Are We Engaged?

2948613096_6bdd7231d0I’m one of the lucky ones.  I get to test a new iPad for our school district for some time this year.  In thinking about areas I’d like to really use the iPad, I know I can really use it during walkthroughs – combined with Google doc forms. Yep, I want to try that.  When I visit with the teachers after walkthroughs, I find it interesting that the conversation teachers want to explain (or defend) most is that of student engagement – but only when there is a lack of it.

When a teacher starts down this conversational path, I know it is a teaching moment for me as a leader, and the conversation will be guiding the teacher into reflecting on what he or she was doing during that time where the students were not engaged.  I have decided to include the teacher engagement process on my Google doc.  How should I include that?  If you are a teacher reading this, what would you want me to ask you?  What data would I collect? How would you want to know if you are engaged with your students?  Building principals, what do you use to measure whether or not a teacher is engaged?  Suggest anything.  Suggest everything.  The list of what not to include is often as helpful and what should be there.

I know it’s hard to believe, but I still find teachers sitting at their desks working with students asleep at their own desks in the middle of a class period. I don’t mean one teacher on a rare occasion, I mean the same teacher over and over.  Even if this happened at the end of a class period, we know we are supposed to respond to that.  If you share ideas with me, in one month, I promise to share the Google doc form we create with our collective thoughts right here with all of you.  And I will test it.  Promise.

Photos:  Engagement Ring by Sammy Hancock on Flickr.
All photos from Flickr: Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution and share alike distribution

Piloting our Future in Education

The Thinker in Paris

It’s taken me a week to decide what I thought about ISTE2010 – oh, not about what I learned; that’s easy, –but about what I wanted to do with what I learned.  Each year, this is my third, I find the conference has had a completely different impact on my thinking.  The first year, I was felt like I woke up from a coma in respect to educational technology and where the world was in respect to the progress in our schools (BTW, the answer? Dismally behind where we should be).  In my second year, I felt challenged as an educator in a leadership position (there’s a story behind this that I need to tell later), and Scott McLeod personally challenged me and sent me home to do something to advocate for educational technology in my school, district, and state (which I did).  And this year, my third year, I feel I am moved to action.  Action in a way that I am not sure of yet, but certainly action that I hope carries the name “pilot” as often as possible.

I like the term “pilot” I’ve decided.  Not just because I am one or I’m married to one.  Not because it’s a cool SUV that I would love to own (and want it sitting next to the sports car I plan to own next year). No, the English teacher in me figured out I want to skip the pilot nouns; I like the verb “pilot.”   I like it because the word itself seems hopeful to me.

At ISTE, Chris Lehman challenged my school team (we were fortunate to take 9 teachers to ISTE this year) to examine one system or structure of our school/classroom that we could change to make it better reflect our values or mission.  I was amazed that all 9 of us jumped on the fact that our future block schedule could revert back to a seven period day, and we knew that was not what was best for our students in respect to teaching and learning.  We all know funding drives it.  We all know it’s the easiest decision to fall back to for the school board.  We all know it’s the schedule that most people are familiar with which is what makes it so accessible.  What we didn’t know is why we were going to just lay down and take it when there just might be something out there that is better for our students AND fits the funding constraints we are facing. Maybe we should create something and PILOT it.

Then Ian Jukes got me want to live on the “future edge” with his challenges to step up to 21st century learning.  He reminded me about Moore’s Law and the new digital world that is not stopping for educators.  Then I listened to Howard Reingold, and he make me realize I had to put myself out there if I really wanted to make the right difference for my school.


My mind didn’t stop there.  There are so many things we do each day that just don’t work for student learning.  How many different sessions must I attend, books must I read, or data must I analyze before I challenge what I we do in my school?  I am tired of hearing myself say it’s a part of the system and can’t be changed.  I am currently reading Education Unbound by Frederick Hess.  It’s already making me want something better for my students and my teachers.

I am dying to step up to the challenge.  I think our district and our state sees that on the horizon – if Missouri public schools don’t try new things, challenge old ways, go where only charter schools have gone before – we are going to lose our kids.  I accept the challenge to find a better future schedule for our high school than what is traditionally easiest to accept.  I accept the challenge to encourage our teachers to teach beyond a test and reach kids in where service and creation (read The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida) are their future reality. And, I accept the challenge to bring the whole flat world to our students by pushing our community to understand, accept and demand a one-to-one environment for learning.  I am willing to do the work to pilot these ideas.  The way I see it, the time is here:  innovate or die.

So, ISTE2010 has me thinking.  I like the term “pilot.”  How about you?


Photos:  The Thinker in Paris by dreamawakener on Flickr.
Kurt in Afghanistan by KurtWestfall on facebook.
Hourglass by James Birkbeck on Flickr.
All photos from Flickr: Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution and share alike distribution