improve teaching and learning across the country has also been a success. I have had the opportunity to work with educators in various fields across the globe to discuss, develop, and implement some amazing things in classrooms.  This has been thanks to a running Podcast, various Voxer groups, Twitter chats, and face to face meet ups.  

Although I am not always a fan, there are always challenges within any line of work.  Here are what some of mine were:  

  • Time is perhaps the major challenge that I encountered this semester.  Many people see this challenge as one we can never overcome and must always bow to it   There never appears to be enough time to spend on the things that you believe matters most.  This includes ones family, kids, lesson plans, soccer matches, whatever.  To become "unstuck in time" as Billy Pilgrim has suggested is a wish for many, and I am included in that list.  
  • The amount of assessments that the teachers must give is another challenge I take personally. It never fails that the programs that are prescribed create the growth in student learning are filled with assessments.  When some local educators were speaking with state officials about the assessments they were unaware of the amount of assessments that were required from their mandates.
  • The final challenge of the semester I'll mention is readiness.  I am still amazed at the lack of readiness that some students face over others when they come through the doors of a school.  As we move into the time of testing students on devices within the next two months, we are working with some students that entered school without know their letters, numbers, or colors and have never used a device.  Now these same students must be assessed on these devices when they were not only unprepared for formal schooling but also not adapted enough in the devices to get a true understanding of their knowledge.  

With these issues I must create some resolutions for the situations.  My hope for the immediate future is as follows:  

  • I would like to use digital resources to assist teachers in capturing more of their time back.  I will (continue to) hack faculty and administrative meetings so that the teachers can have more time to work on their craft during the school day. This will occur through virtual meetings, flipped meetings, and Google hangouts to give teachers more flexibility with their time. 
  • As for the amount of assessments that are given, there is little I can do aside from continually voicing my opinion about the amount and working with the local administrative group to seek change.  At my school I will do all that I can to ensure the teachers are not stuck in assessment mode. When the opportunity arises, I will make sure that the educational assistants and others are doing as much as they can to free the teachers up for instruction as long as possible while others work on assessment readiness. 
  • Next semester I will be working directly to increase the digital readiness for the students and parents in my community.  My school will become a "Tech Goes Home" site where students and parents from the community will be able to take a free technology course to learn about Google apps and other local applications and services to increase their digital literacy.  My hope is that this will pave the way to be a permanent site for such work. I want to be able to educate all that enter and assist in the growth of educating my community.  
This is just a portion of my plan to assist in making the world a little bit better while I am here.  I hope that I can do this and a lot more.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

Five Ed Tech resolutions for 2015

1.  Get connected- In this world of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Hangouts, Voxer and on and on, educators have no excuse to not be connected.  For a few years now we have been hearing of the silo effect in business referring to the lack of communication and cross-departmental support found in some companies. Recently education secretary Arne Duncan mentioned the need for tearing down the silos in education.  There is a lot to learn from others. Get to it.

2.  Seek Student Voice- If there is one thing all educators have in common it's students.  We should make it a priority to listen to them.  Even the youngest student has an idea of what they consider fun and what they would enjoy doing.  I recently met students from the Impact Academy that "hijacked" their learning and created there own lessons and projects based on the curriculum maps created for their course work.  Ask students for ideas about improving their own education and listen to their voices.

3.  Become Device-Agnostic- Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an Apple man.  My first contact with an Apple device was in 1983 and it is the only type of device I have purchased for personal use...until recently.  As schools and districts are moving to a more BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment I need to understand / work with, and maybe even own other devices. As I tinker with the Windows 8 machine and allow my own kids to make discoveries on the ChromeBook I see the need to understand the workings of other devices.  It's good to stay loyal but I need to break out of just being stubborn, and others may also.

4.  Show and Tell- Take time to tell others about devices, apps, web-sites, and other great edTech gems that may assist them in their class.  For example, even though you may use Today's Meet daily in your work day, others may not have seen or thought of using it in the way that you have. Be willing to show others how you are using the tools and to reciprocate they may show you ways you can enhance what you are doing.

5.  Practice what you teach (Tweet) , and  teach (tweet)  what you practice- There is a lot of information on twitter.  My friend Adam Taylor  calls it the World Educators Collaboration Network. Educators around the globe use it to connect, grown, and learn from their PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network).  Twitter is a vital tool in the toolbox for anyone working with education technology... or any other aspect  of education.  So take the time and send a tweet when you have an idea that you want to share.

If you have any questions or comments please let me hear them.

Ask good questions. Answer andy that you can. Make someone feel special. Be Great because  You are Great. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New to me, but I want to share.

Hello All,

I am an elementary school principal that loves the arts and technology education.  I would like to share my findings with the world... I'd like to teach the world to sing...

I am also a big EduGeek and I try to explore all things in education when my interest is piqued.

Anyway, I hope you drop by from time to time to see what I am doing moving from

     ARTS to                                           Engineering

See you soon,