Friday, August 29, 2014

Understanding Blended Learning


For the past few years educators have worked tirelessly to ensure that students in today’s classrooms, the same students that are preparing for jobs that don’t even exit yet, are receiving instruction that incorporates devices, or computers, as part of their learning experience. As educators know, incorporating technology is simply, integration. 

As academic leaders we have been spending time and energy, and most significantly dollars, so that technology is a part of each classroom and so that teachers are being supported in their work. With these efforts we have seen results. The investment has been worth it.

For the most part, technology integration was the path that we knew best. We have given teachers support with devices, students or the schools, and we asked them to enhance the learning experience within the classroom walls. We have overcome the barriers.  And in the end we have had some great success.

With all of that said, we are now learning more and more about Blended Learning. For many, the shift is on and we have been hearing more and more about the differences from simply adding technology to how we use this technology within the learning. How are they different? Do we have to toss that all away and head in another direction?


Then answer is “No”. In fact, if you work in an environment in which teachers and the school community has embraced technology integration over time, you are that much closer to being successful at sharing with your stakeholders the Blended Learning model.

Our technology integration simply needs “tweaked”. 

Blended Learning by any definition is taking the classroom instruction (in all its forms including the use of devices) and adding an online component that supports what is being taught within the classroom setting.  Here are 7 Characteristics of the Hilliard City School Districts Learning Environment of Blended Learning. As you read them, see how they translate into your teaching and how they would apply in your classroom, school or district. And, see how which side of the equation you fall on. Integrated or Blended?
(courtesy Hilliard City Schools)

As you read the language of each, there is a resounding message of connectivity between the traditional classroom setting and the digital elements of the learning environment. Assuming you can uphold the intentions of what Blended Learning is intended to be, then the environments in which are created, and the experience both the teacher and student will partake in, the results will be astounding. 

Now that we are shifting away from integrated and into Blended, make sure to take the time to work with your colleagues. Welcome everyone to the table, have the conversations, share experiences, perspectives and areas of expertise. Know that there can be more than one path to the intended outcome. There has been so much positive accomplished already that we need to build upon on our success. Teachers and their embracing of technology in instruction is constantly on the rise and we should continue to build upon that momentum.

And, of course, ask questions. There is plenty to learn along the way.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Time to Change the World

Concluding the first week of school I find myself reflecting on all that has been accomplished in such a short period of time, 4 days to be exact. Think about it, we just went from full summer mode of sleeping in and lazy days, to having hundreds, in my case 903 7th and 8th graders, back within the school in front of teachers and with their classmates as they begin the academic journey of a lifetime.

Already we have:
  • Created the foundational climate for the year.
  • Established academic expectations that will take us through the next many months.
  • Fostered relationships with colleagues to support our instruction.
  • Introduced complete strangers to each other and encouraged them to become more than classmates, to become friends.
  • Introduced content that is as foreign to them as the day is new.
  • Brought technology into their experience of learning that is beyond being "social".
  • Tossed all of these students, and teachers, into one building and asked them to be "one" and to get along, "play nice" and learn from each other.
And with that, all of these listed and many more, we have created a new year. Whether with our teachers, our parents and most importantly our students, we have the start of something great, something awesome, something inspiring.

I was told to dream this year. I was told to encourage others to do the same. My role and responsibility is to empower others to take risks that would be for uncomfortable, yet rewarding. I will do just that. I will guide, support and listen.

This first week I have been moved by what I have seen. I see an audacious approach to the year ahead. There is conviction, there is determination. Teachers are walking with passion in their step. The students can already see it. We can already feel it. This is our year. This is only the first week of school. There is amazement everywhere. Can you see it where you are? I can. Therefore I can say with conviction, after these first four days, we are ready to change the world.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1st Day Reflection, Nervous Anticipation.

Yesterday was the first day of school. With that, I was nervous, anxious, excited and scared. I was worried about finding my way, making new friends, getting my lunch and getting to (and from) school without incident.

I had trouble sleeping, less of an appetite and overall my nerves were on edge. This was going to be a challenge to make it through the day!

Oddly enough, normally I handle stuff like this pretty well. Rarely do I get "thrown off course" in a new situation. However this year, and on this first day, it was different. I knew that I would have to get my arms around why my emotions were raised more than ever.
My guess is you have students and even colleagues (maybe even yourself)that felt the same sense of nervousness on their first day. That is to be expected.

The uniqueness here though, I am the Principal. I am in charge!

This is my 21st, first day of school. Professionally one would think I would have had this day figured out. I had done this before. Whether welcoming new students, working with staff prior to the opening days or having spent weeks preparing for this moment, this first day should have been routine. Yet, the nerves where there.

As day two settled in, I sat down with Chip, a colleague and friend and we processed the nervousness. His answers, our answers, our conversation is a testament to our role as educators. Here are our takeaways from our talk:
  • The desire for the day to be perfect. (Insert your definition here: _________ .)
  • Afraid to fail. (A glitch in the schedule or system as we know it happens.)
  • Accepting that failure is allowed and a part of the process of learning. (Builds trust.)
  • The desire to have a good, no great, first impression on each other. (A must!)
  • Wanting to share our passion with all of those we came into contact with. (A focus for the staff this year is Personal Passion, Professional Passion and Content Passion.)
  • To make sure the students that I/we met in the first part of our day felt the same excitement as those that I/we encountered at the end of the day.
  • Finally - to have fun, smile and be willing (and wanting) to come back for day number 2!
And with that, the reason for my nervous anticipation was answered. I had spent so much time preparing for this day because I wanted it to be the greatest first day ever. Not for me, but for those I am surrounded by each and every day.  My students and my teachers are my drive. They make me "tic".

As we wrapped up the conversation we both realized that the emotions I felt are more than just "1st day jitters". The nervousness that we experience is what drives us to work tirelessly for our students and our staffs to ensure that each day is their best day of school. In the end, every day should be met with passion and that nervous anticipation regardless of who is in charge.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Off and Running, Goals for 2014


What a great time of year for educators. With the anticipation of back-to-school in full swing, many of us are taking the time to sit down and chart a year of success through the annual process of goal setting. Recently Brad Currie led a conversation through #Satchat about this very topic which sparked endless suggestions, directions and possibilities. Being one of the more highly attended "chats" through Twitter, it was an amazing resource to support me in my process of gaining a focus for the 2014 school year.

Even though goals are personal and specific to what our particular environments may need at a particular moment in time, the reality is we can learn a lot from those around us. By reading, hearing and discussing others goals, each of us can find a commonality in what we may want to focus on in the coming months and year. Let's face it, we all want to better tomorrow than we are today. And, not only do we want to improve ourselves, we want others around us to excel even more so.

As I think about my goals ahead, I reflect on the past. This summer has been inspirational to say the least. I have participated in a variety of professional development experiences and have pushed myself to be more knowledgeable about my career then ever before. Whether being a part of district led activities and conversations about Blended Learning and Personalization, attending the Innovative Learning Environments Conference or reading books including: Drive by Daniel Pink, Greater Than Yourself by Steve Farber and Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. Each opportunity and experience has motivated me and energized me to the return of school in less than two weeks. These books, along with the conference, will be pivotal to my direction this year.

To top off the year, and the summer, last week was EdCampILE. This all-day event was everything an EdCamp is intended to be. It was professionally invigorating! I had been to a camp before but this camp came with an entirely different experience. I was part of the team that organized it!

It was with my colleague Jacki Prati that we organized, (with help from others, of course) invited, promoted and facilitated a day of learning for over 125 passionate educators. We followed the advice of organizers before us and gave back to others in a way that was rewarding for all. The day was powerful and validated so many of our passions and our need for professional growth.


With all of these experiences of this past year, and specifically this past summer, I now have the resources and mindset to set goals that will carry me into the year ahead. The anticipation for the first day back has never been greater. As a building administrator my goals are simple in nature but intricate in delivery. It will take effort and fortitude to see these through. There will be a sense of urgency that I welcome.

My goals are:
  • I will surround myself with educators that are motivated, inspired, passionate and dedicated to make a child's learning experience like no other.*
  • *When I come across educators that are not of this mindset, I will work with them and assist them get to that "place". To guide, nurture and instill a sense of purpose so that they can get to where each day is better then the one before.
  • I will empower my teachers and colleagues to be leaders themselves, both in the classroom and beyond their own walls. We will embrace the belief that the smartest person in the room does not, and should not, be ourselves.
  • I want my community to grow. Not by numbers necessarily but by their investment in each others learning. Parents need to be a part of the journey and our community needs to be inspired by what our students are learning each day.
  • I want to listen and therefore learn. I will lead in a way that is personal to each teacher and to each student. Creating that path of personalization is key to a child's, and a teachers, success. We will work collectively to get there.
As you prepare for this school year, make sure to set your goals in a way that not only can be successful for you and your colleagues but are equally challenging. Have conversations with your community of learners and listen to where the greatest needs are. Be inspired by what you encounter and be ready for a year like no other!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Digital Literacy - Why Wait?


Can you imagine a time when you had to wait for a book, a conference or a conversation in order to learn the best practices in your field? Think back a few years and how you would gather knowledge from colleagues that worked down the street, across town or in a different part of the world.

If we had the time, or made the time, we would pick up the phone, make a road-trip or schedule a conference in order to gain the greatest information in an attempt to improve our teaching and our learning.
Educators are learning, at a lightening pace, that being connected is a must. The catch is that where we are today is still years behind where we need to be. Just when we think we have mastered one form of digital communication and interaction, another appears. Instagram and texting are almost a thing of the past when it comes to sharing of information. Unimaginable.

Franki Sibberson shared her experiences this morning on the final day of the Ohio Innovative Learning Conference of how she embeds technology, digital literacy, into her classroom instruction. She is quick to emphasize that her addition of blogging, using twitter chats and bringing in devices is not about replacing her instruction, it is about enhancing the learning experience and continuing to meet the needs of her students. And, it has taken time and failure. The take-away though is simple, we don't have time to wait to bring these tools to our students and their learning. 

Here are some reflections via Twitter during her presentation:

The reality is though that Franki is experienced. For years she has been teaching herself, through working with others, these best practices for the benefit of and for her students. It is impressive. However for many in the audience, it can be daunting. 

As you consider what you can introduce to your students, try not to overwhelm yourself. Rather, take one tool, one path, one piece at at time and spend time each day (a few moments) and teah yourself. In time you can arm yourself with an arsenal of tools that will support your students learning interests digitally.

It will be worth your efforts. So, ask yourself, "Why Wait?"

For more information and to learn more from Frankie, go to:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Are You An Extreme Leader?

When you walk into your building each morning, regardless of your role, do you consider yourself an "Extreme Leader"? Listening to Steve Farber this morning at the Innovative Learning Environments Conference in Hilliard, OH, gives me serious considerations to how I will lead my staff as we open our doors to students two weeks from this Thursday.

I have read two of his books this summer, both Radical Leap Re-Energized and Greater Than Yourself, and find myself looking at how I engage my staff and students and am motivated to engage them in a way that will be rewarding for all.

Mr. Farber bases the framework for being an extreme leader around a simple word with great depth and an even more intricate explanation: L.E.A.P. Throughout this mornings conversation we have discovered not only the words behind the letters, but more importantly how to put them into practice.

cultivate Love
Love for your yourself, your team, your goals and the process. Have passion. 

generate Energy
Positive Energy for your mind, body and soul. It's contagious.

inspire Audacity
Audacity is courageous. Stand up for what you believe. Make sacrifices. Be able to fail and try again. Change the world to be better. The OS!M

provide Proof
Actions are Proof and louder than words. Provide it by living and performing in a way that is full of Love, Energy and Audacity. Live it. DWYSYWD

As you are getting back into your routines, your school, your passions, consider your Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof in what you do. Find your OS!M and remember that you can change the world through the love that you have for your profession.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How Do You Lead?


Today begins an amazing week-long opportunity for professional growth through the Ohio Innovative Environments Conference. If you are an educator within driving distance, you should be here.

This is a steal. An absolute gift. An amazing schedule that covers every aspect of what we do for our school communities. There are keynotes, breakout sessions and everything in-between. There are conversations about how we teach, how we lead, the work we do with our students, our colleagues and our communities. Need fresh ideas, wanting a greater understanding of Blended Learning or looking for some instructional technology support? This is the place to be.

This morning we are listening to Paul Sloane. As the author of the The Innovative Leader, he has empowered us to think about our way of teaching and leading by having us explore our assumptions in the work you do. Maybe you have studied some of his work on Lateral Thinking. Through his examples and his sharing of life experiences, we have reflected on the daily decisions we make and the differences between us. Mr. Sloane goes into great depth in regards to both and has challenged me to consider other ways to accomplish daily leadership tasks. He offers some enlightening insights to how we lead and how get others to follow us on our journey.

(courtesy of

The proof from the work we are doing today is found in the comments left by the teachers and leaders in the audience today via twitter. We are being pushed to think, to be creative and to be committed to improving our way of leading. 

As you think of your week ahead, consider how you are spending your time.  If you are in the area, drop on by. If you are elsewhere, come back tomorrow and read some more takeaways of the great work by our next keynote, Steve Farber, and reflections of the breakout sessions this afternoon.