Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Model Schools Kicks Off with National Speaker

Thanks to Colette Connolly, Public Relations Specialist at Southern Westchester BOCES, for writing the following article for the Model Schools Kickoff Session on September 21, 2010:

Building relationships, establishing trust and forming professional learning communities are just some of the ways that educators can become connected leaders, suggested Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, in her keynote presentation to area administrators and instructors who attended the LHRIC’s Model Schools Kickoff Sept. 21.

Ms. Nussbaum-Beach, owner and founder of 21st Century Collaborative, LLC, a digital learning consulting business, and a partner with Will Richardson of the Powerful Learning Practice Network, stressed the importance of collective intelligence in changing schools for the better, and how a 21st century leader’s daily choices, if made wisely, can adequately prepare students for the future workplace. The RIC’s Model Schools division is collaborating with Ms. Nussbaum-Beach on an ongoing basis.

When asked what they thought a connected leader might be, many in the room responded with words like “collaborator,” “participant,” “engaged,” and “a learner with direction.” Ms. Nussbaum-Beach admitted that being a connected learner was sometimes “hard and messy,” but that learning the dispositions and values important to its implementation were invaluable.

Educators, she explained, must be good listeners and ask good questions, have the desire to share and contribute, be open-minded, believe that the contributions of all can lead to the advancement of individuals, and have the willingness to be a co-learner, co-creator and co-leader.

Knowing the proper “tool set” is essential to embracing these ideas, she added. Knowing the value of Twitter, for example, and using it as a networking tool and as a place to find resourceful information is invaluable to the 21st century leader.

In order to engage students in powerful learning, teachers must understand the shift that has occurred in education, that is, the shift from learning at school to learning anytime and anywhere; teaching as a private event as opposed to teaching as a public, collaborative practice; learning as a passive participant versus learning in a participatory culture; learning as individuals versus learning in a networked community; and acquiring knowledge on a linear basis as opposed to distributed knowledge.

Learning and teaching in a participatory culture means that both students and teachers must know the new media literacies, explained Ms. Nussbaum-Beach. Some of those include using proper judgment when it comes to evaluating the reliability and credibility of information on the Web; having the willingness to put collective intelligence into action, that is, pooling knowledge and comparing notes with others toward a common goal; being able to search for, synthesize and disseminate information through networking; and being able to sample and remix content in a meaningful way.

Working in a participatory 2.0 world has led some to withhold that sharing of information, said Ms. Nussbaum-Beach, because often educators are resistant to voice their opinions online. “The problem with educators is they have set themselves up as a culture of hoarders,” said Ms. Nussbaum-Beach. “We have to start thinking about mutual accountability and how we can begin to share information naturally.”

Ms. Nussbaum-Beach suggested that educators take a three-pronged approach to professional development. That includes becoming members of professional learning communities that focus on the sharing of ideas and experiences between teachers, seeking out global communities of practice or inquiry that include a diversity of opinion and therefore enhance change, and engaging in personal learning networks.

Participants were asked to examine their goals for the school year and create a culture of sharing. “Being an open leader isn’t so much about the tools you have, it’s about having a clear idea of the relationships you want to build, and it’s also about the honest, deep conversations you get from being involved in professional networking communities,” stressed Ms. Nussbaum-Beach.

“If we want to make a difference in students’ lives, we need to be open and share with each other,” she said.

If you are interested in the Powerful Learning Practice, and you wish to discuss options for how to involve your district in cohort-based learning, contact Leslie Accardo at

Monday, May 24, 2010

"The State of the Stuff" - A Morning with David Pogue

(Ed note: Due to David's intrinsic wittiness and edginess, the author finds no need to add any other layer of humor or irony to this blog post. Reader, don't look for any deep pedagogical or philosophical message in this entry - this morning, it's in praise of "the stuff".)

And who better than someone who makes a living in part by reviewing gadgets. It's dangerous to predict the future and "not look like an idiot", but David shared 3 of the biggest changes and trends in pop culture, then opened up his box of toys (the "mobile gadget funhouse") to make sure we are keeping pace with the state of the stuff. Without further adieu, the three biggest changes/trends are:

"Birth of the iThing". It's not a phone, and not quite a laptop. (Funny thing about predicting the future: in 2006, David wrote that he was pretty sure that Apple would never come out with a cellphone. In fact, Steve Jobs offered Verizon a cellphone but wanted carte blanch as to the design AND offered a 5 year exclusive for Verizon. Verizon and ATT thought about it and said, no thanks. Sprint declined as well. Cingular said, "um, sure." History speaks for itself.)

The iPhone had features that no other device had, and did things that nothing has been able to do before, by way of these gorgeous little "apps" - slim, single purpose programs that turn the phone into just about anything. Most apps were either free or a dollar. (Music professor turned millionaire, part one: Ocarina, a nifty little app written my a music professor in 2007, turned around 1.5 million copies by 2009. Essentially, you blow into the microphone of the phone and play it like a wind instrument.)

"Cellphone meets the Internet". Why pay $2.00 for 411 on a cellphone when you can dial 800 GOOG 411 from any phone and be connected for free to your destination? Just by stating the city and business type, David found a Starbucks in Briarcliff and jokingly ordered 150 lattes for the TLI audience. Need a real answer with human intelligence behind it? Use ChaCha (800-2chacha) to speak a question, and receive a text answer. Apparently 10,000 freelance agents are paid .20 to research your answer and send it back to your phone. Nowadays we're looking at services that convert your voicemails to text that can be received via email or by text message with an audio recording of the actual voicemail, attached. Services like Callwave actually "listen" to your voicemail and send you the "gist" of it via text message, making its own interpretation of the key ideas. And Google Voice, for free, transcribes your voice mail.

Web 2.0 Takes Over. We all know by now that in a web 2.0 world, the audience provides the material. Facebook has 350,000,000 members and adds new ones at a rate of 5% each month. Microsoft bought 1.6% of Facebook at 240 million dollars and David reminded us that it's basically run by college kids.

Craigslist, offering free classified ads, may be killing the American newspaper. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal allegedly got one inch smaller last year.

And Wikipedia, where "any idiot says whatever they want and smarter people fix it."

(Dudes turned billionaires, part one:did you know that two young gentlemen sold YouTube to Google for 1.7 billion dollars?)

Other smaller success stories: - outsource a chore. List grunt work you want done, and individuals bid on who can do it the cheapest. - make microloans to business plans and get 14% interest. Bank cut out of the middle. - carpooling database. List a trip or commute; other people sign up to join you. - part of British government website - start a petition about anything. Non binding, thankfully, but everybody gets to keep tabs on what people care about. - click off your symptoms; form a data map of maladies. Google can pinpoint flu outbreaks 2 weeks before CDC does! - discern fact from fiction, finally.

What does this mean?
With all this technology, innovation just "splinters" - there are no real "killer" apps.
Real time is better - email becomes outdated.
The ego generation cares nothing for privacy. No explanation needed.
Twitter people seem to be a cut above with an average age of 35, and an average income of 75K. Be on the lookout for a clever book that David is publishing, compiling the most clever of his followers Twitter feeds in response to questions he poses.
The challenge- things getting smaller, but our fingers are staying the same size. True enough!

The good news: it's true that no one is expected to know everything, and the "primary infatuated", as David calls them, are "geeks and the media." The rest of us can be confident that if we continually fix our eyes on the bigger vision, where schools continue to improve and modernize, the toys will always fall into place.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Creativity 2.0 - A Good Poke in the Eye from Dr. Stager

(NOTE: a very minimalist impression of Dr. Stager's afternoon keynote session on "Creativity 2.0". The author is being deliberately pithy. The brevity of this post is no way meant to minimalize Dr. Stager's session with us. Brevity is the source of wisdom, after all.)

In a nutshell: learning is natural. We should stop just "burping" into our Voicethreads and our Moviemakers and our other web 2.0 pet tools and really get down to the business of creativity. Some of these technologies we have fallen in love with are just "true and false" making a comeback wrapped around cartoon clips. Stop with the cut and paste collages and calling it technology integration. Our addiction to the "software du jour" produces limited fluency and superficial use which results in less creativity. Our "unhealthy worship of teen culture" has impeded the true mission of school: prepare children for adulthood - not the other way around. The projects we have kids engage in should reflect the artist's aesthetic: is it beautiful, thoughtful, and meaningful? Does it allow the students to "contribute to the continuum of culture?"

And to summarize: the technology DOES matter.

Thanks Dr. Stager for a meaningul poke in the eye of sorts to make sure the "good" doesn't become the enemy of the best.

A Few Tales of Disruptive Innovation: Tech Expo Keynote, Michael B. Horn

Once upon a time, in the 1970s and 1980s, the most successful organization of the time, DEC, made mini computers. They had the best management team in the world. They made the best and brightest decisions. They employeed the best engineers. They did everything right. And in 1989, within six months, they collapsed, along with every other company that majored in mini-computers: the personal computer on the scene sucked the volume out of the mini computer market and the world was transformed.

Also once upon a time, Toyota made a simple rustbucket that appealed to people with limited pocketbooks. The Corona was the entry level option to not having a car at all, and it served the masses well, until the consumers taste required more sophisitcation. Soon, different models became the precursor and template for the high flying Lexus family of vehicles, and Ford and General Motors saw this coming, and too late. And the world was transformed.

What do these tales have in common? According to Horn, "entrants" will always win the battle of "disruptive innovation" by forcing obsolescense on the incumbents. Not because the reigning organizations lack talent, resources, expertise, or smarts, but because entrants master the art of "simplicity, affordability, and convenience" , realizing that we are vastly overserved by the technology available to us, and that technology improves vastly much faster than our own lives change.


Horn thinks this phenomena directly applies to educational institutions. State Universities are being "disrupted" by community colleges, now educating about 50% of all post secondary students.
Online universities are now disrupting brick and mortar instutions, making it more convenient for many adults to aquire higher levels of education even as they shapeshift within the workforce.

The theory behind this is really very simple and is even more understandable when your context is technology: think of two types of designs. One design scheme is based on the interdependence between components (as in operating systems). Go ahead and try to manipulate a line of code in order to force some customization, and you're looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars, since customization is expensive in an interpendent design. Think of domino effect multiplied by domino effect, layer upon layer upon layer.
A second design is more modular - plug and play, mix and match. Think open source (Linux). The economics allow for affordable customization.


Think about thest two designs and the following points related to the formal education:
We know we all learn differently. We started paying attention to multiple intelligences in 1983. We recognize different talents, different aptitudes, different passions, different paces. Even neuroscience, in the very early stages of brain imaging, can safely say that we all learn differently, even if we can't yet explain why or how.

Formal educational institutions are standardized, and highly interdependent - a design that drives us toward more standardization and away from customization.
Computers have been around for decades and they haven't transformed anything because we have "crammed" into the current operating model. We "shoved computers into the back of classrooms", labs, etc. and haven't transformed the system to correlate with how learning is done.
Online learning is rapidly gaining adoption (1,000,000 in 2007); by 2019, 50% of all HS courses will be online and predictably improving. The human touch is improving the ability to collaborate in these online environments and content is becoming increasingly robust. With online learning, possibilities are now open to the "non consumers" (credit recovery, drop outs, advanced placements/advanced course consumers.)
46 states have some form of online learning. Currently, New York is not one of them.

A final tale: once upon a time, the instutition we know as formal education did learn how to forsee and withstand disruptive innovation, made some tough but reasonable changes and decisions, and proved itself to the task of serving its citizens one and all, and the world was transformed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What's Old is New Again: New Students, New Literacies, New Media with Dr. Jason Ohler

Having never met Dr. Ohler before, I immediately keyed into the fact that he hails from Alaska during his introduction this morning. My brain already started to build a construct of expectations for him as being no frills, no nonsense, down to earth, and deeply passionate about his work. All against the backdrop of a landscape that has yet to be tamed. He did not disappoint, but in ways I wasn't expecting.

He began his morning with us reminiscing about two teachers that obviously had profound impact on his life: his beloved "Ms. Phelps", who created doors for him to walk through even at the tender age of second grade, and "Mr. Hassleback (sp?)" who inspired his love for music and latent talent, by allowing him to take a music theory class without being able to read one solitary note.

Two people who opened doors at different stages of his life, whose impact was unquestionable in terms of the opportunities they presented, helping to form the person and educator. And in some sense, what's old is new again - the thing that we know for sure: students are "banging on the doors" and we, he maintains, "control the door." That, in essence, is the charge of our current educational institutions - we are to be door openers: "the only metric worth caring about", in Dr. Ohler's estimation.

During his presentation we saw a picture of a cherubic infant holding a cell phone and gazing thoughtfully into the screen. Dr. Ohler posed the question if kids have one life, or two lives? Are they one person at school, interacting with a certain set of tools and expectations, and another when they leave the school grounds, interacting with tools and media of their choosing? And are our institutions reinforcing this duality by not mirroring adequately the tools, networks and literacies emerging around us?

We know that people use their tools not just to consume, but create. The screen, he says, becomes an "easel", and literacy is about producing media forms consistent with the day. There are no armchair quarterbacks in this game, since all of us need to learn how to "command the collage", and command the language of the day, which involves non linear multimedia.

The punch line for us is this: our students will develop these literacies with or without us. What we're missing is the opportunity to be that door for the time we have them in our charge as they move through the system.

Dr. Ohler shared a few talking points about media literacy as it relates to "web 2.0", the more democratized, decentralized web where the locus of control is no longer the "geek." (He says he's still 1/4 geek but I think he's underestimating.)

If you are media literate, then:
you shift from text centrism to being able to negotiation meaning from a "media collage"
you value writing more than ever, but "don't call it writing", because we know students don't like to write....
you embrace art as the next "R"
you understand that attitude is aptitude - your ability to learn constantly and always is related to how willing you are to persist in learning,
you practice private and social literacy
you become fluent, not just literate.
you harness both the "report" and the "story"

Speaking of storytelling: the art of storytelling is a huge part of Dr. Ohler's talent and something which he advocates through use of digital media and human performance. He shared with us some visuals that challenge the way we might typically think about helping students weave a story using digital tools. For example, "story maps" are dynamic visual aides that help people to chart the emotional flow of a story, rather than just the flow of motion you'd find in a typical storyboard. He's one to consider adding to your personal learning network if you're serious about investing time and energy in helping students to express themselves and their learning though the canvases of their choices, whether it be a screen, an instrument, a touch pad, a stage, a blog, or any other "digital easel".

We can't know what the new literacies or media will be years down the road, but we can always commit to being a door and not a wall.

For more about Jason Ohler's work, visit and

Friday, January 15, 2010

Meeting the Cool Cat Teacher in Person - A Morning With Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis's name might be as ubiquitous in the "blogosphere" as Kathy Schrock (remember her listing of "100 Great Internet Sites?" back in the days of Netscape 3?) I had been reading her Cool Cat Teacher Blog ( many years, and had admired-from-afar her work in the Flat Classroom Project (, which spawned the Horizon Project (, which led into a student run Digiteen Project on Internet citizenship ( As a matter of fact, in the wiki workshops that I've facilitated with districts, the Flat Classroom was the one that I held up as possessing the highest standards of "wiki-ness": student involvement, deep thinking, multiple student learning artifacts, and collaborating across time zones, cultures and continents.
It dawned on me after meeting her this morning face to face, how much you can REALLY get to know someone (or at least, professionally) through their work: their digital footprint. I think Vicki leaves more than just a digital footprint, though; more like a digital legacy.
Folks just making their way through this maze of "tools" will probably be intimidated by her presence: she appears "superhuman" in terms of what she's able to do with students, with teachers, for her headmaster, and with her partner classrooms overseas. I almost didn't think she existed at one time as a real person - just a made up "avatar" that embodies 21st Century ideals. And if you look closely at everything she has done, how she has inspired students to true greatness as evidenced by helping them to shift some previously held predjudices and preconceived notions, how she's known as an IT director who brings things in rather than keeps things out, you'll see that her genius is quite ordinary, reachable, and understandable.
Because back in 2005, she couldn't tell a blog from a wiki from a Twitter feed, but the thing she apparently knew how to do was surround herself with people that she could constantly grow with. A stable, trusted "personal learning network" that can withstand the onslaught of web 2.0 this and web 3.0 that.
So, to make a very refreshing morning with her short, let me try and capture some of the ordinary, accessible, and effective strategies for managing change, which is what we're all trying to grapple with as we are influences in our own particular institutions. Here's a few things that you might be surprised to know:
Did you know that the FlatClassroom wiki mega-project was born out of one simple blog post and a response? It was not conceived of in a planning document or a committee meeting; it was not agonized over as part of a curriculum map or a rigorous lesson plan. It was not the outgrowth of a massive initiative or a professional development conference. It was simply one person reaching out to another with a simple and good idea to have classrooms collaborate using "The World is Flat" as a framework. It grew, because it could not help but to grow, not because it was mandated to grow. Here are a few other quick "aha" moments and learning nuggets that I had to write down this morning:
1-Research now shows that learning happens quite effectively through "vicarious experiences" - when people see others succeed, it's not just viral, it's influential.
2- That FlatClassroom project was put together with what we would call today "pixie sticks" technology - free tools and 5 year old clunker workstations. You can't imagine what can be done with MS Paint when you put your mind to it.
3 - When you get involved, things happen quickly. Amen.
4 - Outcomes are not behaviors, and when we identify what she called "vital behaviors", it becomes apparent that we already have the answers to a lot of what irks us and our systems. (So what are these "vital behaviors"? I don't want to steal her thunder; she will make her slides available from her blog.)
5 - "Backchannels" can be a powerful assessment and collaboration tool in the classroom and for professional development, faculty meetings, and any other venue where the voice of the people can be represented and honored.
6 - "Empower the engaged", and contrary to opinion, this might be the best strategy for ensuring quality experiences for all, whether it's professional development or learning in the classroom.
8 - Look for positive people to "network" with, in person and online. This is the power of Twitter, Ning, and other social networking sites - the power of who you know, not what you know. You can't really explain something like Twitter to someone and expect their jaw to drop. You can, however, demonstrate the value of having constant, consistent, and increasing access to virtually some of the best minds on the planet - including your own.
9 - She learned what she knows in small bytes of time - 15 minutes, 2-3 times a week - dedicated time to sort through her RSS feeds, identify the "noise" and learn what to pay attention to. Again, because she learned to connect herself early on, she benefited from the filters of all her online colleagues, who help discern what's worth paying attention to.
And finally, 10 - no one can be connected for you. You and I are either "the network", or outside of it, and no amount of classes, CEUs, and YouTube tutorials will ever make those connections for us. Perhaps the simple, most cost and time effective lesson to learn when it comes to increasing need for real professional development with short purse strings: it does not have to be expensive, it does not have to be complicated, and it does not have to be a burden.
So thanks Vicki for being a "real" person behind your digital footprint and for inspiring us to remain positive and upbeat when news seems to get worse and worse and worse. We should all remain optimistic that maybe the most powerful "tool" we have is our connection to each other.