Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Power of Professional Learning Networks (PLN's)

Social media and other forms of technology provide powerful tools for people to take charge and manage their own learning. A Professional Learning Network (PLN) is the term used to describe a network of online colleagues and friends who support one another's learning. While a PLN can occur face-to-face increasingly they occur online and allow you to tap into the knowledge and expertise of people who hold a similar job but with whom you are not acquainted. They also allow you to access information and tools from professional organizations and experts in your area of interest. eSchoolNews recently included a story about the power of PLN's. It can help you consider how a PLN can support your continued learning.

Google offers a set of tools for creating a PLN (http://sites/ Another useful site is Once a Teacher ( Some of my students create a Twitter account as a way to connect with professional friends and colleagues.

You can read more about how a PLN can support your learning and the learning of others in your school in my recent book, co-authored with Dr. J. Howard Johnston, The School Leader's Guide to Social Media available from Eye on Education.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you continue your own professional learning.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Beliefs and Decision-Making

In several of my courses we talk about personal belief systems and how they shape the way we do our work and make decisions. The challenge is that in any school people often hold different beliefs, grounded in their own unique experiences. This leads to some pretty intense discussions about beliefs, about ethics, and about "right and wrong." I'm always looking for ways to extend the discussion and provide school leaders with tools they can use to think about the different beliefs present among their teachers, staff and community.

This week I saw an article on edutopia that was especially helpful in thinking about this issue. The article, Teacher Collaboration: When Belief Systems Collide, by Elena Aguilar, is built on Garmston & Costa's work in Cognitive Coaching where they discussed the ideologies that shape educators' decision-making. I want to share the article and hope you find it useful to think about your own personal "ideology" and how it shapes what you do and how you see the work, and motives, of others in your school and community.

As always, I'd welcome your thoughts about this topic.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Supporting Homeless Students

Schools have a legal, as well as an ethical, obligation to serve homeless students. While the McKinney-Vento Act, now a part of NCLB, identifies the requirements, it doesn't offer practical suggestions that teachers can use to work with homeless students and their families. I recently read an article from AMLE (Association for Middle Level Education) that suggests 10 things teachers can do to support homeless students. I found it incredibly useful and will be using it in many of my classes.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you, your school or district addresses the needs of homeless students and their families.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Resources on Copyright Law

One of the most frequent questions in my school law class is about copyright. Technology provides instant access to all sorts of resources many of them copyrighted. Many of my students are unclear about what they can use in their classrooms and schools. Interestingly, music and performing arts teachers are among the most knowledgeable primarily because they deal with the issue all the time when selecting music or a play to perform. It's just part of their training.

So I'm always looking for resources that can help people understand what can, and what cannot, be used and how they can assure that their school complies with the requirements of the copyright act. Recently eSchoolNews published an article that provides readers with tips for understanding the copyright law. It's a clear concise guide on the topic. You'll need to have a subscription to eSchoolNews to access the entire article but it is FREE.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

COMPASS Model of School Change

I work with lots of principals and teachers on ways to improve their school. Often they're looking for the one tool or strategy that will make their school better. But I've grown to appreciate that school improvement is far more complex and involves an integrated set of strategies. Because I'm always looking for a good metaphor to share with groups a colleague, Barbara Blackburn, and I developed The COMPASS Model. We like the idea of a compass because it is a very useful tool. It can guide and direct us. It can help us get back on track if we're lost and it always points toward true north.

Our model includes seven components.

C - Creating a Positive and Supportive Culture
O - Ownership and Shared Vision
M - Managing Data
P - Professional Development
A - Advocacy
S - Shared Accountability
S - Structures and Organization

In posts over the next few weeks I'll explore each of the seven components in more detail. You can learn more about The COMPASS Model by watching this short video I prepared for one of my classes and by reading Rigorous Schools and Classrooms: Leading the Way available from Eye on Education. We also wrote a companion book Rigor in Your School: A Toolkit for Leaders that shares almost one hundred tools that leaders can use to improve their school.

As always I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you work to improve your schools. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Strategies for Student Success

I'm always looking for great ideas to share with teachers and principals. Last week I read Reducing the Risk, Increasing the Promise by Sherrel Bergmann and Judith Brough. I was touched by the stories they shared of students with such promise who were at risk of failing in school. The authors identify six essential social skills that contribute to student success---resilience, resourcefulness, responsibility, relationships, respect and the ability to read.

But the most important feature of this book is the useful set of strategies and tools to help students reduce risk and increase promise. Every chapter provides ideas that teachers and families can immediately use to help students develop each of the six essential skills.

Reducing the Risk, Increasing the Promise is the latest in a useful series of books by Bergmann and Brough. Others include Teach Me--I Dare You!, Lead Me--I Dare You! and Teach My Kid--I Dare You! All are available from Eye on Education

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Misconceptions About Today's Youth

I'm fortunate to have lots of time to spend with my grandchildren. Watching them grow has reawakened an interest in how people learn, the sorts of things that stimulate their learning, and the way they process and make sense of things. Too often we act on incomplete information or misconceptions. As a former middle school teacher and principal I'm keenly aware of how misconceptions about students can shape the response of adults. eSchool News recently included a story about common misconceptions about today's youth. The article debunks some beliefs that are commonly held about today's students. Included are five myths that are just not accurate.

  • They're all tech-savvy.
  • They're disengaged.
  • They're not good communicators.
  • Students from poor families can't succeed.
  • They're never outdoors.

This article really made me think about the myths we carry around with us about youth. Our beliefs shape the way we teach and interact with students. We must assure that they are accurate and that we don't judge students, and their potential, based on misconceptions.

I'd welcome your thoughts about today's youth and the power of beliefs to shape the way we lead our lives.