I was a bit fearful at the beginning of this school year. Budget reduction days loomed ahead, which—understandably—would be carved out of our non-student contact days, or our professional development in-service days. I worried that we would not be able to continue to make the great strides we have made in recent years in developing teacher leaders through our PD days. (more…)
Guest post by Mike King
With the many advancements in educational technology and 1:1 device initiatives, schools hope to provide a 21st-century education for all students and find ways to improve instructional practices to increase student learning and performance. Yet, in my experience and the experiences of many colleagues, we have seen limited advancement in the ability to design learning experiences that target higher-order cognitive skills and have a significant impact on student outcomes.
How can schools improve their practices in digital literacy? (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.