Friday, July 31, 2009

Leading By Example - Transforming Education for the 21st Century

I’ve had the great fortune to spend a week at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities conference in Boston with a group of New York City school administrators who have made significant progress in becoming transformative leaders. I felt it was important during my week with these leaders for us not only to talk the talk, but to walk the walk and (even if things got messy) use a variety of the tools they were beginning to explore so that in addition to learning about theoretical implications of innovative practices, they would have hands on experience in discovering what it was like using these tools. During our time at the conference our group used a variety of technologies to enhance the way we were communicating and collaborating. To set the stage it was important to establish that our work together wasn’t around learning about things like wikis, blogs, twitter, and learning networks (which we did learn about) but rather about working in innovative ways that enhanced the work we were doing.

Sharing Knowledge with Google Docs

Prior to the conference we established a Google doc where we would each capture our Schedules to enable us to share our plans for the conference. This would serve a couple purposes. 1) It allowed us to be aware of the sessions one another was attending as it’s always great to be able to connect with colleagues who experienced the same learning as you, process, and extend the thinking. 2) It enabled us to capture the knowledge each of us set out to gain so we had an instant record of our group’s professional development experience.

Using a Wiki for Collecting, Capturing, and Accessing Important Materials

We also set up a wiki page for our conference experience. This provided a place for us to collect and access all important conference information such as the conference program, our daily reflection. It also provided a place where we could capture notes and materials shared at various presentations.

Tweeting to Follow Conference Activities and Share Reflections and Plans

School leaders set up Twitter accounts which they used to follow the goings on of the conference using the tag “BLC09” for the first two days. By day three most school leaders were also contributing tweets that included instant reflections of what they learned that they planned to bring back to their schools. This is now permanently captured and available for future reflecting and all leaders have access to see what their colleagues are thinking of doing allowing them to connect and collaborate. Here are some examples of their tweets using the tag 21cl.

· I plan to introduce digital writing portfolios through student blogs, expand use of wikis/blogs, expand our newspaper to be multi-media

· I will learn and share Google secrets by going to

· Use twitter and google docs to promote a sense of community that can be extended outside of school

· Have staff tweet to share what is going on in school using a school tag

· Teachers can tweet homework assignments

· Have students create tutorials using Screencasting. (

· As a leader I will model using tech tools in my practice

· Use Google Docs to construct grade level planning conference agendas and collaboratively write lesson plans

Using Google Graphs, Spreadsheets, and Twitter to Poll Participants

Our group was determining what our online brand would be. To do this, all members of our group were asked to contribute by tweeting nominations for the potential group name using the tag 21cl. I collected the nominated names and placed the 25 nominees in a Google Spreadsheet which we planned to use as a free polling tool. Our group members names were placed across the top of the sheet and each school leader used their five votes to nominate their top choices. As they did this we watched the graph rise and fall. The winner was Transforming Leaders for the 21st Century.

During Conference Reflection Using Google Forms

School leaders completed a Conference Reflection Form a few times during the conference to capture what they learned and planned to bring back to their schools. These were captured as
conference reflections that were published enabling each participant to have the ability to access their own reflection any time as well as those of their colleagues.

Posting Conference Reflections Using a Blog

Each principal is going to write one reflection in response to the question, “What specific thing(s) will I do as a transformative leader in my school?” This will be posted on our newly created blog at

Connecting Across Schools and Across the Year with A Free Learning Network

Our group spent a session designing and creating the TED21C Learning Network which will be used across the year for schools to connect, communicate, and collaborate both within their schools and across schools. School leaders created groups and customized their home pages.

Capturing Memories Using Flickr

Photos of our experience were captured at Flickr using a new account we set up at ted21C (friend us). These photos are also posted on our learning network.

I’ve spent a memorable week working with school leaders who are thinking about ways they will bring transformation back to their schools. During that time we were Flickring, Blogging, Google Docing, Polling, Networking, Tweeting, Eating, Speaking and more. I can’t wait to see their plans for taking some of what they learned back to their schools as they continue down the road of transformation.

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