Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Public Shaming

I just watched Monica Lewinsky's Ted Talk from March 2015.  I guess I have arrived at an age that I have "lived" a lot of this history we are now teaching to our students or issues we are sharing with them and our own children.

Lewinsky actually makes a very strong connection between what she experienced with the "Blue Dress / cigar" scandal, the emergence of social media, and what we now call cyber bullying.

The talk itself is worth the 22 minutes; it's hard not to feel badly for her - she was only 22 years old while interning at the White House for President Clinton when the relationship took place.  It's hard to blame a young, ambitious intern for being enamored by the President of the United States.  Where this situation ended up = an abuse of his power.

I don't think many parents nor educators take cyber bullying as seriously as we should.  I am not saying this to point the finger and say, "Shame on you."  It's a world that keeps evolving and to stay on top of it is full-time work.  Young people have access to more information than ever before; and if they are not guided correctly, all hell can break loose.

Weird that I watched this TED talk today, because just yesterday I was thinking about a situation from the 8th grade that I am not particularly proud of.  There was a student in our class, I will call him James, who many people got mad at because he started dating somebody else's girlfriend.  Gotta love 8th grade drama.  The kid took a terrible beating - everybody berated him.  Shortly after, our English Language Arts teacher (Mr. Ball) took us to the computer lab (Apple IIe's at the time) - he wanted to try something new.  He had us start writing a story - any story; after a few minutes, we rotated to the computer next to us and picked up on our classmates story.  This rotation took place several times.  I remember getting to a computer where one person started writing their story with the opening sentence: "James is a fag."  And then came my low point at 13 years old.  I kept that story going.  I wasn't strong enough or confident enough in myself to stop it.  After the final rotation, we printed our stories and went back to class.  Mr. Ball started reading the stories.  He was fired up - they were good.  But then he came to the story about James.  Mr. Ball was absolutely disgusted - rightfully so.  He threw the paper on the ground.  The disappointment in his face was indescribable.  I felt like crawling into a corner.  To this day, I am still ashamed of myself.  If I see "James" I will apologize - even if it is 32 years later.  No excuse.  I would NEVER want one of my own children or one of my students to engage in this type of behavior.  I cyber-bullied James.  His dating somebody else had absolutely nothing to do with me, but I went with the pack.  What a tough lesson in life - a lesson that could have caused major problems for James.  Somehow he never let it bother him and took the higher ground.  Good for James.  (Side note: James is now a wealthy and successful trial lawyer - good for him!)

I was a vice principal for six years and saw some of the most ridiculous cyber bullying and online "fighting."  I did my best to educate students and parents about their digital footprint.  Some students just didn't care.  Many parents were mortified.  Then came my turn.  My oldest daughter, while still in high school, wanted a Facebook account. We agreed, but on the condition that we have her password.  Shortly after, I logged into her account and saw that she engaged in a back-and-forth conversation with a boy where terrible profanity was being used.  It was an eye opening moment for my ex-wife and I.  Fortunately, my daughter understood and has since created a very positive digital footprint for herself.

We are all human and are all capable of terrible things.  I am convinced of it.  Adolf Hitler and Darth Vader were innocent children at one time in their lives.  What went wrong?  We must stand up and do the right thing - we need to continue to educate ourselves and our youth of the ramifications of misuse of technology and social media tools.  I fear it will only get worse before it gets better.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

#CUE16 - it's a wrap.

The 2016 CUE National Conference has wrapped up, and again, another amazing, powerful learning conference took place.  After attending two keynote addresses, approximately eight workshops, and an energetic exhibit hall, I must say that it just keeps getting better.

Brad Montague & Robby Novak

Brad Montague (@thebradmontague), creator of The Kid President, was Thursday morning's keynote speaker.  I must admit - when I saw Mr. Montague listed as the speaker, I did a double-take.  Really?  I wonder what he has to share with educators?  Well, in typical CUE fashion, they outdid themselves - Brad Montague was the best keynote address at a CUE conference that I've seen in the past five years - and they've had some powerful people give the keynotes.  Brad's message is relatively simple, "This is a joyful rebellion - our mission is to help kids and grown-ups change the world together.  Be the educator you needed when you were a kid."  Brad had a great way of keeping it simple, yet real.  His work with Robby Novak - the Kid President - is simple, yet revolutionary.  Follow them on Twitter (@iamkidpresident) and their YouTube channel (SoulPancake).  You won't  regret it.

Friday morning's keynote speaker was Hadi Partovi - founder of Code.org  I am not kidding when I state that nearly everybody in the audience left that presentation wanting to teach Computer Science.  The relevance of Hadi's address is astronomical; and his message to young woman - a population that is under-represented in terms of computer science and tech jobs in general rings true.  Follow Hadi on Twitter (@hadip) !

My favorite session that I attended was during lunch Friday - a "Lunch and Learn" session with Burt Lo (@trubol) and Luke Hibbard (@hibbard_luke).  The examples of the SAMR model (which explains the level of technology use in instruction) provided participants with amazing takeaways - takeaways that can be put to immediate, relevant use.

I often wonder how CUE does it.  Seriously.  About 12 years ago, the organization was on the brink of collapse.  Conference attendance was down, their annual fall conference was canceled, and things appeared dismal.  Bringing in Mike Lawrence (@techmaverick) as Executive Director (now Chief Executive Officer) was the beginning of amazing things to come.  CUE provides the best and most meaningful professional development opportunities I've experienced in my 21 years of public education.  I am looking forward to CUE 2017 - for many reasons, but mostly because CUE continues to set the bar high and exceed it every time - the networking and learning that takes place should be the model of professional development for all school districts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gearing up for #CUE16

At this time tomorrow I'll be getting ready to fly to Palm Springs for the best conference of the year - the CUE National Conference.  Once again, the event has sold out.  I won't be surprised if this conference has grown to 6,000 attendees this year.  And to think, circa 2005/2006, CUE was not doing very well. What a rebound.

One challenge I have as I review the sched and selection my sessions is that there are so many great ones to choose from.  I have to narrow it down to what I can hopefully implement upon my return, which again, is not always easy.

But the bigger challenge I feel is the lack of leadership - superintendent staffs and board of trustees members - attending these types of conferences.  I do think a teacher can start a movement, but the vision needs to be shared and come from the top. We cannot live in a world where we are anti-conference.  Anti-conference = anti-professional development = anti-growth.  One of the biggest benefits of attending conferences such as CUE is the networking opportunities and the opportunity to learn best practices other districts and schools are implementing.  We all have similar challenges, so why are some schools and districts really making instructional technology work when others are not?  I think you can read the paragraph I just wrote an answer that question yourself.

Lately, I've been reading  Principal Professional Development: Leading Learning in the Digital Age (Corwin Connected Educators Series.)  This is a very easy read, and the points made are quite simple in regards to today's principal and school leaders:

  • Effective principals can manage the organization as a whole and the implementation of curriculum as long as they have the appropriate professional support and development
  • There will never be extra time in your day.  Lead learners model learning by integrating the learning into an already full day.
  • Social media plays an important role in the professional development of school leaders
  • A professional learning network (PLN) can help support the personal and professional development of school leaders.
  • As an educational leader, you must take control of your own learning and personalize it in a way that works for you.
Why are so many school leaders late to the game?  Is it because we are creatures of habit?  Fear of the unknown?  Not willing to take a risk?  I once read a quote, "The biggest risk is the one you don't take."  Think about that for a little while....  #CUE16   #bethechange

As The Polls Open....

Super Tuesday #3 today.  Or is it #2?  I can't remember.  This is the strangest and scariest presidential election season in my life.  This November will mark the seventh time I have had the right to volte in an election and I feel it's the most important one of my lifetime.

As a history major, I learned how easily history repeats itself.  It's not rocket science.  It's pretty simple.  Similar to the days of being a vice principal.  We would catch a few students doing something ridiculous and illegal; the message would spread across campus, but after awhile, another student or group of students would step up and do something equally or more ridiculous.  History repeats itself.  Some politicians feel they are above the law.... but time catches up to them.

The rhetoric spewing from Donald Trump's mouth is simply insane.  Sure, there will always be a group of individuals who are angry with how the government is working so they will listen to somebody hard-talking with "fresh" ideas.  Being angry is one thing, but to discriminate against others and have a "get them out" attitude is simply un-American.  Trump is doing a brilliant job playing on the emotions of people who feel they have been "wronged" or people who do not like what Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders stand for.

As an American, I do understand that people have the right to express themselves and have their own opinions.  However, to discriminate against others to the level that the Trump "coalition" has been is absurd.  It is embarrassing.  There have been comparisons to his campaign and to the propaganda of Adolf Hitler - and I understand why.  What these "followers" of Trump don't understand is that he has not proposed one solution; he has never held an elected office; he does not understand the ins and outs of government.

History can repeat itself.  If we are not careful, we will be the country that is seeking a "Final Solution to the ______ problem."  I may regret writing this one day.....if you know what I mean.  There's never been a more important time to vote - and to do so in an educated manner that doesn't strip the rights away from others......

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Quiet.... and the 4 C's

This week I got a little burned out on Amazon Music, SiriusXM radio and Pandora.  I like the Classic Rewind, Classic Vinyl, 70's on 7, 80's on 8, Eagles Radio, etc, but have reached the point of "repetition."  Three times this week I went to launch Eagles Radio when I was at the gym, and each time it started with Hotel California.  Yes, perhaps one of the best songs ever, but I don't need to hear it every day.

So I switched over to Podcasts.  Why not, right?  I found a TED Talk titled Quiet from November 12, 2015.  Short, but interesting.  The premise of the TED talk was, how do we find quiet in such a busy, fast-moving world?

As I listened to this TED talk, I became more interested.  The discussion made a direct connection with the 4 C's of the Common Core State Standards most states are now operating under.  I like the premise of the 4 C's - Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity.  These are definitely skills we need all of our students to learn, acquire, and use as they enter a very competitive world after high school.  But does everything have to be done collaboratively?  Knowing how to work and get along with others is something that is emphasized since Kindergarten, but does the continual focus on collaboration lead us to become dependent on others and not be able to work and function independently?  Some of the greatest thinkers and creators of our time, such as Steve Jobs, worked collaboratively with others but had independent, creative vision and genius!

I strongly feel that we sometimes need a break from being connected all of the time - get away from our email, cell phones, social media.  Have a simple conversation with another person or maybe just take a walk on your own and clear your head.  Think without being connected.  Freshen the mind.

Image result for ted talks

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Thoughts on Leadership

Many of us have different views on leadership - what exactly constitutes an effective leader?  How is this effectiveness measured?  Early in my career, my mentor told me that the school principal should be the first person on campus each morning and the last to leave.  Wow, tall marching orders.

As I became involved with the California League of Schools around 2006, a trustee with the league (Wendell Chun)  told me that school leadership is all about visibility.  This person, at the time, was Superintendent of the Oakdale Unified School District.  He told me that he visited each of his schools at least one day each week!  That is awesome.  Something I have never seen in a superintendent that I have worked with.  I decided to put Wendell's theory to the test when I was summer school principal in 2007.  I got to campus at least 45 minutes before anybody else.  Before school, I monitored the hallways, interacted with students and staff, and even walked the hallways during class time.  I was the last to leave.  As the summer session drew to a close, many staff members thanked me for the leadership and support they felt they had received rom me.  It was exhausting, but I took that experience with me to Carlmont High School, where I was a vice principal for six years.

As I look at school leadership now, I think visibility extends beyond the physical element.  I think it is important for the leaders to establish a positive digital footprint for themselves and for their schools.  Principals and superintendents should be blogging as a means to communicate all the events and great things taking place at their work site; Twitter and Facebook can be used to promote and celebrate the successes of the institution.  But even beyond that, if leaders really do have this type of digital footprint, they are understanding the power of a positive digital network that increases the learning space - walls are broken down and the audience becomes global, not just local.  The potential to be a model leader and model school is not out of reach.  I follow strong and respected leaders on Twitter like Todd Whitaker, Jason Markey, Jon Corippo, Mike Lawrence, Alice Keeler, and many more.  These leaders aren't afraid to push the envelope for student success.  They are also willing to share their experiences and successes, both publicly and privately.

Leadership will continue to evolve.  But one element is a constant:  LEAD BY EXAMPLE.