I just Need to be Concise: Leadership Day 2009

NETS_A_Graphic_0609resize2I just moved to a new town and one of my new neighbors just happens to be a school administrator. I can guarantee you that he will not read this post as he sees no need for technology in his building or apparently in his life. In this post we will refer to my neighbor as Craig. Craig seems to me, very much, a bricks and mortar kind of guy.

Craig and I have talked about what I do for the Center at Rutgers. He sees me sitting on the front porch working on my laptop while my kids play in the front yard. He knows I usually have by Blackberry on me when I take the dog for walks. Craig on the other hand is very off-the-grid. I’m not even certain he owns a cell phone.

Does Craig know what is coming? Has he read the new Educational Technology Standards for Administrators? I’m thinking he hasn’t as he is extremely resistant to even talking about technology with me. It’s to the point that we just talk about our children and the neighborhood and not our jobs. This is a shame as I would love to talk shop with a neighbor. I also would like to hear more about his philosophy on teaching and learning and how it has changed since he started teaching 15 years ago. He really just seems to be one of those 8 to 3 teachers admins that we hear about (in his case 7 to 2).

2009leadershipday02_250Why do I bring this up on Leadership Day 2009? Well, recently I had a conversation with Scott McLeod about making sure that professional development is designed for the needs of the attendees and not the needs of a predetermined program.

So this is a big issue for me and I would think many others that consult or work in administrative roles. When you design an initiative or any type of sustained professional development, you set objectives. You design your program with some flexibility, as that is on of the main ingredients to success, yet you obviously have certain components in mind. Though these objectives may not be cookie-cutter, they can’t possibly fit every teacher that decides to enroll or is told to participate. But after talking with Scott, I realized that no matter how flexible I am, whatever I design for the educators I am working with, unless they are able to articulate what they need from me, I am not going to be able to help them.

So here is a short list that is going to help me design better PD. I don’t think this is anything that any of us didn’t already know. I just needed to be concise about it:

  1. This is the teachers learning environment – not the professional development providers
  2. Teachers have to take ownership of their learning
  3. Teachers have to look at technology as a learning tool rather than a social tool

If this list looks familiar to you it’s because it’s very much the same model we use for our students.

I hope this helps you in some small way. Thinking it all through has helped me. I know for Craig, he needs the upper admininstration in his district to begin modeling excellence in professional practice. Until Craig is ready accept that his district will ultimately move towards a technology-infused curriculum, he’s going to get left in the chalk dust.

31 thoughts on “I just Need to be Concise: Leadership Day 2009

  1. lgesin says:

    This is why teachers should design their own professional development. I spend a lot of my own time over the summer developing new approaches to teaching and incorporating new technology into my classes. I’m a tech teacher, so this isn’t an option since tech is changing all the time.

    Forcing teachers to do 100 hours of professional development helps no one; the only way anyone learns anything of value is if they have a vested interest in what they are learning. I’m on my school’s professional development committee, and the most successful PD days we have are those that allow the teachers to do what they need to do, not what the state mandates or admins must cover. Sometimes, that’s researching new equipment, upgrading software, meeting with teachers in other disciplines in order to create cross-curricular projects, etc.

    We don’t need another powerpoint presentation on how we need more tech in the classroom. Let the teachers naturally find ways to integrate tech in their lessons and we’ll do it. Give us the time and the tools to implement those lessons and we’ll do it. Fund the equipment/software needed to achieve those tech goals, and we’ll use it. Applaud the successes we have in the classroom once we implement these changes (positive reinforcement does wonders for everyone). If we are truly professionals, we are capable of assessing our current teaching practice, determining what areas need work, and finding ways to deal with those shortcomings.

    PD will only be successful when #2 on your list is the ONLY item on your list. Everything else will follow.

    1. Thanks for your response Laura and I agree with you, but I have a few questions.

      1. What about the teachers that don’t take the initiative that you obviously do. They don’t utilize that time. How should the administration handle that? Do you teachers have PIPs (Professional Improvement Plans)?

      2. You don’t know what you don’t know. Would some time on those PD days be wisely spent as a full staff if teachers volunteered to share short presentations to the group so that those that weren’t familiar with education trends were brought up to speed? It doesn’t always have to come from an external source, it can come from within.

      Thanks again!

      1. lgesin says:

        I’m going to answer backwards:

        2. Full staff presentations aren’t going to reach the teachers that need to be reached; they’ll sleep or look interested when they are really thinking about what they’ll do when the last bell rings. Small learning groups/communities would allow a more direct exchange of information and provide accountability for its members. These groups should be small and comprised of teachers who work well together. Allowing teachers to chose their teams would be optimum. Then there’s the question, “who determines what the trends in education are?” There are educators who believe the trends of the ’90s are still the current trends. My experience working with other teachers to incorporate tech in the classroom has been the most successful when the learning object is set by the teacher trying to incorporate tech and then I or another tech savvy teacher assists them with that goal. I did that with our journalism teacher this past spring (online is where newspapers are going) and it worked beautifully!

        1. Using “you teachers” perpetuates the “us vs. them” mentality in education. I didn’t become teacher until my late 30s and was used to project teams in the corporate world and working with both those who reported to me and the individuals I reported to in order to reach common goals. Public education doesn’t promote this kind of teamwork yet that’s what will accomplish many of the goals for education that have been set forth by the powers that be. By separating you from me (you being the “education expert” and me being the “teacher”), you set yourself up to fail. You aren’t in my situation; you’ll speak to our staff then leave. Small groups function throughout the school year and are comprised of teachers who have the same experiences working together, who can develop their PIPs as a team and assist each other in completing those plans. It’s not perfect, but I have found some success with this approach and look forward to continuing this in the new school year.

        Good questions – great conversation!!

      2. Laura, I have a feeling that you and I would work very well together.

        I believe that the one-stop-workshop is a thing of the past. It pains me when I am asked to come to a district, present, teach, do a dog-and-pony-show, however you want to refer to it and then leave. What I believe works, and I think you would agree, is sustained professional development. I like to dive into the trenches and go into the classrooms and work with the teachers and the students on an ongoing basis.

        This is believe makes a difference.

        But….I still maintain that there are schools and districts that need outside PD. Whether they send their teachers out or bring someone in. You stay informed through the network you have set up online. You are among the minority – for now. Most likely for the indeterminate future.

      3. lgesin says:

        After reading all of these great comments, I’m going to jump back in!

        I’m not at all against “bricks and mortar” learning; in fact, I’ve taken online classes and am not a fan. So my perspective is placing tech inside the existing school environment.

        I applaud “Craig” for focusing on “basics”. I teach at an academy in Monmouth County where are students must pass and exam and be accepted. Based on the class of 2012, even the “best and brightest” desperately need more basic skills, especially in language. However, basics aren’t exciting, and perhaps integrating the tech the kids are using into the classroom (texting, emails, facebook, twitter, etc.) might help reach those kids so they get the skills they need.

        I participated in a discussion with Yale University, the Student Press Association, school administrators in the NE, teachers and students, about teaching social media literacy this past spring. Lots of great info came out of it, but the one thing that was glaringly apparent is that the adults first have to get a handle on what tech the kids are using. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we need to go where the kids are using tech, implement the tech devices they use into our classroom, and the basics + all the rest will follow.

        I will also agree that there is a place for outside PD, but not necessarily the “dog and pony show”. Those of us talking this morning have formed an impromptu community – wouldn’t it be true PD to make this a formal group and invite “Craig” and those like him to come and see what works in our schools? and share with one another what we need to work on?

        … and a big thanks to Lisa for starting this discussion!

      4. Laura – you are so right.
        I blogged about this last Tuesday. I spoke to (I wish I could say “with”) 100 teachers from the NJEA (New Jersey Education Association) about spontaneous professional development using Twitter. Would you know – there were another 165 educators in the UStream?!?

        You can find the presentation and the resources on my wiki at http://sites.google.com/site/thumannresources/njea (Make sure to scroll down to the Keynote dated July 7th as I’ll be there again July 14th on another topic.

        I also blogged about it (https://thumannresources.com/2009/07/06/spontaneous_p/) here before I presented hoping that I could get the conversation started on Twitter using the hashtag #NJEA to show the power of informal or spontaneous professional development.

        By the number of new (semi-active) Twitterers in my stream, I think the presentation was successful.
        You’ll see the next topic is going to be just what you referred to – using what the kids are using. I’ll be talking about using the handheld devices that they can use to engage them in and out of the classroom.

        I hope you’ll join us in the UStream or hey – maybe you’re already registered to go.

      5. lgesin says:

        Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about these events until I followed you on twitter and am teaching at the time you stream. I would ask that Twitter4Teachers add a category for those of use who teach Digital Media, i.e. web design and development, flash technology, streaming video, blogs, social media (twitter) etc. We are not computer science 🙂

  2. Bettie Donovan says:

    I am so glad I clicked on the link to your post in twitter, Lisa! I have to agree with, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” As an instructional technology specialist at an elementary school, I wear many hats. Most of my time is spent troubleshooting and repairing, to my dismay. There are no funds for professional development. My media specialist and I had been frustrated with how to bring our staff up to date. We ask, send surveys, but they do no know what they need! So, we began with lunch and learns once a month. They brought their lunch to the media, we provided a variety of desserts for them, and demonstrated one new piece of equipment at each session. The first month it was the mimio, and we followed with a document camera, flip video cam, etc. I can say my teachers loved them as almost every teacher attended. M principal and assistant would pop in also, and were shocked by the reception we had to them. We began to see the items used, and many went out and purchased their own flips. They had no clue that these tech items even existed. This fall we are plan to concentrate on a useful web site. Time is limited at the elem level so we basically stick to things that only take about 10 minutes.

    Since I had some people on board who were beginning to use the above, I decided to offer a course introducing web 2.0 to them. Again no money for any of us, but I created the course in moodle and I have about 20 teachers online in it. Some of these teachers are pretty savvy at what they know on their computer, but not one had any clue as to what was going on in the rest of the world.

    I guess where I am going with this is that I had to start somewhere. Maybe now, some of them will be able to suggest topics for professional development, but we were definitely not at that stage a year ago. Thanks for the perspectives.

    1. Bettie – Thank you for sharing such a great success story. The fact that you are so dedicated to put such time and effort into your “Lunch and Learn” program and then to create the Moodle course is what so many of us need to hear as an encouragement to trek on in our own endeavors.

      As Laura was commenting on, it’s great when you can use the resources in your own building. I truly hope that the educators in your building appreciate the resource they have in you.

  3. I’m going to begin by taking Craig’s side for a split second here – there’s a chance that he’s been very successful as a school administrator in the 20th and into the 21st century. Bricks and mortar schools seem natural for 99% of the educators in the US, and I’d even argue that the socialization skills attained within those walls makes them a necessity for solid education. Craig may have the highest test scores in the state. He may have an army of high-tech staff developers working with him who take care of the “techie stuff” (as my former principal called it). For all that I know, Craig could be a potential candidate for Admin of the Year in ’09. Just like every tech person has a particular strength, so too does every good administrator. Perhaps Craig’s strength is surrounding himself with the best people – which would mean that he knows his weaknesses and doesn’t pretend to know something that he doesn’t.

    What we need in our building (where I teach technology to middle school students) is fewer restrictions from the administration. Simply moving a computer across the room gets us into trouble with the tech coordinator. Installing any software is against our AUP (although they usually trust me to do what I need in my own classroom) – but some teachers get “in trouble” for that. Students are not allowed to have any electronic devices with them in school – from iPods to cell phones to USB drives; “if they aren’t being stolen from their lockers, they’re bringing viruses in from home” (quoting the assistant principal).

    I’d take a guy like Craig in my school if he was open-minded enough to allow (and encourage?) teachers explore and try new things. Regardless of his tech proficiency, *I* need to be able to use the right tools at the right time and be given the chance to fail a few times.

    1. Ryan, from your perspective, I don’t blame you for siding with Craig as I didn’t provide you with enough background information (except for the little clue that I didn’t think he even had a cell phone).

      The district that Craig works in is an under performing, impoverished, yet highly federally and state funded district. He has admitted to me that he sees no need to technology in his building as they need to “get back to the basics”. Well, I would very much like to talk with him about Universal Design for Learning (see http://cast.org) yet I have at this point decided to talk about the lawn and the kids instead.

      So, restriction on teachers is definitely a concern for many of us. Flexibility in the use of digital resources in our classrooms and the opportunity to experience both successes and failures would in the end result in improved student outcomes – I’d like to think so. I hope that your administration sees your efforts and continues to loosen the reigns not only on you but on your colleagues.

      Thank you so much for your comments.

  4. You know, while this post is about administration and upper management of school districts, it is sad to say that in my district, there are MANY teachers who seem very much against the integration of technology within the classroom.

    I am a firm believer that we need to incorporate, integrate, and manage our classrooms with technology. This is where the future’s direction is going! The students need to not only know how to use the technology, but also learn and understand how it is becoming a large part of today’s society. They cannot understand this if we do not make it a part of our classroom in the daily routine.

    Look at how technology has advanced in the last few years? What we have today will practically obsolete and built upon in the next few years. If it isn’t worked with today, they will not be prepared for the new advancements down the road.

    I feel sorry for Craig. I would be totally sad to be working with an administrator like him. I’d be butting heads with him, trying to convince him of the future of technology and the liveliness it will have within each student’s life.

    1. I would be too Karlana.
      I thought about what you wrote and then back to what Ryan wrote as well and it reminded me of something that Scott McLeod said at #NECC09.

      Scott used the example that if some students didn’t use their voices correctly, we wouldn’t block them from speaking. Then he went on to say that if they were to use their bodies inappropriately, we wouldn’t block them from using their bodies. So why do we block them from using digital tools and resources?

      Something to think about.
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Great conversation going on here. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the online discussion that keeps many of us who ‘get’ technology from banging our heads against the wall. Bringing meaningful Pro D to teachers is challenging so it’s wonderful to hear how others are doing it.

    In our district we have been using some of the ideas that Kim Cofino and Jeff Utecht have tried. We held LAN parties once a month this year and invited everyone in the district. We watched k12 online presentations and skyped with the presenters in the hoping of starting some conversations and showing some new ways of delivering curriculum.

    By and large they were hugely successful. Our sessions ranged from 40 – 90 participants who came out from 5-7 PM. How many of them will use what they’ve learned about paperless classrooms, student blogging, skyping in the classroom or any of the other things they saw? At our final meeting we had every one sign up for an RSS feed and gave them all a few blogs to follow based on their grade and subject area. Our hope is that they caught the self-education bug over the summer. It will be exciting to see where they all are come September.

    1. Lesley, that all sounds great. I’m happy to hear that educators were willing to stay from 5-7pm. That shows dedication!

      It must be exciting, waiting to see how things will be this coming fall. I hope you will be reporting out and changes, or lack of changes. Change can take time. I try to remember that even helping just a few teachers can help so many students.

      Best of luck with everything you are working on. Please make sure to keep me – and us – posted.

      1. On the other hand, in my own school the admin. opted for the technology coordinator who could supply the cables vs the person who had the know how and practical experience to offer training to staff. The district has excellent technology support people who provide ‘under the hood’ fixes. The next logical step is to empower those who can show others how to use the technology in a meaningful way for students. Somehow admin is not seeing it that way.

      2. lgesin says:


        I have a similar experience. The people with the know how and ability to show other teachers how to integrate tech aren’t necessarily those given the resources and opportunities. Unfortunate, but difficult to change.

  6. I love that Leadership Day has become a reflective moment for you as a leader, teacher and learner. You make some great points about approaching professional development in a way that models our approach to teaching students… I would just add that we must be able to differentiate! I hope you will continue to blog about your journey with Craig. And who knows? Someone might write this out on a chalkboard and slip it onto his porch!

    1. And have to look at the eyesore in the neighborhood. You must be kidding 🙂

      Kelly – Thank you for bringing up the point about differentiating. That’s key to being successful with educators as well as students.

  7. Susan Ross says:

    I have enjoyed the discussions on here leadership and PD. There are so many good insights here on which to reflect. We need to be more creative in designing good PD and offer a variety of options that meet all teachers’ needs while dealing with our district constraints. That’s a tall order that we all struggle with!

    I attended the Tech Integration Conference sponsored by NJEA last week. Lisa’s presentation on spontaneous PD was very inspiring. It opened up a whole new realm of PD for me. While I am unable to attend her next presentation in person, I am looking forward to watching it via ustream.

    In the afternoon I attended an Unconference led by Kevin Jarrett. An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose. This was my first experience with an unconference and it was pretty cool. Because it was participant driven, I walked away with knowledge that was relevant to my needs.

    Both of these events were so powerful because they allow teachers to take control of their own learning.

    1. Sue – it was great to connect with you at NJEA, then on Twitter and then have you join the discussion here. That’s what it’s all about – continuing the learning after the event is over. I’m glad you’ve joined us.

  8. As I read your post I have thought about the numerous technology professional developments I have employed in my school. As a technology coordinator, my primary role is to assist teachers with the integration of technology. I have tried many training models. I have had Tech Tusedays, after school and Tech Happy Hour, after school. Neither has been successful; key word, after school. The best PDs are when teachers are the training leaders. Teachers select the PD and thus take ownership of their learning. As the training leader teachers can show how the technology or tool has been used in the classroom.

    Embedded sustained professional development is another effective model that has worked for my teachers, if teachers are asked to participate and not order to do so. It allows training to take place right in the classroom during the school day and teachers can see how the technology can be seamlessly integrated in the classroom.

    For the last six summers I have held a Summer Institute for technology. Participants are teachers who integrate technology throughout the year. The participants are compensated for their time. This group is usually the training leaders during the school year without compensation. This summer the funds where cut. I was approached by one of the teachers who usually attends the Institute and asked if I would meet with her to share new learning. I sent out invites to other participants and to my surprise they all are willing to come to the trainings without pay. This is a perfect example of number two.

    Another successful model is the use of prep time for training. My school is setup in Small Learning Communities and last year I piloted a few trainings during common planning time, which by the way is eighty minutes, what a success. I approached my principal about implementing this model for next year and she was on board. So I have been spending my summer planning for this undertaking. My goal is to have teachers do the training when possible.

    I have to stop this post, because this is a topic close to my heart and a battle I have been fighting for a long time. I am not complaining because all of my administrators have been supportive. I will continue to plug at supporting my teachers where needed, with the support of professional like you. Thanks for all the support you have given me over the years.


    1. Linda I am so happy to hear that the teachers were willing to come to the Summer Institute without pay. You provide stellar PD for them and I know you put a lot of time and hard work into developing your materials. Please keep doing what you are doing and I would love to see YOU share what works and doesn’t work more with other educators in a space like this or on Twitter and I know you have a lot to offer. I enjoy your feedback on my blog and I know others benefit from it as well.

      I also agree with you about the embedded PD. We saw it happen in your building with Universal Design for Learning this year. The teacher we thought wouldn’t adapt, If I remember correctly, was most enthusiastic about what was to come next year.

      So, what’s next for us?

  9. Lisa, I forgot to address your question about professional improvement plans. I have requested that my teachers add technology professional development as one of their goals yearly. Doing this allows me to send them to technology professional development outside of district. One stipulation for attendance is turning keying. Teachers return to school, implement learning and then turnkey to their Small Learning Community or content teachers. This model has worked well. Again, teacher taking ownership of their learning.

  10. Lisa,
    Don’t judge a man by the size of his cell phone. Having come from one of “Craig’s” districts, you might be the very first person he might have come into contact with that is pushing tech. Throw him little bones at first. I am sure a lot of techies at first had a resistance to using tech in class at first.

      1. Whenever I spend a ton of time and try really hard to write a great blog post I might get one or two comments on it. Whenever I just let something rip and “be myself” the posts always get a ton of hits and comments. Sometimes my “greatest” lessons are the ones that I did not go into trying to make the greatest and when I really try to “teach” I kind of feel let down.

        What if with the Craigs we all just tried to not try and convert them, but just share the stuff we do just like we would talk with someone about the grass and the kids…and then wait for the first question. You have a pretty electric personality and do some really cool things Lisa, at some point the guy will get struck by something you are doing and be curious about it.

        Post has me reflecting on how I have interacted with the Craigs in my life…

      2. You know what Paul? You are right about just letting things happen naturally. I’ve only lived there a couple of months. I’m still getting to know him. The face that he’s in my driveway almost everyday with the kids doesn’t mean we have to talk about everything.

        I’ll just let things progress naturally and share the things I have an interest in as the occasion arises. Thanks for pointing that out.

  11. Carol Arc says:

    First, I want to say that I wish I had your ambition and foresight in my early career days. I feel fortunate as a “21st Century educator” to have you and your colleagues as my educators opening doors to tremendous learning opportunities that I and many of us have not seen and may never see in our own school districts. As for Craig – it’s sad, and I think his mindset is a “development moment” that many administrators are having right now. And this can be for two reasons: 1. He just doesn’t get it.
    2. His boss (Superintendent, Board)doesn’t get it and is not pushing for it either. If he was, then Craig would have to upgrade his 8-track to an IPod and “stop to read NJEA Review”.
    This past year I was a member of the NJ21PLP cohort – Sheryl and Will are our hero’s and all the leaders. I had such a long road to travel to get my administrator to 1. understand it, 2. see a need for it, 3. approve it, or shut me up (I’m not sure which). In the year long PD, a percentage of groups began to fall apart due to lack of awareness, importance, support from administration. Ours was one of them (but we moved on).
    There were, however, three school districts whose leaders were key players and it showed. I envied the staff and wanted to drink their lemonade. Like Craig, my administrator didn’t feel it or have the foresight or passion to live, breath and incorporate the emergence of technology, now. He had a chance to lead an amazing journey and he dropped the ball. Kudos to all who replied to this blog and are taking the ball and running with it. Kudos to all 21st Century advocates guiding us and educating us to move forward. Those with the vision and the passion to move forward, will find a way to succeed.

    1. Carol, I think that if Craig had more colleagues like you in his building, things would be different.

      I’m hoping, as I think you are too, that you will see changes in NJ in the next year or so in PD is implemented in our schools.

      Thank you for your comments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s