Culture is Destiny

I started writing this Blog because I’ve been thinking about and studying how best to use technology in the classroom for over 30 years, and I thought I could contribute to the topic. After all, I was “flipping” my classroom (using analog technology) 25 years ago. As Senior Advisor to the International Center for Leadership in Education I’ve been speaking and leading workshops on technology-based intervention programs, Flipped Classes and Blended Learning for over 10 years.

The focus of this Blog was to help educators at every level more effectively implement technology in the classroom. I’m grateful to have been very busy, working with schools and districts all across the country, even Asia, and Europe. The two essential questions driving my work were: What are the biggest barriers to effective use of technology, and how do we overcome them?

This may sound simple, even obvious, but I’ve learned the answer to both questions is: School Culture. As I studied the differences between districts and schools, I saw clearly that in schools that struggled, the biggest barriers were most often not budget, instructional, or technical. What was holding them back was a negative, sometimes even toxic, school culture. As I coached teachers and principals, and we peeled back the layers of their problems digging for root causes, they said over and over that… their school culture was broken.

It’s not about the technology, it’s about the teaching. The best technology won’t fix poor instruction… and it won’t fix a broken culture. At the International Center, we believe in three things: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. But that’s not the proper order. It’s Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor. Building an effective school culture is all about the relationships!

Today there are many writers and resources for using technology in the classroom. But while we’re so focused on making sure everyone is wired; we must also make sure that everyone is connected. The strength of the connection determines your culture. And that will now be the focus of this Blog.

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Rigor and Relevance in Asia

Rigor and Relevance in Asia

JimAsia2Recently I returned from doing extended work in Asia. This trip was one of the most unique and exciting learning experiences of my career. I was invited by the government of Taiwan to lead a conference on the Rigor and Relevance Framework® in Taipei.

For over 10 years I’ve been deeply committed to training educators in the Rigor and Relevance Framework®,4QuadsICLE created by Dr.  Bill Daggett, founder of the International Center for Leadership in Education. But this conference provided my first-ever opportunity to apply the Framework in a non-educational setting.

This extraordinary Rigor and Relevance Conference in Asia involved scientists, government officials, and college professors from Taiwan and Japan. It was sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency of Taiwan and the University of Taipei, but did not include K-12 educators. The essential question being addressed was how to balance the needs of growing their economy, while protecting the quality of the environment, a big issue in both Taiwan and Japan. JimAsia#

I was greatly impressed by the Chinese leaders’ deep understanding of the R/R Framework, and their special insight: that it could be used as a “theoretical framework” to guide, gage, and measure their country’s understanding and engagement with the Environmental Protection Agency’s agenda.

I’ve long believed the Rigor and Relevance Framework has useful application beyond the K-12 classroom. I want to thank my new Chinese colleagues and friends for making that belief a reality… and for translating our work into Mandarin. How exciting! And how validating.

I learned so much from this experience. My wonderful hosts, Professor Lee and his associate, Jackie Wang, were so thoughtful and kind. They graciously provided me tours of museums, historical sites, National Parks, and many delectable meals! Thank you. I learned much about your history, culture and environment.

I’m also grateful to Dr. Bill Daggett and the International Center for Leadership in Education for trusting me to carry their ideas to Asia. It was a journey I will long remember. JimAsia4

To find out more about the Conference you may visit http://rigorandrelevance.weebly.com/

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BYOD: Is It Right For You?

BYOD: Is It Right For You?

 Is Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, really the best way to provide more students access to technology in the classroom? I’ve been asked that question a lot lately and it will be the focus of one of my technology sessions at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando, FL this June.

I’m amazed by the rapidly growing number of districts and schools requesting technology integration workshops for teachers and school leaders. Almost always, these requests result from their growing understanding of the technology integration expectations for instruction in the new Common Core or College and Career Standards.

I find the more states, districts, and schools know about their new standards, the better they understand exactly how large a technology gap they have in their classrooms. Suddenly it seems, everyone wants to talk about how to integrate technology into instruction.

BYOD comes up early and often as schools and districts try to solve the many problems of providing access. Effective BYOD policies allow students to bring their own devices, such as tablets, netbooks, computers and, yes… smart phones, to school for classroom use.

However, I’ve learned from my work across the country that BYOD policies vary widely from school to school, even within the same district. To date, there simply are no uniform standards in place.

That is not stopping many schools from moving forward. These schools have found that by allowing students to use their own devices in the classroom, they can quickly increase student engagement and teachers are able to provide more relevant, technology-infused lessons, lessons that are often more connected to real-world projects and problems.

I advise schools and districts to think carefully about their current capabilities and objectives before moving forward. And it’s certainly possible to learn a great deal from the experience of those early adopters among us.

Click on this link,  BYOD Resources to find a sample of the many links to ideas, policies, resources, successes and failures you may find helpful.

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Technology and the Transition to the Common Core

Technology and the Transition to the Common Core

As more schools and school districts across the country continue to dig deeper into the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Assessments by which they will be measured, there is a growing concern about their ability to be technologically ready within the two year timeline already established. Many have come to realize they actually have a greater “gap” with respect to technology than either the new standards or assessments.

Ann Flynn, the Director of Educational Technology for the National School Boards Association puts it this way, “Some districts are panicked about getting ready for it, but some are not even in a place where they know enough to be panicked yet. I won’t say they’re in denial, but it’s going to be a real challenge for a lot of districts.

Already dealing with growing financial constraints many school districts are now faced with a confusing and often conflicting array of hard questions about the types of devices to buy, the bandwidth needed, while at the same time preparing staff to manage the level of instructional integration that will be required.

A guiding principle of the new standards is that technology should be integrated throughout academics instead of being taught separately. They call for students to regularly use technology to help them learn. Students will be required to evaluate information presented in different media and formats, according to the standards. Along with evaluating information, they should be able to produce presentations with digital media, which includes Web-based tools such as Prezi.

As we move further into the information/technology age, more learning of all kinds will occur digitally. That means an increased demand on schools to provide more digital learning opportunities for students. To put it simply: in the very near future, a school leader who is unable to create a digital culture will struggle, as the demand grows for schools to develop the skills necessary for students to succeed in the new economy.

At last year’s 2012 Model Schools Conference, a growing number of sessions were focused on how educators can support digital learning. As Dr. Bill Daggett repeatedly pointed out, technology is one of the key forces “disrupting” the existing school system. Successful school leaders must begin to build a culture that can transition to teaching and learning in a different way, preparing very different students for a very different world. To do this they will need a strategy for how technology will be implemented in their schools and based on the understanding that the target is constantly changing.

But wait, there’s more… In about 18 months, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories must begin new computerized student assessments that align with the Common Core State Standards they’ve adopted. These new tests will replace existing state assessments for schools that have moved to Common Core curricula in mathematics and English. A goal of the new tests is to ensure that students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and the workplace.

Two groups, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, are in the process of sketching out the technology standards schools will need for the assessment process. Both consortia have released guidelines: PARCC at PARCC.pdf and Smarter Balanced at SMARTERBALANCED.pdf.

Basic questions to consider in preparing for Common Core online testing should include the following:
Infrastructure: How many test-takers per session can currently be supported, including facilities for administering tests and other infrastructure?
Network: How many test-takers per session can currently be supported with existing levels of Internet connectivity, including network bandwidth and wireless coverage?
Devices: How many devices at school meet minimum requirements to administer the test? What is the maximum number 
of test-takers per session that can be supported with these devices?
Staff and Personnel: How many staff members have been trained to administer, troubleshoot and provide appropriate security for the tests? What is the maximum number of test-takers per session that staff can support?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that greater student access to technology is the key to making a successful transition in both instruction and assessment of the new standards. To accomplish this, students need a reliable Internet connection and sufficient bandwidth, as well as access to a variety of computing devices. The non-profit advisory group, Digital Learning Now at http://www.digitallearningnow.com/ recommends these additional questions for planning purposes:

What are your digital-conversion planning objectives and how will they support implementing the common core and preparing for the new college- and career-ready assessments?
Have you developed a phased plan for improved access that incorporates textbook and open-resources savings?
What resources can be reallocated to support deployment? What savings can be secured through adoption of digital resources?
Have you supported adoption of blended-learning models that leverage teacher talent?

In conclusion, we know many of these questions are creating serious anxiety in schools across the country, and that anxiety must be addressed. One step is to create a transition plan that involves all stakeholders, and that has clearly defined outcomes.
We know in our hearts and minds that the future classroom involves digital learning. We must find a way to create a culture of innovation that will transform our schools for this new age. To do that, we must not fear our failures because we will learn the most from them.

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Flipping the Elementary Classroom

Recently I spoke about the importance of technology integration and the flipped classroom in Indianapolis, IN at the CELL, Center of Excellence in Leadership of Education, 2012 Conference. One of the questions often asked is about the suitability of flipping for students in the elementary grades.

It so happens, on Monday of that same week I’d observed an outstanding example in Mr. Hernandez’s 4th grade classroom at McKinley Elementary School in Yakima, Washington. Mr. Hernandez was doing a highly engaging math multiplication lesson using a problem-based strategy for finding the missing integers.

I observed students working collaboratively in teams, accessing the multiplication content through Khan Academy videos while Mr. Hernandez moved from group to group effectively differentiating his instructional support with individual students and small groups.

Students found the Khan videos very engaging. They liked being able to pause and rewind the content. This effective use of technology to deliver the content allowed Mr. Hernandez much more time for one-on-one individual help than would have been possible in the traditional classroom model.

I do not have hard numbers yet; but based on my work with teacher groups around the country and classroom observations, I believe the practice of flipping may actually be spreading faster at the K-8 level than at High School. In their effort to improve instruction, many teachers are experimenting by incorporating “flipped” techniques without acknowledging a specific model.

These teachers are often creating their own tools while the resources available on line to support them are also growing exponentially. In my next post I will provide a link to for new elementary videos, resources and articles for anyone interested in trying this exciting new way of delivering instruction. 

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Flipped Classroom Links

I’ve had several questions from teachers interested in trying the flipped class model. Below are some new links …

2 Elementary Flipped Class and 1/1 iPad Links:
http://kokomotribune.com/local/x1501684537/Eastern-named-model-school#

http://www.koaa.com/news/flipped-classrooms-teaching-at-home-and-doing-homework-at-school/

How to do it:
http://www.flippedclassroom.com/

What If I’m PC-Based? Check out: What do I use to Screencast Math Lessons by Bjorn Hanson
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LYFZfwtPjoU

Project-Based Learning  Videos
http://www.youtube.com/embed/dFySmS9_y_0?rel=0

http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-introduction-video

Common Core
http://www.edutopia.org/common-core-state-standards-resources

Tech Tools:
http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/07/10-awesome-free-video-editing-tools-for.html?goback=%2Egde_1891552_member_134539711

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Flipping the Class

Recently, the International Center for Leadership in Education, ICLE, held its 20th Annual Model Schools Conference in Orlando, FL. I have been a featured speaker for 8 years now and for the past 3, I’ve focused on the Flipped Class instructional model.

“Flipping the Class” is one of the most exciting Next Practices. In a flipped class, the lecture is delivered outside class time in videos students view as homework. Class time is used to apply the lecture content in problem-solving, project-based activities, with one-to-one or small group tutoring by the teacher. Students can watch the short lectures whenever they wish, as many times as they need, to grasp the content and come to class ready to work on collaborative projects.

Three years ago only a handful of people in my sessions had even heard of the concept. Last year, there was clearly more awareness and interest. This year each session was standing room only and the follow up has been amazing. I’ve heard from so many teachers through this blog and elsewhere that they’re going to begin flipping this coming year.

I hope that more of you will use this blog to stay in contact and share your experience with others. The list of resources is growing faster than our ability to keep up! It is an exciting time to be a teacher. With the new Common Core Standards and their focus on the application of knowledge, the project-based, problem-solving focus of the flipped class is the right model at the right time!

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