Monday, October 8, 2007

The Sunflower as a Symbol of Community

The sunflower as a symbol of community dates back to the earliest centuries. The sunflower always seeks the light and will turn towards it no matter where it is planted. The sunflower always reaches upward toward the sun. The sunflower itself is an image of radiance and light. Its circular shape connotes eternity, community and unity. The seeds of the sunflower are different shapes and sizes. The seeds are also highly visible an open to the scrutiny of the world and yet they spread themselves all over this world (the spreading of the good news). The sunflower rises tall above all the other plants but never looks down on them. It doesn’t cast much of a shadow so other plants can grow along side it. (Photo taken Oct. 2007 : Sunflower from my flower bed)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Shepherd as Leader: an image of leadership

I recommend the book “Shepherd Leadership” by Blaine McCormick and David Davenport (2003) for insight and understanding of the meaning of shepherd leadership.

The Leader is a highly visible shepherd who performs the servant’s work and then some.

The Leader is squarely at the front of the followers to serve as a role model and guide…never being so far out in front (or behind) that he/she could not come alongside.

Leaders become shepherds when they awaken to the reality that their actions and decisions can improve the quality of their followers’ lives forever.

Shepherd Leadership is a way of being. “Being with” the follower and seeing from the perspective of the follower.

Shepherd Leadership is a whole-person leadership…a matter of head and hand and heart; a way of thinking and doing and being.

When I think about "building accessible classrooms" and the idea that assistive technology can benefit learners in profound ways, I am reminded that a shepherd leader knows that every sheep in the flock matters. Why is it taking so long for assistive technology to become pervasive in schools? Where are the shepherd leaders that:
- Empower others to see more and learn more than would ever be possible on their own;
- Envision the next destination and the best way to get there; and
- Provide an environment of contentment and abundance for increased growth and progress for all learners?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Systemic Change

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it has never happened any other way.” Margaret Mead

How is systemic change defined? Systemic change is defined by the Education Systemic Change Tools site as an approach which involves players from throughout the system in considering all parts of an organization or group, how change in one area affects another, and how to coordinate change in a system so that it furthers the shared goals and visions. We often feel that we are limited in our contributions toward system change and view this as something that can only be accomplished by those with more authority or higher level ranking in a hierarchal system. Everyone plays a critical role in systemic change. Leaders need to ensure that everyone contribute to systemic change.
Systemic change at the school or district level requires ALL stakeholders to:
-Create a vision of what you want the system to look like and accomplish.
-Take stock of the current situation.
-Identify strengths and weaknesses of the current system in light of the vision.
-Target several priority items for improvement.
-Establish a plan for addressing these priority items and for measuring success.
-Assess progress regularly and revise actions as needed.

Beverly Anderson (1993) describes a continuum of systemic change in a matrix with six developmental stages and six key elements of change. “Six stages of change characterize the shift from a traditional educational system to one that emphasizes interconnectedness, active learning, shared decision making, and higher levels of achievement for all students.” The matrix can be used to develop a common language when communicating about change; to develop a strategic plan for moving forward with change; and to develop ongoing assessment to further the change process. I recommend viewing the matrix to identify the entry points for change and to develop ideas for future direction. (Educational Leadership, 1993 Vol.51, No.1)

Thoughtful Discussion Questions
How do we create conditions that will promote informed, thoughtful discussion about purposes among teachers, students, parents, and community members? I thought it might be helpful to provide a series of questions that could be used by a school leader in facilitating discussion with stakeholders to support the implementation of a systemic change. The following questions were compiled from various articles in Educational Leadership (1993) and The steps of systemic change is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. View the site for more questions to guide the process of revising or developing a new action plan.
For school leaders:
Which basic values guide my work?
What motivates teacher performance? How do I define my role as leader?
What are my goals for this school?
How do my actions demonstrate my values and my goals?
For school leadership teams or steering committee:
What are our schools' strengths and weaknesses?
What is our vision and what are our core values for a better school?
What are our priorities and strategies for change?
What structures do we need to reach our goals?
What new skills and resources will we need?
For building a vision:
What will the ideal look like when it’s complete?
What are you looking forward to most in completing that task?
What specifically will be most pleasing?
What has worked most effectively in similar situations in the past?
For assessing progress of the plan:
What was particularly effective about the way that worked?
What would you do differently another time?
What would be the benefit of doing it differently?

More Helpful Links: - Select educators, researchers and policy makers are addressing a vital issue: the impact of digital technology on learning - will it merely produce incremental improvement or could it lead to fundamental change? - The growth in technology and global demands on education - Systemic Change Activity - - The Age of our Accountability by Thomas Guskey, 1998

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Scaffolding PD Model

The scaffolding professional development model could be a framework designed to support teachers in using technology to increase student achievement. The differentiated professional development model would allow participants to determine personal entry points and select professional development opportunities that meet individual learning needs.

What would be the purpose of the scaffolding PD Model?
· To clearly communicate professional development opportunities that respond to varying readiness levels and modes of learning; and
· To provide a self-assessment continuum describing stages of proficiency that would allow participants to identify and select professional development and support options at each stage of growth.

The article, Differentiation in Diverse Settings, by Carol Ann Tomlinson, in the School Administrator provides some great ideas for differentiating staff development! I found the implementation stories interesting, in particular the Waterside story and how they developed a “coherent and sustained movement in a desirable direction.”

The article reminded me about the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM). I believe an adapted framework can easily be customized in order to provide a scaffolding professional development model. Similarly, in the article, Tomlinson also talks about Watersides’ continuum used to support teacher staff development and needs at each stage of growth as one of the components in their implementation that was successful. Perhaps the CBAM model needs to be resurfaced again!

Recommended Reading:
The CBAM: Concerns Based Adoption Model
The Concerns Based Adoption Model
CBAM - Impact for Administrators
Stages of Concern about Technology use

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Is it really possible to multitask when using technology or are we just switching from one task to the other? I am intrigued with the current studies and interest in multitasking with technology and in particular the impact of multitasking on learning and leadership. Prior to delving into the research, I formed some assumptions about multitasking:
1) Everyone is able to multitask
2) Multitasking is something we should encourage not discourage
3) 21st century learners are able to multitask better than learners before them
4) Multitasking skills can be improved with practice
5) Multitasking makes tasks more interesting

I’m involved in 1-1 mobile computing leadership initiative where a group of school based administrators and district consultants meets face-to-face one afternoon each month. At first, it was really uncomfortable having everyone using their laptops during the meeting especially when presentations were being “delivered” to the whole group. During the presentations I noticed many of the participants checking email, websites, or working on other tasks using their laptops instead of completely focusing on the presenter. We never did establish or communicate any etiquette regarding the use of laptops during the meetings when we started the program. The only instruction given was the expectation that participants use the laptop as often as possible at our meetings as well as any other meetings they attend to become comfortable with using the technology and modeling the use of technology in a leadership position.

One participant asked me if we should have everyone close their laptops in order to ensure everyone is on task. I reflected on how many times I did the same thing as a teacher and said “Everyone put your pencils down and now we’ll begin ….” I suppose pencils could easily be replaced with laptops in the previous sentence. I have to wonder how modern learners expect one-to-one environments to operate. I believe it is possible for students to be present in their seat with pencils down and really NOT be present at all. So what’s the difference if they have a laptop in front of them and we ask them to close the lid? Will laptops OFF ensure students are ON or engaged and motivated to do the assigned task or participate in a given discussion? It doesn’t seem fair to limit learners by our own preferences based on our experiences and technology competencies.

Through extensive research, Harvard researchers, Jiang and Kanwisher, who studied students at MIT, found “that people have surprisingly stubborn limitations on their ability to carry out multiple tasks at the same time” (2003). In the study, it was discovered that students took twice as long to do two tasks at once as when they did the tasks separately. It was found that task switching took longer than task-repeating. The switching time between tasks adds on a considerable amount of time dependent on the complexity of the tasks. So, handling one thing at a time seems to be easier than handling two and we expend more time when switching in particular if the task involves increasing complexity.

Similar to my own personal assumptions, Prensky argues that today’s learners are able to task-switch efficiently and are able to successfully interact with multiple technologies and engage in several activities at one time (2005). I have to wonder if effective task-switching only occurs when the learner is engaged in complementary tasks or more than one simple task. Multitasking does seem more manageable if the two (or more) tasks are simple tasks. I find it much more difficult to multitask when one of the tasks is more complex.

Questions: What are the implications of multitasking for learners and leaders? By understanding the intricacies of multitasking can we avoid limiting learners by our own ideals and lead in changing the learning landscape to support 21st century learners?

Recommended Reading:
Common Neural Mechanisms for Response Selection and Perceptual Processing (Jiang & Kanwisher, 2003)
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (Prensky, 2005)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Technology Stewards

Being a technology steward has very little to do with being an expert technology user, instead it’s much more about understanding the connections and interactions of human networks.

In The Full Circle Online Interaction Blog, Nancy White along with Etienne Wenger and John Smith define Technology stewards as: “people with enough experience of the workings of a community to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with technology to take leadership in addressing those needs.”

In Technology Communities, the authors summarize the findings of a larger study of communities of practice. The role of the “technology steward” is described as a person or several people that “tend” to the technology to enable a community of practice. (Wenger, White, Smith, & Rowe, 2005)

Douglas Reeves (May, 2006) wrote an excellent article in Educational Leadership, “Of Hubs, Bridges, and Networks” where he described a “key member” in the community as a critical component in a framework for sustaining change. The “key member”, which I believe parallels the technology steward is defined as “one of those relatively rare people who not only knows a disproportionate number of other people, but also seems to influence them.”

One of the tensions faced by technology stewards is trying to understand future technology needs in schools which seem to be an impossible task based on the steady growth and change of technology today. The book “Kamishibai Man” by Allen Say is a story about Kamishibai, the Japanese art of street storytelling with storyboards and is said to have started in the 1920’s. Later this was replaced by the television or electric Kamishibai in the 1950’s. The story tells about the “joyful rediscovery and celebration of the special relationship between storyteller and his audience.”

Bev Trayner argues that communities of practice are more than just platforms. In her Phronesis (Towards a practical wisdom) blog she writes, “…they think that building a platform, with lots of functionalities, plus some animation will create a community of practice….In other words there is this gap in people's thinking between the lived in experience of human beings - with all their strengths, frailities and social lives - and the tools and technology they use. One person builds (animates) the community while someone else builds the platform.” The Kamishibai man used a mobile storyboard on a bicycle as his platform, coupled with the oral tradition of telling stories, which is really about community and the connections and interactions of the storyteller with others. Will online communities and connectivism provide the Kamishibai Man a new medium or new platform and increased (different) opportunities to build relationships with others?

I recommend viewing the 2020 vision clip, a graduation speech delivered to a group of students that enter grade one in September 2007, which outlines striking possibilities for the future of technology and impact on education. The intent of the clip is to ignite conversations about preparing for the future. View the clip and then have a conversation with someone in your community of practice. How can technology stewards prepare for the transitions through the vast changes that are inevitable in our future?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Servant Leadership

What is Servant Leadership?
Servant Leadership, a term first coined by Greenleaf (1904-1990) in an essay, “The Servant Leader” continues to be a topic of discussion today.
“Servant-Leadership begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” Robert Greenleaf

My son said he would like to be an inventor when he grows up. He asked me if I would help him. I replied by saying that not only would I help him but I would work for him. I think he was a bit a surprised by this response. It reminded me of the same reaction I would get from my high school students when they talked about their dream jobs and plans for the future. I would always tell the students that I would gladly work for them and quite possibly they could end up being my boss some day. I believe servant leadership is all about the willingness to work collaboratively and serve others regardless of position in an organization. I believe servant leadership is about trusting those we work with.

In my experience as an educator I have worked with many leaders that I would consider true servant leaders. When I think of a servant leader, I think of someone that works with groups to make decisions (consensus building), someone that values the contributions and gifts of others, someone that is dependable and strives to do what’s best for the whole, someone who is willing to contribute as follower and as a leader, and someone who is willing to serve.

As leaders, how do we serve others?

I recommend visiting the servant leadership blog for more thoughts & provocative questions on this topic.