Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Questions Raised When Viewing "Most Likely to Succeed"

I consider myself fortunate to have been able to attend a viewing of "Most Likely to Succeed" hosted by the Student Experience Lab at the Business Innovation Factory yesterday in Providence.
While viewing the film I had many questions, while some were about the film itself, the ones that are sticking with me have to deal, not with the film, but rather about what we currently do/don't do in our schools. 

Like an itch that won't go away, I feel the constant urge to ask myself, my teachers, my children's teachers these questions as we begin a new school year:

  • In your class/school, when do students get a chance to make make decisions? When could students get to make decisions?
  • How would student performance differ if we gave students the final exam from last year again right now? Is that okay? Why?
  • Is relying on assessments that measure a student's ability to memorize information just a way to reinforce our culture's need for immediate/short term rewards and therefore are an embodiment to reinforce our culture's hierarchy and status quo?
  • What would students learn if we didn't give grades? What about educators?
While I have not yet asked these questions to many of the educators listed above, hopefully this post will serve as the catalyst for that conversation.

As always, I would love to get your feedback. 

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Are the Rules & Regulations the Problem?

Image courtesy of- 
According to the Rhode Island Department of Education's Office of Transformation and Charter School's website--
Rhode Island's 16 charter schools are public schools authorized by the State of Rhode Island to operate independently from many state and local district rules and regulations. Each charter school is able to establish educational strategies that meet the specific student achievement goals and objectives outlined in individual schools' charters.
"to operate independently from many state and local district rules and regulations."

Many people go out of their way to tout the power of these schools, who are freed from certain burdens, to "innovate" or promote them as models traditional public schools can and must learn from. 

Sorry, not buying it.

The answer to improving public education does not rest in allowing a certain "type" of school. However, the answer can be found in the rules and regulations, but is it is certainly NOT the rules and regulations. 

The answer is the absence of the rules and regulations
The answer is freedom and autonomy.

Giving each and every public school the autonomy to operate independently from rules and regulations allows all schools to truly personalize the educational experiences for all in their school community, and in doing so allows each school to individually tailor how they meet their specific student achievement goals and empowers schools to respond immediately when they don't.

Imagine the possibilities...

  • Want graduation tied to standardized tests? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}
  • Believe your students need study halls during the school day? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}
  • Believe that learning occurring outside of the classroom is more valuable than that which occurs in it, and want to give credit for outside experiences? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}
  • Want to give course credit to a class taught by an algorithm? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}
  • Want to have a Senior Project, Comprehensive Course Assessments or Portfolio as graduation requirements? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}
  • Love "data" so much that you want students tested every moment of every day? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}
  • Want all your class offerings, instructional and assessment practices to be tied to poetry/woodworking/dance/STEM/etc? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}
  • Think that students need 4 years of Art and only 1 of Math?Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then don't. {Then support with data re: needs and outcomes}

Image courtesy of
By having rules and regulations that state that we may be able to improve student outcomes by having a select few who do not have to adhere to the rules and regulations is educational hypocrisy. 

It is time to admit that achieving student outcomes aligned to the demands and skill sets required in the 21st Century will not come from standardization and compliance with rules and regulations that seek to standardize all practices statewide (except of course those who have been granted permission NOT too). 

It is time to admit that in order to "innovate" or be "transformational" in any field, individuals and groups must be free to challenge existing frameworks and guidelines, not be inundated with rules and regulations that force them to live within artificial boundaries that confine them to the practices they seek to change and improve.

Image courtesy of

All schools can and should be unique, just like the students and communities they serve. It is time that we empower all schools with the autonomy to chart their unique course so that we can truly personalize the educations our students receive. It is time that we promote all schools as places where we have the freedom to find the next "best practice". It is time we have all schools become safe havens for risk-taking, innovation and the sharing out of those practices to all who are interested.

Agree? Yes? Then go ahead. No? Then... Oh wait, we all don't have that choice...yet.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Faculty Meeting Recipe- Data + "3 Rs" + Socrative

The following faculty meeting recipe was used to look at a wide array of data associated with a mid-year school wide survey during a one hour faculty meeting. It was implemented with the intention to collectively celebrate successes, challenge assumptions, and find solutions to issues raised by mid-year student feedback to a variety of questions.  

Necessary Ingredients:
  • Fantastic educators
  • School wide Data (We are using Panorama this year)
  • Socrative (Pre-heat by starting a short answer "Quick Question")
Step 1- Give educators access to student survey results ahead of time. 

Step 2- Have educators go to Socrative and login to the room as "Student"

Step 3- Present the first "R"- Revel. Have each educator put into Socrative a result that they are proud of and one way they believe they contribute to that positive result.

Step 4- Once everyone has participated in step 3, go into Socrative and "start vote". This awesome feature allows participants to read others short answers and vote for one they believe best "answers" the question.

Step 5- Display voting results. Discuss as needed.

Step 6- (Optional) Admin displays data that they "Revel" from mid-year teacher surveys.

Step 7- Initiate a new short answer "quick question" in Socrative for second "R": Reexamine- Ask participants to examine data and find one result that surprises and explain why it surprises. Repeat steps 4-7

Step 8- (Optional) Admin displays data that they identified as necessary to "Reexamine" from mid-year teacher surveys.

Step 9- Initiate a new short answer "quick question" in Socrative for third "R": Remedy- Ask participants to examine data and find one result that is unacceptable and share one idea to change it.

Step 10- Not optional: Admin displays feedback they received as feedback from teacher surveys that they see as unacceptable, and share one idea to change it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Unexpected Lessons From My Bammy! Nomination

Seth Godin said:
People are real, but the crowd disappoints
Every crowd, sooner or later, will let you down.
The crowd contains a shoplifter, or a heckler, or an anonymous boor who leaves a snarky comment.
The crowd loses interest, the crowd denigrates the work, the crowd isn't serious.
Worst of all, sometimes the crowd turns into a mob, out of control and bloodthirsty.
But people, people are real.
People will look you in the eye.
People will keep their promises. People can grow, can change, can be generous.
When in doubt, ignore the crowd (and forgive them). When possible, look for people instead.

Given the feedback to date on my Bammy! Award nomination, I have learned the truth in Seth's post, and would add:
  • People will sign their name.
  • People will give you honest feedback.
  • People will tell you where you can improve.
I was going to write about the"heckler" and the "anonymous boor", but I am taking Mr. Godin's advice instead and writing only about those who matter-- the people who will: look you in the eye, keep their promises, help you grow, change, be generous, AND who will sign their name, give honest feedback, and help you improve.

My sincere thanks go out to all the people! Thanks for letting me know you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Recorded Webinars, the 21st Century "But I told you..."?

Sitting and watching is still just sitting and watching...

"It was in the webinar!" is just as effective as saying "It was in the lecture!". (And we all know how effective that is!)

Do More
Video is but a singular tool for educators, and better yet our students, to utilize in the pursuit of greater knowledge. I'm sure our lectures (video and live) are wonderful, but if it does not result in action(s) that cause a learner to go beyond regurgitating to you what you said, then what is the point? 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Blendspace of EGHS "Tech Tools" and "Food for Thought" 3-8-2015

Latest "Tech Tools" and "Food for Thought" shared with East Greenwich High School's faculty, in the form of a Blendspace playlist. If new to Blendspace, hit "play" in the top left corner and make sure comments/text is on.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

4 Rotational Models- A Blendspace Playlist Into Blogger

This post is my 1st attempt to embed a "Blendspace" playlist I made into blogger. Hope it works and that you find it useful.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Need More Than Ubiquitous Multiple Choice

In her article Moving Beyond “Personalized Instruction” Audrey Watters eloquently states:
But technology today is mobile, and it is social, and it is networked. We need to rethink, reimagine how technology can enhance learning — through collaboration and connectedness, for example. We cannot simply use newer technologies to make old practices of lectures and worksheets digital. That’s not enough to transform school. And as the NEPC report highlights, that doesn’t work. And it doesn’t work, in part, because we know that those practices aren’t the best analog pedagogy either.
Clickers. Apps. Multiple choice. Videos of lectures.
This is not meaningful. This is not better. This is not getting students "college and career ready". This is not empowering students, learners, "scholars" or educators. This is not personalization. This is digital reinforcement of a hierarchal structure of knowledge acquisition that in the 21st Century, need not exist. This is digitizing a world that only exists within the walls of our industrial model schools and pretending that it exists in the always referenced "real world" (which is only true in the "real world" of schools and factories).

Clickers. Apps. Multiple choice. Videos of lectures.
These would have you believe that novelty and entertainment is engagement. These have you believe that having "data" will lead to customized learning. The use of these tools may qualify as educational technology, but they do so at the lowest levels. These technologies do not empower or connect students to the world. These technologies do not help students answer big, essential questions. And using technology to answer multiple choice questions certainly does not require a meaningful student investment in their learning.

But with such a huge push to use technology in education-- they are comfortable. Easy. They digitize the model of education where the teacher is the sole purveyor of information. Where we are the sole individuals who can answer the ultimate questions (or at least those on the tests we make).

But What About Formative Assessments?

Sure formative assessment is great. Strike that, MEANINGFUL formative assessment is great.

But why are we shooting to make multiple choice ubiquitous? And yes, I understand that getting formative data back to teachers rapidly is important, but to what end? If it is so teachers can craft better multiple choice questions then by all means, have at it, but don't tell me this is personalizing learning or an example of a meaningful use of technology worthy of such a huge investment.

If this is what the call for more technology usage in classrooms is about- multiple choice, algorithms and "personalized" video lectures, then the profession is embracing a model that can and will replace educators. 
But, it does not have to be this way...and it should not be this way.

I would implore educators who are looking to use technology meaningfully to do so in a way that helps you do what Google can't. Use technology to explore the previously unreachable. Search and learn with, and from, students about questions you don't have the answers to (even if it is not on the exam). Connect students with experts, other than yourself, from around the globe. Identify and solve problems that exist now, not in a carefully crafted scenario. 

Most importantly, take back what it means to personalize learning- use the unique knowledge that you have about your students' lives to craft instruction, assessments, and experiences that have personal and intrinsic value to students. Use data to identify, harness and build upon students' strengths, not just weaknesses. Finally, use technology to share the amazing, personalized work students create with the school, community, and the world. 

Then technology and people will have transformed "school" together.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The 1:1 Initiative I Need

On page 74 of What To Do When It's Your Turn [and it's always your turn] Seth Godin writes:
Not even close
In Open: An Autobiography, Andre Agassi wrote about the secret he learned while playing tennis: "But I don't feel that Wimbledon changed me. I feel, in fact, as if I've been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing. Now that I've won a slam, I know something that few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn't feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn't last as long as the bad. Not even close." 
Ouch. It's so easy to believe that five great Amazon reviews don't compare in impact to one bad one. Five closed sales don't compare to one "no." What a sad way to choose to live life.
No wonder we don't want to speak up or stand up or do anything much that matters. We've persuaded ourselves that good feelings aren't even close to outweighing bad ones. 
"What a sad way to choose to live life." 

I am struck by this. Is this indeed a choice? I've always made the assumption that this is "just the way it is" or the way that I am. My intense focus and reaction to negatives or naysayers is just a product of being human. Or so I believed.

But now I'm on the hook. 

The idea that this is a choice is empowering, but also scary because it puts the onus on me. It makes me responsible for when I fall into the trap.

As a school leader I try to see and promote the positive events, actions, and statistics, that exponentially outnumber the negatives. However, I currently allow my mental energy to focus too much on the negative, or as Seth put it, the "one bad" review over the "five great".

"No wonder we don't want to speak up or stand up or do anything much that matters. We've persuaded ourselves that good feelings aren't even close to outweighing bad ones."

There is real tragedy in this. Tragedy for culture, for communities, for families, for individuals, even for schools. How much more of our economic, human, personal and emotional capital is tied up in reacting to the 1 negative than the 5 positives? 

For me, it is time to change this deficit model of thinking. This deficit model of perception. The deficit model of how we run and view our schools. A change of how we perceive the range of students abilities. A recognition that we are probably not giving equally to all the positives that are all around us, especially in comparison to what we give the negatives. 

However, it is not just a change in thinking that will let me off the hook. This change must come with action. It takes showing up. It takes speaking out. It takes challenging those who try to make others believe in a false narratives about the state of learning and achievement. It may even require becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Personally, as a school leader I realize that this the 1:1 initiative I really need-- giving the same emotional capital to the positive as I give to the negative.

For me, it is time to give equity to recognizing, appreciating, supporting, and enjoying each positive, and put it on par with the capital I spend addressing, focusing and stressing about each negative. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please let me know if you have any ideas on how to improve, change, other ideas for next steps, or other ideas for modification.


I am finding every page of Seth Godin's book "What To Do When It's Your Turn [and it's always your turn]" a source of inspiration, motivation, reflection and action. I have a feeling that I may write a series of posts just from this book, and if I do this is the first.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How Will I Make 2015 the Best Year for My Students? Empowerment or "Surveillance, Standardization, Assessment, Control"?

"Perhaps what we need to build are more compassionate spaces, so that education technology isn’t in the service of surveillance, standardization, assessment, control." -Audrey Watters

I originally wrote this quote down in a draft blog post a few days after I read the original post. I was not sure where I was going to go with it, or where it was going to take me. What I did know was that it stuck with me.

There was an uncomfortable truth.
After two plus years of working to get to a 1:1 environment for my students, something was wrong with the questions I was being asked about it. The headlines, questions and inquiries were not about what my students were now doing differently, what were they now creating, or who they were now able to learn from or share their learning with. The inquiries were about filters, permissions, acceptable use, monitoring, etc. all valuable things (I guess)...but hardly about learning.

So now as I am asked to answer "How Will I Make 2015 the Best Year for My Students?" and the quote has led to this post and my goal for 2015. I believe I can make 2015 the best year for my students by trying to meet the challenge posed by Ms. Watters. I will focus
on the hard work of insuring compassionate spaces over attempting to parlay technology purchases that promote "surveillance, standardization, assessment and control" in order to achieve allegedly "meaningful" technology usage. Because really, how meaningful, open and honest can the learning be if you create a culture says you need to be monitored (not trusted), processed (made to fit in) and measured (constantly judged) at all times?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Faculty Meeting Recipe: Tony Wagner TEDx + Modified Protocol + Gdoc

Implemented this week at a faculty meeting

Step 1- Play, passion, purpose: Tony Wagner at TEDxNYED
Step 2- Ask educators to keep in mind when watching video our school's Core Value of- Creativity and Innovation: Embrace flexibility and individuality when explaining and demonstrating knowledge and skills.
Step 3- Implement "Save the Last Word for Me" Protocol from (although usually a text based protocol, we adapted for video)
Step 4- At conclusion of protocol in its entirety, ask for groups to report via Google doc any collective key take aways or ideas that resonated with the entire group.

Key Take Aways
Put something here that your group agreed on, had in common, found important or interesting.

  • We all felt that we need a culture where students are OK with taking a risk and failure.  You have to wonder “what lies beneath” from so many students who are afraid of failure or of taking a risk in a classroom.  
  • If we want to be innovative, how can we also follow the flow of CCSS and the required elements of curriculum?  The two concepts are very disjointed.  The idea of a year of  beta is great, but we don’t feel like it is a reality.
  • Group work is not “division of labor”.  What does real “collaboration” mean?
  • The World of Innovation is interdisciplinary!
  • Making mistakes is ok...take risks together with your students...we feel lucky that our administration encourages risk taking and experimentation.
  • How do we teach kids to not be afraid and to take risks and be wrong.   It’s OK to be wrong, because 9 times out of 10, you learn from it.
  • Sparking intrinsic motivation.
  • Outliers are already outliers so they take risks and produce risk takers.  Students are fearful to take risks in this paradigm. 
There are tremendous ideas/feedback/conflicts here for me as a principal to reflect on, especially when looking through the lens, and trying to lead with all of the schools core values.  Personally, I am once again met with the conflict/pressure of what a "traditional" school is supposed to do and look like versus what it should and needs to look like to impact learning. (Then again what did I expect I was going to get given the premise of the video.)

Potential Next Steps:
  • Engage students in the process and see what the results are.
  • Engage parents in the process and see what the results are.
  • Follow up re: Key take aways- see how close people feel our reality is to this versus how close should we be (and ask what is helping or inhibiting us?)
Potential Modification
  • Use as a measuring stick to gauge how well you know your school/culture- Write down ahead of time what your take aways are. Write down ahead of time what you believe your faculty's take aways would be. Implement. Compare. 
What will you get when you "make" this recipe?

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please let me know if you have any ideas on how to improve, change, other ideas for next steps, or other ideas for modification. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Agreement is Great..But What Did I Do?

The moment I read the above quote, it stuck with me.

It resonated with me.

I Tweeted the post.

Took a picture of the quote and Tweeted and the quote.

I G + 1 the post.

I even changed the the quote on my email profile from Lao Tzu "Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to." to Chris's quote.

Now I'm blogging about it as well.

As I held the door and welcomed students into the building today, Chris's quote still echoing in my head, I wondered:

  • How many of these students will learn something that they “want to” today?
  • How many students would be lost if they were given no other instructions than "learn something new today"? If we take that idea one step further, what would they do if they were given no instructions?
  • How many students will be actively "falling in love" with learning today?

Now please understand that this is not meant to be a critique of the students, the faculty and staff, or of the amazing things that I am fortunate enough to see everyday at this school.

What it is, is a critique of myself. A critique of myself as an "educational leader".

How as an "educational leader" did I get lazy? Believing that Tweeting, G+ 1'ing, posting, pontificating, etc. is an acceptable substitute for meaningful action?  How did I get to the point where “action” consisted of  "Let me tell you what I believe in and some how it will magically appear"? I realized that doing this does not make me a leader, rather it makes me an example of what I hate most professionally- talk about reforming, but do nothing meaningful and continue to perpetuate actions that institutionalize the idea that "learning" belongs to the singular place known as "school".

How as an "educational leader" do I mute a personal core value that intrinsic motivation should drive learning? As our students entered, they all are, in some way, marching in to take "required" courses, for a "required" amount of time, with "required" people, and will demonstrate their learning in order to receive the "required" number of points so that they no longer have to fulfill this particular "requirement". All along I do nothing more that "hope" that the fires of intrinsic passion are being stoked by the "requirements".

As an "educational leader" have I become institutionalized as well? Building/maintaining/supporting an 18th century industrial model of education (complete with bells to march the "workers" along to the next "required" task, along with our agrarian calendar) while pontificating and hoping that we will somehow build lifelong, intrinsically driven learners is the height of hypocrisy.

Perhaps, I am being too hard on myself. There are so many factors that influence our schools, education, and the learning that we offer, that are not under my control. However, accepting these factors and maintaining the status quo is the easy way out. It usurps the necessity of meaningful action by he who would consider himself an "educational leader".

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

3 Ways Teachers Can Ease Into Using Back-channels

I love using Twitter and/or TodaysMeet during professional development, during instruction, or as a formative assessment tool. Whether harnessing the collective intelligence of the room, allowing participants to ask and answer questions, or memorializing an event, back-channels allow for a level of connection with other participants that I now find essential.

For full disclosure, I must admit that I have had back-channels backfire on me, especially as when I was new to a platform, when I had a few too many immature students (or was too immature myself), and when I was a newbie in the Twitterverse [side note: thank you ISTE for your understanding that I was not trying to hijack the back-channel at ISTE Leadership in Indianapolis 3 years ago :) ]

So how can educators not throw the back-channel baby out with the bathwater? Below are 3 ways I've used to ease into back-channels until participants (or the teacher) are ready for a platform that is entirely open or allows for anonymity.
  1. Socrative- Love the simplicity and the many ways to use Socrative. As a back-channel you can select "Quick Question" then "Short Answer", then write the essential question . You can then decide to make the responses public (names required) or anonymous.
    1. Pros- Great displays, simplicity, new "voting" feature allows for expansion of back-channel questions or answers. Ability to "clear room" if participants abuse backchannel. Data reports of responses available in a variety of formats.
    2. Cons- A truthful "Student Name" is voluntary, no email of participants (unless that is what you have students use as "name".
  2. Google Forms- Create a Google form before hand, allow participants to submit questions, scroll through results to answer questions.
    1. Pros- If GAFE account you can automatically collect submitter's email, allows for questions to be answered via email if unable to address during the event, provides data about common questions allowing for revision of presentation. Allows for private questions
    2. Cons- Owner of the form controls the Q&A, if questions get asked early on and then answered during presentation you maybe redundant if you address. Generally limits audience interaction. Best as an exit ticket.
  3. Google Docs- Share an editable google doc for Q&As or embed an element of your presentation and allow participants to comment, and/or utilize the chat.
    1. Pros- share with limited audience. Accountability for comments and questions.
    2. Cons- No anonymity in comments or responses (depending on the class make-up this could also be a pro)
As always, I would love to hear other ideas and platforms from my PLN so please feel free to comment here, on Twitter at @EGHSPrincipalRI or on G+

Monday, September 1, 2014

Food for Thought Shared 9-1-2014
Below you will find "Food For Thought" links shared 9/1/2014. Hope you find them useful. If not, check back next week as the menu always changes!
Background- In my weekly Sunday night email to teachers I end with links to articles, videos, posts and other links that I have curated throughout the week that have made me pause and reflect upon my leadership, my practice, my school, my relationships, and my students.  Awhile ago, a teacher in my building Mr. DeCubellis, shared with me a file of all of last year's "Food for Thought".  Since then I have wanted to curate the materials further myself, beyond an email, and share them with an even larger audience. Additionally, I am still trying to get to posting regularly on this blog and I am hoping that this will provide me with a baby step to getting to at least a weekly post.
  1. Blended Learning for All in RI?- Rhode Island’s Announces Plans To Be The First State To Go Fully Blended-
  2. Think people really say what they think online? Think again.- From Audrey Waters post-  Pew Research on “Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’.” “A major insight into human behavior from pre-internet era studies of communication is the tendency of people not to speak up about policy issues in public—or among their family, friends, and work colleagues—when they believe their own point of view is not widely shared.” And Pew contends folks are even more silent online.
  3. How do you praise? How, and what you praise matters!   
  4. The internet has changed everything. Be a "Now-ist"- original TedTalk- 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Just the 1st Letter of the Alphabet? What Does Your "A" Grade Mean?

On this 1st day of school remember that a grade of "A" that is not preceded by:

  • inquiry 
  • struggle 
  • unexpected challenges 
  • collaboration 
  • criticism
  • critical thinking
  • questioning using other's point of view
  • reflection
  • experimentation 
  • soul searching
  • risk taking
  • failure
is just the first letter of the alphabet.