Family Fun

October 30, 2007

Play is one of the six essential aptitudes Daniel Pink lists in A Whole New Mind. True play is a sense of joyfulness and reverie . . .
most often revealed by smiling faces.

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A staff that plays together stays together.


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Those Who Dare

October 26, 2007

Leaders, visionaries, and dreamers help to define the future. They dare to take calculated, sensible risks. Joyce Valenza is one such daring individual. In her blog at School Library Journal, she writes:

Power has been shifting in nearly every profession. In ours, it has turned head over heels. Over the past two years the information and communication landscapes, as we once knew them, have changed. We have new sources, new options.

She then lists her daring bullet points on how libraries can can remain relevant. And she concludes by throwing down the gauntlet—

Because we are out west, I am thinking more like a pioneer.

If you are going to be leading you have to be at the head of wagons.
You can’t be stuck in the back pushing.
You have to climb up ahead to the summit.
You have to look around.
You have to imagine what’s ahead..You can’t lead if you are stuck in the mud

I want teacher-librarians to lead the learning wagon train.
We cannot wait for the research to tell us this risk-taking, this playful authentic learning is good.

The number one theme that comes from her rant is “learning is superior to stuff.” Now my question: those of us charged with 21C education leadership, do we dare to be more defined by our devotion to learning or our devotion to stuff?

Simplified, how much stuff is on your desk and in your closet versus how many students and teachers will you work with today in innovative ways that inspire and support relevant teaching and learning?


America, We Have a Problem

October 21, 2007

An enlightened colleague sent me this SFGate article by Norman Augustine, retired CEO and chairman of Lockheed Martin. Even though the content has been fodder in Haulin’ ‘Net since ’05, I’m passing the article along to stoke the forward-thinking conversation.

Here’s a refresher from the article:

Fifty years after Sputnik, I find that my sinking feeling has returned. One might say, “America, we have a problem.” The rest of the world caught up as we became complacent. We have lost our edge in math and science, two of the essential economic tools of the 21st century.

We are at the dawn of the 21st century, and our children no longer measure up in these disciplines to their peers in the rest of the world. We rank 24th internationally among 15-year-olds in math performance.

There’s no point in looking for a scapegoat. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We dropped the science ball a number of years ago, under-emphasizing research and education, while our international competitors were learning how to make “slam dunks.”

Unfortunately, our future might not be as bright as our past. Countries such as India, South Korea, Japan and China have copied the approach to innovation that has driven our economy for the last half century, and they are using that approach to beat us at our own game, even in our backyard.

It’s not just math and science. Arguably, the building block of school success is good old fashioned literacy—the ability to read and write very well.

Today’s students will not only have to deal with the fallout of the “silver tsunami,” but as Augustine reminds us they will also have to compete globally in a flattening world. And do the majority of them even have a clue?

Just about every school system has a mission statement akin to this: The mission of XYZ School System is to prepare students to be productive citizens.

So, how’s that future-ready discussion going?


Bring Back those Books!

October 21, 2007

The Librarian’s Blues . . . I saw it first at Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog.


NCVPS Advisory Board Board Update

October 19, 2007

I want to bring you all up to date on several of the primary items we are following up on from our Board meeting last month.

The main tasks are:

  1. Better defining the relationship between VPS and LEAs, principals, students/parents etc. – the respective responsibilities.
  2. Better guidelines for grade and progress reporting as well as drop/add and withdrawal policies.
  3. Improve student orientation process; selection etc.
  4. Research SBE policies for aligning with VPS’s needs
  5. Improve communications  with local school contacts

Please let me know if there are other priority areas.

Many of these items will be addressed in a revised handbook for local distance learning advisors which we hope to have available early next month. If any of you would be available to review the draft of this prior to it going out we’d appreciate your input very much. Let me know.   We will use this as a basis for training local advisors in November and
January.

We are still planning on the spring registration opening up in mid November. We will be making a presentation to the State Board Oct. 31. I have made a couple presentations at RESA meetings and have had many good
suggestions on improvements. Mid semester grades are due to us at the end of October.

Jim Barber
Interim Director


Where the Big Ideas are Built

October 17, 2007

Arguably, everyone has a Personal Learning Environment. While at Central Services, much of my PLE was on-line. I could manage the feeds in my aggregator, read journals and books, and stay current with educational news. Some manifestations of my digital PLE are as follows:

I never found time or need to move beyond to tools like Twitter and Skype. As the backlog in my aggregator indicates, I can’t keep up with my current information overload.

Now that I am back in a school, my PLE has taken a decidedly human turn. I learn much from my fellow administrators, and I have endeared myself to the English department as it moves to innovate some new approaches, processes, even systems designed to improve student writing.

This group is looking like a Professional Learning Community. One of my goals is to keep the PLC connected as part of my PLE. The wiki is the perfect tool for this, and we are just getting it off the ground. I like capturing the fruits of our discussion in a wiki as part of my PLE.

Much more than that, though, I am energized by the F2F conversation we have as a department during lunch and after school. This small group meeting routinely to focus on a problem is where the big ideas are built. Stay tuned . . .


Have You Seen These Guys?

October 12, 2007

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The new computers are arriving in schools, and will continue to do so over the next three weeks. This is significant because it somewhat culminates an aggressive budget request process that began nearly a year ago with the submission of 06-07 School Technology Plans.

It also sets the bar for a creative and beneficial partnership with county government.

Tech support, school-based media and tech personnel, and some hired hands are busy unboxing, assembling, ghosting, and placing the much-anticipated new hardware assets. They are doing great work and are being as least disruptive to the educational day as possible.

Placement of new inventory requires substantial shifting about of existing inventory. And right much of our long-suffering antiquated technology is heading out to surplus.

So the projectors are in, half of the computers—including many laptops—are in the process of arriving, and the Request for Bids on printers has just been OK’d for release. To finish this entire deal, we will get some new printers in November and we will fine tune the order for the remaining 690 computers in December. Those computers will arrive sometime in February or March.

As an added benefit—the first wireless canopy has been installed at BCMS. The plan is to do nine more schools this year and the rest next year.

As I said of this deal in The Heavy Lifting and reiterate now:

The logistics are nothing short of complicated. Ordering, installing, mounting, moving electricity, and shuffling old inventory toward surplus will be crushing.

In short, once the procurement and implementation stages are complete, we will have to address how these 21st century tools are going to impact 21st century teaching and learning for 100% of our teachers and students.

And that’s when the heavy lifting begins.