Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Promoting Student Creativity - "Marker Spaces"

At Monticello High School in Albemarle County (VA) high school the traditional library has been transformed into space where students can design and create their own work. The idea is to provide students with a place to gather, collaborate, study, read and do other creative work. For example, part of the library is now a music studio. Elsewhere they created a "hacker" room for computer programming, and a "genius bar" where students help one another fix problems with their computers. Students can use these spaces before and after school, during free periods or during lunch.

It's a program called "Marker Spaces" and the staff reports that the library has become the hub of the school. It's a place where students can pursue their own interests, different hobbies and activities and collaborate on creative activity like music composition and TV or video production.

Details about the transformation are described in an article from a local television station. I'd enjoy hearing from you about your response to "Marker Spaces."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Using Social Media for Instruction

One of the fastest growing trends in education is to encourage students to bring, and use, their own technology---smart Phones, tablets, laptops. Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs are underway across the country. The most notable challenge with these programs is that students know far more than most teachers about how to use the devices for tasks. Often educators focus on the misuse of technology but the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that most students use their devices appropriately. That's let many schools to encourage teachers to incorporate technology and various forms of social media as a way to both motivate and engage students. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently showcased the efforts in several Wisconsin schools to use Twitter and other social media, once banned, for instruction.

It's a rapidly growing trend and recognizes the powerful ways technology can transform teaching and learning. Howard Johnston and I wrote about the trend and how social media can be used with 21st century learners to improve their academic experience. Our book, The School Leader's Guide to Social Media, is available from Routledge Education, at and

I'd enjoy hearing from you about how your teachers are using technology and social media to improve instruction.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Share the Good News - Start a Principal's Blog

One of a principal's most important roles is to advocate for their school. That includes sharing information with staff, students, families and community. Communication occurs in many ways but increasingly various forms of social media technology are used to spread the "good news" about your school.  One tool is a blog, basically a website that functions as an online journal. What's good about a blog is that you can control the content and make it what you want.

Partrick Larkin, 2012 NASSP Digital Principal, identified reasons for beginning a blog. Principals are generally pretty proud of their school. They want to share newsworthy things about students and co-curricular activities. They have great teachers who are doing great things in their classroom. And they want to improve communication with both families and community.  Once you begin your blog you can add a link from your school's website and you can share it with teachers and other staff. Here's a link to Larkin's article about how to get started. And here are some other examples of blogs maintained by school leaders.
I'd enjoy learning from you about how you communicate with families and community and what you think about starting a principal's blog.

Monday, August 12, 2013

BYOT - Bring Your Own Technology

Many schools have begun to encourage students to bring their mobile phone or tablet to school so that they can use it during class to access instructional resources, participate in online discussions and interact with curricular materials. It's called "BYOT - Bring Your Own Technology" and a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 73% of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers have students use the technology in class to complete assignments. Dan Domenech of the American Association of School Administrators reports that about 25% of schools now allow phones. George Fornero, a Chicago area superintendent described his districts rationale. "The kids taught us a lesson. They're still going to bring their phones anyway, so let's allow them to use them in a constructive way." More detail about these initiatives is available from a recent USA Today article

 I'd enjoy learning from you about whether your school welcomes student use of phones and tablets on campus. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mandating Social Media Education

New Jersey is considering a law that would require middle schools teach students about the acceptable use of social media. The law would have students learn about the appropriate use of social media, cyber security and preventing cyber bullying. Legislators say they recognize the powerful impact of social media on students and they want to assure that they don't make foolish mistakes that may impact them for the rest of their lives.

Sounds like a great idea to me. I'd like to know what you think about this proposal.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Speed Geeking" - Students Introduce Teachers to Technology

I recently read a study about how educators are often reluctant to use new technology. Part of the reason is our comfort with what we currently do but other factors also impact the decision. For example, educators often don't want to look unsophisticated with technology especially if they're working with middle or high school students who may be far more savvy.

This week ASCD EDge introduced me to a new concept---speed geeking. It's essentially a speed dating model for technology. Faculty moved from table to table and learned from students about a new technology and how it impacted their learning. It reminded me of when my school had a group of students who worked with teachers on technology. They were basically the "geek squad" of Tappan Middle School.

It's an interesting idea for sharing, learning and growing. I believe teachers respect the knowledge and skills of their students and "speed geeking" is a fascinating way for teachers, and others, to become acquainted with how technology is used by students to improve their learning.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Power of the "Tweet" - Building a PLN

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is one way to stay collected with trends and issues in your field and to work, and share, collaboratively. Social media is a great way to create and maintain your PLN. PLN's are really useful because you can connect with those individuals and groups that best meet your needs. The benefits include
  • access to useful resources and information;
  • ability to search for new tools and innovative practices;
  • thoughtful suggestions and critique of your ideas;
  • helping you to think more deeply about your work;
  • meeting professional contacts for job growth.

A virtual PLN can be created using social media like Twitter. A recent article by Tom Murray, Director of Technology and Cyber Education for the Quakertown School District in Bucks County, PA describes the benefits of a virtual PLN using Twitter.

Howard Johnston and I describe how to create and maintain a PLN in our book The School Leader's Guide to Social Media from Eye on Education. We'd enjoy learning about how you use PLN's to improve your work.