21st Century Learning

Telling a 21st Century Learning Story Through Digital Portfolios

Guest post by Mike King

Last time I posted, I discussed Dodge City Middle School’s (DCMS) student-led conference initiative, which places students at the center of their own learning. This post, I will share how we’ve continued this important work and integrated digital portfolios that help students apply their learning experiences to the real world and foster digital citizenship and 21st-century learning skills. (more…)

Makerspaces: Learning Through Play at Portage High School 

Guest post by Robin Kvalo

As the principal of Portage High School, the term “makerspace” came into my world when I brought Naomi Harm, innovative educator consultant, to Portage High School for staff development workshops. Initially, I wasn’t sure where makerspaces would fit in a high school. However, after attending Naomi’s makerspace workshop Make Room for Makerspaces at the School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education (SLATE) convention in Wisconsin, I was hooked.  (more…)

21st-Century Learning Conferences: Innovating Authentic Learning

What if you turned off the bells in your school and threw away the traditional schedule for the day? What would you do for an entire day with students? How would students want to spend their time learning? (more…)

Blanket Forts and The Future of Learning

Guest post by Paul Hermes

The value of unique knowledge and expertise is declining significantly due to the proliferation of accessible digital technology. This phenomenon has happened in history before; however, it has not happened at this pace and not to this scale. Access to information, knowledge, and each other is historically unprecedented. (more…)

The Role of School Leaders in the NCAA Eligibility Process

Guest post by Nicholas Sproull:

There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports…” Sure, the tagline of the NCAA public service announcement is designed to be catchy, but the message is clear: College graduation matters. NCAA data show that the best predictor of college graduation is first-year success. So what is the best predictor of first-year success? And more to the point, what does this have to do with secondary school principals?

Since 1994, the NCAA has collected data for nearly 2 million prospective student-athletes, including individual course titles, course grades, course credits and SAT/ACT scores. Since 2003, the NCAA has collected college-level academic data from over 100,000 Division I student-athletes per year. Combined, this national sample provides the NCAA Research staff with a warehouse of data to follow the trajectories of students’ academic performance from the ninth grade through departure from a Division I or Division II college or university.

The NCAA academic initial-eligibility requirements for Divisions I and II exist to help ensure that prospective student-athletes are academically prepared for the rigors they will face when they become NCAA student-athletes.

The NCAA Eligibility Center is the division of the NCAA national office responsible for working with the nation’s 40,000 high schools to ensure that the annual academic certification process is as efficient and effective as possible for the nearly 100,000 students who will become Division I or Division II student-athletes. (Until November 2007, this process was managed by the NCAA Clearinghouse, run by ACT Inc.)

Additionally, the Eligibility Center staff is actively engaged in education and outreach efforts related to increased academic initial-eligibility requirements for Division I coming in 2016. Now more than ever, ninth grade academic performance is of paramount importance.

Because these changes will impact current high school sophomores and beyond, it is vitally important for school leaders to be equipped with an understanding of these new rules and have a plan in place for spreading the word. With the support of school leaders, the NCAA’s aim is to ensure that prospective student-athletes’ desire to participate in intercollegiate athletics is not imperiled by insufficient or inaccurate information.

Nick Sproull (@nsproull) serves as Associate Director of High School Review/Policy for the NCAA. He will be presenting NCAA Eligibility Center: Overview and Updates at Ignite ‘14 on Saturday February 8.

Just the PiL You Need: Microsoft Partners in Learning Network

Guest post by Wendell B. Sumter:

In the spring of 2012, kindergarten teacher Stephanie Barber and I gave lengthy answers to questions about how our school integrated technology in the classrooms and used it to propel professional development. We then submitted our application to Microsoft to be considered a Microsoft Pathfinder School. At the time, we were very enthused about the possibility of our school being named. We knew that it was a long shot. We were a small rural school in Chester County, South Carolina and a title one school, but we didn’t allow that to deter us from applying for such a great opportunity and honor.

In October 2012, Microsoft named our school a 2012 “Innovative Pathfinder School.” The honor came from The Microsoft Partners in Learning Program, a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment to transform K12 education around the world by connecting teachers and school leaders in a community of professional development. The program also helps school leaders foster innovative teaching practices and 21st-century learning by providing tools and resources they need to better impact student participation.

Three years ago, when I arrived at Great Falls Elementary, we had a basic computer lab. Some teachers had Promethean whiteboards, and there were two computers in each classroom. Since then, we have increased student access to technology in various ways. Technology doesn’t take the place of authentic teaching; the most important thing to me is that teachers are able to use technology to enhance student achievement.

When we were selected as a Pathfinder School by Microsoft, Mrs. Barber and I had the opportunity to attend Microsoft’s “Partners In Learning Global Forum” in Prague, where administrators convened to share their schools’ tech success stories. We also had the awesome opportunity to form partnerships with other schools and continue professional development with Microsoft’s Virtual University.

We teamed with 11 other schools, including a mentor school from New Zealand, to focus on customizing lessons and training teachers to effectively use technology tools. Through virtual meetings, we continue to brainstorm and share ideas and resources. Collaborating is a big benefit of being a Pathfinder School; I have the ability to say to my colleagues, ‘Did you try this at your school?’ and ‘How did it work?’“

So if you’re looking for a cure to your technology woes; if you’re looking for ways to improve your technology skills or those of your staff; if you’re interested in partnering with other schools across the world; if you’re looking for ways to gain recognition and bring powerful resources and tools to your campus to transform the learning environment through teaching and learning, we have just the PiL you need! Come learn about Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Program and opportunities to be an attendee at the Partners In Learning Global Forum! In this session you will learn about free resources, valuable international networking, and opportunities to become recognized as an Innovative School! Join the network and become an innovative school by visiting www.pil-network.com/schools.

Wendell B. Sumter is Principal of Great Falls Elementary School in South Carolina. Wendell joins Byron Garrett, director of the innovative schools program at Microsoft, to present Partners in Learning! Microsoft Innovative Schools Program on Saturday, February 8 at Ignite ’14 in Dallas. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.

Make the Most of Your Opportunity to Connect

Guest post by Carrie Jackson:

One of the greatest benefits connected educators and leaders enjoy is the opportunity to share with one another and have others push our own learning. Through Twitter and other media, school leaders have become more connected and reflective than ever before. However, the very best part of being a connected leader, in my opinion, is the opportunity to interact face-to-face with our online colleagues. This is one reason I eagerly anticipate NASSP’s Ignite ’14 in my beloved state of Texas.

Ignite ’14 captures the spirit of collaboration and brings it to life with personal interactions. NASSP intentionally built office hours and networking sessions into the schedule so that participants can easily find and converse with nationally-recognized authors, speakers, and practitioners. Learning labs and Technology Showcase sessions offer brief small-group discussions on topics of interest and direct application to professional practice.

Most impressive, in my opinion, is the way social media interactions on Twitter, Instagram, blogs, and more blend seamlessly with in-person learning events. Live-streaming conversations bring participants closer together and enhance connections.

So how does the Ignite ’14 participant make the most of this year’s gathering in Dallas?

Engage with Twitter…now. If you are not already a connected learner, you will be surprised just how much your interaction with others on Twitter will enhance your experience. Set up your account, and start by following @NASSP. Then take a look at who NASSP follows and mentions. Those are good people to follow. Check out what these folks are saying, and chime in when you are ready. By the time you get to Dallas, you will feel as though you know quite a few of the Ignite ’14 participants already.

Visit the networking sessions. You are missing out on something special if you pass up the speaker office hours, the Technology Showcase sessions, and the learning labs. These are great ways to extend your learning, capitalize on new strategies, and connect with new people personally.

Make time to connect with colleagues. Whether you hang out in the designated social lounge areas or hold informal Tweet-ups, capitalize on the opportunity to meet in person the colleagues you have come to know online. If you really appreciate a speaker, stop by and let him/her know during office hours. Engage with other learners and your experience (and theirs) will be better.

I look forward to seeing you at Ignite ’14, and I hope you enjoy your time in Dallas!

Carrie Jackson (@jackson_carrie) was named an NASSP Digital Principal in 2013. Carrie will be presenting Stylish New Social Tools for Schools on Saturday, February 8 at Ignite ’14. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.

A Schoolhouse for Today’s Learners

Guest post by Dwight Carter:

In most cases, one of the last places affected by school reform is the schoolhouse itself. It’s expensive to completely redesign an entire school, and we are used to school looking a certain way: long corridors, square classrooms, rows of lockers, trophy cases lining the walls of the lobby, a large bland cafeteria, narrow stairways, and little natural light.

Today’s learners–Millennials and the “iGeneration”–need a new kind of school. They are wired differently than any generation that has come before them, due in part to the integration of technology in everyday life. Millennials include those born between 1977 and 1998 or by some definitions 1982 to 2000.

According to The Learning Café and American Demographics, today’s generation of students are creative and collaborative by nature; they don’t know life without connectivity; they multitask; they want positive relationships with their teacher, administrator, or boss; they want things personalized to their interests; and they want to rewrite the rules. They see institutions as irrelevant, and schools are often seen as institutions to them. Understandably, traditional school design hinders how today’s learner want to interact and engage in school.

At Gahanna Lincoln High School, we were facing a challenge: With 2400 students, we were at capacity and had the opportunity to do something creative to provide more space and, at the same time, meet the needs of today’s learner.

With the vision of former Superintendents Gregg Morris and Mark White, along with a team of curriculum coordinators, business directors, and highly qualified teachers, we built Clark Hall. Clark Hall is a 51,000-square-foot, three-story work of art. It doesn’t resemble a typical American high school at all; rather it’s more like an innovative office building. The goal was to create an open, modern, bright space that evokes creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, choice and fun. It houses fourteen classrooms, each with its own conference room, enterprise strength connectivity, natural light, laptops for every student, and collaborative spaces in hallways so students are able to use the entire space for learning.

We traded in the traditional rows of desks and chairs for soft, brightly colored modular furniture, some exercise balls, a few rocking chairs, and a couple of Adirondack chairs. We created two large commons areas that can be used for just about anything we want: smaller classroom space or large presentation space. A few of the classrooms have colorful carpet squares that make up a soft seating area of the sort you might find in a modern coffee house or redesigned university student union. We abandoned the “bargain-basement beige” paint for splashes of primary colors and bright white. We worked with the architects to include as much natural light as possible to evoke energy and creativity.

With flexibility built into the daily schedule, teachers have more time to interact with students on an individual basis, students feel more relaxed and are more compelled to engage in the learning process, and collaboration among students is the norm. Additionally, collaboration among teachers of different content areas has become a natural part of the day because they are not separated by department. We have an art teacher next to AP psychology and personal finance teachers, for example.

Because today’s learners like and need structure, we work with them at the beginning of each school year to develop expectations for the space; as a result, we have few discipline problems. Teachers no longer hover over students to make sure they are on task. Students appreciate the freedom and understand this freedom is a byproduct of responsible behavior.

Clark Hall has inspired change on our main campus as well. One of the main hubs of most schools and universities is the library. We wanted our library to have the same feel as Clark Hall, so our Librarian, Ann Gleek, dreamt big and made some significant improvements. Changes like removing some of the book shelves, painting the walls, and removing some of the traditional furniture have made for a more social, collaborative and inviting environment for students. There is still a quiet room for study, but the largest part of the space is open and collaborative.

Educational reform must include reforming or transforming the physical learning environment. According to Daniel Pink, design is one of the elements of the right brain that we must tap into. We have to look differently at the space we have now and spruce things up… a lot… for the sake of learning.

I will discuss this in more detail as well as its impact on student learning during my presentation at Ignite 2014!

Be great,
Dwight

Dwight Carter (@Dwight_Carter) is principal of Gahanna Lincoln High School in Ohio. Dwight was named an NASSP Digital Principal in 2013. He will be presenting Digitally Creative Learning Environments on Friday, February 7 at Ignite ’14 in Dallas. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.

Sources:

  • http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt08044.html
  • http://fluency21.com/blog/

School Showcase Feature: Bloomfield High School

Guest post by Chris Jennings:

What happens when you create an opportunity for students to choose where they will go and what they will do during the school day? Chaos? Anarchy? At Bloomfield High School in New Jersey, we discovered that students may surprise you.

During the 2011-12 school year, a group of students and administrators met throughout the year to discuss how we could work within the confines of our existing seven-period day to create more opportunities for students to have independent time for clubs, extra help, and teacher meetings. When I opened the discussion to the staff, one of our teachers recommended we take a look at Princeton High School’s “Wednesday” schedule. We did, and we adopted a similar schedule for the 12-13 school year. We have not looked back.

The basic premise is this: Each Wednesday, we shorten each period by eight minutes to allow for an activity period that runs during normal school hours – in our case, from 1:40-2:35. During this period, every school employee is unencumbered and available for students. Teachers and counselors can meet with students individually, in small groups, or as a whole class. Tests are retaken or made up, labs are completed, homework is done, and questions are answered.

You get the picture – but the catch is that at 1:40 school is dismissed, and students can choose whether or not they participate in the activity period. This is the part that made the grown-ups nervous. What if they all choose to leave? It took a leap of faith, but a year and a half later we consistently have 1,000 students choosing to stay in school and work with teachers. We relax school rules about hats, iPods, and cell phones during this period, and students are allowed stay for just ten minutes or beyond the duration of the period. We trust students to make decisions that are in their best interest, and they genuinely appreciate having the freedom. In my seven years as principal at BHS, I have not been involved in another decision that has been so universally accepted by students, teachers, and parents. The Wednesday Activity Period has become an important component of our approach to differentiate school for our students.

Chris Jennings is the principal of Bloomfield High School. Bloomfield High School will be one of 22 schools featured at the Breaking Ranks School Showcase at Ignite 2014. The Bloomfield team will be presenting Transforming a Title I High School through Culture, Collaboration, and Curriculum on Thursday, February 6th.  For more on Bloomfield High School, check out the article published in the May 2012 issue of Principal Leadership.

All I can say is: Wow!

Guest post by Brad Currie:

The NASSP Ignite ’13 Conference was an unbelievable opportunity for lead learners from around the world to come together in one place with the sole purpose of improving our craft. Never in my life did I make so many connections with innovating, like-minded educators who truly cared about seeing kids succeed.

Twitter played a powerful role leading up to, during, and after the actual conference. I think I am speaking for many who attended when I say this was the first time that I went into a conference knowing many of the people who were going. This was made possible by the connections I had made on Twitter since the fall of 2011. The sessions and keynotes were excellent and allowed participants to really think about the innovative impact they could have on their schools.

The learning sessions were absolutely amazing. Being able to interact with and learn from people such as Todd Whitaker, Eric Sheninger, Jimmy Casas, Daisy Dyer Duerr, Carrie Jackson, and Leslie Esneault was truly amazing. The streaming live #Satchat discussion on “Igniting Your Passion as a School Leader” was an experience I will never forget. Kudos to the NASSP Ignite ’13 organizing team for putting on a great conference and leveraging the power of social media to engage participants near and far. In case you missed out on all the great things shared via the #nassp13 hashtag, here is the link.

The keynote from Scott Klososky was tremendous and gave everyone much for food for thought, especially about how Google Glass will transform education. Seeing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in person was a special treat. Thanks to Carrie Jackson, one of three NASSP Digital Principals of the Year, I was able to ask him a question via Twitter.

I was truly honored to connect with like-minded educators such as 2013 National Middle School Principal of the Year Laurie Barron and 2013 National High School Principal of the Year Trevor Greene.

I am definitely a better lead learner thanks to all of the experiences I was exposed to during the NASSP Ignite ’13 Conference. My extended PLN family has influenced me for the better and will enable me to do bigger and better things in months and years to come.

Originally posted on March 2, 2013 from Brad Currie’s blog, Engaged and Relevant, after he attended Ignite 2013.

Brad Currie (@bcurrie5) is Vice Principal at Black River Middle School in Chester, New Jersey and co-founder and co-moderator of #Satchat, a weekly Twitter discussion for current and emerging school leaders.