Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Indiana Superintendents Do More Than Talk, They Tweet

EdWeek’s “Superintendent Take to Twitter to Kick Off School Year” inspired us to draft our own Indiana take on the post as a way to recognize some of those leaders who have realized the potential of Twitter to build connections.  You can find all of these superintendents as well as other administrators on our Twitter List IN Administrators

For many Indiana educators, back to school preparations began with learning at one of the Summer of eLearning conferences. Several district superintendents abandoned any traditional figurehead roles at these events and could be seen in sessions engaged in rich dialogue about transforming learning. If you followed the various conference hashtags, you could find many district leaders highlighting their takeaways from sessions, such as Plymouth Community School Corporation Superintendent Daniel Tyree.
Greater Clark County Schools Superintendent Andrew Melin and his faculty were immersed in new thinking and new tools as they prepared to rollout their 1:1 initiative. He modeled the change in his initial tweet seen here.
When the first day of instruction drew closer, districts began holding their back to school events for teachers. We saw a number of tweets being sent out from auditoriums and gymnasiums across the state as leadership shared their district’s vision and welcomed new and returning teachers. Jason Callahan, Superintendent of Wabash City Schools demonstrates how Twitter allows us to extend the exchange and make personal connections.
Superintendents are paying attention to faculty and staff tweets. You can tell that they follow their district and school hashtags. It’s not unusual to come across a leader retweet of something shared by a classroom teacher. Dr. Jeff Butts, Superintendent of MSD Wayne Township amplifies his teachers' voices this way. 
Dr. Butts also uses Twitter to keep his followers informed on state and local news stories that impact education. 

While others directly show how they are advocating for students. Flora Reichanadter Superintendent of Franklin Township Community School Corporation provides a nice example of this.
Others used Twitter as a platform to encourage more community connections by highlighting events and activities. In Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District, Superintendent Wayne Barker tweeted out about Donuts for Dads.
And we'd remiss in not showing how Dr. Stacey Schmidt of Porter Township School Corporation tweets out resources she uncovers for colleagues and families of her students.
The first round of eLearning Admin Academies spurred many superintendents to create a Twitter profile as part of their shift in school culture.  Even more followed after hearing national leaders (and even a few Canadians) dispel myths about using social media and advocate for educational leaders to model its use during this summer's second round of academies. Are you asking yourself, how do I get started? The superintendents featured here, many other district leaders and the building principals on the list IN Admin are resources.

Are you a Connected Educator using Twitter? We encourage you to be on one of our INeLearn Twitter Lists so that others can connect with you.  All it takes is a minute to submit this survey.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How's Your Posture?

When I was a student teacher (almost 20 years ago), my supervising teacher shared with me her practice of beginning the year with an informational scavenger hunt that got students up and learning about one another on the first day. The way this activity helped establish a positive culture with a new class made it an instant favorite that I repeated every year I taught.

The start of school comes with many such traditions that we have repeated and solidified over the years. And while these traditions contribute to the strength of our education system, they can also be the very thing that holds us back. If you do an image search for "Back to School" you would have to conclude that these traditions have much to do with chalk dust, musty books and freshly sharpened pencils. Does our familiarity with these very materials hold us back from employing the tools of a new generation?

This was a concern of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), last year when they published their report: Born in Another Time. Among their recommendations, NASBE points out that students need "real-world experience with technology in a way that prepares them to be college and career ready." This isn't just 'time in the computer lab' we're talking about here. They specifically charge us to "ensure that every student has adequate access to a computing device and the Internet at school and home." In Indiana, we've made huge strides in this - by many measures leading the nation. We have a long way to go.

To achieve even the goals set out in this report, we will need to take a hard look at our focus, and maybe... our posture. Dr. Scott Robison, the accomplished Superintendent of Zionsville Community Schools put it very well when he said that our job is "helping Indiana’s youth (and their teachers) lean forward into the possibilities." As you begin the new adventure that this school year provides, will you be leaning forward into the possibilities? Or will you be reclining in the time-honored traditions of our past?

Will you be the teacher that tries posting a video to reinforce your most important lessons? Or will you be using your overhead projector to cast a tired image of your syllabus on that new interactive board that you just haven't explored yet? Will you be the leader who explores the power of social media to engage your community, or will you protect the past by ensuring that "devices are off and put away." My sincere hope is that all of us who would call ourselves educators would lean forward with the posture of a learner. It is an exciting time, and we all have much to learn! Make it a great year.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Digital Shift

Everything is shifting at Lebanon Senior High School! When students return next week, they'll not only be greeted by a beautiful new facility, but also their very own MacBook Air. Teachers prepared for this Digital Shift by attending a fantastic conference that bears the same name. Sessions specifically geared toward using these new devices on a day to day basis, equipped Lebanon educators (as well as guests from 50 districts) with a new skill-set to help them make the shift and thrive in this new environment.

Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, perhaps best known for her work with curriculum mapping, was an excellent keynote and a great inspiration for helping schools make the changes they need to stay relevant. In recent years she has helped to develop and share Curriculum21, a clearinghouse of resources to help educators transform their curriculum. Stimulating new thinking in so many areas, Dr. Jacobs told participants, "I'd like to eliminate every committee you are on." Rather than meeting consistently when it may not be needed, she says schools should be asking: "Who are the best people to bring together to solve this problem?" This responsiveness to needs and opportunities is also present in her philosophy about integrating technology. With so many tools at our fingertips, she urges educators to create avenues for students to engage in meaningful, globally connected work.

I also attended a great session called Discover, Collect and Create, presented by Joey Till and Justin Vail who have the experience of being 1:1 with Macbooks for the past couple of years in their district, Wabash City Schools. They've curated some great tools to help teachers make sense of the digital world and present them in three categories that essentially break down to: finding things, organizing things, and making things. Their full slideshare for this workshop is available on their website: Eduation Shift. Thanks to Justin for giving a shout-out to the #INeLearn Chat happening Thursdays at 8pm EST. You can also find more from these two on Twitter under the handle @ED_SHIFT.

In the hallway during passing, I overheard two different groups talking about this "mind-blowing session" called 'Smoke & Mirrors'. So, I decided to stop in and catch a repeat of Missy Feller's concurrent. In tribute to her theme, the session was indeed magical! Her tricks ranged from sleight of hand tips like choosing to print to PDF instead of paper, to some serious hocus pocus like For all of the tools she shared, check out her Symbaloo Mix from the session. Missy shared on Twitter that her sessions (which she has presented at 6 of our eLearning conferences) have been attended by more than 500 educators! #Awesome

I also have to give additional kudos for the great culture evident at Lebanon. Joining me in each session were members of a fantastic student team, learning alongside their teachers, cataloging great ideas to share with their teachers and peers. Such empowerment is bound to make their upcoming school year an exciting one to watch!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Stop #16 on the Summer of eLearning tour is the eVisionary Conference hosted by Valparaiso High School. This is the first year for this conference and over 500 educators were in attendance!!

The day started with 3 hour workshops on a variety of topics. I decided to attend Leslie Fisher's iOS session. If you've had the opportunity to be in one of Leslie Fisher's sessions, you know she is phenomenal! It was so great to hear "WOWs" and giggling when teachers learned new tricks. Some new things I learned were how to split the keyboard on my iPad (put your two fingers in the middle of  the keyboard and drag out...drag back in to put it back together) and how to add the emoticon keyboard to my iPhone. After about a half an hour of tips and tricks, Leslie moved on to sharing several apps that would be helpful to teachers in the classroom. Some of these were Dropbox, Haiku Deck, a new broswer called Dophin, and Remind101. She also shared what she thinks is the coolest app for education, InfuseLearning, a free student response website which students can access from their computer, tablet, or phone. There were some great questions and comments from the group. As always, Leslie was informative and entertaining!

The theme of the afternoon for me was internet safety. I first attended "Digital Citizenship in the 21st Century Learning Environment" with Jeanie Sienkowski, MS language arts teacher, and Andy Sargent, MS assistant principal. Their school saw the pressing need for digital citizenship instruction when they had an incident at their school and started with adding school policies and moved to student convocations with FBI agents. Since then their district has created a technology curriculum committee and they are utilizing ISTE NETS standards, specifically standard 5, digital citizenship. Their goal is to create digitally responsible leaders. Jeanie shared her digital citizenship survival guide, which she found on Pinterest. Some resources she uses are Common Sense Media, Twitter, Pinterest, Edutopia. A big takeaway from the session for me was that we are not just teaching our students to be good digital citizens from 8:00-3:00 on school days, but all day, every day!

Next, I attended a session on internet safety and cyber bullying presented by Beth Kreppein with the Chicago Division of the FBI. Beth discussed cyber bullying and the amazing statistics of how many students have been bullied online. Some tips that she had for students who have been bullied online are do not seek revenge, do not respond, save the evidence of cyberbullying, report threats of harm, and prevent communication. A great resource that she shared is

The 2-day conference ended with a keynote address by George Couros. Many conferences participants also got attend some of his sessions earlier in the day. George shared some great things that are going on in his school district, some phenomenal ideas of how to get ourselves and our students connected, but, most importantly, getting to the why of connecting. George ended the day with an inspiring video, encouraging us to move out of our comfort zone and jump in!