Sunday, November 21, 2010

Skype Guest of the Week

Jennifer Bond, a3rd grade teacher in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District, has a "Skype Guest of the Week."  This past week, JoAnne Kaminski, a Reading Specialist from Wisconsin, visited the classroom.  The two educators connected as a result of Mrs. Bond's post on the Skype in Schools wiki  which describes how she uses Skype in the classroom.

Mrs. Kaminski wrote about the visit on her blog.  See a portion of the visit below (4.5 min).  My favorite part is near the end when Mrs. Bond's students sing their "Twitter Song" to Mrs. Kaminski. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Overheard at MVU's Online Learning Symposium

From Steve Megley, Deputy Director of Ed Tech, US Department of Education:

  • "Assessment can be done THROUGH the act of learning.  It's crazy to give tests and expect kids to do well just to make the teachers day." 

  • "Education needs structural change, and we must find the spaces for the changes.  We cannot just add it to the gaps in the current system.  It will involve risks, and will probably be done in the hours outside of the traditional school day."  

  • "The biggest factor that leads to increased student achievement is to have highly effective instructors in classrooms.  Highly connected teachers can improve their classroom effectiveness.  Connect those who are motivationally aligned."

  • "Using Wikipedia is a life skill.  Do not block it."

  • "Keeping educators current is a problem. I don't have a solution to this problem, but it might be a good idea to look at health care and  find out how medical professionals keep current."

From Milton Chen, Senior Fellow and Executive Director Emeritus at The George Lucas Educational Foundation:

  • "Innovation is the key to creating an education nation."

  • "1:1 programs are weapons of mass instruction."  All students need their own device.  The state of Maine provides laptops for every middle school student for $250/student/year."

  • "Technology is only technology to those born before it."

  • "Try asking other educators in your district these questions.... What is your definition of a great school? What would be the data indicators?"

From Richard Ferdig, Research Professor in the Research Center for Educational Technology at Kent State University:

  • "Online learning can only make a difference if the instruction changes."

  • "Find ways to record exemplary practice."

  • "Gaming and virtual worlds can greatly impact student learning."

 Michigan Virtual University's Online Learning Symposium 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


View From Little Round Top

I had the pleasure of traveling to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania recently with other Fellows from the Educational Policy Fellowship Program. I actually wrote this post a few weeks ago, but forgot to publish it...

Before leaving for Pennsylvania, I wondered how a trip to Gettysburg could possibly help us as we learn the ins and outs of educational leadership and effective policy-making. I knew I would enjoy the trip to a place of such historical significance to our country and I also knew that I would have the opportunity to spend time getting to know 30 dynamic individuals who are also in the program from Michigan and about 200 other Fellows from other states.

I soon figured out why we traveled there. We took a bus, which was nice because the battlefields were much larger than I envisioned (at least 20 square miles), and the major battles took place several miles apart. Field guides helped us learn about the military leaders: their personalities, assumptions, goals, strategies, relationships with other leaders, and of course the outcomes of the decisions they made. Together, we discussed the challenges of the time period and other factors that impacted the decisions. Being there, walking the grounds, brought it to life.

The following day, we reflected upon the Gettysburg experience at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles from Gettysburg. Col. Charles Allen did a nice job facilitating our discussion. He didn’t lecture with a fancy PowerPoint, he asked probing questions to help us figure out how all of it could actually help us in our professional lives.

We identified qualities of the successful military leaders:

  • Creative problem solving sure came in handy for Chamberlain when it looked like the Union army was doomed.

  • Strategic planning from the start turned out to be extremely important; Bufort staked out the high ground and his men fought hard to keep it from the start and the high ground gave them a geographic advantage which they needed because they had fewer men.

  • The outcome turned out better for the leaders who included their key commanders in the decisions. Mead was known for this. He also encouraged his people to take risks, letting them know that he would support deviations from the plan with good reasons.

  • Technology must be embraced. The Union army used newly developed rifles and other equipment.

  • Clear communication is important. If all parties do not understand a directive, then there is a big problem. The order from Lee to Ewell was contradictory. “Carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if you find it practicable, but avoid a general engagement until the arrival of other divisions of the army.” Huh? Ewell chose not to even attempt the assault. Historians believe that if he had, the Confederate army would have won the Civil War, as Gettysburg was seen as the "turning point".

  • It’s important to look at the perspective of the other side.

  • Micromanagement can be fatal.

  • Titles are not important. The best leaders may not have “rank.”


  • Develop a “view from the balcony.” Paint the big picture.  I need to figure out the best way to show and communicate what good instruction looks like. 

  • Specify and prioritize current organizational challenges.  Times are tough for educators right now.  Class sizes are huge, funds are dwindling, morale is low.  I need to be creative in helping others see the reasons for changing instructional practices. 

  • Revisit goals and adapt when needed. 

  • Bottom line... my "high ground" is to look for innovative ways to provide positive learning opportunities for students.  Technology must be part of this process.