Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best Of 2016 From The @DavidGeurin Blog

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you...for reading, connecting, and sharing with me this past year. It's inspiring to be in community with so many passionate educators who come together to learn and lift each other up. I am humbled when readers express how an article was inspiring or helpful. I know that I am always learning and growing as I reflect and share with you. Thank you for responding and sharing your thoughts and ideas with me also!

I am looking forward to the new year with great expectation. As one of three 2017 NASSP Digital Principals, I look forward to making new connections and learning from educators across the country. I will remain committed to advocating for relevant and meaningful learning for all. In spite of the challenges we face, educators are working tirelessly to invest in the lives of students. We will continue to do so regardless of political, social, or economic uncertainties.

Here are my top 10 most popular posts from the blog this past year. If you see one you missed, I hope you'll check it out. 

Five Critical #EdTech Conversations For Your School

Developing a shared vision for technology in your school should include lots of conversations. These conversations should occur among teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders. It's important to think through the pros and cons of technology use and how technology can play an valuable role in learning.

Does Your Professional Development Honor Teachers as Learners?

For the past couple of years, our school has worked to create a way of supporting professional learning that is more personally meaningful. We were inspired by the idea of So our message was clear. If it might make learning better for students, then pursue it.

9 Pieces of Advice Every Teacher Should Ignore

Every educator has received their share of advice from many well-meaning sources - other teachers, administrators, college professors, parents or even your students. You name it. You may have even received some of the advice on the list below. If so, you might want to ignore it.

7 Questions To Guide Decisions Of School Leaders

Our decisions can have a big impact on the school, learning, and ultimately our students. So it's very important to make the best decision possible. Of course, I often make decisions and then come to realize later that with different information or a different perspective, I might have acted differently in the situation.

7 Reasons To Use Social Media In Your School (INFOGRAPHIC)

One thing is for sure, social media is here to stay. Never before have people been able to connect, share, and learn from one another as we do now. I can only imagine what might be next! As a result, our students need skills to win at life in a digital world.

7 Ways Technology Can Transform Learning (INFOGRAPHIC)

In a previous post, I shared some thoughts on technology integration and how tech in the classroom is too often an add-on or extra and not part of an authentic learning experience. In fact, technology is so vital in today's world that it's on par with the school library.

Adaptable Learners Will Own the Future

When I was kid, my Grandpa Geurin bought me a pony. I know that sounds like the type of gift a spoiled rich kid might get. But we were definitely not rich. Grandpa owned a small farm in West Kentucky where he and my grandma worked tirelessly to make a living.

5 Challenges to Your Best School Year Ever

As the new school year is just around the corner, it's a great chance to commit to making learning more effective and meaningful in your classroom or school. Here are five challenges to make it the best year ever. 1. Greet Your Students at the Door Everyone can make it a point to greet students at the door each day.

Is It Time To Move Past Tech Integration?

What is your school's mindset surrounding technology use in the classroom? If you're like a lot of educators, you are probably working to integrate technology into instruction. You might even be discussing the merits of blended learning. But what does it mean to integrate technology? And what is blended learning?

9 Ways to Make Learning Irresistible

True story. The bell rang and nobody moved. How often are students counting down the minutes of each class? They have their eyes on the clock. They start But the underlying message was that learning is "work" and unpleasant and you need a break, so I'll give you some time later to visit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

7 Reasons 'Classroom Leadership' Is Better Than 'Classroom Management' {Infographic}

There are a number of visuals like the one above that illustrate some distinctions between a boss and a leader. I bet you can think of a specific person who characterizes the boss list. This type of person tends to make big impression. You can probably also think of someone who exhibits the leader qualities. You probably admire that person. Of course, these are illustrations intended for the workplace, not the classroom.

Clearly, they are relevant to school administrators, but I'm also thinking they can be applied to classroom leaders as well, aka teachers. In fact, they can apply to anyone charged with leading people and charged with getting something done.

Here's another. This one is similar but contrasting management vs. leadership.

Source: Verma and Wideman (1994)

Most everyone would agree leadership is a top priority in moving any group of people toward a desired outcome or goal. But in education we use the term classroom management frequently to refer to how teachers get things done in the classroom. Some educators actually reject the term. They would say you manage things (grading papers) and you lead people (students). 

But I'm not overly concerned about using the term classroom management as long as we can work from a shared understanding of the meaning. To me, it's all about the things we do to create a positive and productive learning culture in the classroom.

But that will never happen just by managing. If we rely on the lists in the left columns without having the necessary leadership qualities, we are doomed to failure. Sure, some students will still learn, but the overall classroom learning culture will not thrive. And there will be little passion or inspiration for learning.

But on the other hand, if we don't also establish some 'management' qualities to go with leadership, we may have great ideas and willing students but a lack of specific steps to achieve the goal.

Although several items from each column have value in context, I would always choose leaders over managers. Most everyone leans one way or another.

In fact, most every problem that persists in the classroom is at its root a leadership issue. That is not to blame the 'leader' but to say that if an ongoing problem is to be overcome it will usually happen by good leadership and not through better management.

Here are 7 Reasons 'Classroom Leadership' Is Better Than 'Classroom Management.'

1. Establishing a Vision for Learning

Leaders create a vision for learning. They communicate why the learning is important. Better yet, they help followers (students) unpack for themselves how and why the learning is important. When there is a clear vision, students will be empowered to move toward aims without having to be pushed there forcefully.

How are you clarifying a vision of learning for your students?

2. Building Strong Relationships 

Building positive relationships is essential to establishing a positive classroom learning culture. Leaders develop a 'we' feeling with students. Students feel safe, connected, like they belong. Every student feels like they are valued. The leader doesn't use fear as a motivator. Instead, they rely on relationship building to correct and guide.

How can you commit to building stronger relationships with your students?

3. Generating Enthusiasm

Leaders are inspiring and energizing. They have passion for what they are doing and it's contagious. They encourage others to come along on the learning journey. Managers don't think about the energy they bring. They rely more on structure and organization to be efficient. Efficiency is more important than passion to the manager. 

What are ways you show enthusiasm not only for your subject but also for your students?

4. Building Trust 

When trust is lost, it does incredible damage. A leader is careful to ensure students don't feel disrespected, overlooked, or misunderstood. When things go wrong, leaders help to shoulder blame. And when things go right, they are willing to share the credit. Leaders are quick to forgive. And work to repair a relationship that is hurting.

Will you protect the dignity of each child in your classroom?

5. Honest and Clear Communication

Even if you establish great, trusting relationships with students, you won't have a strong learning culture unless you are communicating effectively. Sometimes this includes delivering hard truth to students. Sometimes it means standing firm. Setting boundaries. Giving consequences. However, consequences are never as effective as communication for establishing a positive change.

Are you consistently communicating with students and clarifying the classroom norms and expectations?

6. Leading By Example

Managers don't feel the need to set an example. They view their role as making sure the kids are doing what they're supposed to, but don't look at their own actions. Leaders have high expectations for themselves. They start with the person in the mirror. They model the types of behaviors and mindsets they want to see in others.

How are you modeling the values you want to establish in your classroom?

7. Being Proactive vs. Reactive

Managers react. Leaders prevent. Managers focus on what just happened. Leaders focus on what will happen next. An effective leader anticipates the needs of followers and works to stay in front of problems. 

In what ways are being proactive in building a learning culture rather than being reactive when the culture goes off the tracks?

Question: What are your thoughts on building a learning culture in your classroom or school? What would you add to the thinking I've shared? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

5 Reasons to Look Beyond Test Scores as the Measure of School Success

Are you beating the state average? The teacher down the hall? The school down the road? How about the Fins or the Singaporeans? How do your scores measure up? Is your school keeping up with the Joneses?

Lately, I've seen lots of comparisons of achievement data. Including the PISA international benchmark results that were just released. Once again, U.S. scores were not stellar in comparison to some of the best test takers in the world.

While reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, I was challenged to think about how we define success. And where we spend our energy to develop world class schools. Godin illustrates how difficult it is to be the best by any statistical comparison.

❝Donald Bradman was an Australian cricket player. He was also the best athlete who ever lived. By any statistical measure, he was comparatively the best at what he did. He was far better at cricket than Michael Jordan was at basketball or Jack Nicklaus was at golf.
It's very difficult to be as good as Donald Bradman. In fact, it's impossible. Here's a chart of Bradman's batting average compared with the other all-time cricket leaders. 
Bradman's Test batting average was 99.94. In cricket, a player's batting average is the
total number of runs scored by the number of times they have been out.

Everyone else is quite grouped near sixty. Bradman was in a league of his own, not even close to the others. 
The challenge of becoming a linchpin solely based on your skill at plying a craft or doing a task or playing a sport is that the market can find other people with the skill with surprising ease. Plenty of people can play the flute as well as you can, clean a house as well as you can, program in Python as well as you can. If all you can do is the task and you're not in a league of your own at doing the task, you're not indispensable. 
Statistics are a dangerous deal, because statistics make it strikingly clear that you're only a little better than the other guy. Or perhaps not better at all.
When you start down the path of beating the competition based on something that can be easily measured, you're betting that with practice and determination, you can do better than Len Hutton or Jack Hobbs did at cricket. Not a little better, but Don Bradman better.
And you can't. 

And this demonstrates the problem with measuring school performance based on standardized tests. To clarify...

1. Someone is always statistically better. 

You cannot be the best just on your effort or the effort of the students in your classroom or school. You cannot measure up. Even your best will not be enough. There will always be a Don Bradman. So when we accept this measure as judge and jury of our effectiveness, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and inadequacy.

2. More achievement is not always better.

A recent article about the learning culture in Singapore shows just how unhealthy a culture of over-achievement can be. Even in our own schools, we should not celebrate unhealthy attitudes toward achievement. How many ulcers, headaches, and mental health issues are a result of students, and educators, who are placing too much emphasis on achievement results? Being an effective human being involves a healthy attitude toward achievement, not high achievement no matter what it takes.

3. What can be measured doesn't always count the most.

And what counts the most can't always be measured. There are so many things about being an effective learner, a well-educated person beyond test scores. In fact, there are many people in our communities who are incredibly successful and lifelong learners, but who did not excel as test takers. Their success is attributable to many intangibles that cannot be easily measured. As Godin points out, "The easier it is to quantify the less it's worth." The most valuable things are often hard to measure.

4. High test scores are not a vision for learning.

When raising test scores becomes a chief aim of a school or district, it can easily become the vision of the school. And raising test scores is not a vision for learning. This approach marginalizes the individual and their learning needs in favor of data objectives that may not even be meaningful to the individual. In a sense, it dehumanizes learning. A vision for learning should always focus on the individual learner and create a culture that helps each student reach his or her goals. 

5. A school's identity should not be contingent on achievement.

The identity of a school, or individual, should not be contingent on achievement. It should be comprised of the way the school seeks to fulfill its mission. We should seek to have a high level of commitment, collaboration, and care. We should strive to help our students achieve, but also to fully engage, to be more excited about learning, to gain hope, to learn more about who they are, and to fulfill their potential in the broadest sense. We control our identity, but we can't always control our scores. Any teacher knows this, but sometimes we do our best work with students who DO NOT demonstrate achievement on tests.

So what's the alternative to playing the test score game? Godin suggests using emotional labor to make yourself indispensable. I think this principle can be applied to schools, too. The idea is to focus energy on connecting, supporting, reaching out, lifting up, and offering hope better than anyone else. It is always teaching students first, then curriculum.

Even though many educators realize how important emotional labor is, it is rarely included in strategic plans, teacher evaluations, or educator standards. It is not considered a strategic advantage. In my review of my state's principal standards, the word data was found 15 times. By contrast, the word relationships was not to be found. The era of accountability has created an assembly line approach to schooling. It seems to almost eliminate the human element. 

But the truth is the human element is everything in education and in most every profession. Once you have achieved a measure of expertise in polishing your craft, you become a game-changer only through your interaction with each child. Your emotional labor is what makes you able to do your job unlike anyone else on the planet. And if your school collectively does it's emotional labor better than anyone else, it will indeed be world class. And I'm betting your test scores will improve as an added bonus.

Question: How do you view the role of emotional labor in your classroom and school? Is it a measure of success? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dear Defender of the Status Quo...

Dear Defender of the Status Quo,

The status quo does not need your help.

It is a powerful force on its own. It has inertia on its side. And fear. And control. 

You feel safer with what's familiar, but you're not. 

In the end, failure to change makes you antique, obsolescent, irrelevant, and eventually extinct.

You can see that the world is changing around you. Fast. Really fast. The evidence is everywhere. But what are you doing about it?

The status quo won't prepare students for the challenges they will face. 

Change is inevitable, and you are needed as a change-maker.

Is your teaching today much different from how you were taught? Are your lessons preparing students for yesterday or tomorrow? 

Desks are lined in straight rows. Students listen for instructions, complete assignments, take tests. How is the experience unique to the world today and not the world of 50 years ago?

You are more than a curriculum implementer. You are a positive change maker. You work with the most valuable resource in the worldchildren.

You matter.

A lot has been pushed on you I know. Your work has been devalued, disrespected, and run down.

Your work is more than a test score.

But it won't help to circle the wagons and just hang on to the old. 

It's tempting to become cynical. To resent the bureaucrats or pundits who want to change you from the outside. Who want to create a marketplace for a child's education.

Keep the focus on your students.

Keep an eye on tomorrow.

Don't let your school become a time capsule.

Be a champion for change. Don't wait for it to happen to you. Drive the change from your platform. You have a voice. 

You are a leader.

People want to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against. I want to know.

Share your story.


You can let the challenges cause you to clinch your fists and hang on to what you know, or you can reach for something new and be the one who creates a better tomorrow for public schools, and ultimately for kids.


If technology isn't your strength, that's okay. But how are you growing? How are you becoming a stronger digital learner?


You lead by example. Your example is your greatest opportunity for influence. Your students are watching.

Don't allow change to be something done to you. Be empowered.

Your work can't be replaced by a machine, but only if you connect and relate and stay relevant. You may be a kid's best chance. You can be a game-changer.

Spread hope.

Remember to always teach kids first, and then curriculum. Teach them how to think. How to work the problem. How to adapt to whatever they might face.

Create excitement around learning. Make it count for something besides a grade or a diploma or a test score.

The status quo is a taker. It takes your passion, your zest, your difference. It tries to make you like everyone else.

Stand out.

You are not an interchangeable part and neither are your students. Make your classroom more artwork and less assembly line.

And please, please don't be a defender of the status quo...

We've always done it this way just won't cut it anymore.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading this Fall #ICYMI

I can't believe it's Thanksgiving break! This fall has absolutely flown by. It's been an exciting few months, and I was thrilled to be named a 2017 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year, along with Darren Ellwein (@DEllwein) and Nicholas Indeglio (@DrIndeglio). I look forward to working with these awesome educators over the next year. It's an honor and privilege to promote the role of technology in learning with the ultimate goal of empowering learners!

Thank you for supporting my work on Twitter and here on my blog. I share my ideas on a variety of topics in hopes that my experience will be supportive and helpful to you. If you ideas for me and or any kind of feedback, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter or Facebook.

Here is a look back at a few of the most popular posts from the past couple of months.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Ultimate 80's Countdown for Educators

Since VH1 never produced this important countdown (surprising I know), I am stepping up to the plate. For some reason, teachers and schools are often overlooked in rock music. I guess there was Hot for Teacher and Smokin' in the Boys Room. But that's not exactly what I had in mind. I'm looking for songs that actually have some educational/inspirational value related to learning. And for this list, they have to be from the 80's.

I'll share my list and you can leave a comment to let me know what you would add. Enjoy!

10. Rock Me Amadeus by Falco (1985)

The movie Amadeus was a huge hit that sparked an interest in classical music and the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It's always great when pop culture leads to learning, even if the song is really weird. The Broadway show Hamilton is having a similar impact today. 

9. One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston (1988)

This Emmy Award winning song was the anthem of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. It's a song about reaching higher and striving to be the best you can be. It's really connected to the mission of educators, to help students see their potential and dream big dreams.

8. Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFarren 

If everyone in your school came to school every day with this attitude, what kind of place would it be? We need classrooms and schools filled with positive and supportive people.

7. Chariots of Fire by Vangelis (1981)

This instrumental theme from the movie by the same name was included on my list for a couple of reasons. It's an inspirational piece of music for sure, but it's also from a film that I find very compelling. It's a fact-based story of Olympians who find great meaning and purpose in their running. Educators should also run their race with this type of commitment and purpose. 

6. We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel (1989)

This song has been used in history classes over and again. In fact, there is a webpage that details the historical events listed in the song.

5. Highway to the Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins (1986)

You probably recognize this song from the hit movie Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise. For teachers, the danger zone might be the day after Halloween in an elementary school or after school parking lot duty in a high school. There are plenty of "dangerous" parts of the job.

4. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2 (1987)

This is one of my favorite songs. As an educator, you want to have success with every student and every lesson. But this is tough work and failure is inevitable. And there is always work to do. Until school works for every kid, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

3. Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson (1987)

The lyrics of this song are powerful. Great educators must concern themselves with social good. Be the change.

2. Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds (1985)

The Breakfast Club is one of the most iconic movies of the 80's. The themes are really important ones for educators to understand. The need to be understood, to feel a sense of belonging, etc. No one wants to be forgotten.

1. Don't Stop Believin' by Journey (1981)

Not a song about school. But it is a song about taking a chance, going places, and reaching for dreams. The best educators are dream builders and give hope to their students. Don't stop believin'!!! 

Question: What 80's tunes would you add to my list? How do they inspire you as an educator? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Adaptable Learners Will Own the Future

When I was kid, my Grandpa Geurin bought me a pony. I know that sounds like the type of gift a spoiled rich kid might get. But we were definitely not rich. Grandpa owned a small farm in West Kentucky where he and my grandma worked tirelessly to make a living. And just a few miles from the family farm was Kenlake State Park. They were auctioning off some surplus items, and the pony happened to be one of the items they were selling. 

We named the pony Snowball for obvious reasons (see pic below). But Snowball had some bad habits. The reason the state park had her to begin with was because she was part of the pony rides. Any time she had a saddle and a rider, she was conditioned to walk in circles. She knew how to do her job very well. Simply walk in a circle all day long. I guess you could say she was literally a "one trick pony." No doubt my grandpa got a great deal on this majestic steed!

Dad, little sister, and me with Snowball. We look thrilled don't we!
Snowball didn't respond well being led in a straight line, and she certainly wasn't used to having a rider take the reins. One time when I was in the saddle, a loud truck drove by and she was startled. As I remember it, she reared up and bucked me right off. In my imagination, I was certain I could hang on like the Lone Ranger. In reality, even this little pony was more than I could handle.

As I was reflecting on Snowball's limitations, I thought about how the world is changing for our students. In the past, it was possible to learn a skill or trade and remain in the same career for a lifetime. Those opportunities have mostly disappeared. Even more of these jobs will be gone in the coming years. It's not possible to be a "one-trick pony" anymore. Snowball was able to do one thing well, and that was all she needed to do.

Of students entering primary schools today, 65% will someday work in jobs that don't yet exist. That is staggering to contemplate. We can't even begin to imagine what they will need. To further explore this likelihood, you can even use this handy calculator to find out the chance your job could be automated in coming years.

In today's world, information is abundant and automation is accelerating. To possess a variety of skills that cross a multitude of disciplines is critical for success. Things are changing so quickly that it is impossible to keep up. And that is why, adaptable learners will own the future.

Author and thought leader A.J. Juliani created the visual below. It illustrates the idea that we cannot predict with certainty all of the skills our students will need. Preparing students for a test, or college, or even a trade isn't enough to be future ready.

Even though the job market has improved slightly for college grads in the last couple of years, 1 in 5 college graduates will find themselves unemployed or underemployed—working in low wage fields that don't require a degree.

That is why we must develop skills that are transferable to unknown situations. To quote Alvin Toffler, the ultimate 21st Century skill is the ability to "learn, unlearn, and relearn." It is a tremendous advantage to be creative, innovative, and adaptable. I listed 15 skills students need to be future ready in a previous post.

Question: How should educators be changing to help students develop the skills of adaptable learners? What can we do differently? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Technology PD with the Digital Decathlon

This themed activity would have been the perfect professional learning event to implement during the recent Olympic games. We actually did it just a couple of weeks ago with a group of our teachers. If you find it useful, you could use it now or wait until 2020 when the next summer Olympics will happen in Tokyo. 

The Digital Decathlon is a self-directed learning activity to help teachers sharpen their tech skills. We built this thing from scratch and think you could probably make it even better. Feel free to use what we've created or adapt it to fit your needs.

Several teachers in our building contributed to the final product. I will give them a personal "shout out" a little later in the post.

Here are the basic rules:
-Work in pairs or small groups to accomplish the tasks.
-Choose 10 'events' to complete the Decathlon. We had 15 challenges to choose from.
-Create a visual representation of each challenge to include in a Google Slides presentation. Since we pushed this out as an assignment on Google Classroom, every teacher automatically had a copy of the Slides presentation to work with.

We allowed a couple of hours to complete the activities, and we had a couple of our most tech savvy teachers on hand to provide support as it was needed. 

We felt this was a better way to learn than simply having someone do a step-by-step training on a particular topic. There are more choices in this approach, so it has the potential to meet more needs. And it relies on an inquiry-based approach. Learners have to point and click and figure some things out on their own. 

It's been my experience that people who learn tech most effectively are willing to take risks and just try different things to solve problems and figure out the tool. This activity encourages this type of learning.

If you decide to do something like this with your team, it's a good idea to spend some time on the front end explaining the process and maybe even modeling one of the tasks. At the end, have a time of sharing and reflecting on what was learned.

Thanks to Gina Green (@BHSBizDept), Ashley Clift (@MRS_CLIFT), Tania Driskill (@TaniaDriskill), and Ashley DeVore (@AshleyDeVoreFCS) for contributing to the tech challenges included in the Digital Decathlon. These teachers are some of our tech mavens at Bolivar High School.

Question: What ideas do you have for creating your own Digital Decathlon? How could this be even better? I want to hear from you. Share a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Five Critical #EdTech Conversations For Your School

Developing a shared vision for technology in your school should include lots of conversations. These conversations should occur among teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders. It's important to think through the pros and cons of technology use and how technology can play an valuable role in learning.

Sometimes I think people hold ideas about technology that only consider one side of the issue. Forward thinking educators and parents want to race ahead with technology implementation without considering some of the drawbacks.

On the other hand, status quo defenders quickly point out the drawbacks of technology use in the classroom without considering how important technology will be to student success in a rapidly changing world. 

To bridge the divide, we need to have more honest conversations and seek to understand the various issues. Whichever way we lean, we need to consider various perspectives and use good thinking to arrive at common ground.

Here are 5 conversations to have about education technology in your classroom or school.

1. Why is technology use important?

Even if you don't really like the prominent role of technology in our society, it is indisputable that more and more opportunities are tied to the effective use of technology for learning and productivity. In our modern world, digital technology is how stuff gets done. And clearly the internet is not going away. And mobile technology is not just a fad. 

So if we are going to truly prepare students for their future, we must include technology as an essential part of the learning process. Technology needs to be implemented in authentic ways that reflect the way it is used by people across a wide variety of professions. 

We should also invite students to use their imaginations to consider how technology might be used in the future. Opportunities for innovation abound. The ability to adapt and create might allow students to 'create' a job for themselves even when the traditional way of 'finding' a job might prove more difficult. All the rules are changing.

2. What are things technology won't do for your classroom or school?

Technology should not be viewed as something that will automatically result in better learning for students. In fact, technology can actually hurt learning if it is not implemented properly. It's important to start with a strong learning culture and a teacher who inspires and guides learning. Effective technology use requires effective leadership.

So let's talk openly about the limitations of technology. 
  • Adding technology won't make a poor lesson suddenly great.
  • It won't fix a learning culture that is sluggish or disengaged.
  • It won't necessarily result in higher standardized test scores.
  • Technology isn't appropriate for every learning task.
  • Technology can be a distraction. 
  • It can also bring new concerns for student wellness and safety.

3. How can we overcome challenges that come with technology use?

Too many educators focus on the drawbacks or challenges to technology use and never even consider how these obstacles can be overcome. There are significant challenges when using technology for learning. However, there are plenty of schools that are doing a great job of addressing and overcoming every one of the challenges. But it takes a concerted effort to address these concerns.
  • Educators must model safe and appropriate use of technology.
  • Schools must teach digital citizenship and activate students as digital leaders.
  • Schools must support professional learning for teachers on technology use.
  • Effective pedagogy must be prioritized over using technology for the sake of technology.
  • Schools must develop strong relationships with students, parents, etc. so that there is a cooperative effort to make technology work for learning. 
4. What are the most valuable ways we can use technology for learning?

Not all uses of technology are created equal. Some ways of using technology are more valuable than others. We need to use technology in ways that are high leverage for learning. 

When used effectively, technology can be powerful. In fact, it can transform learning. In an earlier post I listed 7 Ways Technology Transforms Learning. Most importantly, technology can empower learning. It can give learners greater voice, more opportunities, and provide the platform to create new knowledge in a very personal and customized way.

Some ways of using technology are not as effective for learning. They don't result in greater student agency, deeper thinking, or more opportunities to connect with others.
  • Drill and kill on a device is still low leverage.
  • Activities that are simply "busy work" are still mindless even on a device.
  • Test prep programs are not my idea of authentic technology use.
  • Worksheets are not more engaging just because they are pushed out on a device.
Effective learning with technology should involve students in making decisions about their learning. There should be opportunities for students to make learning choices about time, place, path, or pace. 

5. How are you growing in your use of technology as an educator?

One of the most important parts of successful use of technology in schools is that educators are growing in their use of technology, too. It's critical for leaders to model learning with digital tools. In fact, anyone who wants to be a leader needs to be a digital leader, too. It's not something reserved for the technology department or techie teachers only. Everyone needs to model learning in this area.

I think some teachers still think technology is reserved for students who are going into IT or some other computer related field. But that's just not the case. Nearly every profession will be impacted by technology advances. Moreover, every person needs skills for how to use technology for learning and creating. It's not about knowing specific tech tools. It's about knowing how to be an effective learner in a modern digital world. Using the tools just flows from the needs of being a learner.

Everyone is at a different place on their personal learning journey. Educators should understand and embrace this. Not every teacher has to be at a certain level. But the point is to continuously grow. Keep learning and taking risks with technology. Always.

Question: How are these technology conversations going for you? What other conversations should educators be having related to technology? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Are You Showing Up Well For Your Students?

I wrote a post recently with ideas for creating school environments that are supportive and help students "show up well" and ready to learn. A positive school and classroom culture can help overcome some of the negatives in a student's life that may be impacting their emotional and educational well-being.

In the post, I also mentioned that adults who work in schools must also work at "showing up well." We have to take care of ourselves and each other to have the type of supportive environment that we all need.

Teaching is stressful. In fact, teaching seems to be among the most stressful professions in America. A 2014 Gallup Poll found that nearly half of all teachers reported high levels of stress from the previous day. It was the most stressful profession in the study, slightly ahead of doctors and nurses in terms of reported stress.
Stress takes a significant toll on the individual, but it certainly impacts our effectiveness as educators, too. If teachers are feeling high levels of stress or are otherwise emotionally drained, it is not possible to show up well and meet the needs of students.

So why are teachers feeling so stressed? There are a variety of factors. Heavy workloads, challenging student behaviors, lack of autonomy and voice, and high stakes assessments might be a few reasons. Some of the factors are completely out of the control of educators. And some of the factors are just inherent in working with kids. It's awesome to work with kids, but stressful at the same time.

There is an important truth in this quote from Salome Thomas-El. We can't always control the weight of our load. We have to look for ways to find the strength we need to show up well and be our very best. Our #KidsDeserveIt!!!

If you are struggling to show up well in your classroom, it can result in anger, resentment, frustration, depression, and other hurtful emotions. Actually, these emotions will probably show up from your students, too. As educators, what we model is typically what we get. 

Here are some ideas on resilience for teachers and taking care of your own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I'm not great at all of these, that's for sure. But I recognize their importance and how they help me to be my best when I do have success in these areas.

1. Focus on your purpose and the meaning in your work.

A recent Edutopia article explained how stress in itself is not necessarily bad. Stress tends to be negative when it doesn't seem like it is meaningful. I'm reminded of the pain mothers endure in child birth, and yet it is worth it (so I am told) because of the miraculous value of bringing a child into the world and being a mother. In fact, moms often willingly do it all over again. The deep meaning of the experience must make it worth the pain.

2. Recognize you are making a difference.

This letter posted by Danny Steele on his blog really captures the commitment and dedication of teachers. You are making a difference. 

3. Build a support system at work.

We need people at work who believe in us and who inspire us. Surround yourself with people who energize you. Stay away from energy vampires, who might suck the life out of your day.

4. Develop a support system away from work.

Beyond work, we also need healthy relationships that strengthen us. It's tough to do life alone, and we all need to rely on others. If you are struggling to find your support system, try to be that person for someone else. Giving to others is a great way to find people who can also lift you up.

5. Learn to say no.

Focus on the things that are most essential to your mission and purpose. Being busy isn't a happiness killer in itself. But when you are too busy doing things that you aren't even passionate about, that's a sure recipe for burnout.

6. Make spiritual wellness a top priority.

My spiritual life is important to me. I need to nurture my relationship with God and rely on him for guidance if I'm going to show up well and be my best for my students. 

7. Relieve stress by exercising.

When I feel stress or anxiety building throughout the week, a long run does wonders to help me relax. There are so many bad habits we can turn to as a stress reliever. But exercise is good for you and helps ease the stress.

8. Eat well.

I really struggle to eat well. I love fast food, pizza, and ice cream. But when I am eating too much of the wrong stuff, I can tell it impacts my ability to be my best overall.

9. Set boundaries.

Healthy people don't let others run over them. They set boundaries and they communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. A lack of boundaries will eventually lead to simmering resentment or angry outbursts. Ask for what you want. But also listen to others and respect their boundaries. 

10. Practice being grateful.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful things you can do for your emotional health. Be honest with yourself about your struggles, but also be always grateful. There are blessings in each day and even our difficult circumstances have the power to make us better if we choose to grow.

11. Forgive yourself and others.

Let go of things that are in the past. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. As educators, we have to be willing to forgive. Bitterness is a heavy burden to carry.

12. Remain always hopeful.

If you're like me, you don't want anything to feel like it's out of your control. You desire a sense of security and predictability. But life doesn't work that way, and the only way to have peace is to give up on worry and live in the present moment. Our worries tend to live in the past or in the future. Hope is believing good things are possible and headed our way. In the mean time, we must live in the current moment.

13. Have fun!!! Enjoy the journey.

Last Friday, I had a lip sync battle at lunch with one of our other teachers. It was for a good cause. We were raising money for Care to Learn, a charity that helps students in need. But it also helps me to not take myself too seriously. I like to joke around and make laughter a part of each day.

14. Keep learning and growing.

Whatever problem you may be facing, you have the power to do something if you are willing to learn and keep growing. I don't feel as stressed when I feel like I can learn from my difficulties. I view challenges as opportunities for growth, instead of stress inducing burdens.

15. Take risks.

One of the biggest regrets people have is playing it too safe. If you really want to get the most out of life you have to be bold and take risks. 

Question: How are you working to "show up well" for your students? How are you managing stress as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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