Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Leader of the Year

Are You Making a Difference?
Explain how you lead by using technology in education. Enter yourself — or a colleague — in Tech &Learning's 22nd annual Leader of the Year Program. Click here to enter!

LOY logoYou inspire, encourage, empower, and give wings to others' dreams. Now it's your turn. Tech & Learning's Leader of the Year Program is once again honoring K-12 administrators, technology coordinators, and teachers who use technology in innovative ways to help teachers teach and help students learn. We invite you to share your teaching, training, and managing success stories with our judges. Four finalists will win prizes, gain national recognition, and be profiled in T&L's December Awards Issue.

Deadline: September 30, 2009

PreviousLeaders of the Year
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ideas for Engaging Students in Passion-Based Learning - Pt 2

Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from a post written for the International Society for Technology Educator's "ISTE Connects." This post was published at the ISTE Connects site which targets educators engaged in improving teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology education.

Technology provides the window to connections and learning around areas of passion and deep personal interest that were never before possible. Some educators I have discussed this concept with have scoffed at the idea for various reasons believing it would be too much work for them to make individualized, differentiated connections for each student. I’ve suggested that their job is not to determine a student's passion, or find the experts and make the connections, but rather to support their students in doing so. And, that doesn’t mean have all the students in your class create blogs where they respond to your prompts or make a podcast about a topic you are studying in social studies. That really, isn't an effective means to helping students explore their passions, publish authentically to an audience they care about, or connect with others with their similar interests. This is a big shift. Here are some smart ways educators might engage in passion-based learning with our students.

Ideas for Engaging Students in Passion-Based Learning

Discover and Consume

First you need to support your students in finding area of passion and deep personal interest which is an ongoing journey. Next you may want to connect them with other students and teachers who share these interests so they have a face-to-face (f-2-f) connection with others with like interests. Once they have identified an area of passion, help them develop strategies to learn more about their topic of interest.

  • Finding Passion
    Help students discover what passions and interests they may have. One way to do this is by having them take an interest inventory. While I am a fan of the Renzulli Learning Profile that helps students discover interests, learning styles, abilities, and expression styles, there are many different types of interest inventories out there. While this is a good idea for starting on the road to helping your students discover their passion, take some time to explore multiple ways to helping students find their passion.
  • F-2-F Connections with Others with Similar Interests
    Ideally an entire school student body and staff would engage in taking a learning profile. If so, this is a terrific way to connect students with other students with similar interests and even identify teachers with interests shared by students. These interests can turn into elective classes in the school and provides a tremendous opportunity for students to make deep connections with other students and their teacher. If a school wide implementation is not possible this is still powerful even if partnering with other classes or finding common interests within your own class. As an educator you'll want to work with your students on some conversation guidelines, starters, and extenders to support your students in engaging in meaningful and perhaps accountable talk.
  • Researching Your Passion
    Once you’ve helped students determine some areas of passion, help them learn more about their area of interest. Perhaps start with an encyclopedia then move to supporting students in using smart search techniques about their area of interest. You may want to show them how to use Technorati to locate bloggers who are writing about the topics they are interested in.
  • Following Your Passion
    Once you've supported students in searching for and finding their passions, show them how to follow their passions. An RSS aggregator like Google Reader is a simple, easy to use tool made just for this purpose. You can learn how to get started by going here.

To find out innovative ways you can support students in “Communicating and Connecting” and ‘Creating and Producing” read the whole story by clicking here. Be sure to check out (and leave) comments too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Engaging Students with Passion-Based Learning

Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from a post written for the International Society for Technology Educator's "ISTE Connects." This post was published at the ISTE Connects site which targets educators engaged in improving teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology education.

Recently I attended Alan November’s Building Learning Communities Conference where I participated in a session for educators exploring how to become transformational leaders. A participant at my table said, “This is all nice, but kids need to learn that school isn’t always interesting. Sometimes school is just boring.” “Not true!" I responded. "School shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be boring.” When I shared this with Alan he recommended I ask this participant, “Which teachers should teach students that they have to learn that school is boring?“ This certainly would not be me. While I’ve witnessed teachers who accept that students are disengaged, sometimes even falling asleep in their class, I do not believe a teacher passionate about his/her career would embrace the idea that it is okay for their students to be bored. In fact, I contend that if every teacher prioritized just one thing, we could eradicate boredom in our classrooms, deeply engage students, and dramatically decrease the dropout rate. That one thing is...

Supporting students in finding their passion.

To find out how, read the whole story by clicking here. Be sure to check out (and leave) comments too.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My 21st Century Transformation

by Jacek Polubiec

Most people agree that schools need transformational leaders in order to become learning communities that prepare our students, teachers, parents and administrators for the challenges of the future. For that reason, I have always aspired to be a transformational leader and a progressive thinker. I also thought of myself as being an innovator up until......1:01 pm, Monday, July 27, 2009, which is when my first workshop at 2009 Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston began.

One of the first questions Alan November asked us was: "Do your teachers have the right information?" which I immediately translated into self-reflective: "Do I have the right information to be a progressive leader I want to be?". As I kept asking myself this question during the five days I spent in Boston, my answers gradually went from "maybe" to "definitely not" to "WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL THESE YEARS!?". In other words, for me, BLC09 was an eye-opening and humbling experience as it caused me to rethink many of my earlier ideas and even shift the focus of my studies in the area of urban school leadership.

Now, that I had some time to sift through the enormous amount of information I collected and digest some ideas I have been exposed to, I come to the conclusion that now I do, because of BLC09 and a great team I attended it with, have sufficient information and resources to be a major force in bringing educational innovation into all aspects of my professional life. As transformational leader, I will provide intellectual stimulation to everyone around me by challenge assumptions of what Internet has to offer and why we should focus on giving students opportunities to contribute to the world of knowledge by the means of wikis, blogs and online discussions. I will inspire and motivate everyone around me by articulating a clear vision for 21st Century education in person, on Twitter and in my posts. I will also, as suggested at the "21st-Century-Ready Student begin with the Teacher" workshop, respect the time and the skill level of the people I am working with so I can mentor and coach them effectively. Individualized consideration is an important element of transformational leadership but equally important is practicing what we preach and leading by example. For that reason, I have developed a plan of action that I will share with my staff and students at the beginning of the year. As you will notice, this list includes not just what I will do at work but also how I will bring these tools into my personal life.


1. Meet with as many administrators, teachers, students and parents as early as possible in order to share my first reactions to the "BLC09 experience".
2. Monitor Twitter activities related to BLC09, TEd21C and current events and my other interests,
3. Show everyone I interact with how to do the above.
4. Continue using diigo, google docs, tinyurl as often as possible.
5. Frequently visit and contribute to learning networks I have joined especially TEd21c.
6. Set up one wiki for my academy and another for myself.
7. Create my own learning network
8. Respond to blogs and discussion threads as often as I can.
9. Use google docs to create interactive chart to take notes on our experiences with using new (to us) Internet tools. My teachers will enter the information in the above chart and I will invite other supervisors to view it.
10. Start an after-school program for advanced students to create tutorials for other students using Jing and Camtasia.
11. Purchase a webcam and start using Skype to communicate with friends, colleagues and family.
12. Train computer lab teacher and classroom teachers on custom search engines, google search tips and tricks.
13. Display charts with google search shortcuts in all classrooms in my academy and in the lab.
14. Clearly label one computer in each classroom as research stations and request that each classroom has a full time researcher who will be changed each day
15. Rename the computer lab on my floor to Global Communication Center
16. Teach teachers how to use google docs to collaborate on lesson plans and agendas
17. Spearhead initiative of teachers using Twitter to send homework information and announcements to parents.
18. Publish some of my older papers on my own wiki and invite other educators to comment on them
19. Use my current written college assignments as blog entries, discussion threads and wiki pages and invite others to visit, critique and contribute.

As I am supervising the installation of two new computer labs (sorry Alan I know how you feel about the labs:) in our school, getting ready to collaborate with nice folks from MOET and Teaching Matters I am very optimistic that our school will zoom up the scale of Dimensions of the 21st Century success. Beginning mid September you will be able to use the following tags to follow us on Twitter WSA4 (William Shakespeare Academy at PS4) or DES4 (Duke Ellington School 4).
Jacek Polubiec was born and raised in Powisle, a small picturesque neighborhood near downtown Warsaw, Poland. Working on archeological excavations in his youth invigorated his interest in higher education after years under very traditional, teacher-centered school system. Self-driven and taught, he applied and was accepted to the Institute of Archeology, one of the most elite departments of Warsaw University, where he completed three semesters of studies. Upon coming to the United States, Jacek started a family and pursued his passion for music. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from City College and M.A. in Jazz Performance from Queens College. He held many roles in the music world: jazz guitarist, band leader, composer and teacher. His satisfaction from seeing adults and children learn inspired him to work with the New York City Board of Education. There he has worked as a music teacher, a Project ARTS Coordinator, and after graduating from the Principals Institute at Bank Street College, an Assistant Principal—a position he has served in for the past 7 years. Jacek feels strongly about bringing progressive thinking and innovative approaches to teaching and educational leadership. He is a transformational leader passionate about emotional intelligence, teacher and student leadership, collaboration and technology. He is currently pursuing doctoral degree in Urban School Leadership at Fordham University. He is a proud father of two girls ages 15 and 20. When he is not working or studying, he enjoys surf fishing, camping, photography, cooking and salsa dancing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

BLC09 - A Reader's Digest for Those Unable to Attend (In Person, At Least)

Editor’s Note: This post is written by Dana Lawit an NYC DOE high school teacher who serves as a contributor to The Innovative Educator blog. For this post I asked Dana to look through my Tweets to learn, gather, and share what she and others could learn remotely from what I tweeted. Dana does a great job in this post of not only providing an overview of my experience through a Twitter lens, but she also demonstrates how Twitter can be used to enhance learning.

The Innovative Educator (a.k.a. Lisa Nielsen) just returned from the Building Learning Communities conference on Innovation in 21st Century Schools in Boston. While she was tweeting, blogging, and broadcasting in real time throughout the event, I wanted to compile some of my favorite quotes and takeaways as a non-participant. Think of this post as a cliff notes, or cheat sheet -- a reader's digest inspired by InnovativeEdu's tweets from the event.

InnovativeEdu: Education was ranked the lowest (below coal mining even!) for use of technology. Learning to Change-Changing to Learn. BLC09 12:14 PM Jul 27th from web

Clearly, if schooling is to continue to prepare young people to engage as productive members of their community, schools need to do a much better job and infusing technology and digital literacy into their curricula.

InnovativeEdu: Reading Student as Contributor: The Digital Learning Farm at BLC09. MOET12:16 PM Jul 27th from web

Conference organizer Alan November provides a historical context for charging students with responsibility and creation, and offers suggestions as to what the looks like in a 21st century classroom.

InnovativeEdu: Watching the Learning to Change - Changing to Learn video at BLC09 MOET12:30 PM Jul 27th from web

Inspiring video produced by the Consortium for School Networking that frames the need for 21st century classrooms.

InnovativeEdu: Nice post for BLC09 folks and others who are ready to transition from lurking to contributing. Inspiration @ AM Jul 28th from web

How do we as educators make the transition from reading, researching receiving to collaborating, creating, and contributing? It's a transition I recently made. This post captures many of the reservations one might have as she transitions from lurking to contributing, but ultimately calls upon all of us to comment and exchange ideas more.

InnovativeEdu: Alan November is @ BLC09 saying we shouldn't have tech action plans just like we shouldn't have pencil and paper action plans.12:24 PM Jul 28th from web

Technology in a classroom isn't innovation. Just as an arrangement of desks and chairs doesn't necessarily yield a classroom. Instead, the deliberate arrangement of chairs combined with human capital transforms spaces to experiences. The thoughtful application of technology combined with learning experiences yields innovation.

InnovativeEdu: Alan November says Ning is "THE" tool for building learning communities at BLC09. At the NYC DOE we were told ARIS Connect was. MOET2:01 PM Jul 28th from web

As I posted earlier, Ning is a powerful tool for teachers and students. Its applications are endless -- connecting students within a classroom, teachers within a school, educators across the globe.

InnovativeEdu: @ BLC09 Alan November says we should replace the word technology with information or instruction @PLCJP really loved this concept.

I too love this concept for two reasons: 1) it debunks technology as a fancy word denoting slick, humming machines and 2) folds that word into the work of teaching and learning as another tool.

InnovativeEdu: is a site that was set up to share student created tutorials shared at blc09. I think marc prensky would love this.10:30 AM Jul 29th from web

Mathtrain is great example of creating an authentic audience for student products. On this site, students produce videos that not only demonstrate their own understanding of a topic, but can be used as a resource for other students.

InnovativeEdu: Connecting to students online allows educators to build and develop relationships that would not otherwise be possible.2:14 PM Jul 29th from web

I couldn't agree with this more. From my recent experience using a Ning Network with an English class in summer school, I found students reaching out (by sending me Ning messages) that had never engaged in a classroom before. For many, social networks carry with them a different set of social expectations. This is a powerful change of pace for many students and teachers alike bored and unsatisfied by the traditional conventions of schools.

InnovativeEdu: New York City School Leaders just created a learning network for transforming ed @ blc09. Come join us at Ted21c

Join the conversation, join the Transforming Education in the 21st Century Ning and continue the conversation.

InnovativeEdu: Blc09 concept: When you learn something, don't keep it inside. Do something with it. Publish it! Blog it! Tweet it! Discussion Forum it!9:56 AM Jul 31st from txt


As usual, we challenge ourselves and each other to continue sharing and discussing our experiences and insight about innovation in education.

Leave a comment, start a blog, join a Ning network. One of the most powerful and innovative ideas brought about by the introduction and widespread use of Web 2.0 technology is a lesson I'm continually learning and sharing with my students: you are important, and what you have to say and thing matters.

Look forward to hearing every one's thoughts.

Ideas for Leading Transformation in Schools from Alan November

While at the Building Learning Communities conference, Alan November sat with leaders from New York City schools to discuss ideas for leading transformation in their schools. Below are highlights from the conversation.

Kids Teaching Kids
->Switch the capacity of learning from the teacher to the student.
->Run a contest where kids create learning objects for other kids using screen casting.
-->Resources: PHPmotion, Techsmith, Camtasia, Techsmith
->Students can produce a video that welcomes other children to your school. This can go to all new students. Written, produced, directed by children in the school.
->Ask every teacher to submit the 10 most difficult concepts for students to learn in each content area.
->Challenge students to create ideas to teach the most difficult concepts.

Integrating Technology into the Curriculum
->Too many schools are doing cool things with technology but it is not aligned with the content area. Select 2-3 areas where technology will make a difference.
->Do not use technology just because you can do it. Use the tools (wikis, podcast, Twitter) but make sure they are strategic.
->Globalize the curriculum. We need to see the work of other kids around the world in every subject they teach. Find the award winning work from students around the world in each curriculum area.

Have a Family Plan
->Create a Grandmother network.
->Get a grandparent to connect to through skype. Have grandmother read books to class.
->Create subject-area guides
-->Have teachers in each content area/department make cds/dvds for families that show the families how they can support their student in that particular subject.

Extend The Learning Time
->Provide opportunities for students to access their learning environment afterschool day, before school, Saturday,
->Think outside the box
->Open up the library beyond the school day and have an internet café.
->Can a librarian come in at 10 or 11 and work til 6 or 7 everyday, or a couple days a week?
->Can any staff members work Saturdays rather than Monday?

Roles of the leader
->Build Capacity
->Create Study Groups
->Develop great communication skills and express yourself using various channels: Twitter, learning networks, blogs, Skype
->Ensure technology is in alignment with strategic goals you set for your school
->The role of the leader is to build capacity (w/ specific tools, study group,)
-->Family capacity building group
-->Global connection group

Jobs of Student
Below are creative ways that students can make valuable contributions to their learning community. Click here for more details.
->Tutorial Designers: Students can document their learning by recording themselves solving problems based on material discussed in class. You can read how a middle school teacher named Eric Marcos is doing this here.
->Official Scribes: Use a collaborative tool like EtherPad or Google Docs to share responsibility to take perfect notes that can be captured, published, and used by an entire class. See how a teacher named Darren Kurpatwa is doing that with his calculus students here.
->Researchers: Many classrooms have a few computers sitting in the back that gets very little use. What if that computer became the official research station where one student each day was responsible for finding answers to all the questions in class – including the teacher’s? Once sites are found that give details about the questions being asked, you might consider adding it to your own search engine built using Google’s Custom Search Engine creator.
->Collaboration Coordinators: Using Skype (, a collaboration team could be responsible for establishing and maintaining working relationships via the Internet with classrooms around the world. Find out more about how middle school teacher Andrea Trudeau did that here.
->Contributing to Society: Teach students about social justice and empathy using sites like Kiva a site that opens the doors of learning and gives students the opportunity to make a small but meaningful difference in the lives of others.
->Curriculum Reviewers: As the resources above come together, the curriculum review team jumps into action to create material that can be used for continuous review. This team combines visual and audio components into podcasts that can be posted online for individuals to download into their mp3 players. See how Bob Sprankle’s class did this here.

Safety Thoughts
->Teachers should be wary of following students on public sites where the teacher subscribes to or receives instant updates of the students activities as we do not want teachers to become responsible for what students do 24/7.
->There are ways to friend a student without subscribing to their updates in some forums
->Family members should be following students, modeling responsible behavior, and should be aware and responsible for what students engage in online and offline.