My eTech Ohio Conference 2011 Reflections

I had the opportunity to attend the eTech Ohio Conference (#oetch11) on Monday, January 31, 2011. It’s a three day event, but with budget and time constraints, I was only able to attend one day. I am excited to attend each year, hoping to take away at least one new idea I can share with my staff. This year, I heard two presentations that were inspiring, encouraging, and practical. However, I will only reflect one the first one in this post.
The keynote presenter was Peter Sheahan and his message was Change Unleashed: From Acquisition to Application of Technology. Not only was his presentation style engaging, but he modeled the application of technology to increase learning. Peter’s comments are in the bold face italicized font and the bullet points represent my reflections:

“There is not an access problem, but a culture problem. We have to change the culture of technology use, not just focus on acquiring technology.”
• We strongly encourage teachers to try something new in the classroom. We sent over 45 teachers from across the district to KipCamp, which is a three-day intense social media training. Not only did we walk away with awareness of all the tools available, but enthusiasm to use them right away. As a result, several teachers in my building have integrated Prezi, Glogster, student choice, more alternative ways for students to demonstrate their learning, Wikispaces, etc.
• I have privately and publicly recognized teachers who have taken risks to try something new by nominating teachers for our monthly staff recognition, sending them a text message, and/or sharing their experience with other teachers.
“A survey was conducted in 2009 asked what people couldn’t live without. Food didn’t even make the list! The list was full of technology. In 2009, the results were the same: flat screens, iPods, cell phone, etc. This was the list for adults, not students.”
• Re-educating the adults of the school community (teachers, parents, and administrators) will help create a school culture of that embraces and maximizes the potential of technology integration. We now allow students to use mobile devices in between classes, during lunch, before school and after school. Teachers have the choice of allowing students to use them in their classes.
“We judge ourselves by our INTENT and we judge others by their “IMPACT.”
• I have made this mistake way too many times to count, so to hear it this way was like a punch in the face! To overcome this mistake, at our next staff meeting I plan to apologize for being judgmental and for being insensitive to the heavy load many are feeling due to a number of factors. Then, I will continue to recognize and celebrate the IMPACT that individual teachers have on our students by sharing their stories publicly at staff meetings, in a blog, and/or through Twitter. I will spend time, like during my No Office Day, to see for myself the impact and then praise the teachers in front of their students.
“How can you create a culture of technology use in your school?” Peter provided some excellent practical ideas that can be implemented right away:
• Provide weekly, monthly, regularly scheduled time for people to share stories about the vision in action.
• Use technology to remind teachers how effective the use of technology is in classroom in terms of engaging students.
• Unblock sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Glogster, Wikipedia, etc.
• Have “technology only” days in the classroom, which will encourage both students and teachers to use it for learning.
“The number one challenge we have to break is thinking that the educator has to control the room.”
• I think about a number of teachers in my building who have gained control by relinquishing control. By that, I mean they have controlled the outcome of the class, which is learning, but establishing clear expectations upfront, showing students how to learn, and then providing them many opportunities to do it. They also provide ongoing feedback, both formally and informally.
Change is difficult, but change is also necessary. If you not us, then who? If not now, then when? After all, we have a moral obligation to prepare our students for their future, not our present.

Be Great,


Management vs. Leadership

vision2The challenges of being a high school principal are numerous. Daily issues of dress code, tardiness, student engagement, consistent enforcement of rules, etc. coupled with leading the school community into 21st century teaching and learning is enough to drive one insane. However, this balance between management and leadership excites me.

I define management as the day to day operation of the building, from rules enforcement to paper pushing. Management is taking care of the little things before they become huge problems. Management is not always fun, but it’s definitely necessary. Proper classroom management allows for quality teaching and learning. Proper building management allows teachers to teach and students to learn.

Leadership is vision, planning, developing and serving others, and it’s fun! Currently, my district is going through an evolution in how we teach, learn, and assess. The “tip of the evolution spear” is an annex to Gahanna Lincoln High School, called Clark Hall. Clark Hall is going to be a 21st century designed building that will allow 21st century teaching, learning, and assessment to take place. It’s creative in design, set up to be a collaborative learning environment, and plans to have a solid wireless connection are underway. There is so much at stake, yet I’m loving every step of the way! The challenges are huge, but this project has been a living, breathing example of Quadrant D learning (High Rigor and High Relevance).

I’ve selected a group of 30 teachers who will be teaching at Clark Hall and they are chomping at the bit to get started. Well, they selected themselves through conversations each one has had with me about their vision for teaching and learning. Our emphasis at Clark Hall is on creativity, student autonomy, collaboration, technology integration, student choice/student voice, blended instruction, and problem solving. While this is an extensive list, I believe it’s what learning is all about. The leadership challenge is being able to pace and plan out our steps so that we do not try to do everything the first year.

This is the most exciting time to be an educator and I’m blessed to be the building principal of a large, succesful suburban high school in a district that is forward thinking and well supported. The building and  district leadership teams are two of the best around. Why change now? Why build Clark Hall? Why stress 21st century school redesign and 21st century skills?  Why not?

Manage the day to day, but lead today for tomorrow…

Be Great,