social networkTo answer this question in the very month that the U.S. Department of Education has set aside to recognize as Connected Educator Month, we need to first examine what a connected educator is. We also need to understand to what it is that educators are connected.

The way information and content is housed and disseminated today has little resemblance to the housing and disseminating of a few short decades ago. Information then was stored in a manner that required some form of physical media. Text was stored in print on paper and film. Movies were stored on both film and videotape. Sound was stored on audiotape. All of this media needed to be stored somewhere until someone needed access to learn from it, or to share it with others. Colleges, schools and libraries served as hubs of information to give access to specific people for that purpose. That was the model for centuries. (read more…)

digital literacyYear after year, hundreds of millions of dollars are funneled into technology initiatives and resources in school districts throughout the country. From hardware and software, to infrastructure and one-to-one devices, money is flowing into programs and tools for schools like never before, but are these technology devices and tools making a worthwhile impact considering the cost? Who’s leading such implementation and reform? As these tools become more prevalent in schools, it’s school leaders that will make or break the success of such innovative programs and ultimately help determine if the monetary investments were worthwhile. Administrators that exhibit digital leadership will undoubtedly have a higher return on such investments in technology. Schools without such leaders face an uphill battle.

How can administrators exhibit such digital leadership?

1. Foster a culture of innovation and risk taking. Some administrators rule with a heavy hand, causing staff to be fearful of making mistakes, which in turn inhibits risk-taking and classroom innovation. (read more…)

Recently I’ve been escorting my first grandchild, Luke, on tours of the garden and grounds around our home. It’s probably more accurate to say that Luke — who has just turned one — is towing me through the tulips. With my finger in his hand, he’s pulling “B” (his pet name for me) at what for him is breakneck speed through an incredible learning adventure. Every day.

I know that every time I’m in a school building this year, and every time I work with teachers and principals in the physical or virtual world, I’ll be thinking about Luke. I’ll be contrasting his learning exploits — mentored by me but largely directed by his own curiosity and self interests — with the reality being experienced by millions of older students inside our educational structures.

We all know that new and emerging Web technologies are connecting young people in ways never before possible. (read more…)

I’ve been wrestling with what would work as an American collective narrative, what could unite us in investing and supporting public education the way we should. The Finnish people appear to agree collectively on a narrative of equity, for example.

Turning the mirror back on the United States, we’d like to believe that Americans could gather around this same call of equity. In reality though, Americans prefer a narrative of meritocracy. We tell rags-to-rich stories of folks, such as Bill Gates, for example. This so-called poor man who came from nothing and built an empire attended one of the most privileged boarding schools in the nation; the college he dropped out of was a small university — Harvard. Gates had access to a computer when few people even really knew what computers were. The reality of his narrative is really one of privilege, connections, and access.

So, what might be a narrative Americans could rally around? I’ve come to believe that perhaps personalization is the answer. (read more…)

This past weekend, I worked with Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 at an educational conference in Jacksonville, Fla.

In the car on the way to the conference recently, Steve and I were discussing the “institution” of school and the “system” of school. The largest part of our conversation centered around the fact that we have, collectively as a nation, created a massive operation for educating children that does not work.

The “institution” is the bureaucratic, policy side of public education that demands that “each get some.” The “system” is the mechanism for delivering the “some” to all. The good ideas that created the system and thus the institution around it are lost in the shuffle. Doing what’s best for kids and doing what’s fair for all have each become a separate megalopolis each on a separate continent.

Education has become so institutionalized that the act of “doing” something equates to readiness for the next checked off item on the “to do” list of instructional practice. (read more…)