Monday, September 29, 2008

Re-launching Reflection

I haven't posted in some time, but I'd like to recommence with plaudits for two principals. Firstly, I'll explain why these two principals are figuring in my thinking.
I am listening at the moment to a presentation about Scratch, creativity, insight and design by Professor Mitch Resnick at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, Australia, as he gives his keynote for the ACEC.

As I look around the room, I fear again that there will be a shortage of administrators in the audience. Typically, these educational technology conferences are populated by ICT coordinators and early adopters from the classrooms. Not so often do we see the people who have the potential to have the most influence (via their own authority) in schools - the principals and regional education directors.

Mr. Jason Levy and Mr. Dominic Cipollone are two Bronx principals who are prepared to invest in educational technology - not by throwing a bone to the Tech Coordinators in the form of a few more laptops or interactive whiteboards, but by embracing technology for organizational and instructional improvement within schools. They are principals who have developed a vision, a voice and a vehicle for change.

These are two principals who are looking to remodel education, and there is a tremendous level of excitement that can be generated within schools that have adopted this approach. I have seen what Chris Lehman has achieved with his teachers and students at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and Jason Levy's school will host an International Conference in 2009.
This is the type of leadership that is required in all of our schools. These principals are turning their schools into learning institutes not just for students but also for teachers. They are focusing on technology for improved communication, collaboration, transparency and innovation. More importantly, they are investing in professional development.

Visitors who attended the 339 Tech Open House in June were treated to observations of some innovating practices:

  • teachers' proficiency levels with technology is assessed as a baseline, and professional development is offered according to differentiated needs

  • teachers' and students' goals are collected via online surveys and displayed on online spreadsheets

  • team meetings within the school are recorded and shared via web-based documents

  • teachers, students (and even some parents) are now linked via gmail

  • teachers are prepared to have their lessons recorded on video (and even live streamed hopefully) to gain peer feedback

  • Parent Expos and Open Houses allow promotion of innovative practices

  • teachers use chat to communicate throughout the day

  • school and grade-wide data is shared via online spreadsheets

  • teaching teams are setting up Google Sites and Google Groups to share and archive their planning

  • teachers are setting up class blogs and Google Sites as instructional spaces for their students

  • administrators use online documents to give teachers supportive feedback on their teaching, lesson planning and unit planning

  • important documents such as online calendars, daily announcements and action plans are housed together and automatically updated on Google Sites and wikis

  • all students will enhance metacognition through reflective blogs that are used in all subject areas

  • teachers email the daily work to students, who then upload prompt questions and respond via Google Docs

  • teachers are pre-recording read alouds as podcasts

  • instructional resources are collected in Google Sites and hyperlinked to online lesson plans

  • students will display their work via digital portfolios

The innovations go on and on, but they have been expediated as a result of principals' support of organizational and instructional reform.

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