PAECT 2015 Outstanding Leader of the Year

IMG_6184Last month I was quite surprised to be recognized by PAECT as the 2015 Outstanding Leader of the Year at the annual PETE&C conference. Thanks to Robin Burns, Diahann Snisky and Kelly Wetherhold for putting forth the nomination. But most importantly, thanks to the team of educators and board members I get to work with in Salisbury Township School District. Your willingness to embrace change and work to provide the best opportunities for our students makes the work extremely rewarding! The award really represents your good work!

Salisbury educators: Lynn Fuini-Hetten, Teresa Cross and Jennifer Brinson

Salisbury educators: Lynn Fuini-Hetten, Teresa Cross and Jennifer Brinson


What does a Superintendent do? #ASuperDay #ASuperDayRZ

asuperdayCross-posted to SalisburySD.US.

I have often shared that great things happen in our schools and classrooms. I know this because I get to see it…every day. Our professionals – teachers, teacher leaders and administrators – work tirelessly to provide the best opportunities for our students and staff to learn. Office personnel, instructional assistants, cafeteria staff, computer techs and maintenance staff provide valuable support to our schools and district. There are so many layers to this system that it can be overwhelming to explain the valuable contribution of each one. Enter social media to help.

You can see how we currently share through our Facebook page and through our Twitter account. (You can also connect with us on other social media.) One of my wishes for Salisbury is that we continue to share the many unique and wonderful opportunities we provide for our students, and that we make this sharing second nature.

With this in mind, I joined a national experiment on February 18 for Superintendents to document their day and share some of their work through Twitter using the hashtag #ASuperDay. Want to know what a “typical” day looks like for a Superintendent? Check out the Storify linked below to see some of what I did on February 18. You can also check out the #ASuperDay hashtag or what will be my personal ASuperDay hashtag – #ASuperDayRZ.

While the project will go live on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, I promise that you will continue to see sharing from me on a daily basis. Want to learn and see more about the great things in Salisbury? Like our Facebook page, follow our Twitter account (@SalisburySchool) and follow my professional Twitter account (@ziegeran).


Arguments Against Testing

thetestI’ve started reading Anya Kamenetz’s new book, The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to beWhile I’m early in the book, it is an easily accessible read for educators and parents. By the end, I’m hoping this will work well for a parent workshop – either as a presentation/discussion or even a book study.

In one of the first chapters – The arguments against testing – the author shares 10 reasons for the case against high-stakes state standardized tests in math and reading:

  • We’re testing the wrong things.
  • Tests waste time and money.
  • They are making students hate school and turning parents into preppers.
  • They are making teachers hate teaching.
  • They penalize diversity.
  • They cause teaching to the test.
  • The high stakes tempt cheating.
  • They are gamed by states until they become meaningless.
  • They are full of errors.
  • The next generation of tests will make things even worse.

She goes on to paint a fairly convincing picture of each of these points. I must say that I’ve believed/thought about for a long time the ideas against testing she is proposing.

So….are there ANY benefits to our system of testing? Discuss….

PETE&C 2015 – Are you evaluating your tech initiative?

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 8.57.39 PMIn the last post, Moving toward transformation…., I shared how a colleague (@lfuinihetten) and I were days from the opportunity to dig deeper into our leadership challenge and working with 18 other school districts from across the country, researchers such as Ruben Puentedura and Damian Bebel, and a team of facilitators from Apple, Inc. Because of inclement weather conditions, we never made it out of Allentown, and the work session was moved to later this month. We are still very much looking forward to fine-tuning our assessment/evaluation efforts on our teaching and learning initiative – TL2020. More to come… But in the meantime, both @lfuinihetten and I attended PETE&C, Pennsylvania’s educational technology conference and were privileged to share two sessions with our colleagues from across the state:

  • Evaluating and Assessing Your Tech Initiative – Evaluating and assessing your tech initiative is key to adjusting your implementation and knowing whether you’ve reached your goals. You will learn how Salisbury Township SD is using a simple framework for evaluating and assessing its 1:1 initiative. You don’t have to be a published researcher to successfully assess and evaluate your initiative!
  • The SAMR Framework: Leveling Tech Integration – Do you want to take technology integration to the next level? Discover a framework that can be used to classify the richness of technology use on a ladder from substitution through redefinition. Participants will learn the framework, view examples of technology use along the continuum, and apply the framework by developing a sample SAMR ladder.

I wanted to write about our first presentation, Evaluating and Assessing Your Tech InitiativeNot only is the topic a personal interest of mine, I also think it is valuable to share because I don’t see many 1:1 schools or districts asking how they are progressing toward their program goals. Since we started our 1:1 initiative in 2011, we have been collecting a wide variety of data from our context. We have used this data to tweak the course of our work as we progress (formative assessment) and provide a more formal year-end evaluation of the program to our school board. Over the course of several years, we have developed a framework of questions that has helped us assess and evaluate what we are doing with technology: (The framework could be used for any initiative, really.)

  • What are the goals of the initiative? (I’m surprised – still – how many tech initiatives really have no valid published goals or expected outcomes.)
  • Who is your audience? (Who cares whether you are making progress toward your goals – school board? Community? Educational researchers?)
  • What data will you collect? (What data sources will help you determine whether you are making progress on your goals?)
  • How will you analyze the data that you collect? (What methods of analysis will you use and who will be involved in the analysis?)
  • How will you share your results? (Faculty meetings? Board meetings? Online?)
  • What’s next? (Research – practitioner research in this case – should be cyclical. What did you learn and what will you change? And the cycle continues…)

While we are using the terms assessing and evaluating, we are really talking about research. Usually, though, that word scares people and they think they can’t do that because they don’t consider themselves educational researchers. That’s a shame because practitioners such as ourselves have a unique insider perspective. Our perspective should be used to help inform what we (and other practitioners) do to define best practices. You don’t need to be a published researcher with a doctorate. All you need is curiosity, a framework similar to that presented above and the wherewithal to gather and analyze data. The outcomes are well worth the investment! Be sure to check out the embedded presentation below for examples of how we have implemented the various phases of the inquiry process. I’d love to hear feedback or ways to improve the process.

What process do you follow to evaluate and assess you technology initiative?

Moving toward transformation…

catmull01One of the greatest organizational and leadership challenges behind any 1:1 program, where every student has access to a digital device, is ensuring transformation of the teaching and learning process. As we often hear, it’s not about the technology – it’s about what we do with it. Changing teaching, learning and leadership practices around the use of digital devices is critical for an implementation to be successful.

As the quote to the right suggests, organizations are by nature very conservative, even when isolated individuals within the organization create pockets of learning that evidence the vision. The greatest challenge for our implementation has been “scaling up” those pockets.

After three years of data collection (surveys, focus groups and the implementation of a walkthrough protocol), it’s clear that systemically, our students do not participate in regular, significant transformative learning experiences (using SAMR as a standard).  We have individual pockets which have not expanded content-wide, to grade levels, to buildings, etc.

So here is our question: For the teachers who are designing and implementing transformative learning experiences, what factors are critical to their success?  There are a whole host of possibilities: professional development, personal learning networks, knowledge of inquiry, level of technology skills, student attitude, clarity of vision, district leadership, building leadership…. But which are specific to our context? And what can we as leaders do to bridge any gaps, reenergize our implementation and ultimately take the idea of transformative learning to the system level?

Next week, a colleague (@lfuinihetten) and I will have the opportunity to dig deeper into this leadership challenge, working with 18 other school districts from across the country (no doubt with similar challenges), researchers such as Ruben Puentedura and Damian Bebel, and a team of facilitators from Apple, Inc. We are looking forward to the opportunity to explore our challenge and to lead positive change in our 1:1 implementation. More to come after next week….

What are the primary challenges with your 1:1 implementation? How are you addressing them?

The quote above comes from Ed Catmull‘s book, “Creativity, Inc.” The concluding chapter includes a bulleted list of ideas/statements that are worthy of reflection from every school leader. Check out the list here.