Monday, November 16, 2009

Full Clinical Observation--Post Observation Conference

What strengths and/or improvement areas did you notice about the environment and tone of the post-observation?

When watching the video of my post-observation conference, I noticed immediately that the conference exhibited a collegial, conversational quality which I contribute to my choice of settings. I intuitively chose to use the work area of our media center because it is out of the way of traffic and I knew that it would be conducive to creating an uninterrupted environment. A bonus about using this space is that it contains a round table. In hindsight, I reflected that when my administrator conferences with me, her preferred choice of setting is her conference room, with a round table! I personally like this format and I think it was instinctive to use this space for this activity because of my positive experiences with this setting.

When I first viewed the video, I had the sound muted and I just cued in on the nonverbal behavior; i.e., body language, eye contact, hand gestures, etc. Because we were sitting side by side, the teacher and I were both able to view the post-conference write-up together and I was able to address the artifacts I gathered by pointing to them at the same time that the teacher was viewing the documents. I think the environment that I created enhanced the conversation, but it was also obvious that the teacher and I had built up a relationship prior to this activity. Our first contact was when I initially approached this teacher about this assignment. The second was our pre-conference meeting where I gathered information from the teacher about the class, the particular lesson that I was observing and the curricular unit that it is a part of. I also had the opportunity to work with this teacher on an unrelated project earlier in the year and have come to the conclusion that the more an administrator can observer the teacher in a variety of settings, the better the administrator can gauge the quality of the teacher's instruction.

The main artifact that I gathered from the observation is a floor plan of the computer lab and on it, I denoted which students the teacher worked with, when he worked with them and for how long. I discussed this with the teacher during our pre-conference and he was interested to see the results. Working with students in the computer is more demanding that many teachers realize and I know that it is easy to miss a lot of off-task behavior and students requiring assistance, so that is why I chose this particular form of data-gathering tool. During our post-observation, the teacher quickly noted that his approach to assist the students was chaotic and it was evident on the chart that several students were not addressed at all in the 50-minute time period. The teacher said that he was going to use the seating chart in the future and actually assign particular seats for optimal learning. This class had 7 students on IEPs and there were several instances were I noted off-task behavior. The teacher concluded that if he had a seating chart and created a check-list of expected outcomes from the class period, he could walk around the room in a systematic way, checking off completed requirements and address each student in a more orderly manner, ensuring that each student was addressed by the teacher at least once. The form is below:

Computer Lay Out for Rm 230_observation

What strengths and/or improvement areas did you notice in the conference about strategies to improve instruction?

Overall, I feel confident in this teacher's ability. While there were definite areas of concern, the teacher is willing to take suggestions and is self-reflective without being prompted. He offered to me that he already changed up his lesson for the 2nd and 3rd days because of what he experienced on the 1st day, the day I observed. This lesson was unique in that it took place in the computer lab and that setting offered a challenging set of circumstances.

In the conference, which behavior did you seem to predominantly use? Do you think this was an appropriate approach given the developmental level of the teacher? Briefly explain.

I used the approaches of listening and presenting alternatively. I noticed that I did provide a few explicit suggestions pertaining to instruction for the teacher, but I felt that they were appropriate guidance for a first-year teacher in his first semester of teaching. I will admit that a couple of times, the teacher volunteered suggestions on what to do next time before I had an opportunity to broach the particular topic and it was comforting to know that he and I were on the same page. I think it is appropriate to use direct assistance to beginning teachers and it was particulary effective since we had already built up some sort of trust between us previous to this post-observation conference. I also think that since I am technically not this teacher's administrator, he probably looks upon me as a fellow teacher, which also enhanced the reception of my post-conference feedback.

Overall Impressions

I really enjoyed this assignment. This was the first time I was responsible for a full-clinical observation and it was satisfying to see the complete cycle; pre-observation conference, observation and post-observation conference. The teacher was receptive to my feedback which informs me that my technique was not off-putting. I plan on working with this teacher on another assignment in the Media Center this semester and we will discuss how the modifications that he made impacted the student learning. This particular observation also gives me much to consider as a future administrator because I found myself questioning the rationale that is used so frequently with new teachers in education. This teacher is part-time, only teaching three periods a day. During those three periods, he has 25 students on IEPs and each class has a special education co-teacher; a different co-teacher for each class! I found myself more upset about the situation than the teacher, because as a new teacher, he doesn't know how it could be better! The special education department in my school is frustrated with the lack of planning classroom teachers do with the co-teachers, but if classroom teachers must plan with a different co-teacher for each period and also have a high quantity of IEPs to plan for, then I don't see how there is enough time in the day for a teacher to do it all! I know the situation could be better because there are some teachers who exclusively teach AP courses and Honors courses and then there are other teachers who only have the assisted classes. Why not share the load? So the results of this observation not only had me reflect on the assignment to observe teachers, but the bigger questions of how teachers are assigned classes, and why are new teachers are given the more difficult classes and experienced teachers given the smoother running classes?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Conference Reflections

AASL 2009 conference has just passed and it is now time to put my thoughts on paper so that I can articulate them more clearly to my colleagues when they ask, "Well, how was it this year?"

The conference in Charlotte, NC was my 4th one, after Indianapolis (2001), Pittsburgh(2005), and Reno(2007). Somehow, I missed Kansas City in 2003!

According to an ALA news release, "A record breaking 3,950 school librarians, educators, exhibitors and guests attended the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) 14th National Conference in Charlotte Nov. 5 – 8, to discuss key issues that impact our nation’s school libraries. Dedicated solely to the needs of school library media specialists, the AASL National Conference is the largest gathering of school librarians in the nation."

If I had to rank my impressions of the conference "big ideas", this is how they would look:
  1. Back-channel--According to Wikipedia (hey-for social media-this encyclopedia is pretty good!), back-channeling is the practice of electronically passing notes among some or all of the audience/students during the lecture. When sanctioned, this practice is particularly useful for speakers who are attempting to dynamically modify their presentations based on immediate feedback from the audience. Twitter was prevalent at this conference and it was so much fun to meet people that I "follow" and now can put a face to their profile. Most of the speakers uploaded their slides to SlideShare or other similar Web 2.0 tools, used Wikis to gather audience feedback and encourage the dialogue to stretch beyond the allotted time frame of the 1 hour and 15 minutes allotted for concurrent sessions by commenting to the wikis after returning home. Throughout the conference, participants were encouraged to upload their photos to Flickr and take everything with AASL2009. How exciting to be able to view the collective photo album that grew as the conference progressed.

    Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

    The conference was made richer by the fact that so many of us were able to connect virtually to compare notes, share big ideas and communicate with others not able to be present face-to-face at the actual conference. Dave Loertscher, Buffy Hamilton, Gwyneth Jones, Buffy Hamilton are just a few of the speakers who relied heavily on audience participation and collaboration and the conference learning/participation was so much deeper because of this!

  2. Learning Commons--What does it mean to be a librarian in the 21st century, how do we best serve our students and what does our space look like? Dave Loertscher was at his best once again, guiding us with vision and probing questions. His quest to reinvent school libraries and computer labs is infectious and his idea of collaborative knowledge building is viral. His wiki, is a great place to begin exploring his revolutionary concepts on media specialists becoming information coaches and library media centers becoming a completely flexible learning space where neither computers nor books get in the way. Getting Dave to autograph my newly purchased, The New Learning Commons: Where Learners Win! was a bonus of this conference!

  3. Vendor Feedback--This was very prevalent this year. Companies are seeking out those of us who directly work with students to inform their businesses on how to best serve their stakeholders. We were wined, dined and pampered so that they could get us to carve out a precious time slot of our schedule at the conference. It is obvious in this economic downturn, that companies are vying for a piece of our budgets and are actively engaged in the business of providing the stakeholders with products that work for our students' learning. They did a fabulous job, questioning, probing and soliciting valuable feedback concerning their interfaces, search engines, marketing and promotion, and content of their many subscription databases and print material. Their widgets, customer support, marketing materials and updated content was demonstrated at each event. Hungry for stakeholder feedback, we were guided in a lively discussions at breakfast, lunch or dinner by a variety of vendors and it was impressive to be able to contribute to the modification or creation of products that can directly benefit the students in our schools. The exhibit hall was packed with aisles of vendors waiting to network with media specialists as they showcased their top products and demonstrated new features and products.

  4. Nings--an online platform for people to create their own social networks--this concept is starting to make more sense with this conference. I joined my first Ning at NECC 2009 with the ISTE Ning or the Media Specialist group withing that Ning. Since then, I joined Joyce Valenza's Teacher Librarian Ning and many of the contacts I am meeting, I recognize from facebook, twitter and other social networking sites.

  5. Green Conference--Yes, this conference was greener than most (but not totally!). Check here for handouts, and the b-There- Your Virtual Track Pass site has more information.

  6. Blogs--I have made a public GoogleDocs with a list of the blog posts that I could find. Feel free to add to or edit the form and please share!

  7. Personal Learning Network--Probably the biggest change in myself that I contribute directly to attending conferences is my willingness to share in my personal learning community (PLN); virtually, through a variety of social networking sites. I remember the excitement that I felt when my first tweet was retweeted by someone who was not my personal friend! That was a hallmark moment! The higher the quality of information I contribute to my PLN, the more I get out of it from my network. I contribute this phenomenon to the face-to-face conferences that nurture these relationships (although I admit, I may never meet all of my PLN!). I also put myself myself out there on blogs, facebook and nings as my network becomes intertwined like a net. I am constantly amazed each day with the quantity of new ideas and information that I learn every day via this ever-growing professional network of colleagues. This year I got to meet with Lisa Perez, Gwyneth Jones, David Loertscher, Doug Johnson, Buffy Hamilton and it was like meeting rock stars! So much fun! It makes it easier to cultivate relationships with that little bit of face-to-face.

Here are some of the mcps folks after the closing keynote as we cheer on Sara Kelley Johns for ALA President!

Joyce Valenza and Buffy Hamilton have challenged the participants of AASL 2009 to provide honest and constructive reflection on Charlotte Re-examined. Here are my thoughts on what could be at the next AASL in Minneapolis in 2011.
  • Wireless Access--Need I say more? Fortunately, I was able to connect to the Internet most of the time I needed it. Unfortunately, wireless was spotty throughout the convention center and it was far from speedy...someday when conference planners tell convention planners to be prepared for a technology heavy conference with many people connecting to the Internet, we will be taken seriously! Additionally, many presenters were forced to present from PowerPoint slides as opposed to live from the web due to this situation.
  • Electrical Outlets--This goes hand in hand with the previous comment. Along with Internet connectivity is the need to occasionally plug-in to charge-up! Unlike NECC, this convention center did not supply multiple outlets throughout the room and frequently, participants were jockeying for the perimeter of the room so that they could plug in to the wall outlets.
  • Room Configuration--I found the rooms that provided the most conducive layout for collaboration were those with the round tables or those with the long rectangular tables. I was able to focus on the speaker and those around me when I was able to comfortably situate my laptop on a table instead of my lap. This was especially important for those concurrent sessions where the audience interacted with the speakers via Wiki, Twitter or some other Web 2.0 tool.
  • Longer Smackdown Time--This fun, interactive, lively session was booked as a 1 hour 15 minute concurrent session. I could easily envision this session as a 1/2 day pre-conference and it would definitely benefit from the longer time as the audience could have more opportunities with which to interact with the presenters. If you have never been to one of Joyce Valenza's smackdowns, then you're missing a session loaded with good stuff and lots of energy. Montgomery County Maryland's own star, Brenda Anderson, collaborated with national colleagues to share digital storytelling strategies . We are so proud of her!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Successful Arrangement!

The reflection prompt this week is to consider the physical classroom arrangements in our school in relation to the teachers’ preferred method of instruction. A supervisor can analyze the strategy that a teacher utilizes in order to maximize and support student learning. “Matching room arrangement with lesson purpose is a strategy for arranging the classroom in a manner to support the purpose of the lesson” (Evertson & Poole, n.d.). For students, the classroom environment is very important and the thoughtful arrangement of the environment will support learning goals for students.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

My high school has an enrollment of 2200 students in grades nine through twelve. My school building experienced a complete renovation in 2001-2002. It has two and a half levels, including and administrative suite, guidance counseling suite, media center, gymnasium, auditorium and multi-purpose classroom that can seat approximately 150 persons. Each subject department has a suite with a work area, several offices and book room. There are four computer labs for department (shared) use. The media center has two teaching areas, one with 35 computers and one with tables to facilitate group dynamics. During the summer before the 2008-2009 school year, Promethean Boards (Interactive White Boards) were installed in the majority of classrooms in my building (including one in the media center). Although films may be viewed on the Promethean, each classroom also has a TV (in-house and network cable) and VCR mounted from the ceiling (and must be located by the cable drop).

The teachers in my school are limited in how they can arrange their rooms by the size of their room, the number of desks that the room has to accommodate (as many as 35 in some instances), the location of the Promethean Board (Interactive White Board), the location of the Internet drop (there is no wireless access in our building), teacher computer and desk, window placement and the location to the entrance of the room. Also, many teachers “float” from room to room throughout their day, so unusual room arrangements may not be conducive to the teaching style of all teachers using the classroom.

In order to complete this assignment, I interviewed our full-time (in-house) staff development teacher in combination with walking around the building to observe a variety of classrooms. I found that there are three main physical arrangements for the classrooms in my school, 1) traditional rows facing forward, 2) each half of the room facing each other, and 3) some alternate arrangement to facilitate group discussion. Over half of the rooms are configured in the traditional model; however, many teachers will have the students move the desks around when small group discussion requires it. This is especially true in shared classrooms, where the default arrangement is in traditional rows.

One unique arrangement that I observed was developed by a novice teacher (less than three years teaching) and that was to divide the room into thirds (each cluster facing in toward the center of the classroom). This allowed for smaller groups of students to be arranged in a cluster and all of the clusters were facing inward so that they could see each other in a whole group discussion. This room did not have a Promethean Board, so the side of the room that did not have a cluster of desks had a clear view of the white board. It was onto this board that video and overhead transparencies were projected. While I was in the room, the teacher was working and she expressed her frustration to me about how she wasn’t totally happy with the arrangement, but it was a compromise. Her dissatisfaction stemmed from the fact that one of the clusters was even with the white board and it was awkward for the students to view anything projected onto it. Another cluster of desks hid the chalkboard (this was a math class) and students navigated between desks when they needed to use the board. We discussed how she could cluster 4 desks together, but she was bothered by the “cluttered” look it gave her room. Also, building services would have a difficult time keeping such a unique arrangement intact when it differed so much from the other classrooms.

While I was disappointed to see the large quantity of classrooms arranged in the traditional style, it did facilitate the use of the perimeter of the rooms, where the white boards and bulletin boards are located. Many of the teachers used the outside wall under the windows as an organizational tool to keep extra books, assignments, papers to be distributed, etc. All of the classrooms that I observed placed the teacher desk in a corner of the room nearest the Internet drop.

More than the variety of classroom arrangements, I noticed a variety of strategies to facilitate equitable practices. Once classroom (pictured here) had numbered the desk chairs so that calling sticks (for random calling) could be utilized. This instructional strategy keeps all of the students on task and paying attention because they never know when they will be called upon to answer. It also prevents the teacher from calling on a particular side of the room that they are partial to, or calling on only boys or girls, etc. Many of the classrooms had motivational signs on the walls and bulletin boards and all of the rooms had classroom expectations on at least one of the classroom bulletin boards. It was obvious to me that these strategies are the result of a combination of over two years focusing on creating positive classroom environments and improving the use of equitable practices. Our leadership team has created a one-page document of “look-fors” in informal observations to supplement the full, clinical observations. As supervisors observe teachers, they can easily see where modifications need to be made and this data is what we use to develop the staff development model in our school.

As ideal as it sounds to arrange the classroom for the success of all students, I think that a combination of factors need to be considered along with the desk arrangement. It may be easier to move students around than it is to move desks! Teachers with a difficult combination of student personalities will assign seats, use teacher proximity or other strategies to keep their students on task. It is through teacher interview in pre and post observation conferencing that the supervisor can fully understand the teacher’s rationale in the arrangement of their rooms. This was an enlightening activity and I found it to be quite thought provoking!


Evertson, C., & Poole, I. (n.d.). Case study: Effective room arrangement. In Iris resource locator. Retrieved October 5, 2009, from Vanderbilt University website: ICS-001.pdf

Monday, August 24, 2009

School Culture

This week, my personal reflection prompt brings together what I have been learning in my Effective Leadership course and what is currently occurring in my school building.
  • What impact does the creation of a positive school culture have on school reform?
  • How has what you have learned so far in the course shaped your concept of an effective leader?
We have been reading and discussing effective leadership in the context of school reform for six weeks. This week focused on school culture; what it is and how is it formed. When learning about qualities of leaders early in the course, especially, servant leadership and stewardship, I began to understand the consequences of leaders' actions and how they contribute to a positive school climate. Oprah Winfrey was quoted in Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, "leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives." The tone that is set becomes a part of the invisible pulse of the school that resonates throughout the students, teachers, administrators, parents and community. This tone or pulse is the school culture. Without a positive school culture, there will be no desire, impetus or capability to enact school reform.

Today was the first day of pre-service for teachers in my school district. We spent the morning reconnecting with staff that we have not seen for a few months and learning who the new additions are. The icebreaker that we had not only allowed us to stretch our legs, but provided groundwork to reforge old bonds and make new connections. I believe that the leadership team was effective in conducting a morning that energized us and set the stage for new initiatives. We are focusing on the issue of bullying this school year. The mission is to make personal connections with our students to set a climate or culture that does not tolerate bullying for any reason. Among other things, "Our job [is] to galvanize [our] communit[y] to create a pervasive culture of achievement that celebrates and, yes, provides protective cover to achievers, that neutralizes negative peer pressures, and that endeavors to motivate youngsters who scorn academic achievement" ((Price, 2008, p. 4). It is going to be very important for our entire staff to remain focused on this area of concern, use one voice in their interaction with students and parents and be firm with consequences.

Effective leaders are proactive in their interactions with school community and staff. Effective leaders remain ever vigilant to monitor student learning and promote effective teaching. One strategy that our leadership used today was to promote positive interactions with each other. Our staff development teacher introduced the book, How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton. She gave a brief presentation on the salient points of the book; everyone has an invisible bucket--we are at our best when our buckets are overflowing --and worst when our buckets are empty. Everyone also has an invisible dipper. In each interaction, we can use our dipper either to fill or to dip from other's buckets. Whenever we choose to fill other's buckets, we in turn fill our own.

I think our school is on the right track to create a culture of understanding, sharing, empathy as well as a culture that expects rigorous learning and high quality teaching. Effective leaders need to know how well their school is doing and how to continue to motivate a highly successful staff as well as to know when the staff needs to be lifted and motivated, as school culture is not stagnate. How coincidental that my school is working to increase a positive school culture at the same time that I am studying that very thing!


Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind. New York: Riverhead.

Price, H. B. (2008). Mobilizing the community. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Rath, T., & Clifton, D. O. (2004). How full is your bucket? Positive strategies for work and life. New York: Gallup.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Effective Leadership

This week's blog is centered around two central questions:
  • How has what you've learned so far in this course shaped your concept of an effective leader?
  • Based on what you've learned so far, what are the top 3-5 characteristics you believe a successful principal must possess?
My concept of what it means to be an effective leader has been evolving for several years, even before I enrolled in this course. I had random ideas of a vision of leadership, but nothing concrete that I was able to articulate. I did know a few things about leadership:
  1. There can be many leaders in the building/organization besides the main leader.
  2. There are different ways that a leader can be effective and it largely depends on the innate qualities of the person as to how they will become effective (drawing on their strengths).
  3. A leader cannot do it all by themselves.
After being in the Effective Leadership course for 3 weeks, I have some new insights on effective leadership. Just as Leonard C. Burello writes in the preface of his book, Educating All Students Together, "we need to revisit the definition of student success and engage our communities in a deliberative, democratic planning process to determine how we will acknowledge and value new measures of student learning" (2001, p. viii).
  1. Administrative leaders must assume a role as a public intellectual and practice servant leadership "based on a deep commitment ot values and emerging from a groundswell of moral authority" (Sergiovanni, 2007, p. 78).
  2. Leaders should create a shared vision within their organization/school is what Peter Senge says "fosters a commitment of the long term" (Senge, 2007, p. 11).
  3. Flexibility and adaptability are key when it comes to assessing our vision. Leaders need to recognize that "as circumstances change and improve, it is regularly revisited, discussed, wrestled with and reoriented" (Burello, 2001, p. 42).
  4. There is a difference between school leadership and educational administration. Educational administrators make is so that school leaders can lead. They can bring about actions that allow the school leadership to achieve their goals. (Burello, 2001, p. 183-184).

As my own definition of effective leadership evolves, I am constantly looking at examples of leadership within my school district and assessing the characteristics that I feel assist leaders in becoming effective.
  • Integrity--effective leaders do what they say and say what they do
  • Honesty--effective leaders say what they mean and mean what they say
  • Flexibility--effective leaders are not afraid to change/adapt to fit the needs of the situation
  • Commitment--effective leaders are committed to improving student learning
  • Realism--effective leaders are able to assess what state their school is in and realize the steps it is going to take to get the school to the point of the shared vision of the school community.


Burello, L. C., Lashley, C., & Beatty, E. E. (2001). Educating all students together: How school leaders create unified systems. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Senge, P.M. (2007). 'Give me a lever long enough...and single-handed I can mopve the world'. In The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (2nd ed., pp. 3-15). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Sergiovanni, T.J. (2007). Leadership as stewardship: "Who's serving who?". In The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (2nd ed., pp. 75-92). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Transformational Leadership

This week, one of our individual assignments is to reflect on what it means to be a Transformational Leader. After processing two weeks of assigned readings and interviewing a supervisor on what it means to be a leader, I feel prepared to answer this question!

We are teaching students for a global society in which we have no idea what that society will look like! We don't know what kinds of jobs will exist for today's students or what kind of technology they will be using. We need to examine how schools are organized so that we can provide today's students for this future. The paradigm shift required to make the necessary change to the school organization "demand[s] a fundamental shift of dramatic proportions" (Burello, Lashley, & Beatty, 2001, p. 77). The educational system as it exists now is in crisis. The call for educational reform has existed for decades. A Nation at Risk was published in 1983. No Child Left Behind Act came later, in 2001. Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been advocating for changes and in his speech at the Forum in Education (2008), Gates said, "big advances only come when committed people study the same problems and build on each other's work." The new work of leaders that will create these advances is the transformational leader. "A new metaphor for leadership must replace the school commandant and charismatic visionary approaches that dominated our conceptions of schooling in the 20th century" (Burello, Lashley, & Beatty, 2001, p. 93).

The idea of transformational leadership will greatly impact school administrators. The system that they inherit today is not the system that they are going to create. Administrators will need to lead in ways that may make them uncomfortable. Peter Senge stresses in his book, The Fifth Discipline, "innovations in education represent a bigger task than educators can accomplish in isolation" (2006, p. 362). School administrators will be required to build a mental model that encompasses the shared vision of their stakeholders. They will need to create teacher work teams and foster trust and sharing. They will need to be patient, nurturing and empowering if they are to succeed. All of this in the context of an atmosphere where parents and community members and sometimes their peers value traditional, yet often out-dated techniques requiring the administrator to "communicate the school's mission clearly and consistently to staff members, parents and students" (Kelley & Peterson, 2007, p. 360). In my own school setting, many teachers are deeply entrenched in the thinking that "it has always been done this way," or "this is how I was taught," and it is very difficult, but not impossible to overcome these obstacles. My principal has allowed our new staff development develop a training program and supports her when the complaints come along. The principal publicly acknowledges her support which reinforces the staff developer's efforts. The staff developer always has a smile, an attitude of "let's go" and is a great listener. I think the principal is doing a great job of allowing the staff developer to lead. When I think of transformational leaders, the descriptors passionate, energetic, enthusiastic and visionary come to mind.

Performing transformational leadership will also impact the school administrator as technology is integrated with instruction. Technology flattens the playing field. Students become the master of their own education and work with their teachers to creatively solve problems. The collaborative, open-source mentality creates a world where everything is visible. Students and teachers reflect in blogs, create wikis to work through the curriculum, and communicate with students and teachers across the globe. This free flow of information sharing and "thinking out loud" can cause anxiety among administrators, teachers and students. My high school was lucky enough last year to receive Promethean Boards for almost every classroom. As exciting as this development was, it caused high levels of anxiety as teachers struggled to adapt the interactive white boards into their curriculum. The most successful teachers were the ones that worked together with their students to create dynamic and exciting lessons. While most of the students were new to Promethean Boards, it was amazing to me how many students were able to troubleshoot, create presentations and teach their teacher how it all works. These conditions can make leadership challenging in schools and this is why I feel that transformational leadership and servant-leadership go hand-in-hand. The administrator will not lead authoritatively, but orchestrate an environment where team building, leadership development, shared decision making and collegiality are valued. It is time for transformational leadership and I for one, am ready!


Burello, L. C., Lashley, C., & Beatty, E. E. (2001). Educating all students together: How school leaders create unified systems. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Gates, B. (2008, November 11). A forum on education in America: Bill Gates. In Bill & Melinda Gates foundation [Prepared remarks by Bill Gates]. Retrieved July 24, 2009, from

Kelley, C., & Peterson, K. D. (2007). The work of principals and their preparation. In The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (2nd ed., pp. 351-401). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday. (Original work published 1999)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lessons Learned at NECC 2009

This post has been brewing in my head for the past month and I am finally able to put a few thoughts down to share my experience with my colleagues.

This year was my first attendance at the International Society for Technology in Education's (ISTE) annual conference and exposition. This was the last year that they titled their annual conference National Educational Computing Conference or NECC. In the future, the conference will hold the same name as the organization. Next year, ISTE 2010 will be held in Denver, Colorado. Note to self: pack hiking gear for post-conference fun!

This year's 2009 annual conference was held in Washington, D.C. and mandatory attendance was a requirement of the A&S Certification program through Johns Hopkins University, in which I am currently enrolled.

While I have been to many, many school library conferences (national, state and local), this was my first all technology conference and the experience was quite rewarding. I am still processing the conference in my head and trying to decide what practices and technologies I will add to my repertoire this school year.

In order to meet the needs of the large membership of ISTE (20,000+), they have developed Special Interest Groups or SIGs. I joined the Sigms (Special Interest Group--Media Specialists) and it was fun to see the people that I normally see at the library conferences and they were totally immersed in the technology--blogs, wikis, twitter, and all things web 2.0.

Any of the breakout sessions or keynote talks, ISTE can be viewed on their ISTEvision .

One of my JHU cohorts, Scott Smeech, has created a handy spreadsheet that contains all of the blog postings containing anything on NECC 2009. It can be found at Google docs.

One of the best sessions that I attended at NECC 2009 was the Sigms Forum. There are several reasons why this session is in my top five.
  1. It was at this meeting that I realized the full impact of being involved in a Sig. ISTE has around 20,000 members and it is in the Special Interest Groups where the rubber meets the road. I sat at a table of folks that I know from AASL, ALA and our state organization, MASL. Our table had at least 4 different school sytems represented. I enjoyed seeing "old" friends (we don't normally see one another during the year), collaborating with peers and discussing the upcoming AASL Conference in the fall.
  2. It was at this session where I realized the full impact of using Wikis for collaboration. The Wiki for this session can be found at PBWorks. The session had four presenters who are leaders in the school library world. Each speaker has links to their presentation as well as ancillary information located right on the Wiki. While the room was organized well for everyone in the audience to see the panel and one of two large screens, the audience could also follow along with the presentations on their own laptops. I was creating bookmarks as people presented. I took notes electronically on Word. I was fully immersed in the presentation and I was working on integrating the topics into my repertoire right at the time of the presentation. This differs vastly from past conferences where notes were taken down by hand on notebook paper, links were furiously written down to access "later" and I sat passively and listened to the presenter talk. I never seem to get around to looking at the website when I arrive home after the conference and what do I do with all of those pieces of paper containing messy scrawl that can't be deciphered anyway?
  3. I fully realized the potential of the "back-channel". I didn't know what a back channel was prior to NECC 2009! "Back-channeling is the practice of electronically passing notes among some or all of the audience/students during the lecture. When sanctioned, this practice is particularly useful for speakers who are attempting to dynamically modify their presentations based on immediate feedback from the audience." (Wikipedia) The audience sent tweets on Twitter and we were able to contribute to the presentation or follow other presentations in other areas of the conference in a least distracting manner. The presenters provided a Twitter Search string to make it convenient to follow! Sweet!
I can't emphasize the full power of the Wiki and I have accessed this particular session's Wiki numerous times since the conference. The Wiki allowed the presenters to be engaged with ALL of the audience and address issues that they may not have prepared for in advance, but can insert into their presentation ad-hoc. This two-way interaction made the session much more meaningful for everyone. I hope to integrate the use of Wikis into my library media program this school year. Joyce Valenza, Library Media Specialist extraordinaire in Pennsylvania has converted all of her library pathfinders into wikis and here is one example. I love the the embedded search widgets and the interactivity that can be achieved with students.

Besides the content of the sessions offered at NECC, I was also impressed by the variety of formats offered. Among my favorite formats are:
  1. Playgrounds--single or multi-day events that provide educators with opportunities to "play" with interactive technologies for creativity and learning.I was asked to volunteer for a time slot in the 21st Century Media Center Playground to demonstrate Twitter. I had a great time visiting with conference browsers as they strolled through our area and I managed to convert a willing few to the "dark side" i.e. Twitter!! Several of us who presented created a Diigo group for all websites pertaining to Twitter.
  2. BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop)--These sessions were a big hit. I attended Joyce Valenza's Library Tools Smackdown as well as Earth Mashing: Web 2.0 Meets Google Earth. I hope that Joyce continues with her smackdown format at AASL as I know that sheh is a regular and favorite presenter there!
  3. Birds of a Feather--Informal, one-and-a-half hour discussion format providing a special opportunity for like-minded educators to gather and network. Great networking opportunities with like-minded peers.
The technology used at NECC 2009 was phenomenal! Wireless access was everywhere (okay, sometimes spotty, but it was nice when we had it), ISTEvision was taping in almost session, keynote & meeting and then posted online using Ustream, everyone was a-Twitter! and people were more apt to use their Second-Life name than their "real" name! This blog post describes some of the technology from NECC 2009.

That wraps up my reflections, for now, and I hope to continue my journey with technology at the AASL Annual Conference and Exhibition, November5-8, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Prescription for Success!

The prompt for this week's assignment are the following four questions:
  • Now that you have a good sense of the types of online activities and the rhythms of an active participant, what steps will you take to be successful in this program?
  • How will you be a contributing member of your team? How will team activities impact your time management?
  • What have you learned about your communication style? How will this impact you as an online learner?
  • Where do you still need additional support?

In order to be successful in this program as an active participant, I will set a goal to log in to ELC at least 4 times a week and read the updated items. I will be supportive of my cohort by posting in the general discussion forum regulary and reading all of the assigned readings so that I can contribute relevant topics to the discussions.

I plan on being a contributing member of my team by posting positive, supportive comments in the group forum. I will allow each member to take their turn in leading the discussions. I will meet the time deadlines set up by the facilitators so as not to prevent my group from being successful in the requirements. I know from past experiences, the busier I am, the more productive I tend to be. However, it is not automatic! I use Google calendar to coordinate all of my responabilites along with my assignments and integrate these dates into my personal family calendar so that my family can be supportive by not overplanning. I sync my Google calendar with my Outlook calendar so that it is available offline. I recently started to use the task manager within Google calendar to keep up with the individual course activities to ensure completion of each item, thus not letting my group down by not participating in a group activity.

Upon completion of the style inventory, I discovered that I was tied between sensor and thinker. After reading the descriptions of each, I think I align with the thinker the most. I tend to place a high value on logic and can frequently be heard saying, "but that is not RIGHT!" and I have been known to be a bit cautious :-) Once we understand our style characteristics, it makes it a bit easier to identity pitfalls in our interactions with others who have different style characteristics. If we know what others are expecting or what makes them motivated, we can provide that in order to get good results.

I need the most assistance in maintaining my focus to continually reflect on my actions. Also, opportunities to interact with peers is highly motivational for me, thus the chat, discussion threads and collaboratively created documents work well for me! Overall, this was a great week. The chat session was successful, my blog is up and running, the discussion thread seems to have no shortage of interactions and the cohort has already set up a time to meet for dinner at NECC. It looks like this is a going to be a highly motivated group.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Online Learning

This week was the start of yet another adventure in my quest for learning. I began a two-week orientation in preparation for a Graduate Certificate in Administration & Supervision from Johns Hopkins University. This particular program is unique in that it is a cohort of people who advance through the course together through a web-based format building on a research-based approach to online learning. JHU has partnered with ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education) and this course will focus on instructional technology.

The JHU School of Education gives this description of the program:
This initiative is designed to prepare aspiring administrators and supervisors with effective strategies and tools to deal with issues regarding instructional technology while ensuring that all students, including students with diverse learning needs, succeed.
The Electronic Learning Community (ELC) provides for ongoing collaboration for both participants and instructors. While using the ELC is new to me, I feel very comfortable with online learning and feel secure in adapting my knowledge of other web-based formats to the ELC. While I am still learning the unique features of the ELC, the scavenger hunt activity did a great job at directing me around the various features that the ELC has to offer students.

My main concerns about online learning center around my ability to remain focused, complete assignments without being in a face-to-face situation and organizing my time to be able to multi-task my daily job, home life and each course's requirements. I anticipate that being part of a cohort of individuals that I will get to meet in person in a few weeks will encourage me to be active in the discussions and will provide incentive for me to remain on target. I respond well to personal interaction and it appears that this course provides for that kind of learner.