resources

The Learning Commons: A 21st Century Research and Technology Center

I can admit it now; I was probably the wrong man for the job.

As building principal, I knew that we needed to redesign and reinvent the space we called our library media center. We had a pretty obvious problem in there—students and teachers were not really using it. This large space situated in the center of our school had been remodeled several times—it used to be the library and before that it was actually the cafeteria. I added some fresh paint, new carpeting, new furniture, and bought some new books—popular young adult fiction and non-fiction. There were a handful of desktop computers and a SMART Board. Despite these superficial upgrades to the learning environment, it was still essentially a warehouse for a mostly-dated print collection and still largely unused. (more…)

Three Ways to Leverage Technology and Build School Happiness

With a career in education spanning over 23 years and 11 children of my own, I have come to respect and recognize that happiness is paramount in education. Unhappy high-achieving students have similar struggles to their unhappy underachieving peers as they navigate through life after high school. Yet happy children (and adults) are more productive, healthy and successful. They earn more money, live longer, get and stay married longer—and yes, achieve more. Educationalist and philosopher Nel Noddings sums up happiness best for me when she says, “Happy people are rarely mean, violent or cruel.” Let’s fill our schools (and homes) with opportunities for our students and adults to be happier and healthier. Here’s how we can use technology to maximize our efforts. (more…)

Podcasts: 57 Channels and Nothin’ On?

Guest post by Nicholas Indeglio

Back in the 90s, the influx of cable television channels gave viewers a menu of options. However, while the quantity of channels was plentiful, it didn’t speak to the quality and did not target consumers. As Bruce Springsteen sang, “There was 57 channels and nothin’ on.” (more…)

Whom to Follow: A Training Plan for Twitter Success, Part Two

Guest post by Nicholas Indeglio

In my previous post, I shared tips on getting started with Twitter through hashtags and chats. The focus of this post is to help you build your personal network by learning which education rock stars you should follow on the platform. (more…)

Hashtags & Chats: A Training Plan for Twitter Success, Part One

Guest post by Nicholas Indeglio

Before the emergence of the World Wide Web, competitive endurance athletes relied on magazine ads to find like-minded locals to train with, to compete against, and to engage as a race crew. The internet broadened that scope globally and now platforms like Strava, Zwift, and MapMyFitness provide slick user interfaces which allow athletes to connect virtually through shared workouts, weekly challenges, diet and nutrition, comment areas, and more. A whole new world of connectivity has emerged. Fortunately, similar networks exist for school leaders and the most powerful one is absolutely free. (more…)

Moving from Analysis to Action—Building Capacity through Conversation

Guest post by David Johns

Numerous tools exist to help Professional Learning Communities (PLC) grow. There are checklists to ensure that the right roles are assigned. There are accountability documents to ensure that teams meet on time and in a common location. There are even the four timeless guiding questions from Rick DuFour to keep PLCs focused on the work of improving achievement. So why then do most PLC conversations stall out once we’ve looked at student work? Why don’t we turn our attention to actions we need to take as educators to address what we see? (more…)

Fostering an Environment for Teacher Growth

Guest post by Michele Paine

An area of passion for me as a school leader involves facilitating teacher growth. One way I work on this is by hosting several professional book studies during the school year.

Our district pays teachers for two days of flexible professional development time each contract year. Teachers can choose from a variety of options, including conferences, regional training, and state-led events. With all of these choices, however, I feel it is important to foster collegial discussion and professional reading. (more…)

How Educators Can Support Grieving Students Through Learning

Concentration and learning difficulties are extremely common for people dealing with grief. This is true for adults, as well as children. However, because learning is the main work of school-aged children and teens, these common challenges pose a risk of serious academic problems.

As one grieving student explained, “It was hard because I couldn’t concentrate on my work. If I was reading, I would read the words, but I wouldn’t read the story. I would think about something else … .”

That reflects some of the typical experiences of grieving students. (more…)

Support for Grieving Students: A Team Makes It Happen

When a student experiences the death of a loved one, what should schools do? One essential step for a school supporting a grieving student is to work as a team in their efforts. Here’s an example.

Fifth grader Elia’s family was devastated when her older sister died in a car crash. Elia’s school stepped up to give Elia and her family whatever support they could.

Her teacher touched base with the family right away, attended the funeral service, and made adjustments in Elia’s coursework to ease her transition back to school. (more…)

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.