Helping teachers prepare students for tomorrow, today.


ILD: Reflections from the TEC

I’m taking my ILD course to earn a mid management (principal) certification in Texas. As part of one of the assignments, I had to reflect on parts of the Texas Education Code. The section below contains my reflections.


Reflections on the Texas Education Code

Campus Planning and Decision-Making TEC 11.253, 11.254

The mandate that each school creates and uses a site-based decision-making committee supports student achievement by democratizing, at least to some extent, the critical decisions a campus makes to promote student achievement, involving representative stakeholders from among teachers, parents, administration and the community. The committee is charged with developing a campus improvement plan that outlines goals to promote student achievement and ties them to financial and personnel resources and mandates that schools measures progress toward the achievement of these goals. To the extent that a school uses this system with fidelity, the obvious benefits of having SMART goals, measurable progress, multiple sources of data, and stakeholder input will augment and focus the school’s efforts to be more successful.


Teacher Appraisal TEC 21.351, 21.352 and  Administrator Appraisal TEC 21.354

The teacher and administrator appraisal system is quite simply a means by which the SBOE attempts to make sure that our students have the highest quality teachers and administrators working to promote student achievement. This area is fraught with political and ideological controversy, which is not surprising given how vague this section of the TEC outlines expectations for districts. However, Texas has a long tradition of respecting LEAs and the wording of this section may be a reflection of that philosophy.


Professional Development TEC 21.451 and Assessment of Academic Skills 39.023, 39.0231, 39.024

The professional development section of the TEC is short and sweet. It directly states that the goal of PD is to improve education in the district, thus supporting student achievement. The LEA is able to determine the focus of PD as it relates to the needs of students in their district, but the SBOE does provide suggestions including technology, classroom management or working with students with disabilities. The SBOE does state that professional development may not violate the law, including Supreme Court rulings.


Standardized testing is a highly political issue with opinions ranging from the US Dept. of Education and NCLB to local groups of parents who believe it is legal for them to have their children “opt out” of standardized testing all together. Not surprisingly, this section of the TEC is very detailed. By carefully outlining requirements for standardized testing, the SBOE supports student achievement by creating a set of criteria for the whole state to aspire toward achieving. If each LEA were allowed to develop its own criteria, as in the case of the recent survey requirements of HB 5, then all districts would be highly rated, even if the students were genuinely struggling in a district with little or no educational supports. Obviously, standardized testing can be overly used and emphasized. Finding an optimal balance that supports achievement, satisfies national and state legislators, and allows students and teachers to focus on learning the goals and objectives in the TEKS rather than “teaching to the test” is something that we have yet to find.


Curriculum/TEKS 28.001, 28.002

This section of the TAC provides the “nuts and bolts” that guides what is being taught in classrooms across the state. This section provides general subject area requirements which are then further specified into a series of goals, objectives, and performance indicators for every class taught in the state. This section outlines not only core academic subjects that must be taught, but also elective and enrichment courses designed to help students develop into well rounded adults. A series of clarifications follow which further state that districts may allow for independent study, substitue ASL as a foreign language, provide for daily physical activity, and provide Career and Technology Education, to name a few.


Preconceived Stereotypes in Training

With all the discussion in the media lately about prejudice, racism and bias, I thought it might be good to reflect on my own biases and preconceived notions when training others. The longer I work with groups of people the easier it is to develop preconceived notions. For technology training it’s not so much about race or gender as it is age. I’ve always assumed that if you remember 8 track tapes (like me), then you will have a harder time or even be resistant to #EdTech professional development.

8 Track Tapes

Raise your hand if you know what this is?

A couple of weeks ago, I was conducting a training in Kansas to a group of teachers new to #EdTech in general. They had been issued their devices a week prior and my task was to help bring them up to speed. In this particular group of teachers was a veteran teacher of 52 years in the classroom. He sat up front next to his principal. I immediately identified him in my mind as a person likely in need of some additional assistance. To be honest, I had already decided that what he gets from our training might be very limited. He’s significantly older and that automatically means he will struggle and perhaps give up in frustration.

For the record… I was totally wrong!

This gentleman was a delight and continues to be an inspiration to me personally. Yes, he struggled. What’s amazing is that he never wavered. He never said, “I can’t do it.” He never let the person next to him “take over” and do things for him. He never gave up.

As he left the training room, he took time to thank me and let me know how much he enjoyed it. The last thing he said to me was, “I don’t have all this down right now, but if you come back in a year, I’ll be great at it!”

This experience reminded me that people can continue to surprise, challenge, educate and even delight you. It’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of training and teaching in general. I can only hope and pray that after 52 years in the business to still have such an amazing attitude and enthusiasm about learning.


K-12 Schools Need to Start Thinking About Creating Brand Name Recognition for the Future

Recent summaries predicting changes in education have emphasised the need for schools, mostly higher ed, to market and develop brand name recognition to keep recruiting students. In light of how Texas seems to be going, this seems prudent for K-12 as well if they are to maintain current student ADA funding. This article is a year old, but I think you can see trends in HB5 and recent legislation efforts that necessitate this kind of perspective.The Brand

“CIOs and other business leaders in higher (& I think K-12) education should:

  • Build a clear brand that is easy to communicate and represents a specific (ideally demonstrable) value to the student.

  • Understand their market demographics. All good marketing starts with a clear understanding of a specific demographic and the respective goals or ambitions. For example, today there is a clear divide between students that are laser-focused on attaining a degree as a means to get a good (better) job with a higher salary, and students (parents) who see a four-year college as a general preparation for life and as a journey from adolescence to adulthood. The former will clearly choose the quickest (online) path to their goal, while the latter will prefer a residential college’s environment for “safe social training” along with a more general education. (Yes, the liberal arts college still has its clear place — along with several new institutional models.)

  • Learn from other industries — retail, in particular. Several industries felt the impact of the death of distance long before higher education did. We can learn from them. We can learn how to find the new “hangouts” of our prospective students (Facebook, Livemocha, YouTube) and how to reach them with a message tailored to their context. All this leverages the new tools with which IT-based communication provides us.

  • Reassert their institutional “business model” by answering the questions, “What are we doing, for whom, how and with which trademark?” Make sure there are clear answers and agreement among most of the institution’s faculty and staff.

  • Make it easy to apply for and leverage government (federal) subsidies.”

Rust, Bill. “Predicts 2013: Digitalization Powers Education.” Predicts 2013: Digitalization Powers Education. Gartner, 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
Be Original


Effective Teacher Professional Development Occurs on the Job or in Job-Embedded Training

On the job or job-embedded training

Who hasn’t attended a tech workshop at a conference, been all fired up to implement some of the new ideas, only to have difficulty making them work in the classroom? The closer that a training is to the context, location, and need of the teacher, the more likely that learning will be generalized and extend into actual classroom practice. Professional development needs to be part of the teacher’s daily schedule during class time or prep time. Big ideas and big changes are hard to implement. A series of baby steps leading, when followed consistently, up to that same change are much easier to accomplish.

Professional Development also need to be monitored and followed up on to ensure fidelity. You treasure what you measure and a an admin is only as good as his/her follow through. Some teachers will naturally gravitate toward improvement and change, while others will need the occasional nudge to embrace a culture of PD and growth.

Say what you like about the tenets of [professional development], at least it’s an ethos.


Peer Ed. (0). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h679fRuKMc
Walter and Lebowski [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://gutenfilm.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/hall-of-greats-the-big-lebowski/
Knight, J. . Instructional coaching, a partnership approach to improving instruction. Corwin Press, print.


Effective Teacher Professional Development is Shaped by Data

 Shaped by Data

Teacher professional development, like anything these days, has been shown to be more effective if it is based on data. Data driven goals and objectives can form the subject or basis of PD and help make that connection between professional practice and student need. In Texas, I particularly like the work of Ervin Knezek and the Lead4ward team in this area. What they have done is to help school districts by developing templates and models which can be used to disaggregate data to identify what teachers need to know and what students need help learning. He additionally identifies “process standards” that target a number of student objectives. These standards can be adapted quite easily for project based learning. His work, though specific to Texas, can be contextually extended to Common Core in that you must triage your goals based on data into what the teachers need to work on through PLCs or PD, what the students need additional help and support to increase achievement, and what (in my opinion) can be strategically targeted for adaptation or adoption of 21st Century Skills.

No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of.



Effective Teacher PD Must Be Connected to Practice, Pedagogy, and Content


Connected to classroom practice, pedagogy, and content

This seems self evident, but I’ve attended many PD sessions and have heard feedback from colleagues who attended tech trainings that were not explicitly targeted to their classroom practice, pedagogy and content. The TPACK framework is a good visual model of how the areas of technology, pedagogy, and content area knowledge intersect to form tech rich classroom practice. Many effective trainings will fall into intersections of any two of these three elements. It helps teachers to know during and in advance of training which areas are targeted.

Too often technology PD falls into what I classify as a “spray and pray” category where skills are broadly covered in the hopes that teachers will adopt one or more practices they view. Based on my experience, this doesn’t work very well at all. If you truly want to change teacher practice, PD needs to occur in the context of where they work, classroom or in the school, and it has to focus on issues immediately relevant to them.

The following two coaching roles or strategies as defined by ISTE will help to establish relevancy to the teachers’ needs:

  • Providing just-in-time, just enough advice or training on teaching strategies, or integrating technology.
  • Co-planning technology-rich, active, engaging learning activities with collaborating teachers.


There are a variety of other coaching roles or strategies but these seem to be a good starting point for teachers who are newer to technology integration. Focus on student outcomes and achievement works better once a basic level of proficiency has been achieved and the teacher sees positive benefits of adding these methods of instruction.


Foltos, L. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.isteonline.org/mod/book/view.php?id=5409&chapterid=480Knight, J. . Instructional coaching, a partnership approach to improving instruction. Corwin Press, print.

Peer Ed. (0). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h679fRuKMc

Walter and Lebowski [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://gutenfilm.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/hall-of-greats-the-big-lebowski/


Characteristics of Effective #EdTech Teacher Professional Development

I’ve been studying over the past two years how to best create, deliver, use, and abuse #EdTech Professional Development in our district. Like anything, sometimes you eat the bear… and sometimes the bear eats you. That’s why there’s this thing called research that people do, and it really helps to inform you of what works and what doesn’t. So hopefully, this little post will share some of what seems to work. I don’t have all the answers, but some of these ideas seem to ring true and were stolen from some very smart people.

The Dude and The Stranger
Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.

Characteristics of Effective Teacher Professional Development

That’s it in a nutshell. If you are doing these six things already, then you are truly a rock star. If you are like the rest of us, then perhaps a little thought should be given to what each of these characteristics mean. The next six blog posts will address each one of these in turn.


Peer Ed. (0). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h679fRuKMc
The Stranger and Lebowski [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2114226176/ch0003525Knight, J. . Instructional coaching, a partnership approach to improving instruction. Corwin Press, print.


Effective Professional Development Must Be Intensive, On-Going and Long Term


Amen! The one thing that seems to be constant in education, is that nothing seems to be constant in education. Veteran teachers know that if they wait long enough, the current district or campus initiative du jour will pass and they can get back to doing what ever they did before. What we as administrators often forget is that the greater the degree of change that we try to promote, the longer and slower it will take. Moving a campus is like swinging a big, heavy pendulum. Moving a district even more so. Stake holders need time to adapt and grassroots support is necessary for any success to be realized.




I had the opportunity to do some trainings at Byron Center High School in Michigan. Immediately you can tell that a great deal of time was invested in developing a positive school culture and increasing the quality of pedagogical practice. It is amazing how apparent this can be in a technology training, but if those foundations are not carefully constructed prior to any technology initiatives, then the tech is doomed to be underutilized. Principal Scott Joseph has done a great job in Byron Center. He commented that he had recently found the four year plan he implemented during his first year. His pride that they were still very much on track was evident.


Eric Erb, a former principal from Pennsylvania, told me that it isn’t uncommon for a large change initiative to take about 3 – 5 years to fully implement. This is especially true for sweeping technology initiatives like BYOD and 1:1. My current district, Sanger ISD, is in it’s 4 year of planning and 2nd year of implementation of a 1:1 technology initiative for grades 8 – 12. We are blessed with a number of advantages including extremely gifted HS and MS principals, an experienced and talented faculty, lower incidence of low SES and at-risk students than other districts, a supportive central admin, school board, and community. That being said, change still takes time. And it is important to be dedicated to see it through. A school can dig a really good 100 ft. well, or it can waste all its time and resources digging one-hundred 1 ft. wells.





Foltos, L. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.isteonline.org/mod/book/view.php?id=5409&chapterid=480

Knight, J. . Instructional coaching, a partnership approach to improving instruction. Corwin Press, print.

Peer Ed. (0). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h679fRuKMc

Lebowski [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/j/MSNBC/Components/Slideshows/_production/ss-110811-Big-Lebowski/ss-1108110-Big-Lebowski-02.grid-9×2.jpg



Tuesday’s Tech Tips 3/19/13

Hope everyone had a good spring break. I know that getting up for work, at least for me, was brutal with the time change and an extended week to sleep late. Today’s tips have a mix of stuff whether you are teaching or non-teaching member of our SISD family.

How to Block Annoying Political Posts (or Anything Else) on Facebook
Inline image 1
Amen to Lifehacker for making this tutorial. I promise I’m not filtering any one of you guys! 😉
A Must Have Classroom Poster (or visual guide) on Facebook Bullying
Since some of you are now on to the fact that I’ve filtered you, it might be appealing to try to bully me or make me cry using social media. But wait! I have this handy guide to help me and my students cope with some of the nefarious behaviors we experience with social media.
Inline image 2
The Pedagogy Wheel
One of my PLC peeps from down under shared this with me and since it’s spring, I thought giving a shout out to little Bloom’s might be in order.
This graphic takes a modified Bloom’s taxonomy, lists verbs related to each of the levels, lists potential project types, and last organizes apps that aid in this process. I think it’s way cool, but you might find it useful, too. And I’ll share a secret… the IFD in CSCOPE has verbs in the Performance Indicators… just match them up with the chart to get some techy ideas for class.
Inline image 3
Hey, tech dude, we just want cool stuff!
Okay, okay, enough of the pedagogy junk. Below is a list of cool, free resources for you to use and abuse with your students.
20 Terrific Presentation Tools for Students
Tagxedo = Wordle on Steroids
Ask3 – An iPad App for Creating Flipped Classroom Vids Your Students can Actually Respond to
Best of Web 2.0 Tools for Education – Prezi by Amy Mayer
Getting Tubed (happens to all of us sooner or later) – YouTube type stuff
YouTube is about much more than just sailing cats or doing the Harlem Shake. It has a ton of useful media that can be used mindfully in the classroom to facilitate learning. Honestly I’m not a big Khan Academy fan because it is so impersonal. But when you add a living, breathing teacher into the equation (a.k.a. us) things improve significantly. Here are some resources that you may find to be totally tubular!
A Teacher’s Guide to Using YouTube – Great Article from Edudemic
Blubbr – Create interactive quizzes and games for YouTube vids.
Ideas for Teaching Adults & Teens with Videos


Using Videos to Teach Young Learners


Last note, I promise. If you haven’t heard about it, the new TI Nspire app for iPad is TOTALLY AMAZING!!! Way better than the actual TI Nspire calculator. Here is a playlist of video tutorials from TI to show you what this bad mamma jamma can do!
Inline image 4


Ensure a Successful 1:1 Initiative by Investing in Professional Development

student computersTiming is everything when rolling out a one-to-one initiative, from purchasing student machines, to deciding when teachers get their devices, and even scheduling and planning of professional development. these key decisions Can greatly affect the outcome of your one-to-one initiative. If done incorrectly you have Steve’s devices and teachers like the ability or the training to understand how to use these devices effectively in the classroom. The main objective of any one-to-one initiative should be to increase learning and student achievement.

I have had the opportunity to observe different school districts implementing one-to-one student laptop and tablet initiatives. Some districts are doing an excellent job of making sure that the teachers have sufficient professional development prior to the students getting devices. Their initiatives tend to be more successful than schools that do not take the time to sufficiently train its teachers. District leaders need to have enough patience to allow for proper planning and professional development prior to implementation, and not succumb to political or social pressures to simply issue student devices.

Successful districts seem to allow at least two years for this process prior to rolling out their student one-to-one initiative.

Successful districts seem to allow at least two years for this process prior to rolling out their student one-to-one initiative. During year one districts need to dedicate at least the first six months developing vision, planning, creating policies and procedures, collaborating with other district administrators, while facilitating school board and community buy in. School administrators need to develop a budget that not only allows for the initial purchase of the devices but plans for the sustainability and maintenance of these devices, ensuring that the initiative can continue in the future.

leadership trainingDuring the second year districts need to continue the efforts of this started during year one. Focus on continued planning, continued budgeting, and continued facilitation of community and school board support. Districts also need to begin a program of intensive professional development for every teacher on every campus in with a student one-to-one initiative. Teachers need to be trained not only on the basics of using their new computer, but also on how to maintain proper classroom management when students have computers, and on how to make meaningful connections, using technology, that reinforce curriculum standards. ture. The next six months needs to be focused on purchasing and distributing teacher devices so that the teachers have their machines at least one year prior to the students getting their devices.


Teacher training is criticalSchool districts that fail to invest sufficient time and resources to providing a proper foundation of professional development to all of its teachers, prior to issuing computers to students, will have a one to one program will not see the desired gains in student achievement. Essentially they will have issued a $1000 gaming device to each of the students, that teachers are reluctant to use.

In the end, education is all about students. It’s teachers that make learning and student achievement possible. As district leaders, we must invest time and resources into giving our teachers the tools they need to help our students succeed.

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