Thursday, December 31, 2009

Race to the Top Legislation Summary

On December 19, our state legislature - the same legislature that can't find time to fix school funding - managed to pass a package of bills that were allegedly necessary to compete for Race to the Top (RttT) stimulus funds, although there is no guarantee Michigan will receive any of these dollars. We are continuing to review the requirements for participating in Michigan's RttT plan, including the benefits and potential hidden costs. The Memorandum of Understanding has to be executed (signed by the Board president, superintendent, and association president) and delivered to the ISD by Thursday, January 7, if we plan to participate and hold out hope for these one-time funds with many strings attached.

It is clear that this newest ploy for wresting control of education from local school officials is to literally starve us to death financially and then offer a free meal. For a government that can't even handle a Christmas day airline terrorist attack by a single individual who was on their watch list and was reported by his own father ahead of the attack, it is indeed a scary proposition that they want to expand their control over thousands of local school districts as well.

Regardless of the MOU and RttT, the new legislation does impact our district and I am continuing to review the language in the bills to assess just how we will be affected. I do want to draw your attention to a summary of each bill, reminding you that these now are state law even though implementation procedures have to be worked out:

HB 4787: Failing Schools - if any of our schools are in the 5% of the lowest achieving schools in the state, the provisions of this bill will kick in. At present, none of our schools fall in this category but we will be keeping an eye on it. The bill also will now allow school staff to initiate a personal curriculum modification of the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC). Previously, only the parent could request a personal curriculum. It provides greater flexibility for modifying the math requirement - specifically, Algebra II.

This bill also modifies the legal drop-out age raising it from 16 to 18. It is effective beginning with the current 6th grade class. Parents still have the option of signing a waiver if they want their teen to drop out at 16.

HB 4788: Public Employee Relations Act (PERA) - most modifications in this bill pertain to failing schools identified by the act, above, but it also contains language that requires our district to first receive a bid for non-instructional support staff services from the current bargaining unit (GLSSA in our case) before privatizing the service. Essentially, it allows the union to bid on the services being considered for privatization. It does not require that the district accept the bid, even if it is the lowest offer.

SB 926: Teacher Data System/Basic Instructional Supplies - this bill requires the state to create and implement a teacher identification system with the ability to match an individaul teacher to the individual students that teacher has taught, essentially linking pupil records for the MEAP and MME to specific teachers. The system must also enable student academic achievement data, including growth in academic achievement, to be correlated to each teacher who has taught the student. School board members, teachers and administrators must have access to this data.
The bill also included a provision for teachers and principals to file a complaint with the state whenever they feel they are not being provided with necessary basic instructional supplies (to be defined by the Department of Education in the near future). If the district does not satisfactorily respond to the complaint (also to be defined), the Department of Education is required to take corrective action.

HB 5596: Alternative Teacher Certification - this simply mandates an alternative pathway to teacher certification. Rules, guidelines and procedures have yet to be developed.

SB 981: Schools of Excellence - this expands the number of charter schools including those centered around on-line learning (cyber schools). Five of the ten new schools must be high school and can only be located in a district with graduation rates of 75% or less. There is a provision included to allow conversion of an existing public school to a charter school.

The bill also includes the return of administrator certification that was ended in 2000. Existing administrators are grandfathered in but must comply with the current continuing education requirement to keep our contracts.

Teacher an d principal evaluation systems must now include measures of student academic growth using local and statewide assessments. A significant portion of the annual evaluation must be based on student data. We'll have to revamp our new teacher evaluation system to include this component and also building it into our principal evaluation system.

The bill also requires that we use student achievement data to evaluate teacher and principal effectiveness, determine eligibility for promotion or retention, grant tenure, and use during dismissal procedures as necessary.

Merit pay is required by this legislation. We will have to pay teachers based in part on job performance and job accomplishments, measuring accomplishments based significantly on student growth data.

The bill also provides additional flexibility for the Algebra II requirement in addition to that stated above.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020

This blog posting will certainly cause you to pause and think. It was originally posted on TeachPaperless:

Last night I read and posted the clip on '21 Things That Became Obsolete in the Last Decade'. Well, just for kicks, I put together my own list of '21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020'.

1. Desks
The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.

4. Homework
The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don't need kids to 'go to school' more; we need them to 'learn' more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions
The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn't far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.

7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.

8. Paperbacks
Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the 'feel' of paper. Well, in ten years' time you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized.

9. Attendance Offices
Bio scans. 'Nuff said.

10. Lockers.
A coat-check, maybe.

11. IT Departments
Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

12. Centralized Institutions
School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modelled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN in their backpockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide prof dev programs. This is already happening.

16. Current Curricular Norms
There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

18. Typical Cafeteria Food
Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade -- in the best of schools -- they will be.

20. High School Algebra I
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

21. Paper
In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Are Charters More Economical? Not in This Case

There's a common misunderstanding that charter schools - public school academies primarily run by for-profit companies such as National Heritage Academies - are cheaper and more economical to run. They were supposedly the answer to the alleged rising costs of public school education and would be lean, mean, education machines. But is that true? While a large-scale comparison of traditional public vs. charter school costs is beyond the capabilities of this author, I have compared the 2007-08 revenues and expenditures between Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and the sixteen charter schools in Kent County. This particular school year was used because it is the most recent data available on the Michigan Department of Education website. It is published in the Department's Bulletin 1014, a document that comes out in the spring of each year for the preceding school year. The data is both public and verifiable thus it provides an indisputable method for comparison.

Total general fund revenues per pupil for the Kent County charter schools ranged from a low of $7,889 to a high of $9,475. The average for the sixteen schools was $8,594 while Godfrey-Lee received $9,210 per pupil, primarily due to more revenue from local sources.

Total general fund instructional program expenditures per pupil for the charters ranged from a low $3,286 to $5,945, for an average of $3,984. Godfrey-Lee spent $5,897 per pupil on instruction. When you match the rate of expenditures against revenues, the charter schools spent only 46% of their total revenue on instructional programs, while Godfrey-Lee spent 64%.

If the charters spent a lower proportion of their funds on instructional programs, where did the rest of the money go? According to the Bulletin 1014, it went towards support services, including business, administration, operations, and maintenance - all non-instructional areas. Compared to Godfrey-Lee, the charters spent $1,016 more per student on support representing 45% of their total revenue, while Godfrey-Lee's support costs represented only 31% of the funds received. These numbers are even more interesting in light of the fact that charter school districts consist of a single school building and most, if not all, do not provide transportation support.

The political pundits and public education naysayers can spin it anyway they want, but the numbers tell the story: the Godfrey-Lee district dedicates a greater proportion of our total revenues directly to instruction and operates our non-instructional support services on a much more economical basis.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Fax on Digital Change

As humans, we find ourselves mired in old-school methods for teaching and learning. After all, most of what we know about school is based on the roles we played as students for 13-17 years and that is hard to overcome.

We approach the changing digital landscape the same way. Many of us are still trying to figure out how to set the clock on our VCR's, even though it's getting more difficult by the day to find something on video tape to play. DVD instead, you say? Not too much longer.

Ask a kid today what a fax is and you're likely to get a very puzzled expression.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Not About Computers - It's About Digital Learning!

I have no idea why I am obsessed with computers and newer emerging technologies. I never had any formal computer education although I did teach basic computer programming courses for a couple of years in the Commodore Pet era. I took the digital plunge and learned on my own. In fact, I'm still learning and look forward each day to exploring some new website or tool to either help me do my job better, or simply for enjoyment.

It used to be I simply used technology for productivity (office tools) and email, but in the past year, I've become somewhat of a digital junkie, with an obsession for expanding my growing network of professionals whom I collaborate with regularly. And I love the transparency and openness of Twitter, Facebook, Ning and soon, Google Wave. On some days, I feel as if I've been transported out of my office and placed in a room full of people all talking at the same time and excited about education or one of my other passions, running. But while the noise of the read/write net is growing, the clarity of what I'm capable of learning is becoming more clear. The simple beauty is that anyone with an internet connection can easily find like-minded professionals to learn from, debate with, and share critical thinking about education and learning.

The internet has transformed my personal classroom and expanded its borders to encompass the entire community and indeed the world. I'm learning everyday about the power of these connections and taking steps to model this type of self-learning with peers, staff, and students. Let's not forget the students! Although they may be digital natives (while I am merely a digital immigrant excited about my new world), they do not necessarily know how to use the power of the internet to expand their own learning and explore new horizons. That's another reason why we as teachers and administrators, and even parents, have to take the digital plunge, and identify ways to use these tools for learning.

I dabbled in Web 2.0 tools (shorthand for the ability to interact two-way with the internet environment, aka, the read/write web) before I even knew what they were. Here are just some of the digital connections I continue to explore and expand each day:

  • For me, it started with a Facebook account ( many years ago that I have used primarily to keep in touch with staff and students, mostly as an observer. While Facebook has provided me with a social platform that lately has expanded to include more of my former high school classmates and extended family members, I find it most useful in helping observe the struggles and successes of our graduates as they journey into adulthood. It sort of serves as a laboratory and provides me with nearly instant feedback that I share with teachers, administrators and parents. In addition, I have been able to provide mentoring and advice to a number of struggling youth, particularly those who have gone on to military service. Beyond than that, I find Facebook to be limited in expanding my personal learning network.
  • I've explored the use of a number of RSS feed readers to bring the news and blogs I'm interested to me. I use Google Reader ( when I'm on the go but Protopage ( is my preferred desktop (and cellphone) reader. You are welcome to visit this page and look at what I have assembled on the various tabs. In addition, I bookmark Alltop ( which is a collection of education blogs on steroids! Dozens of the most popular education blogs are contained on one single page and each lists the last five entries. I go to this site at least weekly and always learn something new.
    • Over a year ago, I established a Twitter account ( but at first didn't quite understand how to benefit from it. Over the winter, I came across examples of how Twitter was being used in classrooms and between educational professionals to provide short, instant collaboration on topics of interest. In the spring, I returned to my Twitter account, dusted off the cobwebs, and have been on an amazing ride ever since. My personal learning network of followers and friends has grown - and continues to grow - at a rapid pace. As of this writing, I am nearing 650 followers, am following 232 others, have been included on 32 lists of educators, and tweeted over 2,900 times, but I am just a fledgling user compared to many of the other professionals I network with. Here are just a few of the prolific Tweetsters I follow that demonstrate the diversity and expanse of my learning network:
      • steelepierce
        M.E. Steele-Pierce | Cincinnati OH - K-12 Administrator. Aspiring locavore. Web 2.0 explorer. Bookworm. Word nerd. Interested in how we learn and how we change.
      • irasocol
        Ira Socol - Universal Design in Education and Assistive Technology and Novelist short-story writer. He also blogs at
      • cybraryman1
        Jerry Blumengarten | Florida - Educator & Writer trying to catalogue the internet for students, educators and parents.
      • ShiftParadigm
        Mark E. Weston Ph.D. | Atlanta, GA USA - Education Strategist at Dell Inc. working to enhance learning and instruction for all students by harnessing the power of tech to support proven practices.
      • Edu4U
        Bri Brewer | Round Rock, TX - Updates from Dell's Education blog. Run by EdTech enthusiast Bri Brewer who manages Edu community development. I love food and my husband.
      • JasonFlom
        Jason Flom | Tallahassee, FL - Teacher Advocate. Education Idealist. 4th Grade Instructor. Father. Husband. Cyclist. Climber. Part-time Poly-anna.
      • ShellTerrell
        Shelly S Terrell | Stuttgart, Germany - Edtech blogger collaborating to make educational change. Focus on Edtech, Elearning, TEFL. #Edchat coordinator., Dir of Edu Outreach.
      • tomwhitby
        Tom Whitby - Professor of Education in Secondary English. Linkedin group Founder/owner Technology-Using Professors + TWITTER-Using Educators+ NING-Using Educators.
      • web20classroom
        Steven W. Anderson | Winston-Salem, NC - Technology Educator, Blogger, Co-Creator of #edchat, Character at the #140Conf, Winner of 1st Ever NOW Award, Trying to Change The World, One Tweet At A Time...
      • canyonsdave
        David S. Doty | Sandy, Utah - Canyons School District Superintendent, triathlete, BYU & Stanford grad, putting an innovative new school district together one step at a time.
      • mcleod
        Scott McLeod | Ames, Iowa - Associate Professor. CASTLE Director. Blogger. Idea generator. Solution builder. Agitator. Catalyst. "If the leaders don't get it, it's not going to happen."
      • chadratliff
        Chad Ratliff | Charlottesville, Virginia - Dad. Husband. Asst Director of Instruction. Entrepreneur. MEd/MBA. Relentless seeker of a better way.
      • chrislehmann
        Chris Lehmann | Philadelphia, PA - Principal of the Science Leadership Academy.
      • pammoran
        Charlottesville Virginia - Superintendent in Albemarle,Virginia, creating 21st c community learning spaces for all kinds of learners, both adults and young people.
      • bhsprincipal
        Patrick Larkin | Burlington, MA - Burlington High School (MA) Principal - I have the best job in the world!
      • NMHS_Principal
        Eric Sheninger | New Milford, NJ - Principal of New Milford High School (NJ) w/ interests in technology, 21st Century learning, pedagogy, resources for parents/students/educators.
      • EdTech4Me
        L Winebrenner | Augusta, GA/Fayetteville, NC - Ed Tech Doctoral Candidate, DL Student and Facilitator, Mom-Empty Nester, retired Army-still serving, Practitioner, TB Bucs fan, and 2 many 2 list here.
      • sanmccarron
        Sandra McCarron | Boston, MA - Lover of learning; Mom to many; Scientist and High School Science Teacher, Earth mother, flower child, geeky intellectual.
      • lasic
        Tomaz Lasic | Fremantle, Australia - Father, teacher, ed-tech t(h)inker, moodler, ex water polo goalie, endless 'to do' list, bad @ many things.
      • kathyschrock
        Kathy Schrock | Cape Cod, MA - District Tech Director, DEN Star, Adobe Ed Leader, Google Certified Teacher.
      • BarefootTed
        Barefoot Ted | Seattle - Learning how to flow well in life...

    Ok, admittedly this last guy has nothing to do with education but he certainly has educated me on the joy of barefoot running, something I would have known little about without the internet and my desire to be a self-learner.

    Jump in!

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    ABC's of the 21st Century Learning Environment

    Kimberley Ketterer, PhD, instructional technology coordinator for the Eugene, Oregon
    School District, wrote the following to highlight new forms of communication that have a place in today's classrooms:

    Using the alphabet as a framework, the following is a glimpse into what you will find in a 21st-century learning and teaching environment:

    Access to all technological tools needed for learning
    Beacons of global asynchronous conversations
    Confident universal engaged learners
    Dynamic online information made available anytime-anywhere
    Engaged cohorts of learners immersed in simulations
    Forecasted possibilities of collaborative solutions to real-world problems
    Global awareness through real-time participation in major events
    Harnessed creativity through multimedia for authentic learning
    Innovations encouraged by out-of-the-box thinking
    Jpegs that augment reports and storytelling
    Knowledge transfer across curricular areas
    Legal and ethical discussions fueled by overproliferation of opinion and fact
    Morphed teaching strategies from passive delivery to multisensory presentations
    Networked video resources for worldwide information exchange
    Opportunities to enroll in online courses
    Production of analyzed and synthesized information presentations
    Quantitative data showing increases in academic achievement
    Responsibility for learning shifted from solely the teacher to mainly the student
    Streaming video access 24/7
    Transfer of technological skills that are seamless between tools
    Ubiquitous access to the technical tools needed for learning and teaching
    Virtual tours and immersive learning opportunities

    SchoolCenter Picture

    Web 2.0 tools integrated across the curriculum
    Xerox copies as an archaic practice
    Yearning to express oneself in a multimodel way is quenched
    Zoning-out of learning is prohibited

    As 21st-century educators we must continue to shift the paradigm of our teaching to meet the needs of the newest generation of learners.

    Leading & Learning with Technology, December/January 2009-10, p. 35

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    The Short Course on School District Consolidation

    After a careful and thorough review of the Michigan Department of Education's most recent Bulletin 1014 for 2007-08, one can easily conclude that the four combined Wyoming public school districts are considerably more economical to maintain as separate districts rather than a large consolidated one. The evidence is contained in the cost factors associated with the twenty Michigan school districts that would be in the same group as a consolidated Wyoming district. These twenty districts have full time equivalent enrollments ranging from 10,000 to 19,999 and are located in ten different counties within the lower half of the state. They include suburban and urban districts similar in many respects to the Wyoming area. Because a consolidated city-wide district in Wyoming would have a combined enrollment of more than 12,000 students, it is logical to assume that this new district would incur similar costs by being forced to operate as a large single district over a broad geographical spread. You can almost see in your mind's eye the eventual bureaucratic growth and resulting added costs that would quickly follow any such merger.

    Using per-pupil revenues and expenditures to make a valid comparison, the four Wyoming districts are much more economical to operate separately than the twenty Group C districts. Comparing the Group C districts with the combined revenues and costs of the four Wyoming districts on a per-pupil cost basis illustrates the stark differences:

    • The Wyoming districts received a combined $8 million less in total general fund revenues from all sources ($690 less per pupil).
    • Despite receiving less total general fund revenues, the Wyoming districts expended $388,000 more on instructional programs ($32 more per pupil).
    • Total instructional salaries on a per-pupil basis were $1.9 million less for the Wyoming districts than the Group C districts ($157 less per pupil).
    • Total instructional support expenditures on a per-pupil basis were $3.1 million less for the Wyoming districts ($257 less per pupil).
    • All four non-instructional-related expenditures were less for the combined Wyoming districts than the Group C districts:
      • Business & Administration = $1.4 million ($118 less per pupil)
      • Operations & Maintenance = $3.3 million ($274 less per pupil)
      • Transportation = $755,000 ($62 less per pupil)
      • Total Support Services = $8.6 million ($711 less per pupil)
    • Total support services salaries on a per-pupil basis were $12.8 million less for the Wyoming districts than the Group C districts ($1,060 less per pupil)

    SchoolCenter Picture

    This chart illustrates the difference in non-instructional expenditures.

    So while the four Wyoming districts combined, on a per-pupil basis, received less general fund revenue, they also had considerably less in general fund expenditures than the Group C districts. Teacher salaries were lower in the combined Wyoming districts by more than $2.7 million in total per-pupil costs ($228 per pupil) as well. It makes perfect sense to continue to operate the four Wyoming districts separately rather than adding a twenty-first district to the same level of expenditures as the existing Class C districts. In fact, the four Wyoming districts with their existing separate structures should be considered a bargain.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

    General Thanksgiving

    By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America


    WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

    NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

    And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

    GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

    (signed) G. Washington

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Moving Forward in Difficult Times

    Something to remember to help keep us moving forward during these difficult school budget times, especially as we take the final steps toward our 6th Grade Campus and its 21st century learning spaces:

    "Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people"

    ~ Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    5 Tiers of e-Communication and e-Collaboration

    Came across this awesome blog by Dr. Bryan Setser, CEO for North Carolina Virtual Public School, on L.O.L. Leaders On-Line:

    How do you keep up with all of the emerging Web 2.0 tools out there? How do school leaders make decisions on which ones to use and which ones to abandon due to cost, usage, and/or issues out in school districts? Check out the blog this week about how these decisions can be made across tiers of user groups in your school districts.

    Tier 1: Your school district has a website, uses email, blogs, and does a great job with paper mailers and flyers home to the community. You advertise in the local paper, and you have conducted some virtual meetings using and You may have even used for a few lesson plans and/or to video conference. You know you are using some of the tools, but you feel like you just don’t have time to learn all of them, and it is just easier to pick up a phone and/or go see someone in person. In short, you need a plan to communicate and collaborate that moves your organization into the 21st Century.

    Tier 2: Your school district uses all of the Tier 1 tools, but you also use , , and . You are trying every new Web 2.0 tool out there to micro-blog, and your district is investing money in collaborative tools like and/or . You even have purchased a learning management system like and/or may even be trying to use your own sites across your district. You are all over the place, but you are trying to keep up with collaborative tools to communicate and connect with all of your stakeholders. In short, you need a strategy to accomplish your key meetings, conferences, and professional development opportunities while striking a balance between innovation and security with your technology director.

    Tier 3: You have looked at all of the tools in both tiers, and you are starting to think about how to strategically use them. You have seen the recent branding sites on of the North Carolina Virtual Public School – ; The North Carolina School Board’s Association – ; The North Carolina Association of Educators – ; and the North Carolina Association of School Administrators – . You have also read the recent time magazine article on How Twitter will Change the World,8599,1902604,00.html , and you realize that you need a “tweet deck”- , a file social application - , and a strategy built around key events, meetings, and projects.

    In addition, you realize that you don’t just want to upload your twitter icon to your website, you want to integrate your twitter strategy with key board meetings, following experts in the field, promotions, and parent sign ups to provide instant access to school events and proceedings.

    Your organization also realizes it needs internal messaging and file sharing. You have looked at Wimba’s collaborative suite , and you realize that you can have instant messaging on their pronto tool and have the ability to chat, talk, videoconference, and share applications desktop to desktop. Someone on your team also recommending for a similar experience to and you are weighing a cost, benefit analysis as we speak.

    Can’t afford wimba yet? Your district has a strategic team and you’ve also decided to pilot some applications in Google under where you can also use these feeds to make your strategy more robust and still keep costs down: . And you have formed a team to look out for products like this one to integrate the very best features of and into your sites like and where you can manage all of the communications and collaborative content as well as conduct formative learning assessments with students.

    Meanwhile your district’s technology team is making tiered list of which ports and places to pilot innovation and how such efforts will be monitored and leveraged to impact student learning. A robust discussion is also beginning on the appropriate levels of ,, and for targeted, focused use across the district.

    Tier 4: You are incorporating all strategies in the three tiers above, but you also want live classrooms that you can archive for anytime, anywhere professional development. does this process through its live classroom component as does and , a free tool for live classroom use in a virtual world.

    You then decide that these live classrooms need a place to reside, and you archive them inside of free e-learning communities like and/or These are your first moves towards e-learning communities where learners and leaders can interact inside of an e-portal in order to use free open source tools and share closed source tools to certain groups of users: community, teachers, etc.

    A tier four district is starting to build capacity for anytime, anywhere learning, and it is starting to create succession planning with learning objects, decisions, charts, and 2.0 feedback objects that allow for training, re-induction, and archiving of important processes and documents beyond a Web 1.0 level. Moreover, this organization is becoming a learning organization. It looks at security breaches, usage levels, and value add applications for student learning to track progress and success of slowly, yet strategically opening the networks. In addition, the district is starting to look strategically at 1:1 devices across tiers of users to make your students more mobile and accessible to content.

    Tier 5: A tier five organization incorporates all of the previous tiers but now adds mobile applications for learning such as , , and . that they build through the k-12 iTunes portal here s where teachers, students, and parents can access a host of resources. This district is also investing in wireless hot spots and paying close attention to the construction and re-construction of facilities to make learning more portable. Gaming and virtual worlds are also becoming part of the bandwidth discussion at the strategic level as this district seeks to make learning more immersive and engaging. Sites like allows users to immerse themselves in the learning experience and still collaborate over all of the web browsers and related Web 2.0 tools inside of a virtual space. This particular district is also leveraging the 1:1 devices to make learning portable through the and classes that the state provides to all of North Carolina students.

    Which tier are you?

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Twitter up a PLN

    One of the primary benefits I have received from becoming a prolific tweetster is the establishment and expansion of my professional learning network (PLN). Prior to my self-learning foray into the world of tweeting, I primarily relied on reading news and relevant blogs through what are called RSS readers, my favorite of which are Protopage and NetNewsWire. But I was still on my own to search and figure out which sites were most beneficial to my professional as well as personal interests. I have been an avid Facebook-er for several years but I find that to be more useful for building and maintaining social connections and communicating with our graduates, rather than as a learning platform.

    Then came Twitter, and I like many others only dabbled in it at first still wondering what benefit I would derive in exchange for the time commitment. I walked away from it for a little while but then saw quite by accident what a few other educational professionals were Tweeting about. I was hooked! It didn't take long for me to see the potential learning benefits of selectively expanding who I follow on Twitter and who I allow to follow me. Not satisfied with using just the basic Twitter web site as my platform, I tried several different desk-top Twitter apps until I settled on Tweet Deck for my notebook computer and Uber Twitter for the Blackberry. Both are free and quite easy to get familiar with after a bit of use.

    For the past half year, I have been touting the benefits of opening our communications within the district using Twitter, as well as the district Facebook page and our website, where I blog about district-wide interests a couple of times each week (I assume that's where you are reading this). My aim has been to build a more transparent exchange of information that will help each of us grow professionally and become an even closer "family business." But while a few of you have become more prolific in your tweets, the fact remains that most are still waiting for proof that joining the twitterverse will be beneficial.

    My twittering experience has opened many new doors, both for relationships with like-minded professionals around the world as well as new ideas for improving my professionalism and job performance. Those whom I have chosen to follow and get regular daily updates from provide links that take me to new learning opportunities. In return, I share my experiences and what I have self-learned with those who choose to follow me. The network (followed and followers) is growing exponentially as I participate in more relevant learning through Twitter.

    In the past week, I expanded my use of Twitter to include participating in a couple of one-hour sessions called #edchat (this is called a hashtag that serves to group tweets together that contain it in the message). While the flow of tweets during #edchat is fast, what I have learned and retained each time has been quite phenomenal. These tweetups occur at noon and 7 pm on Tuesdays and anyone can join in or just observe. You only have to enter #edchat in the search window on the Twitter website. Following each session, a log of the discussion can be accessed for those wanting to go back over what they might have missed or identify a certain tweet they want to pursue more information on. So far it's been both a relevant and incredible learning experience.

    I also joined a Ning (oh, no, not another idea!) in the past week to expand my options for my PLN. Called the Educators PLN, within this Ning I am able to choose specific topics I'm interested in and join groups that share those interests and exchange ideas. Other useful resources are also posted on the Ning and I have my own personal page to post up anything I want to share that might be a help to others members. The Ning fully integrates with Twitter and the #edchat stream can even be read on one of the pages. I'm still exploring the potential uses of this Ning but so far, it has proven to be beneficial. You can check this out for yourself at

    As I mentioned in a previous blog (below) posted earlier this week, we have to become more avid self-learners, especially when it comes to learning about and expanding our use of technology, both with our students in the classroom as well as for our own professional development. Twitter is not an end-product, but a doorway to simplifying the process of reaching out beyond your classroom, school and district walls to like-minded professionals who want to share what is working and what is not. I'm encouraging everyone to continue exploring the potential of Twitter and other social-networking and PLN sources. I'm here to assist and encourage you and we have others on our team more than willing to help you get started. And don't worry if you still don't get it; I'm still scratching my head over how to use and benefit from the new Google Wave!

    Here are several places to start or extend your learning journey:

    Conquering Technophobia: Web 2.0 Explained: This is a short, handy teacher's resource guide in PDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this file.

    Twittering, Not Frittering: Professional Development in 140 Characters: It's more than just "what are you doing?" Twitter is quickly becoming the super-highway for quick sharing and professional learning.

    Oh, the Adventures You Will Have If Only...: More than ever teachers need to be connected in order to make a difference and be relevant in their fields. As school districts continue to increase the use of educational technologies in the classroom, teachers will have to prove they know how to use these technologies to help their students problem solve, evaluate, analyze, debate, critically think, collaborate, and so forth.

    Creating a Personal Learning Network with Web 2.0 Tools:
    How do educators keep current with the ever changing world of technology? How can Web 2.0 tools be used to communicate and collaborate with peers across the hall and around the world? This website focuses on some of the newest tools teachers are using to support their own professional learning goals. A tremendous resource that you should bookmark right now!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Dilbert is Not That Far Off!

    While it's easy to see the intended humor in today's Dilbert strip, the message of the strip goes beyond being funny to a growing reality in the education community: in the rapidly changing educational field coupled with reduced funding sources, teachers and administrators alike must find ways to improve their knowledge and skills that go beyond formal education and training. Expecting that new and necessary strategies or instructional techniques must first be introduced through formal professional development will only ensure that schools and classroom instruction remain mired in outdated methods that no longer meet the needs of today's students.

    SchoolCenter Picture

    Integration of technology is a key area that requires all members of the staff to engage in extensive self-learning and discovery, not only to improve classroom instruction and student learning, but to extend one's professional learning network beyond the classroom, school and district boundaries. The speed of change in technology requires all of us to take the plunge and learn while doing. Waiting for a once or twice annual professional development opportunity is unrealistic and simply guarantees that one will fall further behind, and will find it difficult to adjust instructional techniques to adequately engage tomorrow's students in skills they will need to succeed in a global society: collaboration, communication, and problem-solving.

    Every member of our instructional staff - from superintendent to para-professional - must find and organize time to inquire about and learn how to effectively use emerging Web 2.0 tools, including collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Wiki's; social networking tools like Twitter, Ning, Facebook, and Delicious; and other learning tools such as blogs and RSS aggregators. Right behind these are more potential tools that are quickly emerging such as Google Wave. There is no end in site. Web 2.0 actually infers that the web has become interactive (read-write) and thus the only real way of exploring possibilities for the classroom is by doing both: reading and writing. Listening to presentations in sterile PD sessions will merely overwhelm the learner without any real possibility of trying out the new knowledge on the spot. Setting in computer labs learning one new skill per session is time consuming and locks everyone into the same session on the same date at the same time, without regards to the level of knowledge or skills each learner already has. There are many, many easy-to-use guides on the internet and the best way to experience what is out there is to take the plunge. From there, you can join a professional learning network and branch out. At first, it may feel like taking a drink from a firehose but if you persevere, you will expand your knowledge base and teaching/leading skills at a rapid pace.

    Immersing ourselves in the internet and learning to use these new tools will move us into the virtual worlds in which the current generation of students live everyday. It's hard to imagine that we can continue to reach and engage our students in the classroom if we remain on one side of the technology divide and they on the other. As time goes on, that divide will continue to grow making it unlikely that twentieth century teaching techniques will be successful with this or future generations.

    100 Twitter Feeds to Make You a Better Teacher

    Web 2.0 for the Classroom Teacher

    Web 2.0 Tools in Your Classroom (slideshare presentation)

    Effective Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom


    Ning: The Educator's PLN

    Classroom 2.0

    Ning in Education

    Blogger (Google's free blogging site)

    Podcasting Tools

    Delicious (social bookmarking)

    Flickr (photo sharing)


    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    The Purpose of Education?

    We seem to be running in circles when it comes to defining the vision of K-12 education. I'm not sure you can get a single group of people to agree on what the purpose of schooling is:

    1. Is it primarily intended to prepare students to work in corporate America? Should we be including more focus on vocational and work skills?

    2. Is it mainly the goal to prepare students for acceptance into a college or university? Is that why the ACT has become an integral part of our high stakes testing program?

    3. Should it be to foster the arts and creativity in students, or develop deep thinking analytical skills?

    4. Or should it be primarily focused on developing an appreciation and love for learning, for exploring new ideas and concepts, and for appreciating knowledge not just as a tool for the future but an end-product by design?

    5. If it's some of each, how much of each and what has greater importance?

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Rising Costs in K-12 Education

    People like to blame the increased costs for health insurance, retirement, and administrative salaries for the current financial problems schools are experiencing, but aren't these just symptoms of what really has led to rising costs? I offer four closely related events that occurred in the 1960's as the underlying reasons for skyrocketing costs in Michigan:

    1. The 1963 state constitution that expanded state government's role in local school districts.

    2. The Teacher Tenure Act that was enacted shortly thereafter and made it virtually impossible to eliminate sub-standard teachers.

    3. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act that brought the federal government into a new role of overseeing education.

    4. Collective bargaining in public schools.

    While 2 and 4 tied local school board hands when it comes to keeping costs down, 1 and 3 greatly expanded the administrative requirements in local districts. All four have driven up the cost of K-12 education and have done little to improve the quality.

    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Running the Potomac

    I'll be heading to Washington, DC this coming week for Saturday's North Face Endurance Challenge 50K. I haven't run an ultra since last October in Wisconsin so this will be like heading into the unknown. But if the astronauts could fly to the moon in 1969 with the odds against a successful mission, guess I can tackle this. The motto for the race is, "Run your self-doubt into the ground." Exactly!

    Heading out on the road Thursday with hopes of making the 10-hour drive in one day. Will have to see how that works for me. Only drove to DC once before and that was intentionally over several days with a stop at Gettysburg along the way. This time, I'll only stop for breaks and food. Would like to make it in 12 hours. Sugar-free Red Bull will be my best friend. Water, too.

    On Friday morning, I'll head to Tyson's Corner to check in at race headquarters, then head into Washington to pay my respects at the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War memorials. First time for me at the WWII so I'm really looking forward to that visit. Then a big pasta pre-race meal before settling in for the night.

    It'll be an early morning Saturday as the race starts at 7 am. I like arriving at least an hour before to do final checks on gear, drop bag, etc. I also need to be up early to get a hot shower for circulation, coffee to wake my brain up, and moving around to stretch out muscles.

    The start and finish of the 50 kilometer (31 mile) race is at Algonkian Regional Park near Sterling, Virginia. The entire race (a modified out-and-back) runs along the Potomac River just a few miles from the capital, with spectacular views in various locations. We'll run along the Potomac Heritage Trail and loop through Great Falls Park. There are two stretches that will include steep climbs and 150-foot elevation changes and a couple shorter climbs, but the course is not too technical.

    I'm hoping to finish the run in 7 hours or less, but regardless of the time, I plan to finish it. I believe to do so will test my perseverance more than any of my previous ultra's including the 50 milers, 100K and 100 miler. This time it's not merely the distance but the long, long layoff since the last one. This will also be the first run in which I will send Twitter/Facebook status updates and photos along the route. I think doing so will help me connect with folks back home at least spiritually, and motivate me to keep moving forward.

    After recovering on Saturday, I plan to head out very early Sunday morning and wind my way back home, with many stops along the way to battle stiffness and post-race hunger. Who knows, maybe I'll see something exciting along the way, similar to the world's largest rubber band ball!

    Sunday, August 2, 2009

    Here's to us who survived growing up in an awesome time!

    TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's!! No matter what our kids and the new generation think about us, WE ARE AWESOME !!!! OUR LIFE IS LIVING PROOF !!!!

    First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

    They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.

    Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints..

    We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads.

    As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

    Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

    We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Sometimes we even drank it from the creek in the woods.

    We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this. It had sugar in it.

    We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight.. WHY?

    Because we were always outside playing...that's why!

    We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

    No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were OKAY.

    We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

    We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.

    WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

    We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

    We actually went swimming in Lake Michigan when the RED FLAG was up, laughing in the waves and trying to stay on inner tubes until we were exhausted. No one told us about rip tides or made laws preventing us from jumping in off the piers.

    We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

    We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

    We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

    Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

    When the principal called from school to say we were being punished for breaking rules, we got a second helping of discipline when we got home. Our parents didn’t run to school and threaten to call their lawyers.

    We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping pong paddles, dad’s belt or just a bare hand and no one would call child services to report abuse.

    The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

    These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.

    The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

    We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

    If YOU are one of us, CONGRATULATIONS!

    You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good.

    While you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.

    Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?

    This was passed to me by email and the original author is unknown. I added a few of my own memories, as well. I’m thankful I grew up experiencing everything mentioned above!

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Now What?

    It's quite possible that my current position in education is sucking the life out of me and contributing to a growing lack of enthusiasm for school administration. As secondary principal of a 6-12 building, I faced challenges everyday but those challenges typically had faces, usually students. I could depend on a smile or the need to console a saddened child as a motivating factor that caused me to jump out of bed at 4 am every morning, ready to take on the world. Now, I see paper and read pertinent news items out of Lansing that are nothing short of depressing.

    I took this position at the request of the board and urging of teachers and administrators during a time of trouble for our district. While I feel good about what we've been able to accomplish as a team this first year, I am growing less confident that I want to continue as superintendent. Perhaps its just the summer doledrums. This fall, we'll open a new 6th grade campus that will lead in the direction of 1:1 technology, something I am passionate about. I'll hang in there for another year or two and see where I can take this.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    My Two Dads

    Another father's day roles around and I find myself missing "my two dads" more than ever. My real dad - biological father - passed away in 1984 at the young age of 57. It was ruled accidental but in reality, he had left us some time before that with Huntington's Chorea, a debilitating brain disease. In the twenty-five years since, I often regret that I had little time to really get to know him beyond the typical relationship a child has with his father. He remains to this day somewhat of a mystery to me and I miss him.

    My "other dad" was actually my father-in-law. For a number of years, he was my best friend and mentor. A teacher by trade but he was much more than that and loved life to the fullest. He died nine years ago this summer.

    Happy father's day, dads!

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    School Year Hangover

    It's Friday and the kids and teachers have left for the summer, leaving me with my usual feeling that I can't quite describe. It's something similar to a hangover but may be more like jet lag. Better yet, I feel like I've been running a 200-day ultra marathon since reporting back to work last August. When I did show up to get the year going, I was principal of a 6-12 school struggling to figure out how to get us over the student achievement hurdle. Since then:

    • An unexpected resignation put me in the driver seat as superintendent two months into the school year.
    • I weathered the resignation of the school-board president and a local media frenzy looking to kick an injured dog while it's down.
    • Made a number of administrative leadership changes designed to get us out of a rut and move the district forward.
    • Passed a small bond issue and accomplished a number of major "repairs" on a weak plan to add classroom space.
    • Took steps to help with the transformation of the district to a 21st century, technology-based learning culture.
    • Brought staff together and opened up the communication process to a point of near-total transparency.
    And, we did all of this while cutting more than a million dollars out of our budget with few negative impacts on our programs and staff.

    It was a good year, but please pass the aspirin.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Honor Them by Remembering Every Day

    I was privileged to deliver the remarks at Wyoming's Veterans Memorial Garden last night for the 2009 Memorial Day observance. I called on all of us to honor those who gave all by the way we live every day. Remembering is not simply a mental activity; it is embodied in our actions that serve to honor their memories.

    I closed my remarks with a poem by
    Archibald MacLeish. He speaks for them when he asks:

    “Who in the still houses has not heard them?

    “They say. Our deaths are not ours; they are yours. They will mean what you make them mean.

    “They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing, we cannot say. It is you who must say this.

    “They say: We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning. We were young, we have died, remember us.”

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Education in the 21st Century

    I came across an excellent article on the website 21st Century Schools and wanted to share the most salient points here:

    Today's kindergarteners will be retiring in the year 2067. We have no idea of what the world will look in five years, much less 60 years, yet we are charged with preparing our students for life in that world. Our students are facing many emerging issues such as global warming, famine, poverty, health issues, a global population explosion and other environmental and social issues.

    These issues lead to a need for students to be able to communicate, function and create change personally, socially, economically and politically on local, national and global levels. Emerging technologies and resulting globalization also provide unlimited possibilities for exciting new discoveries and developments such as new forms of energy, medical advances, restoration of environmentally ravaged areas, communications, and exploration into space and into the depths of the oceans.

    The possibilities are unlimited. 21st century skills learned through our curriculum, which is interdisciplinary, integrated, project-based, and more, include and are learned within a project-based curriculum by:

    • Collaboration - the ability to work in teams

    • Critical thinking - taking on complex problems

    • Oral communications - presenting

    • Written communications - writing

    • Technology - use technology

    • Citizenship - take on civic and global issues; service learning

    • Learn about careers - through internships

    • Content - conduct research and do all of the above.

    Today's students are referred to as "digital natives", and today's educators as "digital immigrants". Teachers are working with students whose entire lives have been immersed in the 21st century media culture. Today's students are digital learners - they literally take in the world via the filter of computing devices: the cellular phones, handheld gaming devices, PDAs, and laptops they take everywhere, plus the computers, TVs, and game consoles at home. A survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that young people (ages 8-18) mainline electronic media for more than six hours a day, on average. Many are multitasking - listening to music while surfing the Web or instant-messaging friends while playing a video game.

    How should education be structured to meet the needs of students in this 21st century world? How do we now define "School", "Teacher" "Learner" and "Curriculum"? We offer the following new definitions for "School", "Teacher" and "Learner" appropriate for the 21st century:

    Schools will go "from 'buildings' to nerve centers, with walls that are porous and transparent, connecting teachers, students and the community to the wealth of knowledge that exists in the world."

    Teacher - From primary role as a dispenser of information to orchestrator of learning and helping students turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom. The 21st century will require knowledge generation, not just information delivery, and schools will need to create a "culture of inquiry".

    Learner - In the past a learner was a young person who went to school, spent a specified amount of time in certain courses, received passing grades and graduated.

    Today we must see learners in a new context:

    First - we must maintain student interest by helping them see how what they are learning prepares them for life in the real world.

    Second - we must instill curiosity, which is fundamental to lifelong learning.

    Third - we must be flexible in how we teach. Fourth - we must excite learners to become even more resourceful so that they will continue to learn outside the formal school day."

    Imagine a school in which the students - all of them - are so excited about school that they can hardly wait to get there.

    Imagine having little or no "discipline problems" because the students are so engaged in their studies that those problems disappear?

    Imagine having parents calling, sending notes, or coming up to the school to tell you about the dramatic changes they are witnessing in their children: newly found enthusiasm and excitement for school, a desire to work on projects, research and write after school and on weekends.

    Imagine your students making nearly exponential growth in their basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, researching, scientific explorations, math, multimedia skills and more!

    Twenty-first century curriculum has certain critical attributes. It is interdisciplinary, project-based, and research-driven. It is connected to the community - local, state, national and global. Sometimes students are collaborating with people around the world in various projects. The curriculum incorporates higher order thinking skills, multiple intelligences, technology and multimedia, the multiple literacies of the 21st century, and authentic assessments. Service learning is an important component.

    The classroom is expanded to include the greater community. Students are self-directed, and work both independently and interdependently. The curriculum and instruction are designed to challenge all students, and provides for differentiation.

    The curriculum is not textbook-driven or fragmented, but is thematic, project-based and integrated. Skills and content are not taught as an end in themselves, but students learn them through their research and application in their projects. Textbooks, if they have them, are just one of many resources.

    Knowledge is not memorization of facts and figures, but is constructed through research and application, and connected to previous knowledge and personal experience. The skills and content become relevant and needed as students require this information to complete their projects. The content and basic skills are applied within the context of the curriculum, and are not ends in themselves.

    Assessment moves from regurgitation of memorized facts and disconnected processes to demonstration of understanding through application in a variety of contexts. Real-world audiences are an important part of the assessment process, as is self-assessment.