Inspiration for Leaders

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

TLI - Tech Summit 2014 Highlights Trends in Education

An array of inspirational talks, workshops and networking opportunities provided local school district leaders and instructional technology professionals who attended the LHRIC’s Tech Summit earlier this month with much to discuss.

The annual event, which was held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, is designed to highlight the outstanding technology vendors who work with the RIC throughout the year as well as focusing on the various products and services that are transforming learning.

Dr. Maria Langworthy delivers the keynote presentation.
Dr. Maria Langworthy, founder and principal of Langworthy Research, kicked off the day with a keynote presentation on the emerging new trends in education that are bringing teachers and students into a partnership that fosters deep learning and leverages the digital technology tools that many schools are currently using.

Dr. Langworthy, who has co-authored a new book with Dr. Michael Fullan called, “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning,” said young people are becoming increasingly disengaged as standardized testing and other pressures take their toll.

“Outside of the classroom there are tremendous opportunities and tools for students to use, which creates this kind of push and pull on their minds,” said Dr. Langworthy.

But purchasing more tech gadgets is not the answer to this challenge, she noted. “No device will fix the problem; something much deeper, much broader needs to happen.”

Through their research in classrooms across the globe, Doctors Langworthy and Fullan discovered that schools were lacking in certain areas, including a shortfall in adequate professional development for teachers, an insufficient teacher performance strategy and the outdated practice of layering technology on top of traditional teaching practices.  

In an effort to address such issues, Dr. Langworthy said the research team decided to “go beyond the numbers and dig down to see what was happening.” Their efforts were focused on what new pedagogies look like in practice and how a system of deep learning could be implemented in a school system-wide.

“We saw many examples all over the world of how this concept was starting to explode,” Dr. Langworthy noted. One example was an entrepreneurial project that involved a group of middle school students in Michigan. The initiative, explained Dr. Langworthy, not only taught them about fundraising for a good cause but how to develop a sustainable relationship with groups on the other side of the world.

Dr. Langworthy suggested that to create that type of learning in schools, students must have mastery in a topic as well as the ability to handle projects on their own with little guidance from teachers. 

“It really boils down to a somewhat different model of leadership,” she added, with principals and others willing to learn alongside students and teachers and to share a common vision with other members of the school community.

“Our argument, and lots of research supports this, is that technology won’t solve the problems we see in schools today,” stressed Dr. Langworthy. “But what we have found is that when pedagogy shifts, there is a transformation in student engagement.”

The day’s other keynote presentations included “Creating Your Google Apps Classroom” and “Moving Forward in the Face of Change,” both from Catlin Tucker, a Google certified teacher and English Language Arts instructor based in California.

For over an hour, Ms. Tucker described the tools she uses in her classroom, including Google Plus communities, Google Hangouts, Google’s Blogger, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Drive and much more.  

Paige Johnson, an education strategist at Intel, led the day’s other spotlight presentation. In “Leading Edge: Key Traits of Ed-Tech Visionaries,” she talked about the leadership qualities that are needed to successfully provide students with a 21st century education.

A number of breakout sessions were also held throughout the day on a variety of topics, including data analytics solutions for schools, installing the proper surveillance systems, evaluating technology use and success with the software program Clarity, as well as information on the Smart Schools Bond Act and more.

Vendors who participated in the Tech Summit included A+ Technology & Security, Achieve3000, Aerohive Networks, Annese, Aruba Networks, Atlantic, Castle Learning Online, CDWG, Centris Group, Custom Computer Specialists, Inc., Day Automation, Dell, Edgenuity, Forecast5 Analytics, HP, K12alerts, Infinite Campus, Pearson Education, Renaissance Learning, Stratagem Security, Sungard, TTM (Think Through Math) and Vandis.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TLI - Tech Forum 2014 Recognizes Changing Digital Landscape

A day full of workshops, industry spotlights and breakout sessions provided the region’s technology leaders, including several from the LHRIC, with much to think about Oct. 24 during the annual Tech Forum convention.

Eric Sheninger delivers keynote speech at Tech Forum 2014
It was Eric Sheninger’s keynote presentation “Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times” that set the tone for the day.

The former award-winning principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey is now a senior fellow and thought leader on digital leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) and Scholastic Achievement Partners (SAP).

While he served as principal, Sheninger said he didn’t embrace the kind of leadership traits he now espouses. Spending countless hours eliminating electronic devices from children was just part of his job.

“I was the one who made sure the environment was sterilized,” he recalled. “I blocked and banned everything, maintaining the status quo. Essentially, I was in control.”

But all of that changed when Sheninger realized the merits of integrating digital tools as a way to engage learners.

Despite the lack of funds and the building’s aging infrastructure, Sheninger said the high school achieved “impressive results” within five years of embracing the new, more modern channels of communication. It helped engage families, inspire staff growth and bring new relevance to the classroom for both teachers and students, he explained.

“We got rid of all the excuses and focused on the solutions,” he said. “We made a conscious effort to create a school that worked well for kids.”

Sheninger, the author of “Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times,” said his staff was able to empower students, engage them in productive dialogue and guide them as they conducted research on their own devices, part of the school’s BYOT initiative.

Sheninger said he did not “preach Common Core” to his staff, but instead focused on a particular skill set that would set his students apart from their peers.

Today, New Milford High School is a “Makerspace” of sorts where students work in the high school library with Lego pieces, motherboards and a 3D printer.  Sheninger refers to it as a “culture that’s different.”

Under his leadership, the school created learning academies that are open to any student regardless of GPA as well as teacher incentives, part of the school’s digital badge platform for those who embrace the new technologies.

Sheninger, the creator of the Pillars of Leadership, a framework for driving sustainable change in schools, suggested that educators interested in change should form their own personal learning networks.

“Connecting myself to the smart people and the doers has pushed me to become a better leader, educator and a better person,” he said.

Sheninger suggested to his audience that they lead by example. “Make the conscious decision to share your vision, to have conversations with other educators, to be transparent, support change and model the expectations that you have for others,” he said.

The day’s other events included presentations on Google Apps for Education; coding, making and learning; creating a positive digital footprint and telling stories with help from digital media, among others.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Canadian Principal Sees Technology as Opportunity for More Personal Learning

There’s nothing impersonal about George Couros. In fact, everything about his recent Technology Leadership Institute presentation spoke to relationships, both personal and professional, and this philosophy has helped the Canadian division principal of innovative teaching and learning transform the way learning takes place in his own school and in schools across Canada and beyond.

George Couros delivers keynote presentation at TLI event
The affable educator and international speaker was the keynote presenter for the LHRIC’s Annual Pioneer Awards Celebration, which is hosted each year by TLI and are held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

In his presentation titled, “Create, Innovate and Voice,” he talked about the need for educators to use technology as a way to make learning more personal and engaging for students.

“Educators are becoming irrelevant to kids,” he said. “And school looks irrelevant to the rest of the world. “ However, Mr. Couros contends that if schools give students the ability to create something meaningful, allow them to be innovative and empower them with a voice, they will succeed long after they graduate.

Mr. Couros said three areas are essential to building a learning organization that fuels such a process. They include:

Creativity – students should have the opportunity to “create” and be active in their learning. Examples include the creation of blogs, various media-related presentations as well as the traditional forms of literacy.
Innovation – the opportunity to share learning openly with each other and the world.
Voice – because we live in a world where everyone has a voice that reaches far and wide, it is imperative that students know how to capitalize on this.

Mr. Couros said the biggest shift that educators must make is not a shift in skill set, but rather a shift in mindset. “Seventy-year-old teachers have done the most innovative things, so it’s got nothing to do with age and how you grew up. It’s your mindset and what you are willing to do to create,” he added.

To promote inspiration within the classroom, Mr. Couros suggested that teachers think about learning as “meaningful creation,” not consumption.”

“The biggest game changer in education is in social media and the use of iphones, Google Apps and the like,” said Mr. Couros, who considers himself an innovative leader who can get teachers and students motivated to change. “We need to get educators to think of themselves as innovators and to grow and take risks.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

LHRIC’s Pioneer Awards Celebrate Region’s Innovative Educators

An innovative community gardening project, a trailblazing group of instructional technology leaders and a hardworking director of technology were among the winners of the 2014 Annual Pioneer Awards handed out May 16.

The ceremony, held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, is a chance for the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center to recognize the advances that teachers and others are making with technology in the region’s school districts.

The half-day event also included a keynote presentation from George Couras, a division principal for the Parkland School Division located in Alberta, Canada.

Mr. Couras, who is also an innovative teaching, learning and leadership consultant, travels the country and the world inspiring teachers and others to make effective leadership changes and to create more transparent environments within schools.

Before deciding on the winners, a group of judges review each candidate’s application, including information on their innovative use of technology among colleagues as well as in the classroom.

Port Chester's Pioneer Award Winners
This year’s winners included Adam Schoenbart, a high school English teacher in the Ossining School District, who was celebrated for his innovative use of Google Apps for Education, and Craig Mantin, an instructional technology specialist in the North Rockland School District, for his professional development efforts with teachers and as the district’s resident expert in technology matters.

Two new Pioneer Awards were handed out this year for collaborative efforts in technology. The recipients included a team of fourth-grade teachers from JFK Elementary School in the Port Chester School District (Kate Albero, Jenn Curti and Kara Purcell), who helped spearhead a community garden project that involved the use of digital technology.

The “Special Recognition for Collaboration and Innovation Initiatives” was also presented to Jennifer Cronk, an instructional facilitator for the Clarkstown Schools; Jesse Lubinsky, chief information officer and technology coordinator for the Irvington Schools; and Sabrina Rich, director of instructional technology for the Ardsley Schools, all in honor of their trailblazing leadership efforts.

Jennifer Cronk, Sabrina Rich and Jesse Lubinsky
This year’s Director of Technology Pioneer Award was given to George Brady of the South Orangetown Schools for providing leadership and vision in relation to the district’s server and desktop virtualization platforms as well as its mobile learning offerings, among other accomplishments.

The Yorktown School District was chosen for its ability to connect students, staff and community through what Superintendent Dr. Ralph Napolitano referred to as “this one YCSD digital world,” making reference to the 3,600 students in kindergarten through 12th grade along with the 500 staffers who connect and collaborate through the Google Apps for Education platform.

The district integrates various technology tools into daily learning, including interactive Whiteboards, Smart responses, iPads, Chromebooks, Google Apps for Education, in addition to other smart devices, part of its Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tech Expo’s Provocative Keynote Speaker Delivers Much-Anticipated Talk

The annual Tech Expo 2014, held April 11, drew close to 400 educators from a myriad of local school districts, many of them eager to hear education historian Diane Ravitch deliver a keynote on the importance of technology in education as well as recent developments in education policy.

Diane Ravitch delivers the keynote at Tech Expo 2014
She was among several other speakers and presenters to participate in the Tech Expo, sponsored by the LHRIC's Technology Leadership Institute and held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Ms. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, an influential blogger and a contributing writer at the Huffington Post, said she is a fan of what teachers can do with technology in the classroom. “Technology can really inspire what we all want, which is the joy of learning.”

For centuries, educators have dreamed of such a learner-centered environment, which has become a reality for many of today’s students, said Ms. Ravitch, as they learn by using a variety of emerging tools in the classroom.

The emergence of technology shows the true “realities of life,” allowing students to take ownership of what they learn, in addition to fostering a new level of creation, invention and imagination, she added.

“What I envisioned is a world of open source learning led not only by teachers but also by students,” said Ms. Ravitch. “If you think students are dumb these days because of it (technology), please take the eight grade math test.”

A Hijacked Technology Revolution
This revolution has, however, been hijacked by entrepreneurs and policy makers seeking to standardize the curriculum through corporate-influenced school reform and the desire to create a “lucrative marketplace for profitable enterprise.”

The federal government’s control of the states’ educational policy matters has created a situation that Ms. Ravitch said would have been “unthinkable 10 years ago,” a situation that is unprecedented in the nation’s history, with pressure coming from Washington that urges states and, consequently, school districts to do more with less.

While New York State, she contends, is in “pretty good shape,” other states across the country, such as Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania, to name a few, are experiencing turmoil and the kind of disruption that is not good for children or for learning, she noted.

As a result, the destruction of the public school system and its ultimate privatization is becoming a reality. “I presume your communities here in Westchester are strong enough to handle this, but watch out,” she told the crowd, many of them members of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, who later attended a private meeting with Ms. Ravitch.

Referring to the “wild, unrealistic goal of 100 percent proficiency” that has permeated the public education system since the creation of the No Child Left Behind policy in 2001 and the “more onerous” Race to the Top initiative, Ms. Ravitch added that such an aspiration is unrealistic and one that no nation in the world could ever achieve.

Such proficiency measures have since been turned over to private management, she said, with little research to support them. While testing is good for the testing companies, it does little for children and the quality of education, Ms. Ravitch added. “When it takes the place of instruction and the arts and play, it’s wrong.”

The Danger of the Growing Charter School Industry
Ms. Ravitch, the author of several books, including the newly-released “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” took particular aim at the growing charter school movement, in particular the Success Academy charter chain run by CEO Eva Moskowitz.

Such charter schools, she said, have been able to take up free space in several public schools in New York City, pushing out students with disabilities and other disadvantaged public school students.

And if the owners of the charter school industry claim their existence is based on raising the test scores of American students, Ms. Ravitch countered that national test scores, together with graduate rates, have actually risen over the past four years across all races, and dropout rates are at their lowest. Such statistics, she said, can be found on the federal Department of Education’s website.

Millions of dollars will continue to be spent by school districts on professional development efforts and on iPads and tablets that are a requirement of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) online tests, an initiative that is closely aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Many of those machines, she added, will come preloaded with content that is copyrighted by companies such as Pearson Education and others.

“We’re at a turning point,” said Ms. Ravitch. “Will there be more charters to drive funding from public schools, will teachers be free to teach with creativity and passion, will they be able to teach without following a scripted curriculum?”

“We are trapped by a love of data. This is the thinking of a world that is far too flat for me. Don’t let them flatten you.”

To follow Ms. Ravitch on her daily blog, visit