Am I an Educational Leader?


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If you are in the field of education you must ask yourself the question:

Am I an educational leader?

It’s an essential question for any educator today because our traditional view of leadership has changed for the better. Over Nomine Badgesthe years leadership in education was defined by title. A person in education would go from teacher to supervisor, vice principal, principal, etc. and through the title changes be considered a leader in a subject, building and/or district. For better or worse your leadership was not defined by your actions but by a specific job responsibility.

Today, that definition of educational leader is changing. First, let’s be clear that being deemed a leader does not need to come with a specific title, and even with the title an educator may not be a leader.  Leadership in education is now being defined by actions and engagement. An educational leader today is one who, regardless of title, exhibits the following ten traits:

-          Willingness to learn new things

-          Committed to providing an excellent learning environment for those you are responsible for in your classroom, school or district

-          Looks to motivate those you have immediate contact with and those outside your traditional circle of influence

-          Continually self-evaluates your own place in the educational structure and adapts for the betterment of education

-          Keeps a focus on what’s most important; students and their learning

-          Continually engages in professional development to improve your own knowledge and skills

-          Develops and expands a professional learning network through connections and collaboration in social media

-          Works to develop other educational leaders in the classroom, school office and central office

-          Helps developing and new educators find their way so that they too can one day lead

-          Gives back to the profession

Education needs leaders that do not meet the traditional definition of leadership so that our schools and districts can progress to meet the demands of a rapidly changing society. I challenge every educator who works in our schools to look at the above traits and work to be a leader who moves our educational system forward, regardless of your title. If you do so, you will be able to answer YES to the question!

Our Future Will Not Look Like Our Present


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 “The arrogance of success is to think that what we did yesterday is good enough for tomorrow.” ― William Pollard

Education is in a transition. We hear about it, read about it, and most of us live it daily. The transition is going in many different directions. They include Common Core, on-line assessment, big data analysis, new evaluation systems for teachers Old v New Learningand administrators, and technology infusion, just to name a few.

With all of this change many would ask how broke is our educational system? The answer to this question involves too many variables and is too complex to answer in a blog post. I would also offer that I am not a statistical expert in the field, nor do I have access to the data to offer a quantitative analysis and answer to the question.

However, what I can say is that we are in an educational transition that requires change. The above quote by William Pollard, from the 1800’s, clearly articulates my feelings about our current state of education. We have experienced some successes in our educational system but we need to look ahead. We can no longer use the same techniques, ideas, and foundational structures to educate our students for the future.

Our future will not look like our present!

In order to address an unknown future we need to think about the skills students need to learn now that will carry them into the future, no matter what that future looks like. As educators our students deserve to be introduced to, learn about, and master these skills before leaving high school:

  1. Reading and Writing – These will never become obsolete skills. But beyond basic reading and comprehension skills students need to be technical readers. They need to learn how to comprehend complex text and be able to write it too.
  2. Technology Integration – Our world is driven by technology. Everywhere you look there is a piece of technology running something in our lives. Students need to know how to properly integrate technology and the devices that run it so that they can be more productive and efficient. I do not fully support the view that just because students were born into this era they know how to properly use technology. Within this integration students and adults need to learn to be Digital Citizens. Notice I didn’t say “good”. The expectation is that we use it positively for everyone’s benefit.
  3. Coding – I have seen graphs, charts and data that indicate the need for this skill in the work force far exceeds the number of people who can provide the skill. For those that have the skill the supply to demand ratio makes them the most wanted. Beyond that the skill of coding is a problem solving experience that all of our students need. It also involves math skills, which are as essential as reading and writing (therefore, I’ll not list math separately since it is included here). Giving students the ability to code will also teach the items listed in #2.
  4. Collaboration – Being able to collaborate with people is essential. Technology allows us to collaborate with people we have never met before or may never see again. The ability to work together and produce a product, take an idea to the next level or share ideas needs to be a part of daily learning for students. This is how social media has become so popular and the way many companies now do business. Let’s teach our students that collaboration goes beyond classroom projects and has real world applications that will help them be better citizens.
  5. Problem Solving – What are lessons in education and the events of the world we live in? They are a series of problems requiring solutions. Our students need the skills and cognitive abilities to solve problems. Simple problems become complex and complex problems become crisis. Giving our students experiences throughout their educational careers to develop this skill improves our society.
  6. Self-Reflection – A lost skill for many, self-reflection helps students look at who they are, and how their actions affect others. If we expect students to be collaborators and problem solvers then they need to be self-reflective. It’s essential that we look at how we interact with others, how others respond to us and how our actions either assist or hinder others.

Moving forward our educational system needs to change. We can not imagine the world in which our students will live and work. Therefore, we need to provide them the skills that will allow them to adapt to their environment. Just because how we taught yesterday worked doesn’t mean we can teach that way for tomorrow’s world.

What are your thoughts? Make a comment on the above six skills or other skills you feel are essential for our students.

Allowing Evaluations to Bring Us Back


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Guest Blog Post

By: Christine Smith

Well over a decade ago, I stood in the hallway and felt my heart palpitate as a

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

rush of children turned the corner and headed straight toward me. Nothing was stopping them. Yes, I had completed all of my educational course work, survived student teaching, and passed my certification exams. But they were coming right for me. I, alone, was their teacher. In a matter of seconds, I would be entrusted with the responsibility for their entire well-being. I was to protect them, know everything about them, push their limits, and celebrate their achievements based on my best laid plans coupled with split-second decisions. I survived that day and I loved every second of the 180 days dedicated to those children. I stayed at school long enough to wrap up each day and prepare for the next, I reached out to colleagues and leaders who knew more than me when I wasn’t sure, and I enjoyed letting my leaders give me feedback so that I could invite them back in to see that I had put their recommendations to good use. I bonded with families, was honest and learned from my mistakes, and vowed to be even better next time.

I also had the pleasure of initiating my career with several others in the district that year. We naturally and frequently met.  We bantered about creative ideas, consolidated differentiated materials, and asked for more training or information from our leaders as needed.  We celebrated one another’s successes and shamelessly reflected upon our failures.  We talked about what we could do to help each and every one of our students.  So much so, that we could recognize students who weren’t even in our own classrooms.  As we collaborated with one another, a supportive bond was formed and we knew that our level of professionalism and dedication would protect our valued careers far more than any tenure laws could promise to do.

Today, as an administrator, I join my staff on an unprecedented journey into the world of evaluation systems meant to quantify our effectiveness which we all know is enveloped in our dedication, passion, and knowledge.  Now is our time to harken back to their first days of working with children as a novice teacher. Remember how you wanted to do well and feel proud? You wanted to see each child grow and witness success. You were tireless, eager to show off your skill set, and willing to receive feedback with certainty that you would do it more effectively next time.  We all know that, at our core, none of this has changed. I invite all educators to awaken your core.  Let your passion for bringing your best skill set to every child to carry you through the spotlight with pride. Recognize that the journey through our new evaluation system is not a judgment, but an opportunity to be drawn back to the passion for embracing each day with your students, enjoying the collaboration with colleagues, and consistently growing as a professional.

Christine Smith is a vice principal in a suburban New Jersey public school and previously taught elementary school. You can find Christine on Twitter at @CsmithChristine. 

Digital Momentum – Part 3 of 3:


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On October 26, 2013 I had the honor of giving the keynote for the 26th Annual New Jersey Association for Educational Technology (NJAET) Conference. The conference theme was Digital Momentum and my message revolved around the evolution of our schools and how connected educators are building digital momentum.  What follows is the third, and final post, in a series about my message based on my notes, my presentation and my beliefs as a connected educator. You can read the first post here and the second post here.

As digital educators we are responsible for assuring that the building of educational momentum addresses student learning and instruction. When it does, our students benefit educationally. But something equally as exciting is developing with the building of digital momentum that relates to our own learning as educators.

It’s autonomous professional development. digital momentum pic

Autonomous professional development is learning based on our interests and for our individual needs as educators. Not the learning established for a large group, or a one size fits all model that has been the established way of providing educators with professional development for decades. Autonomous professional development is learner focused, learner centered. And that learner is YOU and me!

Some of us do it daily. Some of you are doing it now. If you are a connected educator you find the value in it through Twitter, Google Hangouts, blogs and Skype. Daniel Pink’s book Drive talks about what motivates us and he discusses the power of autonomy. Here’s a clip (from around 5 minute mark to the 6:40 mark is the discussion on autonomy)

Think about what Daniel Pink says about autonomy.

How does that idea work for you as an educator?

What would you do with a professional development day in which you had autonomy?

Could you learn, given a choice about what you wanted to learn about, something that would benefit your students or you?

I believe you and every other educator out there could create an amazing learning opportunity given the chance to have an autonomous professional development opportunity. There is no doubt in my mind that connected educators would continue the process of building digital momentum. This has great value in the educational world as these digital resources are growing by the minute. The problem arises in the fact that there are so many resources now available that many educators do not know where to begin.

This is why our colleagues, the textbook and device educators (see the previous two posts that reference these educators), struggle to move into our realm as digital educators. It’s the confusion caused  by the complex world of apps and collaboration. It’s the environment of hashtags, @ symbols and 140 character conversations that don’t make sense to the non-connected educator. It’s the attempt to understand how an educator in New Jersey and an educator in California, and an educator in Australia can collaborate on a project that actually has value for each of them as educators and for each of their students.

How do we do this is not the question. It’s how do you find the resources and the people? How do you engage in using the resources and in collaborating with the people?

We, the connected educators who are building digital momentum, need to de-mystify this digital momentum for our colleagues. It’s not that complex. It’s not that confusing. But just like anything new, there’s hesitation.

Education resisted the use of devices, now we have BYOD and 1 to 1 initiatives. Education has yet to fully embrace the digital momentum but Resistance is futile!

Just as the Global Technology Change ushered in the use of devices in schools, digital momentum is ushering in a change in the way learning occurs and here’s where we can start helping our colleagues:

For organizing a meeting: Use Doodle

For gathering information form students, parents, colleagues or stakeholders use Google Forms

To provide a resource without the long link use: QR Codes

To collaborate use: Google Hangout or Skype

To demonstrate the value of Twitter for those not ready for Twitter use: Today’s Meet

To develop a community of learners who share various resources use: Google Community

To promote, inform, create interest in a fun and creative way use: SMORE

Yet as the connected educators continue to use digital resources, regardless of the device in hand, we need to be careful of our automation because we can become too automated and too reliant on the technology. And as a result we might find ourselves in this situation:

The message I want you to walk away with is that this digital momentum we are creating is real. The work we are doing as connected educators has value. But we have a responsibility to our colleagues who have yet to find the value to model and demonstrate how it will improve teaching and learning.

Our classrooms are without walls, our instruction without time constraint, and our teaching resources span the globe.

Your efforts are building digital momentum.

Your efforts are improving education.

Your efforts will help us to continue the educational evolution.

Be the role models and the example.

Be great educators.

Be digital momentum builders

Be connected educators.

Thank you!

Digital Momentum & The “A” Word – Part 2:


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On October 26, 2013 I had the honor of giving the keynote for the 26th Annual New Jersey Association for Educational Technology (NJAET) Conference. The conference theme was Digital Momentum and my message revolved around the evolution of our schools and how connected educators are building digital momentum.  What follows is the second in a series of posts about my message based on my notes, my presentation and my beliefs as a connected educator. You can read the first post here.

Momentum has been building in education from the time the first device entered the school but that momentum has accelerated with the advent of the digital educator. You, the digital educator, are transforming education right in front of everyone’s eyes. You are engaging students in learning that is neither bound by location or time. You are creating an environment that allows learning to happen at any time, anywhere, in any place. Sir Ken Robinson understands how powerful this can be and has discussed it extensively.

This learning environment has a name. It’s an A-Word… I don’t want to offend anyone so I’m going to say it softly. Digital educators are creating ASYNCHRONOUS learning for our students. Yes, I said it, Asynchronous learning. The student centered, anytime, anywhere learning environment for our students. It’s not a dirty word. It’s momentum building in education.

Just think of what you are doing now with digital resources. How you are engaging your students in learning that is not textbook or device bound. You are collaborating with fellow digital educators to create professional development opportunities. You are not limited to the resources in a book, in a room or in our memory. You can use the resources available globally.

But I caution us all that this digital momentum has created a frenzy and so digital educators needs to find a focus. That focus must be on two fronts:digital momentum pic

  1. Learning: As digital educators we must agree that the momentum that we are creating will be used to improve learning for our students. There is no purpose in engaging in digital resources if learning doesn’t improve.
  2. Instruction: As digital educators the momentum we are building in education must improve instruction.

As digital educators we are responsible for assuring that the building of educational momentum meets these two areas. When they do something equally as exciting has developed due to the digital momentum movement and it’s related to our own learning as educators.

It’s another A-Word… and I’ll discuss it in my third post!

Digital Momentum – Part 1:


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On October 26, 2013 I had the honor of giving the keynote for the 26th Annual New Jersey Association for Educational Technology (NJAET) Conference. The conference theme was Digital Momentum and my message revolved around the evolution of our schools and how connected educators are building digital momentum.  What follows is the first in a series of posts about my message based on my notes, my presentation and my beliefs as a connected educator.

Welcome to the future of Education. Today, I will talk to you about this year’s conference theme: Digital Momentum. It’s the perfect theme for where we are as educators, and what education can and should be for our students.  As I discuss our theme I need to do so through a story of how it was, how it is and how it will eventually be for us as educators and our students.

The story is about three types of educators who are examples of our evolution in education which is happening right before our eyes. They are:

The textbook educator;  Image

The device educator;  and

The digital educator

The textbook educator found a focus on information within the pages of a book. Textbook educators loved the book, the paper, and how it felt to have a book in your hand, but the information was outdated before it went to print. The textbook educator used tools like chalk and blackboards to engage those in the learning environment. The textbook learner used notebooks, pens and pencils. Learning was lecture, take notes, take a test, grade in red pen, and repeat the cycle. For the textbook educator this felt right for a very long time because that’s the way we were taught and that’s the way we were trained to teach so that’s the way we taught. We continued the cycle. If we were all born 50 years earlier then this would not be an issue. The status quo was comfortable for educators and learners for a very long time.

But then came the era of the device educator. This was a huge shift because the way we did things, as humans, was about to change. The way we communicate, view things, process things, pay for things and get information was changing before our eyes. That change was a Global Technology Change! When did this begin? For some of you, you will remember it from an iconic commercial in 1984 by Macintosh.

Global Technology Change forced a very traditional institution with a century of consistency to change. It made us put our chalk down. It made us put our pencils down. It made us think twice about using paper. We didn’t look for Global Technology Change. It came looking for us.

At first we ignored it by saying, “Don’t worry… this can’t last!” and “Computers will never be part of the classroom!” Schools fought it for a few years. But society moved the change forward until education realized life as we knew it for the last century was now changing. And so change would have to occur in schools too.

When the devices first started to show up in schools they were used as a rewards, something special and they were something that was an add-on to the learning environment. We didn’t know any better. But as we began to learn about these devices, and the devices began to increase in our schools, the device educator was born. First came the desktop, then the laptop, now the tablet and iPad. The device educator found value in each.

But in the background there was the development of software and digital content that was about to usher in the next evolution of educator who wasn’t bound by textbook or device. In reality, as more devices entered the school some educators realized that the device no longer mattered. And so the digital educator was born. This educator is also known as the connected educator. This educator is you.

Momentum has been building in education from the time the first device entered the school but that momentum has accelerated with the advent of the digital educator. You are transforming education right in front of everyone’s eyes. You are engaging students in learning that is neither bound by location or time. You are creating an environment that allows learning to happen at any time, anywhere, in any place. Sir Ken Robinson understands how powerful this can be and has discussed it extensively.

This learning environment has a name. It’s an A-Word… and I’ll discuss it in the second post in this series!

Six Important Traits of a Leader


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A guest post by Jim Cordery.

The past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to add several administrative tasks to my regular teaching assignment. These added tasks have ranged from completing our district’s No Child Left Behind grant and writing our Professional leadership-quotes-225x300Development Plan to Leading our Teacher Evaluation Committee and Leading Professional Development on the following items: AchieveNJ, SGOs, SGPs and PARRC. This additional work has provided me with a lot of great opportunities to learn about the administrative side of schools. I am confident that this work will give me a solid foundation when the opportunity arises to be the Lead Learner of my own school.

In addition to these opportunities, I have learned a lot from the following authors: Todd Whitaker, Thomas Guskey, Robert Marzano and Will Richardson. Through my readings and experiences, I have noticed six common behaviors/characteristics of an effective leader. I am taking a different approach in this post, because I am going to attempt to show how these characteristics changed me professionally.

Lead Learner: Without a doubt, this is an important skill for a school’s leader. This person must always be looking for new trends in education to share with his or her staff. He or she must model the behavior to be followed by the staff and students. My journey started with setting up a Personal Learning Network. I have created a Twitter account that has connected me with a lot of very intelligent and innovative people. I have started sharing these connections with my colleagues, hoping to share the impact this social medium has had on my learning.

Enthusiastic: This is a trait that ebbs and flows during the year. But, as the leader, it is important that this is modeled everyday. Enthusiasm is highly contagious. Your staff will look to you for the pick-me-up they need during those down times of the year. A leader that senses this and can do it effectively will keep the morale high all year long. Personally, this trait was critical when I started guiding my colleagues through several changes over the past couple of years: a new teacher evaluation model, Student Growth Objectives, Student Growth Percentiles and PAARC. I intentionally developed training sessions that were different (but informative) to keep a positive environment. I knew these changes were going to be tough, but I presented it in a way that was upbeat and positive.

Active Listener: We are all busy. We are constantly trying to juggle several things at one time. But, I have learned the hard way that not actively listening to a colleague creates more problems in the end. I have really tried to stop whatever I am doing and listen to whomever comes into my room to speak to me. Do not get me wrong, I still need a lot of work in this area, but I am working hard at improving. Not only does a Leader need to hear what is said, but he or she needs to hear what is not being said. An effective leader needs to be highly skilled at “hearing” things even when no one is speaking. The ability to read body language and facial expressions allows a leader to take stock of how the atmosphere in the builind is, and handle things accordingly.

Dedicated: As mentioned above, we are all busy. In addition, there are endless state mandates and programs that need implementation. Let us not forget about handling phone calls, meetings, emails and discipline problems. Nonetheless, an effective Leader must be dedicated to their vision for the school. Are we on the right track? Are we still providing our students with a rigorous and challenging curriculum? Are we offering this in a safe and friendly environment? State mandates and programs are important, but an effective Leader finds a way to blend these changes into the current school climate. Personally, I worked very hard this year finding creative ways of blending all of the changes facing my colleagues into small, bite sized sessions. I found this was the best way to keep them focused througout the meeting.

Empathetic: Education is always moving a hundred miles an hour. Our days are stuffed from beginning to end. That is why sometimes an effective Leader has to know when to take his or her foot off of the gas pedal. Give people a break sometimes. I experienced this early in my career when my Principal sensed a lesson was not going well. Two thirds of my class did not do their homework. As a result, the activities I had planned were fumbling along, to say the least. Thanks goodness, my Principal put herself in my shoes and left a note on my desk that simply read, “I’ll be back tomorrow for your observation.” I have always remembered that event through my career. I would have run through a wall for her after that day. I am glad, however, she never did ask.

Resourceful: The leader of a 21st century school has a lot on his or her plate. The leader is usually bombarded with a great number of questions/requests. Where do you direct them? What information do you provide them? The 21st century Leader’s job, very much like his or her teachers, is not necessarily to have all of the answers, but to know what roads/avenues to take to get them. What better way to do that than by an ever-expanding PLN. This is one area that has saved me tremendously the last year. Because of the great people in my PLN, I have been able to reach out and get answers or suggestions to a variety questions/problems. I am constantly forwarding my colleagues these very helpful resources. Now, if I can just get them to start blogging and joining Twitter…

Jim Cordery has been teaching for 18 years and is a Middle School Math Teacher in Brooklawn, New Jersey. He had the unique opportunity of adding several administrator roles over the last few years and is an aspiring Administrator. Jim has spent the past year working very hard at expanding his PLN. Please follow him on Twitter @jcordery. Also, his blog is .

Did I forget any important traits or qualities that start with these letters? Please share your ideas…

A Leader’s Role in the Technology Evolution


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Last year I participated in Scott McLeod’s Leadership Day with a post called Dare to Imagine: Schools of the Future, and I am happy to participate again for 2013. This year I want to explore three reasons school and district administration need to lead their schools in the technology evolution. First, let’s clarify that it is an evolution and not a revolution. To get to this point of technology use and integration into our profession it took many years. Even with the efforts of so many it is not fully embraced by everyone in the educational world. So we are evolving one educator at a time. At some point in the near future we will reach a tipping point and blog posts of this topic will become a moot point. Until then, we write on!

For technology to be fully ingrained and embraced, school and district administration need to lead the evolution. Why do they need to lead it? Why can’t they sit back and watch it happen? Here are three reasons:

  1. If they don’t lead the evolution they can easily squash it or bring it to a near halt. I’m leading off with the hammer of reasons because this is the break point in many schools. If the leader does not support or participate in the integration and use of technology in his or her school then any progress in technology integration made by the staff is brought to a grinding halt, resources are not allotted and the rest of the organization does not feel safe to take the risk of using technology in the classroom.
  2. School leadership cannot expect the integration of technology into instruction if they are not willing to learn and experiment themselves. Almost as bad as not supporting technology integration is expecting it from the staff, but not engaging in it yourself. Educational leaders, whether in a building, a subject area or a district, must engage in its use, experiment with it and model how to properly engage in technology integration in the learning environment. Do as I say and not as I do will not move those you lead forward in implementing technology in schools.
  3. Taking the lead, as an educational leader, in the integration of technology in which you not only support but model and experiment with its use creates an environment in which staff will be willing to try and experiment with their own use. Your actions break the ice for those on the fence and not sure how to start, what to start with or if they will be supported by you. By taking the lead a level of trust develops between leader and staff member that creates a risk taking environment on both parts and failure no longer becomes a negative but a way to refine, redefine and improve your technology knowledge, use and integration into the school environment.

Educational leaders have a vital role in the use and integration of technology in the learning environment. By not believing in it a leader stops the evolution in its tracks. By requiring its use without engaging in it yourself, as a leader, does not create the environment necessary for the appropriate type of technology integration to happen. But if a leader is willing to try, experiment and lead by example the right environment can be established; an environment that will encourage educators to integrate technology into their own teaching. When this is done students, teachers and educational leaders benefit. Which leader will you be in the technology evolution?

Transforming Education Through Technology


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Guest Post by: Charmayne Polen

Two years ago I had not even touched an iPad, let alone knew how to use one. Yet, when my school decided to pilot an iPad program and asked for teacher volunteers to write proposals explaining how we would use them in our classroom, my hand shot up and I practically jumped up and down yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!”. After my initial excitement at the prospect of having a cart of iPads in my classroom wore off, I realized I had a major challenge ahead: I did not own an iPad and once I did, I had to figure out how I would really use it in my classroom. So, I asked to borrow one from the school and proceeded to stay up way too late each night acclimating myself to it and figuring out which apps would work best within my Language Arts curriculum. I then stumbled through writing the proposal, really having little clue as to what I was doing; I was simply determined to have those iPads in my room because I knew they would transform my teaching and my students’ learning if used well. After turning in my proposal, I breathed a sigh of relief and waited for the decision to be made. Early that summer, I received an email saying I was one of six teachers picked to pilot the iPads in my room the following school year…then the panic set in: How would I do this? I really had to alter the way I taught as well as my entire pedagogical process. So much for the summer of leisure I had imagined-instead it turned into a summer of planning and reflecting!

Today I have two years of teaching with the iPads under my belt and have learned Old v New Learningso much. Have I made mistakes? Yes-absolutely. Are there lessons I would like to do-over if I had a chance? Yes-absolutely. But there are so many positive experiences in having this type of technology in a classroom, that these experiences have truly overshadowed the negative ones. After reflecting on the last two years of learning and teaching while fully integrating technology, here are the most important lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. Teachers are not experts in technology. Students love when teachers ask for their help, and by being open to students’ input and help when using technology, this creates a sense of community within the classroom as well as builds rapport with the kids.

  2. Students are not experts in technology. Teachers have to teach many of the students how to use iPads and technology for productivity, not simply for entertainment. People look at me oddly when I say this, but for digital ‘natives’, some of the students are not as tech-savvy as we might first believe. Many of the students’ experience with technology is limited to texting, Googling, Facebook and Twitter; it’s a completely foreign concept for some to think differently about it. Also, teaching in a low-income community, many students don’t have access to this type of technology, let alone Internet access. I keep this in mind when introducing new technological concepts and never assume students understand everything technological because they are kids and have grown up with it!

  3. Having technology helps to foster students’ curiosity and intrinsic motivation to learn. It’s been amazing to be in the middle of a discussion when students will look up a concept on the iPad and offer more to the conversation because of their newfound knowledge.That instant access to knowledge has directed students’ learning and made them curious, independent and intrinsic learners, truly epitomizing student-centered classrooms and engaged learners.

Again, I’m still learning and tweaking lessons each day I teach, but using technology has changed the way I approach my classroom each day. I’ve seen it give students a sense of independence and confidence as they conquer ‘technology challenges’ and I truly feel they are better prepared as we send them out into this technological world; they at least have a foundation and a base knowledge from which to move forward. That, to me, is transformative education!


Bio:  Charmayne Polen is a Nationally Board Certified English Language Arts Teacher.  She currently teaches English at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Ohio and is an adjunct at Hiram College.  She is a lover of all things “tech” in the classroom and is a believer in the importance of ongoing professional development for teachers to continue to grow and improve as educators. Follow her at @charmaynepolen on Twitter or her blog at


Communication Tools for School Leaders


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There are many essential skills a school leader needs to be effective. On that list, and toward the top, is communication. How, when and how often, and by what means of communication are tough questions every school leader thinks about anddownload (1) deals with on a daily basis. To add to this debate I provide the following:

How To Communicate

There are three types of communication that every school leader needs to engage in with stakeholders. They include person to person, written, and digital. With the ease of doing things on-line, person to person communication has become a novel idea. This should not be true but it is becoming less likely to be used as we advance our use of technology. Don’t forget that nothing replaces a face to face discussion or conversation. Do not let this skill disappear from your methods of communicating. Make a point to have a person to person conversation on a daily basis with stakeholders. The second method is written.  Yes, pen and paper! Again technology is making this method less likely to be used but it is an essential communication tool. Recently, I received a handwritten thank you note from a candidate I interviewed. It made a nice impression because the person took the time to get the card, write in it, stamp it and send. Finally, there is digital communication. For educational leaders this is where we get the most “bang for our buck” as we can reach many people in a single digital communication. It’s also the way the vast majority of people expect to get information today. The bottom line on how to communicate is for us to use our digital methods to get out lots of information quickly and in a timely manner but take the time to communicate personally and directly with people.

When and How Often to Communicate

The simple answer to when and how often to communicate is when it is necessary. This is difficult to identify. So a better answer might be to communicate on a consistent basis that allows stakeholders to receive the messages you want them to get, yet not so much that they become inundated and begin to ignore the messenger.  What is the precise equation for meeting this standard depends on your community and your ability to listen to them when they tell you it’s too much. Most importantly in this category is to get information out in a timely manner. There is nothing worse than sending out irrelevant or outdated material to your community.  The bottom line on when and how often to communicate is to be consistent and timely, yet aware of what you are sending and how often you are sending things out.

By What Means of Communication

This category might be similar to the first but I want to focus on digital resources for you to use as you advance your communication resources. Here are a few means of communicating digitally that will make you a more efficient communicator.

  1. – This site allows you to send out possible meeting dates and times to people you need to meet with and the site then organizes the data to identify the best possible meeting date(s). It’s easy and free!
  2. – This site allows you to develop on-line flyers for events, activities and celebrations. It’s great for “getting the word out” on something happening in your school or district. Again, it’s easy and free!
  3. Google+ Communities – This site allows you to create a community for your organization or a group and have written and video communication with stakeholders. The site is free and takes a little practice when using it, but once you understand how to post, read and comment it becomes very easy.
  4. – This is a favorite of educators already. It allows you to create your own community of learners and has the feel of a Facebook site but is a closed community. It is relatively easy to learn and free.
  5. Twitter – What can I say, it’s a favorite communication tool and growing in acceptance and use for educators. It’s easy and free!
  6. – This site allows you to quickly set up a chat room for a group of people that limits participation to those you identify. It’s easy and free!

The ability to effectively and efficiently communicate as an educational leader has become easier with digital options but we cannot forget the personal side of education. How do you communicate? What tools do you use? Leave a comment to continue to provide resources for our colleagues.


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