Inspiration for Leaders

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tech Forum Attracts Area Educators

The Tech Forum New York 2011, which was held Oct. 21 at the Westchester Marriot Hotel in Tarrytown, drew educators and technology directors from a variety of regional school districts, including many staffers from the LHRIC and SWBOCES who were hoping to learn more about the latest trends in technology.

Punya Mishra, a professor of educational psychological and educational technology at the College of Education at Michigan State University, delivered the keynote presentation. Dr. Mishra urged participants to "break out of the box" in order to benefit from the true transformative effects of technology. "We are using it, but clearly that's not enough," he said.

The rapid rate of technological change, while apparent everywhere, can be a big challenge for teachers who are under increased pressure to learn new ways of integrating technology into the classroom, he said. While billions of dollars have been spent on the acquisition of new software, hardware systems and training, Dr. Mishra added that technology integration has been disappointing, asking the question: "How can we use technology to innovate?"

Dr. Mishra argued that to fully integrate technology into the curriculum, teachers must integrate their own knowledge of student thinking, their knowledge of the subject they're teaching, and increasingly, their knowledge of technology. The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework (otherwise known as TPACK), which Dr. Mishra helped establish, can benefit teachers interested in designing effective transformative learning experiences for their students, he added.

Other highlights of the day included several workshops concerning such topics as one-to-one initiatives, the educational uses of cell phones and technology-based assessment tools, to name a few.

Innovative Ideas Discussed at TLI Kickoff

A Kentucky-based math teacher and an upbeat digital learning consultant, who encourages instructors and others in education to experiment with digital media, provided plenty of food for thought during the Nov. 4 launch of the 2011-12 Technology Leadership Institute series.

The 180 Degree Classroom Concept

Lisa Johnson, who serves as a technology resource teacher in the Jefferson County Public School District in Louisville, Ky., told the story of how she became a math educator in the Kentucky schools.

Having been taught to script lessons, Ms. Johnson said she longed to teach math as it had been taught to her in college. After trying several different methods of instruction that often left her frustrated, she eventually created "The 180 Degree Classroom," a novel approach that allows for the switching of roles, where the students create teaching modules that are traditionally taught by a teacher.

Ms. Johnson said she got the impetus for the enquiry-based project after hearing educational technology leader Alan November speak at the 2008 ISTE (International Society for Technology Educators) conference. "I heard him proclaim that students should be creating products in classrooms, not teachers, and that was huge for me."

Student-Centered Learning

Rather than learning through a teacher lecture, the high school students worked together to understand specific math concepts and then created video lessons that would teach these concepts to their peers. Ms. Johnson explained that the students prepared the lessons on Tablet PCs that were provided to them by the district.

During class time, the teacher walked around the room providing instruction as needed. At home, the students were expected to watch the same videos they had created in class, but on an iTouch, and then take an online quiz to assess their learning. Because the teacher was logged into the same online network as the students, he or she already knew which topics they had grasped and which ones they were struggling to understand.

There were some hiccups along the way, said Ms. Johnson, such as the unavailability of Wifi in some students' homes and the lack of direction from students who chose to use their iTouch devices for entertainment purposes. Despite those and some other technical snafus, Ms. Johnson said the project was worth it.

"Being actively engaged with their classmates, having 24/7 access to content, and the fact that teachers were able to interact with students in a more meaningful way and were facilitating learning rather than being a constant source of information were all benefits of this flipped classroom project," she said.

This year, the project has been expanded to three other schools in the district, and Ms. Johnson is currently exploring other projects, part of a Capstone Project she is working on.

Blended Learning

Digital learning consultant and author Wesley Fryer is a big proponent of creativity in the classroom. In his presentation, titled "Roadmap to Blended Learning," Mr. Fryer noted that having a vision is critical to promoting creativity among students and teachers. "The choices you make as a leader in your school are so vital," said Mr. Fryer, the author of "Playing with Media: Simple Ideas for Powerful Sharing."

Not only do schools need knowledgeable leaders, added Mr. Fryer, but they also need to dispel the common notion that all students are digital natives. "Kids are very good at entertaining themselves, but that doesn't equate to digital literacy and good communications skills. In fact, we need to do more to equip our young people to be good communicators and to be literate in our society," he stressed.

Creativity in the Classroom

Mr. Fryer believes that students can be more influenced by the conversations they have with each other and with their teachers than by the lectures they listen to in class. "When students make something they're proud of, they are going to talk to people and will want to show it," he said.

Because blended learning is a combination of face-to-face, online and hybrid learning strategies, Mr. Fryer said instructors need to maximize student engagement and interactivity. "It's not just about sitting in front of a screen answering questions," he noted. "We need to encourage creation, because students these days do not feel challenged."

Mr. Fryer contends that learning is often boring for many students. "Don't make them wait until they leave your school to get involved in the process of solving real problems and communicating with powerful tools that can make a difference."

Mr. Fryer suggested that K-12 schools need to examine the university framework to not only encourage creativity among the classroom, but also to acquire more robust connectivity. To find out more, visit Mr. Fryer's blog at http://www.speedofcreativity.org.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Model Schools Kicks Off with Digital Citizenship Presentation

In a digital age where the sharing of information is commonplace and YouTube videos abound, it's easy to see how educators might be confused about the legality of posting school-produced videos online or including copyrighted material in PowerPoint presentations.

The Oct. 4th Model Schools Kick Off was designed to put educators' fears at ease thanks to some great advice form Barry Britt, director of educational technology at Sounzabound Music, a Georgia-based company providing royalty free music to schools.

Because all of us who create material and post it online are considered copyright holders and publishers these days, Mr. Britt said it's especially important to know the copyright laws that apply to using written work, along with songs and music videos, but also to be aware of media permissions, ethics, and ownership.

What educators need to become most familiar with, explained Mr. Britt, is the fair use law. This allows teachers to use copyrighted materials in certain situations. For example, if it's relevant to course content, if the material is being used for face-to-face instruction on a closed network, if it's not being used for duplication or distribution purposes, if it’s only being used one time, and if the user credits/cites the copyright holder.

Common mistakes that schools make include posting videos with popular background music or using copyrighted images without the proper attribution or credit. Mr. Britt cited several examples, including the case of one large school district in North Carolina that had 38 law suits filed against it, totaling $30 million. The school district in question was found guilty of violating copyright law after because it used copyrighted materials on its own cable TV station.

Teaching students to act ethically before sharing music and educating everyone, including teachers, on the fair use guidelines is important to good digital citizenship, said Mr. Britt. Citing sources and asking a copyright holder for permission to use his/her material is also a good practice, he added. Reassuring participants that he wasn't out to scare them, Mr. Britt said, "I'm not the copyright police; I'm just here to educate you."

Find out more about Soundzabound and to avail of its many resources, visit www.soundzabound.com. Additional resources, such as free instructional materials and audio files, can be found at the following links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfSxtaUjUBg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj5P5Lp9jb8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z96WStYSlD4&feature=related

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Lessons of Assertive Leadership



Forget about top down reform and the technocratic accountability system that has emerged in recent years. Educational reformer Dr. Michael Fullan, who spoke at the LHRIC’s successful Tech Expo 2011, believes today’s educational leaders can bring about change through improved relationships and enhanced values.

In his hour-long talk titled “Leading in a Culture of Change,” the professor emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the author of “Leading in a Culture of Change” said the key player is the principal of a school building who, in Fullan’s opinion, can turn the learning environment into one that is learning-enriched.

Fullan’s advice for today’s leaders includes the following:

  • Pay attention to relationships. This is especially true for newly hired administrators taking charge of new districts. If you move too fast with change, “your culture will leave town,” warns Fullan. “If you move too slowly, you’ll get absorbed by the status quo.” Instead, listen and learn from those who have been there before you, and engage in fact-finding and joint problem-solving.
  • Honor the “implementation dip” – leaders must have thick skins. Be resilient; do not take things too personally. At the beginning of your tenure, you won’t get the positive rewards you crave until change starts to sink in.
  • Beware of “fat plans,” says Fullan. The size and prettiness of the plan is inversely related to the quality of action and the impact on student learning. Fullan has seen plans that are 31 pages long and that he considers “unwieldy.” They’ll work only if they’re action-oriented and if the words within them inspire others. However, if you choose the “skinny plan,” remember to make it memorable and actionable.
  • Behaviors before beliefs – most people only change their beliefs after they’ve had some new experiences. Give them the new experiences, but don’t talk them into to it either.
  • Communication during implementation is paramount – this is far more important than communication prior to implementation. Why? “Because communication in the abstract, in the absence of action, means almost nothing,” says Fullan.
  • Excitement prior to implementation is fragile – we all know good leaders who are energizing, but who are often annoying, says Fullan. “You have to figure out how to be contagiously enthusiastic.” Fullan suggests you spread the good word through pep talks.
  • Take risks and learn – good leaders should create a climate that encourages action and learning from mistakes.

To find out more about Fullan’s philosophy on educational reform, visit his website at www.michaelfullan.ca.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Adobe’s Creative Suite of Products Unveiled

About 20 educators turned out for an informative session on Adobe’s Creative Suite of products for schools, which was held April 4th at our offices here in Elmsford. Led by Steve Adler, a solutions consultant for the company’s New York region, the half-day session was chock full of information on a new K12 school site license that includes Photoshop CS5, Illustrator CS5, InDesign CS5, Acrobat Pro 9, Dreamweaver CS5, Flash Pro CS5, and Fireworks CS5.

Before jumping into the technical aspects of these useful software products, Mr. Adler stressed the importance of moving students toward 21st century readiness. “No matter what students pursue, the need for effective communication and collaboration across many types of media is critical,” he said.

Here at the Model Schools, we couldn’t agree more, and were delighted to feature this wonderful resource to our school district educators and to some of our BOCES instructors at the Center for Career Services.

There are lots of new bells and whistles in all seven products, which make their integration into the curriculum so much more effective, noted Mr. Adler. For example, Photoshop users can easily create stunning 3D logos and artwork from any text layer, selection or layer mask with the new Adobe Repouss√© feature. HDR (high dynamic range) imaging can very easily be achieved with the new version of Photoshop, and puppet warping is another tool that can be used to slightly warp something, such as the elephant’s trunk that Mr. Adler warped to make it turn upwards toward its mouth!

The page layout program InDesign has some cool new features too. Students can create sophisticated page layouts for print publishing (think school newspapers) with this new version, in addition to interactive PDF documents that include video and sound.

To become more acquainted with this new suite of products, visit Adobetv.com, or contact us for more information.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Buzz on iPads in Education


Close to 75 people attended a full-day session here at our Model Schools offices on the use of iPads in education and how the devices can be used in classrooms to improve student engagement and achievement.

Here in our local region, the Scarsdale School District is leading the way. In a presentation titled “Five Apps for the Connected Classroom,” Director of Technology Jerry Crisci and instructor Ken Holvig gave an informative presentation on the many apps that can be used on this versatile device.

“This has taken off in so many different directions,” said Mr. Crisci, who suggested that collaborating with each other is how most educators will discover what is happening in school districts across the region.

To show how this lightweight tablet (the new iPad2 has a 10-hour plus battery life) can be used in education, the presenters gave a brief demo on their top five picks for the connected classroom.

Among them were Flipboard, an app that reformats content into a digital, interactive magazine format; Wikipanion, which is basically Wikipedia for the iPad; Google Earth, with its thousands of aerial and satellite photos, city names, country borders, photos, road maps, and so much more; Dragon Dictate, a voice recognition application that allows users to speak and then see the recording in a typewritten format; and Google Translate, a free translation tool.

The amount of resources that students and teachers have access to is growing, they noted. Take for instance, KhanAcademy.org, which allows students to watch, practice and literally learn anything online for free. iTunes University is one of their favorite apps. “In my opinion, it’s one of the best kept secrets out there,” said Mr. Holvig. There’s no denying this powerful resource. Right now, users have access to more than 350,000 free lectures, videos, films, and other resources, and it’s all free. Check it out at http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/.

Dr. Dan Brenner, superintendent of the Roslyn School District, rounded out the day’s session with a dynamic talk about his district’s experience in rolling out an iPad pilot at Roslyn High School. Last summer, the district gave tablets to a select group of teachers and then had them trained on the use of the device. In December, the iPads were given to about 50 students. In a recent article in Scholastic.com, Dr. Brenner said, “We gave it (the iPad) out because it was a device to serve our needs. What’s generated interested was the fact that it’s a cool toy. What got us moving is it serves our needs."

The district’s intention is to create a paperless classroom, with students having access to novels, class notes, documents, folder systems, and other textbooks online, avoiding the need to carry heavy books into class. Students also have access to district email accounts from their iPads, which they use to communicate with.

For more information on Roslyn’s exciting pilot project, visit http://wordpress.roslynschools.org/wordpress/.

Local Educators Get a Closer Look at Ensemble Video


A half-day training session on Ensemble Video kept plenty of educators busy March 9th as they learned the ins and outs of this award-winning video content management system.

Ensemble is becoming increasingly popular in K-12 schools and universities across the country, with some schools using the system for their online learning initiatives, which means that students can watch steaming video in real time or view recorded sessions.

Scott Nadzan, the company’s director of marketing and new media, led the session, which included an in-depth look at how teachers can easily organize, publish and share videos securely across multiple departments, organizations and across the LHRIC’s consortium.

Nadzan told participants that the flexible software solution is easy to deploy and support, and it integrates easily with a wide range of complementary video and Web technologies. As well as that, users are not required to be experts in HTML code. For schools, Ensemble has a wide variety of uses, such as creating videos to enhance educational activities and to showcase them among the community.