Inspiration for Leaders

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

TLI Experts Tout Way to Prepare Students for 21st Century

Failing to apply the advanced technologies that are being used in everyday life to the school environment and overlooking the connection between such useful, affordable technological tools and good teaching is what education experts Dr. Chris Dede and Rushton Hurley believe is still missing from today's schools.

Dr. Christopher Dede speaks at the Jan. 10 TLI event
Dr. Dede, a Timothy E. Wirth professor in learning technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and Mr. Hurley, executive director of Next Vista for Learning, served as keynote speakers at the LHRIC's Jan. 10 Technology Leadership Institute event held at the Edith Macyin Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

In his talk titled, "Transforming Education for the 21st Century," Dr. Dede explained the challenges educators face and ways they can address them. Learning, he explained, can no longer be confined to the years that students spend in school or the hours they spend in the classroom. "It must be lifelong, life-wide and available in demand."

"What happens outside of the classroom in students' lives looks a lot like 21st century work as opposed to what happens inside the current classroom," added Dr. Dede, who served on the technical working group that helped craft the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan.

Dr. Dede suggested that the concept known as Digital Teaching Platforms (DTP) might provide the kind of technology support that would help teachers engage students.

The initiative is a category of products designed to bring interactive technology to teaching and learning in classrooms. Dr. Dede said it supports real-time, teacher-directed interaction where students and instructors all have laptops and are working together in a networked digital environment.

So, instead of passively watching an educational clip on their devices, students could become actively immersed. A good example is the work he and his colleagues at Harvard are doing with students in the Cambridge Public Schools.

The curriculum research project, known as EcoMUVE, uses multi-user virtual environments that look and feel like video games, but engage students in authentic ecological settings that teach them about ecosystems.

The use of such programs teaches enquiry skills, therefore honing the interpersonal and interpersonal skills that students will need later on in their careers, explained Dr. Dede.

Virtual performance assessments are also possible with this type of learning, he added. In fact, one of the important aspects of DTP is that there are opportunities to exploit the power of technology for formative assessment. That same technology that supports the learning is also gathering data on how students are using it. "Almost second-by-second, learners are being watched as the system identifies where they wander off track, alerting the teacher as a result," Dr. Dede explained.

This type of assessment, as opposed to summative assessment strategies, provides more leverage for improvement, he noted. "The digital curriculum, if it has this kind of diagnostic assessment built into it, can be much more informative for teachers."

Rushton Hurley speaks at the Jan. 10 TLI event.
Much like Dr. Dede, Mr. Hurley also sees the need to embrace technology in new ways. Part of the issue with many school systems, and indeed with teachers, he said, is their inability to deal with the rapid pace of technological change.

"A lot of people experience fear and stress, which seem to be the dominant emotions in relation to technology," said Mr. Hurley in his talk titled, "Evolving Technologies, Expanding Possibilities."

Why? Because many of them have a fear of something going wrong when a technology is implemented. But getting over that fear and allowing technology to be embraced is key, he noted.

Students who say that school is boring are often confusing the word "boring" with predictability, said Mr. Hurley. "Kids don't learn squat when they know what's coming up, but unpredictability can be a fascinating thing and a way to catch their attention, and technology allows that to happen in really, really interesting ways."

Accessing the plethora of free online tools that are currently available to teachers is a way of erasing the predictability that so many students experience on a daily basis, he said.

Mr. Hurley encouraged participants, many of them school district administrators, to give their teachers a reason to love technology. "Use what's freely available, gather feedback, show them that you will follow through, celebrate excellence, share what you're doing and build a shared vision."

To find out more about Dr. Dede's work, visit Mr. Hurley provides teachers with great resources at his website,

Leadership Expert Touts "Learning Science" as Solution for School Districts

Seeing education through the lens of “learning science” is what leadership expert Dr. Frederick M. Hess believes educators and school district administrators should be doing as they look for ways to enhance learning.

Dr. Frederick Hess speaking at the
Tech Summit Nov. 1.
Dr. Hess, an educator and co-author of the book, “Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling,” shared this and other insights during a keynote presentation delivered at the LHRIC’s inaugural Summit 2013 held Nov. 1 at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

The event was intended to highlight the many vendors who work with the LHRIC and local school districts.

By learning science, Dr. Hess does not mean brain science or neuroscience. “That stuff is too far removed from working with the challenges of kids,” he noted. It is about tapping into the existing body of cognitive science and using it to identify where the old schoolhouse idea of American education reformist Horace Mann fell short, said Dr. Hess, and looking at new tools as ways to solve particular learning challenges.

Computer-assisted tutoring models, such as the Khan Academy, ClassDojo, New Classrooms, MasteryConnect and LearnZillion are all good examples, he added.

Despite the availability of legitimate learning tools, however, Dr. Hess believes that tech companies often have a tendency to overly promote the value of such tools in the classroom. “The stuff is cool, but the excitement is a little disconcerting given that educational technology always seems ripe with promise, yet has rarely delivered,” he added.

He cited the experiences of district officials in the Los Angeles Unified School District who halted the home use of district-issued iPads earlier this year after discovering students had hacked them and were using the devices for personal use.

In many ways, it’s not about the technology itself, said Dr. Hess, but the way that educators think about it and what they do with it. “We tend not to be imaginative and smart,” he noted. “We say we need more money, more staff and more professional development, and then we put a lot of technology in schools and wait for the magic to happen, and it doesn’t happen.”

What matters more, said Dr. Hess, is what skilled hands can do with the technology that is available to students these days. Three myths that usually get in the way of advancement in this area include the notion that technology is anti-teacher, that schools need more of it, meaning they won’t transform unless certain initiatives are implemented, and that the next generation of technology gadgets and know-how will make a difference.

A “technology” that transformed teaching and learning several hundreds years ago was the book, said Dr. Hess. The book had two powerful assets, he added. First, its introduction meant that students were no longer hostages to the knowledge of their teachers, and secondly, they could learn from experts all around the world, meaning they didn’t have to depend on school to obtain knowledge.

“There is no magic power in the book,” said Dr. Hess. “What matters is what we do with it. Everything we are talking about today, including new assessment systems, new tutoring systems and virtual delivery, all of these are variations on what books have done for us.”

One way to rethink the integration of technology is to stop looking at technology as a way of “reforming” or “fixing” schools and instead to look at it as a “learning science,” he said.

For more about Dr. Hess’s work, visit his website at

LHRIC's Inaugural Tech Summit Draws Region's Educators

Many of the LHRIC’s technology vendors came together Nov. 1 for Tech Summit 2013 to highlight the various products and services that are currently being used by local school districts to help transform learning.

Executive Director Dr. Dennis Lauro
welcomes local school district
representatives to the inaugural Tech
Held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, the event included the following companies: Achieve 3000, Aerohive Networks, Annese, Aruba Networks, Atlantic, Aztec, Bump Armor, Castle Learning Online, CDWG, Cisco, Day Automation, Dell, Dice Communications, eChalk, eSchool Data, Finance Manager, HP, IBM, Infinite Campus, K12Alerts,, New Paltz State University of New York, One Vision, Pearson Education, Questar Assessment, Inc., Linkit!, Smart Technologies, Strategic Measurement & Evaluation, Inc., Stratagem Security, Vandis and Verizon Wireless.

In addition to learning from the various vendors, participants also had a chance to hear some thought-provoking ideas from a number of speakers, including Dr. Frederick M. Hess, an educator and co-author of the book, “Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling.”

Other spotlight talks included “Getting Googley on the iPad” and “Google Forms and Data Collection,” both delivered by Dr. Christopher Craft, a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, a Google Certified Teacher and recipient of ISTE’s Making IT Happen Award 2009.

Steve Dembo, director of social media strategy and online community at Discovery Education, gave a lively talk titled, “22nd Century Skills: Bringing Future Technology into the Classroom,” as well another presentation on finding innovative ways to use technology to increase classroom learning.

Plenty of resources and cutting-edge information was available to Tech Summit participants throughout the day, with several breakout sessions on various topics.

They included an update on the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments and how to prepare for computer-based testing, designing a secure campus, how to prepare a network for mobile advices, the educational uses of 3D printing, inspiring students through the power of the iPad, new trends in distance learning, electronics and display technology, and much more.