Ways to implement the ISTE Administrator Standards

August 11th, 2014 by Brian No comments »

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has created a set of standards for educational technology applicable worldwide. While there are discrepancies in the availability of technology, five standards for educational leaders help ensure that schools are moving in the right direction for student equity and tech efficiency. I’ve included summaries of those five standards below alongside my personal recommendations on how to implement these standards.

1. Visionary leadership – This is an administrator’s ability to involve all stakeholders in purposeful change, follow through on a strategic plan, and advocate for policies and funding.

Implementing a vision is why we need leaders and the best leaders create opportunities for those impacted by a decision to help create that decision. Involve teachers, students, and families in brainstorming sessions regarding the direction for technology at the campus and district level. It is important when gathering feedback to include those who may not be the most comfortable with technology. Even though they may disagree with you, they will be the ones working with you and potential problems can be resolved early on in the process with shared understanding.

Keeping the change purposeful is also key. Too often it is tempting to implement new technology simply because it is new. Everything that the school does must support the big picture vision and mission of the school, which leads to…

2. Digital age learning culture – The innovations that technology can bring to a school must focus on improving instruction. Educational leaders must also model a learning lifestyle for students and teachers in part by participating in learning communities.

Instruction is what we’re about. It may take on various forms depending upon the style of the teacher and the content of the curriculum, but, at the end of the day, we are about students learning. If an activity – technology included – does not help students learn, cut it.

Modeling positive behaviors in education is crucial. Educational leaders must live out what they expect students and staff to do, otherwise it can be dismissed as hypocritical ideology or chasing a trend. A principal who uses a shared network drive instead of making hundreds of copies for faculty meeting handouts is one simple example of using technology to help the school. Modeling the use of collaboration software (such as Google Drive, Evernote, or One Note) with department chairs will in turn show them through experience how to use technology with their students.

3. Excellence in professional practice – Resources such as time and money must be allocated for educators to engage in professional growth. Educational leaders must also stay current on educational research and emerging trends in order to evaluate which practices to pursue.

Money is tough to allocate when the economy is struggling, and time is a commodity that teachers do not have in excess, so creativity is needed to implement this standard. With regards to time, faculty meetings or weekly staff emails can have a section dedicated to sharing best practices. Experienced teachers can be the best experts and money could be saved on not having to hire an outside presenter or consultant and have more practical applications of technology on a campus by campus basis. Opportunities to use teacher-led workshops for recertification credit must also be available.

To stay current, social media is probably one of the quickest ways to see new trends emerge in technology. The issue will be to sift through what is reliable, what is applicable, and what is worthwhile. There are various blogs and Twitter feeds to follow that emphasize Educational Technology, such as The Digital Shift and Michael Karlin’s The Ed Tech Round Up. Another technique is to follow non-educational tech blogs to get a business world perspective.

4. Systemic improvement – Educational leaders need to collaborate with the staff on their campuses and with other administrators to establish ways of measuring success and to interpret those results for the growth of the campus. Leaders must also develop a sustainable framework for technology which includes recruiting and retaining personnel who use technology effectively.

Measuring success is key in determining whether technology use works towards the mission and vision of the school. Is success defined by student scores on summative assessments? Find the correlation. Is success a reduction in late homework turn-ins? Check to see if the data lines up. Data-based decision making is the reality of modern schools.

A sustainable infrastructure is also essential. It’s not a good investment to send a teacher to a training for them to quit the next year. Ways to build connections between teachers and the community, to find what resonates with employees, are crucial for retaining top talent. Autonomy is also something that teachers may find motivating. This is tough when addressing technology because there are so many things that could potentially go wrong, but the flip must not be forgotten: there is so much good that can happen when teachers take calculated risks to inspire students to be better learners.

5. Digital citizenship – Each advancement in technology provides opportunities to educate students, staff, and other community members on the ethics of technology and to create opportunities for increased cultural understanding.

While the fast-paced development of technology makes it tougher for educators to stay current and opens up new ways for students to break a school’s code of conduct, our students must learn how to use technology ethically. Inappropriate use must still have consequences, but a clear definition of appropriate use must be given. Instances where teachers can leverage a Bring Your Own Device initiative to enhance instruction will replace rules of not allowing devices on campus at all.

One of the best ways to help teachers acclimate to new technology is to give them a choice. Teachers already feel like more and more aspects of their jobs are being dictated by groups that they perceive as outside of their circle of influence. Adding a Bring Your Own Device requirement for every classroom will not be well-received. Highlighting teachers who have implemented it well and sharing those effective lessons and strategies will have the natural progression of increased adoption. It is slower than forcing everyone to do it, but will last longer due to incorporating a teacher’s motivation to look for ways to improve his or her practice.

We run a Bring Your Own Device system at our campus, so if you are interested in how to launch/improve something like that on your own campus, just leave a comment here. Also, Vicki Davis has a great list of BYOD apps/web sites that can help you sift through everything that’s out there. The options are ever-increasing, but her information is a great starting off point.

I’m on a recommended reading list!

January 25th, 2014 by Brian No comments »

In an odd turn of events (considering I’m usually the one making the recommendations), I am on the Tangent Online 2013 Recommended Reading List for my story Wendell, Custodian of the Galaxy. So awesome!

SYLO by D.J. MacHale

November 25th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

SYLO by D.J. MacHale kept me guessing the whole time as to who the villains were and what motivated them. That’s saying a lot, because I’ve seen many stories about a crazy government taking over. That’s the big trend right now, right? But SYLO covers new ground as we wonder if there’s another, bigger threat that the super controlling government agency is protecting the populous from.

It does have the stereotypical underdog male protagonist, his goofy friend, and the tech-savvy girl/potential girlfriend. So the characterization is a little routine, but it’s the plot that will keep you reading. A small island off of the East Coast of the United States has been quarantined and high school student Tucker Pierce intends to find out why. A mysterious disease is reported, a shipment of superpower-enabling crystals washes up on shore, and high tech aircraft haunt the night skies. It’s got all the makings of a Men in Black story, but, like I said, it’ll keep you guessing.

It’s the first part of the series and I appreciate that MacHale wrote an introduction explaining that this is not Pendragon. In the current market, where there is so much series loyalty and students get upset when an author writes in a different style, it was probably a wise move on MacHale’s part. It’s still science fiction, but it has a little bit more of an edge than the first Pendragon books. It’s worth getting a copy for your library to test the waters of its popularity. It’s a well-known author but not necessarily a well-known series since it’s new, so it may take a bit before you need multiple copies unless you booktalk it.

What Does John Locke Say?

November 22nd, 2013 by Brian No comments »

If you’ve ever wanted to analyze John Locke’s philosophy on the establishment of a government’s rights, but wanted to hear it in the style of Internet Europop sensation Ylvis, look no further:

What Does John Locke Say?

Here are the lyrics:

Dark Age gone
Renaissance done
17th century
has begun
Science can
Find the laws
That all nature must obey
But can we find
the laws of man
and society at large
how should we live
Enlightened now
What does John Locke Say?
To understand political power, we must consider the natural state, of man is a state of perfect freedom
What does John Locke say?
The natural state is also equality, where no man has more power than another, and it’s evident that all humans are equal
What does John Locke say?
But if man be free why give up freedom, cause he is exposed to danger and invasion, so he joins for mutual preservation
What does John Locke say?
Reason is law that teaches mankind, that all are equal and nobody ought to harm another’s life, health, liberty or possessions
What does John Locke say?
English Kings
were out of hand
so much Locke
went to Holland
Europe was
filled with absolute monarchs
A Glorious
enabled Locke to go home
and write about
the rights of man
and how society should ru-u-u-u-n, ru-u-u-u-n, ru-u-u-u-n
and what power is based o-o-o-o-n, o-o-o-o-n, o-o-o-o-n,
What does John Locke Say?
When power is given for protection, and it’s used for other ends, there it presently becomes a tyranny
What does John Locke Say?
If the train of abuse continues, the people should rouse themselves together, and put the rule in better hands
What else does Locke say?
All ideas come from sensation, let us suppose the mind to be, white paper void of all characters
What does John Locke say?
Tabula Rasa! Tabula Rasa!
What does John Locke say?

Smithsonian X 3D Explorer

November 14th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

The Smithsonian is scanning in some of their items from their exhibits and making them 3D models. That’s great because now there will be digital copies that will act as a back-up in case something were to happen to the originals.

But it gets better.

Not only can you browse the 3D models by visiting their website, on some models you can download the 3D model. Let’s say that you have a 3D printer and would like to make a copy of a dinosaur skeleton – now you can! I wonder if anyone will put Lincoln’s face in a video game mod now…

The writer’s workshop with Tom Leveen was awesome.

November 1st, 2013 by Brian No comments »

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 8.20.10 PM
It’s one thing to have an author visit your school to promote the sale of their books. I get it. I’ve also seen authors talk about their books but then also give writing advice. That’s been great and I really appreciate it.

But for an author to talk to our students for the sole purpose of helping them write better? What a novel idea. (You see what I did there?)

Tom Leveen knows how to relate to students, addressing them as intelligent writers who want to improve their craft. He hosted a writer’s workshop with our students last Friday after school and walked them through his own writing process, but did not stop there. He dialogued with our students, challenging them to truly analyze what makes for a well-told story, and then taught them how to take that knowledge and put it to paper. His quick wit and approachable demeanor complemented his dissection of the hero’s journey, actionable plots, and how to hook a reader with the First Five – the first five words, the first five sentences, …

He’s a local author and I’m glad that Ms. Trombley lined up the visit. It was definitely a benefit to our students and our faculty. Librarians/English teacher-type people: you need to invite him to your school. It’s well-worth your time. I was impressed with the maturity that Tom drew out of our students and for the increased excitement for writing that happened on a Friday afternoon when most students would want to vacate the school as quickly as possible. They chose to be there and it was a good choice.

I have another article up on the Penumbra blog

November 1st, 2013 by Brian No comments »

Penumbra Magazine asked me to write an article to celebrate their magazine on their anniversary, so of course I did. They’ve been so good to my stories and I. Here’s a link to the article.

United We Spy by Ally Carter

October 18th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

I’ve folowed the series from start to finish now, which is tough when trying to keep up with so many series being launched each month in YA fiction. Part of it is because of Ally’s visit to our school when the series first started out, but part of it is that the series has stayed classy without resorting to too many trends or gimmicks. It’s been about spies and sisterhood, and that continued through to the end.

While there are many girl power moments in the book, I appreciated when Cammie realized that Zach had friends – that not every aspect of his life revolves around her. That’s been true of Cammie, which has been so refreshing. The books haven’t really been about getting the boy and, despite some fan complaints, Zach is not Cammie’s main protector. It’s all about the Gallagher Girls.

What’s great is seeing that tradition pass on to the younger girls of the academy. My students that were at Ally’s visit to our school have now graduated high school. They are now outside in the wide open world and, much like the Gallagher Girls, must decide what to do with the rest of their lives. One important transition is understanding the need to train up the next generation, to give back. Cammie matured throughout the series, no doubt about that, but matured in ways that matter. Again, I can’t stress enough how much I appreciated that the romance plotline was present but was not Cammie’s main hero journey.

The Circle of Cavan is still at it and the Gallagher Girls must stop chaos from erupting around the world. Having read the whole series from start to finish, it was pretty cool seeing details from the other five books show up, whether it was antagonists popping up again or Cammie reliving a moment from the first book but from a different perspective. I also appreciated the title. I know how much Ally struggled with following up I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You, but United We Spy is the perfect wrapping up of the series in both title and plot. The last three chapters read like a season finale of Alias, which is great because Ally has mentioned that Alias made her question what it would look like to train a whole school of spies. I could hear the theme music playing and then the fade to black as the credits roll.

Ally, nice job on the series. I know that you don’t need my approval, but it takes some skill to maintain a six book series and I’m glad that I was there to see the whole thing play out.

Infographics from Kids Discover

October 14th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

The magazine Kids Discover has a great free collection of infographics that you might be able to use in your classroom. Make sure to click on Load More to get the full listing.

Vietnam: I Pledge Allegiance by Chris Lynch

September 20th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

For our current students, soldiers from the Vietnam War are their grandparents’ ages, much like how my grandparents were in the World War II generation. Chris Lynch’s Vietnam series puts the war into perspective in an approachable manner.

The set-up is that the four books in the series follow the experiences of four friends from the same small town in New England. Each friend serves in a different branch of the military, so the reader gets to see the war from four vantage points. Morris, the protagonist of the first book, is in the Navy. What’s great is that students can see what life was like on a cruiser, see how distant the war was, and then follow Morris as he’s tranferred to a river runner on the Mekong River. He never knows where the next attack will come from and his eyes are opened to the darker parts of war.

What I appreciate about the book is that it’s not too preachy. With a tagline like “If friendship has an opposite, it has to be war”, you know that it will have some anti-war sentiments. For the most part, though, that’s Morris worrying about his friends. There is action that military or history enthusiasts will appreciate the detail down to the last C-123. The book does not glorify combat, though. This is not Call of Duty. People die unexpectedly; those left behind grieve as they spend the hours of tedium waiting for the bursts of chaos. This is war from an enlisted soldier’s eyes.

It’s a great book and a strong start to a series. It’s definitely worth having in your library.