Inspiration for Leaders

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

David Warlick's Keynote Talk Urges Educators to Think like "Digital Natives"

A well known speaker in education circles and one of the "10 Most Influential People in Ed Tech for 2011" kicked off the LHRIC's annual Tech Expo held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor April 27.

David Warlick, the author of four books on instructional technology and contemporary literacy, and a sought-after speaker throughout the world, gave a thought-provoking presentation on the emerging new information environment titled, "Cracking the 'Native' Information Experience."

Mr. Warlick, a former teacher, recalled a time when the desktop computer had not yet been invented and when calculators cost approximately $200. "I taught in an information-scarce learning environment," said Mr. Warlick, adding that the new technology available today has empowered students to perform better and to accomplish more.

"Today's environment is abundant with knowledge, is networked and digital and has a direct impact on what it means to be literate today," he said.

"Cracking the code" on the environment that young people exist in outside of school and using that to develop new learning experiences inside the classroom is something that Mr. Warlick strongly advocates. Hyper-connected learners, he said, find each other and then share their knowledge, ideas and skills, turning them into what he described as "responsive learning."

Society, he said, is very much in tune with the responsive learning experience. "Google has turned us into a question-asking culture," noted Mr. Warlick, adding that there is a real sense of connection between people and learning through conversation. This generation of learners wants to know the rules that exist in order to reach their goals. "In the traditional classroom, we never did that. We need to approach these children in their native information environment."

An example of how students can invest themselves in the learning process, said Mr. Warlick, occurred when a teacher at Beacon High School, a progressive public high school in New York City, had a problem getting her students interested in Shakespeare's play, Othello. The solution: ask them to create a movie trailer based on their understanding of the play and then get other students, presumably those who will be studying the play in the future, interested in it.

Mr. Warlick said the purpose of school has changed. "Part of the native information experience means that students often succeed best by getting it wrong," he added. In fact, students should be thinking about what they did and then considering how they might change it.

In many ways, he added, it's about making formal learning more playful and giving students permission to make those mistakes. "It is a learning experience that is responsive, that provokes conversation, inspires personal investment and is guided by safely-made mistakes."

This, added Mr. Warlick, is requiring educators to rethink education. "It's not a race to the top; it's about being joyful, explorative, discovering information, and being inventive. Sometimes that can be as simple as the teacher who says, 'surprise me'."

To find out more about Mr. Warlick's work and to subscribe to his blog, visit

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pioneer Awards Honor Outstanding Work in Local Districts

A science teacher and a technology director from a school district that also received recognition were among those honored at the LHRIC's 19th Annual Pioneer Awards May 18, which was held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Each year the award ceremony recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond in exposing students to the latest instructional technology initiatives. It also honors districts that are forward-thinking in their delivery of technology.

The ceremony culminates a year-long series of presentations by well known speakers in the field of educational technology, as part of the RIC's Technology Leadership Institute series.

Science teacher Jasper Fox was the first recipient of the Distinguished Technology Teacher Pioneer Award. He teaches general science and a Regents Earth Science class at Copper Beech Middle School in the Lakeland School District. As a teacher, Mr. Fox knows that some students have difficulty completing their assignments, so he created screen casts of the science experiments he would normally do in class using screen capture software. In the past year, Mr. Fox has posted a myriad of screen casts to the class wiki, which his students can readily access.

Mr. Fox has created a learning environment in education known as the "flip classroom." It's a new way of teaching, he said, one that has transformed the practice for many instructors, allowing them to become coaches and facilitators rather than just instructors delivering a lecture.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Fox thanked administrators and others in the district for their guidance and support. "My students are not only gaining the skills to be successful, but are gaining additional 21st century study skills," he said.

Mr. Fox also credited the online social networking service Twitter for inspiring him and allowing him to communicate with other like-minded instructors. "This whole initiative started out as a way to provide extra help for my students," he said. "But it has now warped into something way more powerful than that."

The City School District of New Rochelle had the honor of accepting two awards during the hour-long ceremony. Director of Technology Dr. Christine Coleman was singled out for bringing mobile learning to the district. For that, she was awarded the Distinguished Director of Technology Pioneer Award.

For the past year and a half, Dr. Coleman has invested much energy in the "Mobile on the Go!" program, a Federal Communications Committee-funded grant, which involved collaboration with Verizon, the RIC and Carrot App. Referring to her can-do attitude and persistence, New Rochelle Superintendent Richard Organisciak praised Dr. Coleman for her efforts. "We as a district are very proud of the ideas and creativity from people like Dr. Coleman," he said.

The initiative has helped raise achievement levels among participating students and has closed the digital divide, said Dr. Coleman. Looking for ways to prepare its students for the 21st century workplace, the New Rochelle City School District has made incredible strides over the past year. Since winning the FCC grant, it has deployed over a thousand mobile-filtered devices to students. As a result, the Pioneer Awards committee felt it was deserving of this year's Distinguished District Pioneer Award.

According to Dr. Coleman, students participating in the mobile learning program are displaying an improvement in reading, writing and literacy, and the formal structure of the classroom has "flipped," creating an environment where they now work in clusters as opposed to working alone, and where engagement and interactivity are the primary goals.

The district's Board of Education president, Chrisanne Petrone, was equally delighted with the honor. "We know that our district is amazing, and we also know that all of our children can learn, but we must continue to ensure that we provide them with the tools to keep them learning," said Ms. Petrone.