Monday, January 27, 2014

Effective Digital Leadership: Moving Our Schools Forward

Notes from a concurrent session at TASA Midwinter 2014.

Effective Digital Leadership: Moving Our Schools Forward
Don Jacobs, Principal
Anita Scott Elementary School
Royse City ISD
Twitter: @Don_Jacobs

All presentation resources, including slides, are posted at

Don referenced Eric Sheninger's new book, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, as inspiration for his presentation.

Communications - Blog which Don uses to communicate with his staff. Emails get deleted or misplaced. Can also be accessed from anywhere that you have internet access, not just when you are connected to your school/district network.

Blog also sets admins up in order to be able to do flipped learning with their staff. Post video or article you want staff to go over prior to a meeting, then have them discuss during your faculty meeting. Saves time in the meeting and lets meeting time be more productive. - Melinda Miller, Principal in Missouri who uses flipped learning with her staff. She is in her second year of this. She talks about mistakes she's made and what she's learned from them! Don showed a video Melinda created for the start of the school year. What was cool about this video is Melinda talked about the tools she used to create the video so her teachers would know how she did it!

Public Relations

In Royce City ISD, every campus has a Twitter account and shares reminders with parents and students via Twitter.

Remind 101 - Free texting service for teachers to text students without sharing phone numbers. Must have an education email account to set up an account. Don uses it to text his staff on important topics that can't wait for everyone to check their email.


Other people are talking about our schools and teachers and students. Schools and districts need to be part of that conversation. We need to be using social media to tell people about the positive things that are going on in our classrooms and schools!

Professional Growth

Don uses Twitter for a professional learning network. He is constantly in conversation with people about what is going on in his job, growing with them and learning from them. He can't imagine doing his job without his Twitter PLN. Don is trying fresh ideas on his campus because of connections he's made with Angela Myers on Twitter.

Follow hashtags on Twitter like #txed, #txlege, #digilead, #txidea, #txeduchat - Professional social network for the education community - watch their webinars and webcasts live or in recording.

Edcamps - unconferences where there aren't traditional keynote speakers or vendors. Educators come together to learn about topics they want to on a given day. Agenda is created the day of the conference. Royse City is hosting EdCamp Awesome in Feburary 2014.

Student Learning

Todd Nesloney, 5th Grade Teacher, Waller ISD - PBL and Flipped Classroom - Was invited to White House as part of White House Champions of Change initiative. Gave his incoming 4th graders the 4th grade Math STAAR w/out the multiple choice answers, and they bombed it. Used flipped learning to focus on their areas of need and had a 97% pass rate on the 6th grade STAAR.


Don uses Google Drive to collaboratively create documents with his colleagues. Ex: Creating elementary student handbook. Don't have to worry about emailing copies back and forth.

Don also uses Evernote to keep his notes in the cloud and access them from his phone, tablet, laptop, or computer. Evernote searches the text in images which is helpful when you can't remember everything on a business card. Also uses Evernote to type notes during teacher observations. He can record audio of what's going on in the classroom and take pictures of student work, classroom layout, etc.

Dropbox also keeps Don organized. He hasn't carried a flash drive in three years!

Digital Leadership

There are new tools born almost every day, and you can't keep up with all of them! Pick one or two tools and get comfortable using them.

Administrators are trying to lead into innovation and make sure schools are educating kids to think and create and work outside the box. If admins want teachers and students to be like this, then administrators need to model it in front of them. Teachers will respond to modeling.

It is a difficult challenge and it is not comfortable. But after a while it becomes easier. - Don's personal blog. 

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting Girls Interested in Computer Science

Photo by Wolfgang Lonien Used With Permission
Under a Creative Commons License Agreement
Have you heard? By the year 2020, there's going to be one million more computer science jobs in the United States than there will be people to fill them. That's bad news on many levels, including for our economy, because businesses will be forced to look overseas for employees to meet the need. Thousands upon thousands of capable Americans, many of them recent college graduates, may be looking in vain for employment in other sectors and finding fewer opportunities. NOW is the time to help the young people we serve see the opportunities available to them if they choose to pursue computer science as their career field.

Appeal to Girls!

As we work to encourage students toward courses of study that will lead them toward top paying careers, it's important that we think about groups who are under-represented in the computer science field. Women fall into this category, as demonstrated by the fact that boys outnumbered girls 4 to 1 in taking the AP computer science test in 2013, even though girls outnumbered boys in the overall number of all subject area AP exams taken.

There are numerous ways to make the study of computer science more appealing to girls. In a brief 20 minute webinar sponsored by the TCEA TA/CS SIG on January 9, 2014, my colleague Kim Garcia presented important tips for getting girls interested in computer science. Kim studied computer science in college and is a former high school computer science teacher. Her passion and depth of knowledge on this topic shows through wonderfully in her webinar. The slides from her webinar are posted below, but I highly recommend that you view the webinar recording to get the full benefit of the information presented.

One More Resource

For anyone who feels compelled to help educate students about the opportunities offered by careers in the computer science field, this video made in conjunction with the recent Computer Science Education Week Hour of Code initiative provides a compelling presentation from a wide variety of professionals - men and women of multiple ethnicities and backgrounds - who paint an enticing picture of an industry that has many more facets, and is interwoven into more aspects of our lives, than we realize.

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Notes from Leadership for the Digital Age With Alan November

Yesterday, I was privileged to spend a day learning from and with Alan November, a consummate digital age educator whose work I have followed for many years. My first exposure to Alan was the article "Teaching Zack to Think," which made me painfully aware of the work that must be done to promote literacy in our digital age. 

I'm grateful to my school district and TASA for this opportunity!

What I loved about Alan's presentation was it was organic. He had definite goals and topics to cover, but due to his vast knowledge he was able to customize the content as questions came up. Several times as he set us on an activity he said, "I haven't done this before, but let's see how it goes!" 

When I grow up, I want to be a teacher/lead learner/presenter like Alan November!

Before You Get to the Notes...

You'll probably glean a few gems from my notes, but notes being what they are, they won't give you a cohesive picture. If you've never had the chance to learn directly from Alan November before, I encourage you to watch this TEDxNYED Talk he gave in 2011.

Notes from TASA Leadership for the Digital Learning Age with Alan November 1-15-14

Notes from yesterday's same workshop in Ft. Worth -

United States has least amount of capacity for innovation of all the countries Alan visits. We are good at getting kids stuff, but the ability/will to make the culture shift seems not to be there. Poorer countries seem to understand that the internet is the ticket to learning.

Before we do technology there should be a clear vision for why we are doing it. The technology itself cannot be the ultimate goal.

The real revolution is information. The internet. Any answer to any question that has a known answer is available right on your phone.

In the age of the internet what is the value of the teacher?
Ex: Wolfram Alpha - Type in any equation and the site will show you the step-by-step solution. (When Alan showed this to high school students, at the end of the school year, the students were angry that they didn't know about it all year so they could experiment with variables, check their homework, etc. The math teachers, however, were mad at Alan for showing it to the kids because he had destroyed math as they knew it.) - See what Wolfram Alpha can do!

If you can get to vast amounts of data this quickly, you can move to higher-order problem solving.

How about this for authentic learning? Problems that can't be solved through Wolfram Alpha...

The mind of the teacher is the most valuable resource you have in the classroom.

What is the best use of time/a teacher's mind in the classroom? 45 minutes to an hour a day...
A.    Transfer of Knowledge
B.    Teachers Speak Little & Listen to Students
C.   Teacher is Connecting Kids to Authentic Problems All Over the World
D.   One Room Schoolhouse - Get rid of grades as we know them. Kids work to teach kids.
E.    C & D

Books suggested by a colleague based on November's presentation:
Better Learning Through Structured Learning - book from ASCD
Role Reversal - another ASCD book

What questions should we be asking before we even think about technology?

We should have learning design committees/planning teams, not technology planning committees.

We should have learning design directors, not instructional technology directors/coordinators.

Games are scientifically designed to engage and motivate. Teachers should be learning game design theory and using it to structure learning. (Follow #gbl on Twitter for current info.)
1. You don't need grades, you need a leader board! (see
2. Real time feedback - optimal design of feedback loop is half a second
3. Autonomy
4. Education - All kids love to learn. iN a game, kids choose a hard level just beneath what will kill them. Allow your students to pick their level.
5. Collaboration - The really powerful games that engage students allow them to interact with real people, not just with a computer. Kids want to win.

The real problem is telling teachers to stop what they are doing and start doing things differently.

It is a myth that the teacher needs to learn everything first.

Staff development as we know it is a myth.
Let every teacher bring two kids to the PD. Teacher's job is to watch the kids use the tech and implement pedagogy of using tech they don't understand. Learn how to assess. Let the kids learn the tech.

@LiveFromRoom5 - Kinder teacher sends about 10 photos home per day. Shows what kids are doing and tells parents to ask kids about it at the end of the day. Teacher sets up every parent's cell phone on open house night to receive these Tweets by text.

Schools are terrible at marketing. They need to tell their stories well. Superintendent should be podcasting. Principals should be Tweeting, being the cheerleader for their teachers and students.

A lot of parents aren't going to go to websites. We have to push information out to them.

What skills can we teach today that will outlast the technology? One-off projects are not the best way. The internet is not going to go away and information is the key.

Big Skill: How to deal with the enormous amount of information out there!

Huge change is students no longer get their information from pre-selected sources. They have to understand how to assess information.

We need to give students messy problems, not well-structured problems. When you solve real/messy problems, there is

  • Too much info
  • Not enough info
  • Info in the wrong order
  • Problems that change as you are solving them

Google Searching

  • One of top criteria - if the search terms are in the URL
  • Limit searches to a specific country - example: How do you get resources on the Iranian Hostage Crisis from Iran?
  • Teach precision - search operators (Google wants to make money; won't give you best quality unless you search for it)
  • - Free online self-paced courses

We are still giving assignments as if we control all of the information, but we don't. We have to teach teachers and students how to find, evaluate, and manage/organize information.

Focus on teacher feedback. Audio feedback gets more attention from students than written feedback. (Teacher anecdote - when you record your voice, you give a lot more positive comments than you do when you are just writing comments.) - Tool for collaborative interpretation of texts - FREE - Free starter version but have to pay for more robust version. Turns any book or document into a digital classroom. You can see what students highlight in the reading or questions they have. Teacher can access and see what students have accomplished. -  From Palo Alto, CA - Student created videos to explain core subject concepts

***In flipped learning, teachers work too hard. Let the students make the videos!!!!

Curse of Knowledge - Teachers know too much. First time learners think teachers are really really smart and never struggle to get answers. It's not good for kids to not understand the struggle needed to learn/understand. - Free, educational "kids teaching kids" project from Mr. Marcos & his middle school students. Teacher NEVER grades the tutorials. He works with them to make them accurate, then approves and posts them. Kids are motivated by the number of other kids who view their tutorials.

RSA Animate version of Daniel Pink's Drive on YouTube -

Teach kids to learn how to teach from a young age. Every learner a teacher. When you have to teach something, you learn it on a deeper level.

Change thinking on assessment - Mazur model - Take individual test, then have groups of students collaboratively complete the same test (come to agreement on answers), then have students create a new problem to demonstrate their understanding/learning of the same content. Average the three assessments to get the final grade for the content. Mazur creates the groups of students and changes them up every five weeks or so. Creates trust between students in class. [Requires shorter more frequent assessments.]

Questioning Toolkit - - The single most important skill now is getting people to ask the most interesting questions. The teacher's job is to teach students to ask questions.

Verso - App that makes learning visible. Students answer & ask questions & can't see what other students say until they make a contribution.
How do you know what to teach tomorrow if you don't know yet what the questions are today? Administrators need to give up control over having lesson plans submitted ahead of time.

**Choose your apps wisely! Don't do 100 apps; just do 10 and make them count every day.

Essence of flipped learning is to ask an application question, not a memorization or regurgitation question.
Don't tell the answer; give more models until students get to the answer.
Ask the same answers twice to assess if there has been growth.

Teaching the technology is easy. What takes time (years even) is building a library of interesting application questions.

Kids can do well on tests, but can they apply their learning?

Have one student be the scribe each day. Student takes notes and posts to class blog. Teacher conferences with student before post goes live. At end of year you have thorough record of the learning. Teacher also learns a lot about their teaching by conferencing on learning each day.
Students can also add extra resources to the learning.

Class Twitter account and blog to connect around the world. Let kids Tweet and write.

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blog Topic Ideas for Educators

Graphic by marsmet451 used with permission under a Creative Commons license
In recent months I've gotten into several conversations with fellow educators about blogging. One of the statements I often hear in these conversations is, "I'd love to start blogging, but I'm not sure what to write about." I've also seen several blogging challenges or blogging resolutions on Twitter in conjunction with the new year.

It's exciting to see educators' interest in blogging! I like to think of educator blogs as a world-wide ongoing professional learning conference where we can all learn from and support one another. The more people who contribute, the more robust the learning, and the greater the impact on our students.

So what can educators blog about? Here are some ideas from my own experience. No matter what type of educator you are - K-12, classroom, higher-ed, administrator, trainer, etc. - I hope the ideas below help you get past any writer's block you may experience now or in the future.

#1 Topic Tip: Blog About What You Know or Feel Passionate About

This might seem obvious, but it isn't. We often think what we already know is not very important or interesting. Surely if we are already certain of something, others already know about it, right? Not so fast! Take a moment to view this video. Then scroll down for some more ideas!

I love this video, and share it as often as I can. I hope it gets you thinking about things you know and how valuable those "obvious" things might be to others!

More Specific Topic Ideas

As you think about content for your blog, here are some topics you might want to consider writing about. Links are to example posts on my blog.
  • A technology tool (program, app, website) you have trained others on or successfully used yourself or with your students. How did you use/implement it and what were the positive outcomes? Linking to or posting specific directions if you have time is a benefit to other teachers.
  • A reflection on your own learning. Have you read a great article or blog post that got you thinking? Are you reading through a book on educational practice? Attended a conference or webinar? Taking a class or working on a degree? Or has life taught you a new lesson? The benefit of blogging about these experiences is it helps you retain your new learning and opens learning opportunities up to others. It also creates an opportunity for conversation. Our experience tells us that the majority of people learn better in community rather than in isolation.
  • Notes from a webinar or conference you attend. I started putting my conference notes on my blog a couple of years ago, and it has been a huge benefit to me! Not only has it spread the learning to others who could not attend, it's also made it easier for me to find my own notes and opened up the conversation beyond the day of the conference. My notes posts are some of the most read on my blog. 
  • Resources that have been helpful to you. If you've been gathering resources for a unit you are going to teach or a professional development session you are planning, simply listing those resources can be of great benefit to you (you can easily find them the next time you need them) and to others who will appreciate the time you saved them and might become regular readers of your blog as a result!
  • Information about a professional presentation you are making. Whether the presentation is being done at a conference or in a faculty/department/grade level meeting on your campus, posting the resources to your blog keeps them in a place that is easily accessible to you and your audience. It also lets others know where your areas of expertise lie.
  • Advice. As you grow in your experience, you accumulate plenty of knowledge that can help others through challenging times. Don't keep all of that to yourself!
  • A request for assistance/ideas. Starting a new project/unit/initiative and not sure where to begin. Even if there are tons of resources out there, it's often helpful to have folks who've gone before you give a little guidance. Don't be afraid to ask questions! (Having a Twitter presence really helps with this one, as you can send out a link to your blog post to get it some more attention.)
  • A video that taught you something valuable. Chances are, if you learned something from a video, others will too! A blog post with the video embedded and a few thoughts on its value is a great way to spread the learning to others.

More Ideas & General Tips

  • If you are still needing topic ideas or want support in establishing a blogging habit, try this 20 Day Blogging Challenge from 5th grade teacher Kelly Hines.
  • Be careful not to reveal specific information about students, including their names, pictures, or work they have created. This is especially important if your blog is one not connected to your school district. Even if parents have given the district permission to post photos or other information about their students, that permission does not carry over to your personal blog. If you doubt that parents can be concerned about this, read or watch this news story.
  • Also it is prudent not to speak badly of your employer, colleagues, students, or parents on your blog. Even in general terms with no names associated, you will lose respect from the education community in general and your immediate education community if you post on the negative side. Here is the story of a teacher who lost her job because she made comments on her blog which denigrated her students. Be professional and don't blog about anything that you wouldn't want colleagues, your students, and their parents to hear. Because chances are someone from those realms will find your words and read them.

Want Some More Advice?

Here are some valuable posts on the topic of educator blogging:

Now, Go Forth and Blog!

I hope you read something here that inspired you, whether you are new to blogging or have been at it for a while and just need some encouragement to pick it up again. If you are an educational blogger, I hope you'll share other topic ideas and a link to your blog in the comments below.

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How Do You Stay Motivated?

Photo by rosipaw used under a Creative Commons license
I am a K-12 educational technology specialist, but due to the nature of my job duties, I go through long
stretches where I do not have direct interaction with classroom teachers or students. My office is in an administrative building, not on a school campus. Often, I am working on district initiatives, such as supporting the use of iPads in classrooms or planning for staff development. Or I am researching solutions to technology needs our administrative staff have.

I find when I've been too long away from working with teachers and students I begin to lose momentum. When I am not in regular contact with the front lines of teaching and learning, I start to question what my purpose is and whether or not I am making a difference.

The good news is, I find that almost any opportunity I get to help teachers and/or students re-energizes me. Being with them for a training or learning event fills my tank and renews my understanding that the things I do in the background really do matter.

If you are in a position like mine, where you support teaching and learning but have to go through periods where direct interaction with your "customers" is minimal, do you have similar experiences? If so, what do you do to stay motivated?

If you are in a position where you are regularly engaged with teachers and/or students, what advice might you have for someone like me? How can I know if what I am doing is truly helping you and your students?

I appreciate anyone who takes time to share their ideas in the comments section below. :-)

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Glad I Was Disappointed Today

Photo Used With Permission Under a Creative Commons License
NOTE: I'm going to talk a bit about the difficulties I had participating in edcampHOME today. I want to make clear that this is not meant as a complaint about edcampHOME or its organizers. They did a great job getting a ton of people organized into sessions where wonderful networking and learning occurred!

Today I participated in edcampHOME. After having a great experience with EdCampOnline back in
October, I was really looking forward to another opportunity to learn with and from educators from across the country, live and right from the comfort of my own computer.

I received an email a few days ago and went over all of the instructions for participation twice so I would know exactly what to do on the day.

I drove to my office because I'd left my best headset there before the holidays and because I knew I'd have a robust internet connection to participate in this professional development opportunity.

I listened carefully to the instructions given live during the opening discussions.

I signed up for my first session and received a confirmation email that I had gotten in.

I waited for an invitation to a Google Hangout where the session would occur, but the invite never came.

I tried several ways to get someone's attention to get help, but there was a lot going on, and I was not the only one having problems.

I had an opportunity to go watch other sessions, but not really participate in them other than listening. By the time I gave up on getting my first session invite and decided to go watch another session, the session was wrapping up.

OK. No problem. I am resilient and a second session was coming up. This time, it would work!

I followed the sign-up procedure again and got the confirmation email again.

Sadly, the Google Hangout invite I needed to fully participate in the session did not come.

This time, I did get the attention of one of the organizers, and I'm not sure what she did, but my Google Hangout invite for the session finally came. Yay!!!

I got into the session with moments to spare. Those who were already there were gracious and made me feel very welcome. That was comforting, but on the flip side I was even more bummed that I'd missed out on conversing with them for a longer time!

Why am I bothering to blog about this? 

Because I want to remember the lessons of this day.

Remember what it feels like when you do everything in your power to get things right, and the outcome still falls short.

Remember that even when others are trying their best, there may still be issues.

Remember what it feels like to be a teacher with an amazing opportunity hanging on technology working correctly, only to be disappointed when something fails and it is beyond anyone's ability to help in a timely manner.

Remember that even as I try to fix/apologize/encourage a teacher when things go awry, they may understand on a rational/logical level, but the sting of disappointment is still there. And it can make it harder to want to try again the next time.

Remember that when things don't go as planned, there are often lessons to be learned if I look hard enough.

Although I did not get to fully participate in a complete session during edcampHOME today, I am glad I tried. And I'm glad I still managed to come away with a powerful and needed lesson.

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Thankful Start to 2014

Graphic Used With Permission Under a
Creative Commons License

Happy 2014 Everyone!

Thank you for following me on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or Diigo or Scoop.It or Pinterest.

Thank you for answering my questions when I lob them out there.

Thank you for dialoguing with me.

Thank you for offering help and resources even before I ask.

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my posts.

Thank you for sharing my posts with others when you find them valuable.

Thank you for taking time to comment and let me know something I said had meaning for you, or sparked an idea in you, or reminded you of something you felt compelled to share.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas on Twitter and on your blogs so I can continue to learn and grow professionally and personally.

Thank you for inviting me to present to you or be part of a panel or podcast. You have no idea how your interest in what I have to say energizes me and builds me up.

I am grateful for you and blessed to be connected to you. Something one of you says or posts inspires and/or challenges me every single day of the year!

May you have a blessed 2014! I look forward to continuing to learn with you and from you!!

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.