Category Archives: Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

My Storify for Summit 6: Vulnerable Readers

Check out my Storify for Summit 6: Vulnerable Readers!

This was an excellent conference with many great experts on literacy instruction:

Dr. Richard Allington

Dr. Janet Mort



Pat Johnson: @PatJ222




5 Reasons to Use Hashtags to Gather Data

Hashtag by Kejava

Flickr: by Kejava

Schools have goals/education plans/strategic plans, etc. that must be reported in some way, shape or form. The results are often created in a powerpoint showing evidence using a variety of data such as achievement test data and survey data. Then, the following year, the powerpoint gets recycled to reflect new data. Some of this data is often collected once a year and has a “drive by” kind of feel to it. The  showcase of the results can also feel like “one more thing” to do instead of being on-going and meaningful reflection for staff and administrators . Does the “drive by” data and powerpoint truly capture the entire picture of what is happening in your school? Does it show direct real time evidence of students learning, their work, their portfolios, their conversations and insights about their learning? Does this type of data assist in reflection that could inform the journey along the way in order to celebrate success and adjust for gaps? This year we are going to try something a little different and attempt to use on-going data via Twitter & class blogs for reflection throughout the year.

Now that our teachers and students are documenting their learning via blogs and social media, I introduced the idea of using hashtags, tags/categories to share evidence of what is happening at our school.  Throughout the next few years, our district would like us to show consistent evidence of a deep understanding of the 12 Excellent Learning Environment components that our district has developed. In order to document our school’s ELE journey, we chose the following hashtags and blog tags/categories: #iele1, #iele2, #iele12, etc.

In the past, I have started hashtags to promote sharing in our school and district. These hashtags have documented learning and highlighted great ideas for teaching learning.  So why not leverage the power of hashtags in social media and, tags and categories in blogs to show teaching and learning in more detail for evidence of our education plan goals?

By leveraging the digital tools that we already use, it will allow us to:

1. Share the Communication Responsibility: Throughout the entire year the evidence of our goals will be consistently shared with stakeholders from stakeholders. Due to the nature of the social media and blogging platforms, the responsibility of communicating the evidence will come from students, staff, administration & parents.

2. Deepen Understanding: As we use the hashtags in social media and, tags and categories in blogs, we are continuously reflecting upon teaching practices and internalizing what components create excellent learning environments.  This helps us to be “consciously skilled”.

3. On-going Reflection of the Journey: Are we fulfilling the mission and vision of our school? Instead of solely using “drive by” data in a one time powerpoint at the end of the year to answer this question, now we can consistent reflect on the data.  At anytime throughout the year, a search can be done for any ELE in order to track, reflect and adjust to successfully reach our goals.

4. Build Understanding with All Stakeholders: Parents have more opportunities to see student learning in action through our website, class blogs and social media. The hashtags, tags and categories help make that connection to our school goals more tangible.

5. Celebrate: During Professional Development days throughout the year, we can continuously celebrate our successes along the way. We need to take the time to celebrate what is right more often!

How can your district or school leadership leverage hashtags and/or blog tags to gather relevant data in your context?

Why 7Habits?

Recently, I had another school approach me about the 7Habits initiative we have implemented at our school.  Some of the questions asked were “Why 7Habits?” and  “What makes it different from other character education programs?” My response involved going back to what my initial thoughts were when I first stumbled upon The Leader in Me book in Chapters one Saturday afternoon. After reading this book at that time, I knew it was different from programs that were known to me for the following reasons:

1. It Personally Develops All Stakeholders

The training process has a high level of personal reflection.  It’s not a “program” that train staff how to teach the 7Habits.  It’s a process that staff go through to reflect how they are living and can live by these timeless principles to improve relationships and productivity in their personal lives.  It also gives staff tools to deal with difficult situations personally and professionally, and above all, it helps people deal with change.  The biggest challenge that I have as an administrator is helping staff (and myself!) deal with change.  Everyone hates change because it’s uncomfortable. I have read many books about change (thank you Michael Fullan et al.) but it is very difficult to follow through as a whole group.  As a leader, it’s finding a balance between moving the organization forward and not overwhelming people. At that time, I believed that the 7Habits would help people in all areas of their life…not just professionally. The education profession can be very demanding on personal time.  This was one way to “give back” personally and, ultimately, when people are personally happy then it pays back tenfold professionally.  The staff are living the 7Habits and that in turn has made the learning more real and deep for the students and their families. It’s very powerful because staff have ownership


2. It’s Sustainable

Another key feature is that it’s effectively sustainable due to the official and extensive training.  When administrators are trained as trainers then:

  • Whole staff can be officially trained in-house

  • On-going training can happen at every staff meeting to keep it in the forefront

  • New staff can be trained as they are hired

  • Parents and community members can also be trained to develop community  buy-in

Three years later, I’m reflecting upon this decision and I’m happy to report that it has made a difference!  How do I know?

  • Staff are walking the talk

  • Students are internalizing the habits and teaching it to their families

  • Parents report how their children are referring to the habits at home

  • Kids have the skills to lead conflict resolution on their own

  • School council request training

  • Staff have committed to high expectations aligned with our mission/vision and have made huge gains

  • We continue to to connect it to everything we do (i.e. digital citizenship)

It’s still going strong!  As a leader, I hope that it continues well after our team leaves.  That will be the ultimate indicator.

Reflections on Pedagogy, Technology and Change

“When you are engaged with others doing something meaningful, you can accomplish wonders.” (pp. 70). This quote is from a book by Michael Fullan called Stratosphere. From my perspective, this describes our journey at our school.

Our staff often celebrate and reflect what we have accomplished through collaboration. Our lead team (admin, special education facilitator/coach, & instructional/tech coach) also get together to reflect. The number one celebration theme for the past few years continues to be common language amongst staff, students and parents.  It started with the 7Habits language, then it gained momentum with the comprehension/thinking strategies and the gradual release pedagogy and now it’s carrying on with the DAILY 5 structure as well as purposeful technology integration including class blogs, student blogs and BYOD in  K-4 environment. Here is some of our baseline data for pedagogical change throughout the last few years:

  • All staff read The Leader in Me by Stephen R. Covey and were trained in the 7Habits
  • Some school council members read Leader in Me

  • All staff collaborated on developing mission/vision

  • School council educated in 7Habits & digital citizenship

  • All staff read Reading for Meaning by Debbie Miller and some read Strategies that Work by S. Harvey & A. Goudvis to extend their learning

  • All staff in-serviced in and instructing comprehension/thinking strategies from the books indicated above with common language

  • All staff teaching using gradual release of responsibility model to set up instruction for small groups and individuals

  • All staff assessing literacy using the Fountas & Pinnell system

  • All staff educated in and implement our 7Habits of Digital Citizenship

  • All staff have class blogs and some also have student blogs

  • Grade 1-4 classes implement BYOD

  • ¾ staff have been in-serviced in Daily 5 by “The Sisters”

  • All staff moving towards flexible classroom space/environment

  • School has been leveraging social media to:

    • develop professional growth

    • connect classrooms globally

    • engage parents and community

As I finished reading Stratosphere, I realized even more so what an incredible journey- pedagogically & technologically- we are traveling. Fullan states that “Pedagogy, technology, and change knowledge operating in concert will become a powerhouse of learning.” (pp.71).  I believe we are beginning to experience this due to our commitment to common language and framework:

1. Pedagogical change by implementing comprehension/thinking strategies within a gradual release of a responsibility model and flexible classroom environment model.

2. Technology integration by having the opportunity to facilitate our U21C project: Pedagogy First that provided time and support for teachers to collaborate.

3. Change knowledge by purposefully planning, innovating and building capacity: “…leadership and teaching is proactive in the sense of helping other people create a world they didn’t know they wanted.” (pp. 68).

It’s very exciting work!