Richard Byrne: Free Technology for Everyone!

This is the second post in my summer 2013 series of people who are making a difference.

 

Richard_Byrne.2Picture being up in Maine, faced with opportunity of teaching a new subject and needing help….Where would you turn? Who would you turn to? In 2003, Richard Byrne was faced with these same questions and he turned to the internet. We all know the internet was much different back in 2003, but according to Richard, it was exactly what he needed, and exactly what his students needed.

 

Fast forward to 2013 and Richard Byrne has become an enigma in technology education. His blog, Free Technology for Teachers, has been viewed a gazillion times, has won Edublog awards since 2009, has over 5,000 followers on Google +, and has over 35,000 likes on Facebook. If you have never accessed the site, you have a lot of reading to do. As of July 9, 2013, Richard has 7,503 blog posts. Yes, 7,503 blog posts!

 

When I asked Richard to talk about his blogging process, he said that it has evolved over the years. At first, his posts were more about him, and now they are meant for his audience… us! In his first post on Free Technology for Teachers, Richard discussed his mission… to provide free resources for teachers to increase academic success. 7,502 posts later and Richard is staying true to his mission! In addition to being free, Richard ensures that his resources only take someone 10 -15 minutes to utilize and implement into their classroom. Yes, I said free!

 

richard byrne 3During the last year, Richard gave up his full time teaching position to focus on his blogging, speaking and consulting work. What started out as a labor of love, has afforded Richard the opportunity to travel around the world and meet amazing students and educators. He encourages new bloggers and web 2.0 users to keep going and be persistent. He also said that it is important to know why you want to blog and to stay true to that mission.

 

When I asked Richard about the future of education he did not hesitate to say, “We will see in a very short time the end of the computer lab.” He envisions an educational world that is focused on personalized learning devices to help student solve problems, access information and create something new. He doesn’t have particular advice for the platform (ie. mac vs PC) but rather he feels that districts should figure out what works best for their schools.

Take a look at this animoto about his recent trip to where the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp will be held:

Make your own slide show at Animoto.

 

Want to connect with Richard?

Twitter  

Facebook

Free Technology for Teachers 

Google+

 

Blending the future of learning with Rich Kiker

This is the first edition of my summer 2013 Learning Project.

kikerTalking with Rich Kiker was like talking to one of my high school buddies…. He is energetic, focused, futuristic, passionate, funny and loves to push the envelope.  In fact, when I asked him what type of student he was in school, he laughed and said, “Terrible! I was more concerned with selling sneakers, fooling around, then I was in school. For me, school was boring!” Yes, Rich and I would have definitely hung out in high school (and college for that matter).

 

I actually first met Rich at Educon in January. He came into the session I was facilitating (with Dana Sirotiak and Danielle Hartman ). He immediately breathed light into the discussion and made this remark that stuck a chord with me… “We need to invest in bandwidth.” Simply stated. Passionately delivered. Yet, I understood exactly what he was referring to…. No matter the device, app or online tool, if your bandwidth is not large enough to support it, your 21st century learning opportunities are meaningless.

 

Rich is a risk taker. A few years ago he gave up the comfort of tenure and a full time teaching  job to start his own company, Kiker Learning. At Kiker Learning he built one of the most successful consulting businesses in education. He blends learning through face to face, online and hybrid. In addition to building Kiker Learning, he came back to the public education realm as the Director of Online Learning for the Palisades School District. Rich blends learning with the best of them!

 

kiker trainerAt Palisades, he works with the district to provide online learning opportunities for teachers, students and administrators. His vision is to meet the needs of the various stakeholders in a blended learning atmosphere. So whether kids want to take an elective, are Gifted and Talented, need remediation, or get assigned to a course, Rich ensures that their needs are met. Rich uses resources for the program such as K-12, Blackboard, edmodo and the Blended Schools Network. He believes that the online curriculum should complement the mission/vision of the public schools and address the common core as well as the local curriculum requirements. To me, Rich is creating a paradigm shift within the system by blending the learning.

 

kiker w peopleWhen I asked Rich to talk about the future of education, he wasted no time in telling me that it is in bandwidth! He used the example of how the global learner can learn from a kid in Singapore through YouTube, but if the bandwidth isn’t there, then how can they access it? Rich believes that the investment also needs to be in the Human Resources of a company. He thinks its time to “stop buying stuff” and move to a digital space. He sees MOOC’s as the opportunity to let students and teachers build the process of their learning. He sees great value in continuing the social aspect of schooling. Rich values the art of teaching and the important place a teacher and student have in the learning continuum.

 

The future of  learning is Blended through bricks and clicks.

Suggestions by Rich

  • Project Loon – Balloon powered internet for everyone
  • The Element – by Ken Robinson – A great read for finding your passion
  • Be Our Guest – Great read for understanding the importance of customer service
  • Google in Education – Check this out for learning opportunities beginning in August
  • MentorMob – An ambitious project to re-imagine how learning works
  • Seth Godin –  Linch Pin – Want to make yourself indispensable? Read this book!
  • Kiker Learning  – Rich’s online company that provides state of the art consultation

 

 

 

Who is making a difference? I need your help!

Last summer, I set out to interview 10 connected educators. The goals was two-fold… I wanted to learn from the “best” to improve my practice of being a connected principal, and I wanted to continue paying it forward through my blog. I learned so much from those amazing educators (feel free to check out the participants below).

As I reflect on this summer, I am still pondering… Since I learned so much last summer why don’t I continue the project this summer.

So I am asking for advice…

Who is out there making a difference in the lives of students, teachers, communities, etc? Who has transcended the mundane aspects of education? Who has done something different? Who should I contact this summer for a skype interview? What can I learn from them? How are they making a difference? Please send me your suggestions… I can’t wait to hear back from you!

 

Spread the word!

2012 Summer Blogging Project Participants:

George Couros

Justin Tarte

Dwight Carter

Nerdy Teacher

Chris Wejr

Todd Whitaker  

Erin Klein 

Patrick Larkin 

Kelly Tenkly 

Jessica Johnson 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about …. Cheese!

As I was driving into work last week, I was thinking about our final staff meeting of the school year. I had an agenda, and was fully prepared to carry out the agenda. Then I thought about all of the changes facing my school next year: Model Curriculum (NJ’s transition to the Common Core), Model Assessments (NJ’s transition to the PARCC), new teacher evaluation, new principal evaluation, increased state monitoring of student data and not to mention any other changes that we would want to address our own, unique needs. Then it hit me… A great clip to show the staff (and myself included) would be the classic video, Who Moved My Cheese? based off the book by Dr. Spencer Johnson.

 

After the clip concluded, the staff actually began to clap. In talking about the clip, I stressed that I too have had my cheese moved and that next year we will all be in the maze… together. Throughout the rest of the week, teachers referenced cheese moving…

 

As you think of next year, what cheese has been moved? How will you deal with this change? Do you have a person definition of how you deal with change?

 

 

Science Leadership Academy Where Inquiry is the Constant

SLA’s core values

Throughout the process of transitioning to the Common Core, I have been considering various approaches to supporting the depth, breadth, and nuances of the new standards. Recently, a team from my school district visited the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia, PA. SLA, whose most notable contribution to the education community is EduCon, offers a unique opportunity to research the impact of Problem Based Learning (PBL). Lead by Chris Lehmann, the SLA is a magnet school within the district of Philadelphia Public Schools.

 

We arrived at our destination on a cold March morning.  The wind was whipping through the City of Brotherly Love with such force, it made walking a few feet a chore. As I approached the building I saw High School students running by me. They dipped into the building ahead of me. Could that be their gym class? Later on I found out that it was. SLA embraces the PBL philosophy even in terms of how they utilize their limited space (no gymnasium) and resources.

 

Our tour guide for the day, Jeremy Spry, met us at the main office. His relaxed, almost too calm for school demeanor  was both a welcoming and refreshing approach to our busy morning. He told us we would learn a lot more then just PBL on our visit. His excitement for the SLA learning environment was evident.

 

The Essential Questions are integral to the learning process at SLA

 

Grade 9 is Identity; Grade 10 is Systems

 

Grade 11 is Change

The “best student at SLA” with our team from Millville

 

As we toured the building, everyone seemed to know Jeremy. He took us into a science class that was studying genetics. We were introduced to the self proclaimed “best student at SLA”. After his warm greeting (of course took a photo), he went on to describe the Punnet Square concept with such ease, it was as if he was the teacher. Ironically, after observing their collaborative presentation on the genetic disposition of Huntingdon’s Disease, it was evident the students are in the driver’s seat of their own learning.

 

Jeremy explained that SLA’s core values (Inquiry, Research, Collaboration, Reflection) are integrated into everything. Furthermore, SLA is very specific on the progression of learning as the students enter 9th grade (Identity), then 10th grade (Systems ) which leads into 11th grade (Change), and then culminating into a capstone project in 12th grade.

 

From there, we spent time in a freshman English class. There was a lively discussion about what is art and what is not art in terms of paintings, and music. I actually had to ask Jeremy who the teacher was because the students were facilitating the discussion. He pointed to the teacher, and honestly, I thought earlier that he was a student. The class conversations were reminiscent of a collegial debate type atmosphere where everyone felt they could share their differing opinions while maintaining a respectful demeanor.

 

When we visited the digital video editing room, students were engaged in film projects that offered an answer to a number of questions. For instance, one student told me the focus of his film was about his conspiracy theory surrounding Chap Stick. He asked me, “Does anyone ever really finish a Chap Stick?” I had to laugh because I don’t think I have. When I watched his final product, I was amazed at his production skills and thoughtful consideration of character development.

 

Lunch time at SLA is much different from most schools. Students hang out and eat…. wherever. Sure, there is a cafeteria, but most kids line the hall near the main office, or in out coves throughout the school. Lines are blurred, and there are often teachers who are right in there eating with the kids and discussing life’s big questions.

 

Chris Lehmann and I at SLA

Our tour concluded with a sit down with the principal and SLA founder, Chris Lehmann. He told us that the school may seem unorganized from an outsiders perspective, but that SLA flourishes because it stays true to the core values. Chris doesn’t look for mavericks at SLA because he knows that most were at their prior teaching positions, but at SLA it is incumbent for everyone to be going in the same direction. Chris rarely suspends students, sees no need for a traditional dress code, and encourages his students to be treated as adults, as equals. Chris truley cares about his students. While we were talking, Chris had to balance being a host to us, and the sign ups for the Ultimate Frisbee team he organizes, and a student who was upset about something. His door was open the entire time, and anyone had access.

 

The visit to SLA was heavy. On the way home, I felt inspired by our experience because I believe our students can benefit from integrating the PBL philosophy into our own learning environment. As we continue our transition to the common core, I now have resources and experiences that can help our teachers and students dig deeper in the curriculum.

 

 

 

 

The kind of day that makes blogging easy

On February 22, 2013 I had the kind of day that makes blogging easy…

@JerseyAlicia assisting with the inter-district Skype!

On the way in to work, I was perseverating over our growing discipline numbers in the month of February. I was out the school the day before at a workshop, and I hoped that I wasn’t walking into “one of those days.” Well, in a sense, I was right! It would turn out to be one of those days that makes blogging easy.

 

Prior to the start of school, I had a great philosophical discussion on the transition to Common Core with some teachers. We challenged each other as to how we could make this transition, why the transition was occurring,  and even asking the BIG question… WHO is behind this? I love a heated philosophical discussion with colleagues! (Challenge the Process!)

 

Inter-district Skype

The school day started smoothly. I had a few teachers that invited me to learning events. I made sure to update my calender, and I was off to a meeting to … spend money on our most precious commodity… our students! based on the budget, I will be able to start a 5 week Saturday program, extend our before/after school programs, and purchase more devices to enhance student learning! What a great meeting!

 

I was running late (this is a constant) to my observation in Kindergarten armed with my iphone (this was my first attempt to capture an observation on my iphone). As I tried to observe the staff member, I had students come up to me to talk. They wanted to tell me about the book they were reading, what they ate for dinner last night, and how they were improving with swimming. I joked with the teacher that they seemed very engaged today. She laughed, and said, “Welcome to my world!” After the observation, I attempted to leave, but the rest of the class wanted to tell me how the Superintendent came to visit them at swimming. Hmm, I thought, I haven’t even made it to swimming  yet this season.

 

Mr. Hudson was covered with numbers before the activity even began.

I scurried up to 5th grade (running late again). One of the 5th grade teachers was working collaboratively with another group of 5th grade students from across town through Skype. I watched as the kids introduced themselves to each other and began to work. I tried to do a walkthrough on the other class. I asked a young man what he was learning and why it was important. He was able to tell me that they were working collaboratively on reading a passage, and that it was important to identify vocabulary for understanding. What a great experience!

 

@mrsbensonsbunch preparing the volcano!

I then ran upstairs to the 3rd floor to observe a Volcano Experiment. The students were on the edge of their seats the entire time. She set the stage, engaged the students, had them write down their predictions, and eventually …. poof… a learning memory. These kids, for the most part, will never forget that experience. They all had smiles and were so excited. Impossible is really Nothing!

 

After I finished with the Volcano Experiment I ran down to the gym for math class… Yes, the same 5th grade class that was skyping earlier in language arts were set to test out another activity that they developed for math. I had to recruit a team (I picked the math supervisor  the curriculum coach and our SuccessMaker facilitator) to compete against the students. In the first activity, well, let’s just say we lost. All we had to do was solve the problems by finding the correct numbers that were placed throughout the gym. During the activity, we were penalized for running, and solving the problems out of order. We came in 4th place. The kids were howling! The next activity required us to read a list of problems, solve the problems, find the answers scattered throughout the gym all while connected at the arms. This really required us to work collaboratively. We redeemed ourselves and won! I love winning against 5th graders in math 🙂

 

Our new Media Specialist, Meg Finney,  challenges students with 21st Century learning opportunities.

I made sure to congratulate the students on a job well done, and was off to prepare for our monthly PBIS meeting. I knew we had big problems to identify and solve! As I reviewed the data, I was somewhat encouraged. Compared to last year, we have nearly 40% fewer Office Discipline Referrals. As I ate my lunch, I thought to myself, there are some positives here, the data tells an important story.

 

@drgentilemps takes the Minute to Win It Challenge

As I arrived to the PBIS meeting I remembered that our Superintendent would be joining us. Pressure. We reviewed the data during our meeting. We talked about root causes, trends, possible solutions and ideas for improvement. We dug into some of the data and established that 24 students (out of a school that has 320), were responsible for over 85% of the Office Discipline Referrals. We brainstormed ideas to help these students. The superintendent told me afterwards, “Basically, Spike, you have to adopt those students, assign them mentors, and keep them engaged in the process. You guys will be fine!”

 

Bear Buck Challenge. Spend a Buck to enter the room!

Our committee went down to unveil the monthly “Bear Buck Store” where the kids can cash in their bucks for rewards. This month we tried something new. We wanted to create a buzz for the positives! For a single Bear Buck, a student could enter a door to compete in a challenge. In addition to the challenge, they could spend their bucks on homework passes, time on ipods, or even time with a teacher. The students who chose the challenge walked into a room with tables lined with rigatoni. They were given a piece of dried spaghetti, a few instructions, then had a “minute to win it.” If they were successful  they kept their Bear Buck. At the end of each session we explained the importance of earning Bear Bucks and how next month we would have similar activities for their reward! (Its simple, students earn rewards for Being Safe, Being Responsible, and Being Respectful!)

 

The end of the day went off with out a hitch. There were no discipline referrals for the day! The buzz of learning, innovation, and 21st century skills prevailed!

Basically it was the kind of day that makes blogging easy!

 

 

Leadership Mojo, and why I broke my New Year’s Resolution

Skypeing into the 2013 Techspo with Carrie Sinone!

A few weeks ago I wrote two posts that garnered a lot of attention. I appreciate how supportive everyone was when I posted about losing my Leadership Mojo. My friend and mentor, Brian Robinson, commented on the post. What he said resonated with me, and I wanted to share it with everyone,

Spike-
There are seasons in every part of life. This includes leadership. As the ancient teacher said, “To everything there is a season…a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to keep silent and a time to speak.
This seems to be your season to reflect and re-energize. Your mojo isn’t gone, it’s just taking a break. Hang tight and keep doing the right things you always do!

Brian knows me all too well! My leadership mojo wasn’t gone, it was taking a break. In addition to Brian, I also heard from some other mentors in my PLN who shared their leadership struggles. It was really helpful to hear that I was not (am not) alone! So, that’s it. My Leadership Mojo is back, because it was never gone!

 

This work out is “Bananas”

Now for the New Year’s Resolution. I gave up. In the post, I talked about wanting to try the middle path, and not do anything extreme. Well, I signed up for the Biggest Loser at my school (we have about 7 teams with 3 to 4 people per team competing). And guess what? I want to WIN! So I started doing Insanity this week. I actually have been getting up a 5 AM (after being inspired by my teams’ dedication) and doing Insanity. As of now, we are in 4th place and moving up ever so slightly each week. Since participating in the competition, I have come to look forward to Friday mornings (it helps that I have lost 6 pounds). My school is always a fun place to be, but Friday mornings now have an added jolt of camaraderie,  joking, and most importantly… weight loss! Our entire Biggest Loser competitors have lost 132 pounds in 3 weeks!

 

Wow!

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for their support for my Insights Into Learning blog. I just celebrated my first full year of blogging. I was humbled to see that I had 54,030 visitors through my cluster map last year. Here’s to another successful, reflective year!

Where is my Leadership Mojo? And how will I get it back?

source: despair.com

Being a reflective leader can be very difficult. Basically, if I am being honest in my reflections I have to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am not sure which category this would fit into, but I need to come clean on something…. I feel like I lost my leadership mojo.

 

I’m not sure when, where, or even why, but as of now…. it’s gone. I know that people I work with have noticed. Yet, only two people have had the courage to address it with me. Their conversations started off very similar…. something to the effect of, “You’re not yourself lately” or “Is everything OK?” Every leader needs a Merlin, or trusted advisor within an organization. My “Merlins” were checking on me, and I had to be honest with them….. I just didn’t have any answers. I couldn’t put my fingers on it. I think they understood. I hope they understand.

Source themarteneygroup.com

 

Being a principal is not an easy job. It can be thankless, frustrating, political, and stressful. I get that, but honestly, I know I can deal with those challenges. Being a principal in 2013 sure comes with additional responsibilities because we are at a crossroads in education. We are constantly under scrutiny, pressed for outcomes, and responsible to fix a broken system that we didn’t break.  I can deal with that too!

 

I asked myself if I was alone in this? Thankfully the answer to this is no. Others have been brave enough to reflect on their leadership challenges. Recently, I went back and read two very important blog posts from mentors of my PLN. In his post, Disconnect to Reconnect, Dwight Carter discussed how his social media presence began to impede his ability to connect with his teachers. Dwight put his devices to the side and focused more of his energies on his school. To an extent, Dwight knows what I am going through….. Then there is George Couros. In his post, Fall Apart or Fall Together he talked about his struggles of leadership as he was zapped with low energy and a general malaise. George re-connected with his leadership by paying it forward. He began to help Edmonton Humane Society. They lost it, and found it.  Encouraging!

 

I’m still left with this question…How will I get my leadership mojo back? My first step was admitting that it was gone. That’s what this blog post is about. Believe me, this was the hardest step. I knew by exposing myself in this format, it could have a negative (or less desired) impact then I am seeking. It took a long time to hit the publish button. The second step was looking to trusted advisors, Merlins, and mentors to seek out advice from those who want me to succeed. They have all said the same thing…. it will get better, take care of yourself, you can do this, we believe in you! The third step was to start taking better care of my mind, body and spirit. I am thankful that I have a very supportive network, and I appreciate all of the help.

 

As for the rest of the story? Well, it hasn’t been written…. yet!

Watch out 21st century world, our kids are Blooming!

Isaiah working on one of his experiments

One of our 5th grade classes recently conducted a “make over” on their class. This idea emerged after a group of students requested a “real” 21st Century learning environment. Their teacher, Mr. Hudson, asked them, “So, what does that look like?” Well, they took him up on the challenge and asked if they could replace their desks with tables in order to increase collaboration. They told their teacher that they really liked his teaching, but they learn more when he lets them take what they learn and “run with it” through a variety of projects and activities with their classmates. “Fine,” he said, “Then what?” Well, then they said they each wanted their own device (ipod touch, ipad, computer, or laptop, etc.). “OK,” he replied, “I might not be able to get one-to-one in here, but we can get pretty close.” They compromised…for now.

 

Here is the imovie trailer the students made about their classroom make over:

Anthony met Millville Mayor Tim Shannon and presented an idea for a skate park

 

So after they completed their filming project with Pearson’s EnVision Math (Yes, they were picked out of hundreds of classrooms to highlight the new math program) we treated them to new tables. They really have been working hard this year! Did I mention that they are all avid bloggers? This class, through kidblog.org has been actively blogging before, during and after school not to mention the weekends and some long after they should have been sleeping. Their blog, Bear Necessities, is comprised of the teacher, the entire class, librarian, principal, parents, and even former students. This learning environment allows them to create ideas, complete class projects, and pontificate on what the town needs to do to improve. Did I mention that this is all optional and not required by the teacher? Neither is the “H” word… Homework. Students in this class have designed their own learning games, study guides, and blogs in the most self-directed manner…. because they want to, because the culture of the room encourages it, because no one has to tell them no. It’s a culture of yes, a culture of innovation, of experimentation.

 

Recently, Mr. Hudson’s class enthusiastically accepted a unique opportunity to host TeacherCast for RM Bacon’s FIRST EVER live podcast. The students invited the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and me for a 45 minute session on education. They read our blogs, tweets, and even our resumes to formulate their questions for the podcast. In fact, TeacherCast was so impressed with these kids that he is starting a section on his website for students!

 

RM Bacon’s first podcast was hosted by Mr. Hudson’s class

Administrative walkthrough reports from this class have produced some interesting data trends. 27% of the observed time, this class has been engaged in Generating and Testing Hypothesis, specifically problem solving. 100% of the time the students have been able to articulate the learning objective. 94% of the time there has been teacher directed technology, and 100% student directed technology. As for student grouping, the class was observed (Whole group 33%; Individual 6%; Small Group 44%; Cooperative Group 11%; Pair 6%).

 

After applying what they have been learning through technology, the students realized they hit a glass ceiling in terms of their classroom infrastructure. Ironically, the walk-through data supported their findings, reflecting cooperative group activities identified 11% of the observed time. Hmm, it makes me think how cool would it be to pilot student walk-through’s? Empowered with problem-solving skills, they analyzed their current situation, evaluated what they needed to enrich their learning experiences, and are now in the midst of creating their very own 21st century learning environment. Our students are truly “Bloom-ing” in their very own and student-designed 21st Century classroom. 

 

Resources:

Classroom Instruction That Works, 2nd Edition 

Bear Necessities

TeacherCast 

 

My 2012 Edublogs Nominations

After much thought and consideration I have filled out my Edublogs Nominiations for this year. It goes without saying that I learn so much from these people, and I want to do my part to have them gain recognition.

 

 

And the nominations go to….

Good luck everybody. You Matter!