Being Amazing -Fostering Innovation

It’s been over 20 years since technology made it’s way into my classroom and my life.  The promise was that technology brought the world to my students, made my job as a teacher better, and allowed for preparing my students for their future.    By the year 202o IT jobs will grow 22%, what is the education industry doing to prepare our students for their future?

Teachers are doing better at getting their students ready for state and national high-stakes tests.  Administrators are getting better at collecting and reading data from those tests while holding teachers accountable for results. State departments of education are getting better at reporting data collected from those tests and student information systems. Families are getting better at evaluating communities using the data states report. Being good at school, knowing how to ace tests, and working with specific narrow perimeters is not future ready.  Compliance, conformity, and focusing on test results are all innovation killers.

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a nation to create an education industry that leads in innovation.  We have the tools, the data, the research and the people to make our schools the kind of place where students are knocking down the doors to get in. Where classrooms, buildings and districts provide the inspiration our future needs. Where curiosity is sparked, fanned and flamed into empowerment. In some cases technology is used for creating, programing and innovating and that should be the norm. The data use in an innovative classroom measures how individuals learn, their talents, interests and how they use their skills to improve their abilities. Research has shown that when technology is integrated on a deep level and teachers are expected to be innovative the culture of that school changes to a collaborative, strengths-based environment.  Students discover their love of learning, passions are fostered and talents are unleashed. Change is an opportunity to do something amazing – Be amazing. Our future depends on it!

This post is in collaboration with #IMMOOC ~George Couros “The Innovator’s Mindset”


7 Elements of Digitally Productive Districts

Recently I’ve been reading articles, books and attending conferences that address the needs and solutions for integrating technology in classrooms, but what about the rest of the district?   As a Chief Innovation Officer/Director of Technology I’ve determined there are 7 elements that ensure a district enhances productivity as it implements and updates digital systems.

  1. Communication and Collaboration: it’s not just for teachers.  All departments benefit from the convenience and efficiency of digital communications/inter departmental collaboration.  District leadership must be the model for this as they utilize and support the use of digital communication systems.
  2. Cloud services, when implemented strategically, allows for better use of current infrastructure resources, adds to the convenience for endusers, and when implemented with fidelity protects personally identifiable information.  This includes wifi access both within and outside the district.
  3. Curriculum and Instruction are greatly enhanced when all departments utilize digital resources effectively. Content consumption, content creation, higher order thinking skills, problem solving and innovative instruction excels when districts leverage learning management systems and student information systems to their fullest. Those systems that have the ability to share data are more powerful and extend the data collection opportunities for administrators as well as teachers.
  4.  Individualized learning is ubiquitous for students as well as staff when utilizing digital systems.  Everyone in a district, from the superintendent to the bus driver to school board members , can get the training they need to be better at their job through digital training opportunities.  When staff and students have the right tool for the job digital equity is a step closer to reality.
  5. Streamlining workflow through digital processes is usually very different in each department and a crucial element for digitally productive districts. As your district transitions from analog to digital be sure to address the whys first.  When addressing the hows consider how each department is affected positively and negatively.  Strategic planning and communication can eliminate many of the roadblocks that digital transitions have been know to cause.
  6. Data drives decisions. Data driven decision-making is not new to education or the classroom.  It shouldn’t be new to any department that supports the classroom either.  Going digital strategically and establishing your data points as you transition gives you the data needed to justify decisions made.  It can also open your eyes to the realities of race, gender and other biases.
  7. Policies and guidelines that  protect student data, personally identifiable information and support the use of technology are the glue that holds the other 6 elements together.  Having policies, expectations and protocols that support, not block, the use of technology will make technology integration throughout the district a vision that can be realized.

The process of migrating to digital is ongoing as systems evolve and new technologies are introduced.  It must be planned for and budgeted for through a strategic plan in order be realized. Districts that specifically state those elements in their technology plan and follow through with actions are the districts that are innovative, engaging and a model for preparing students to be future ready.

Moving Up

HAPPY MONDAY and the Adventure continues!
Being an agent of change/innovation is a characteristic I’ve embraced!  I’m leveraging my personal and professional network to help in searching for the perfect fit.  After two exciting years at Hickman Mills and a much deserved vacation I’m ready for my next adventure.
KAY3.0: My leadership profile – Self-Motivated, transparent communicator with strong listening skills who leverages empathy and consideration to build team collaboration, motivate staff, cultivate consensus and drive innovation.  Flexible enough to pivot between the big picture and guiding through the details. Strengths: Curiosity, Problem Solving, Integrity, Purpose, Self-Motivation, Innovation.
 LOOKING FORWARD: If you know of something that would be a good fit for me and my talents please fill out this form MOVING UP. I love living in Kansas City and prefer to stay, but I’m open to other big cities if it’s a great fit!  I also love to travel and am open to a position that requires travel.
THANK YOU to Hickman Mills and all the awesome educators I had the honor to work with! I believe that your dedication and love for your students will result in their success! Have a great 2016-17 school year!!!

ConnectEd Leadership and Learning

Four days of inspiration, fellowship and guidance give me the hope I’ve been seeking throughout my career as an educator.  The past two years I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Apple/ConnectEd grant and this weekend we celebrated accomplishments and began building plans for the future.  Thank you Obama!  The ConnectEd grant was designed to bring digital learning opportunities to under-served districts and schools.  It’s goal was to bridge the digital equity gap and from my experience these past two years the grant is well on it’s way to success.  In fact my dream is that the grant continues to grow so that more schools and districts can experience the transformation in culture that those who are currently in the grant are realizing.

Two years ago I started a new job and my first day on the job was the day the school submitted an intent to apply.  Several months later it was announced that the school was going to receive the grant.  Eventually all the paperwork was completed, the laptops, iPads, Apple TVs, and everything needed to support those devices were ordered.  A group of three attended the kick-off event, created a strategic plan, and began implementing it.  Today the school is a technology rich learning environment and ready to transform what learning looks, sounds and feels like.

Throughout my teaching career I’ve heard how schools are failing our students.  How schools don’t and won’t change.  What I have experienced through the Apple/ConnectED grant is that there is a way to bring about the necessary change and keep the momentum going.  It starts with a leadership team who has a shared vision.  That team gets together and develops a plan.  Throughout the school year that plan is monitored and adjustments made as the learning environment improves.  If roadblocks are encountered the plan is revisited and adjusted as needed.  It’s crucial that the leadership team meet on a regular basis in order to stay focused on the plan.  At the end of the year the team gets together and reflects on accomplishments as well as failures.  The team then builds capacity to overcome those roadblocks and sets new goals for the next year.

These past four days have been inspiring, fulfilling and left me with hope for the future.  I know that those participating in the Apple/ConnectEd grant have awesome plans for their student’s education.  The architecture for transforming what learning looks like, feels like and sounds like is here.  Thank you Apple.  Thank you ConnectEd. Thank you Obama!


SWEDU Weekend – What a ride!

It was Sunday evening, May 1st, and the weekend was awesome!  I just spent 53 hours in 2.5 days at the Lean Lab in Kansas City working with inspirational educators on a passion project – dreaming, organizing and planning a celebration of education.

SWEDU stands for Startup Weekend Edu and is an event hosted by the Lean Lab. I decided to go Friday night just to see what it’s all about. Amazing.  That’s all, just amazing!  The Lean Lab is a community of educators, entrepreneurs, and innovators who are growing, testing, and launching ideas to build the future of Kansas City education.  Ideas were pitched and voted on.  My favorite idea was a festival celebrating educators.  The top vote getters were assigned an area and participants could team up with their favorite idea.

Four educators and Lisa, our idea catalyst, teamed up and put words to a pain point.  The problem: there is a lot of negative talk out there about education in Kansas City and we know it isn’t true.  The solution: get our story out that education in Kansas City is revolutionary!  The ideas shot out of our mouths and from our imaginations like a rocket launching into space.  We want a celebration, not a conference, to show the wonderful things our students are doing in their clubs, activities and classrooms.  We want to give voice to teachers, parents and community members who love what educators are doing for their children.  We want to share how education organizations contribute to the education industry. We want to discuss what an education revolution is and how to make it happen.   We planned, received feedback from multiple perspectives, shared resources, adjusted our idea and finally came up with a presentation to show all our hard work.

Sunday afternoon we were ready to pitch our idea.  We’d worked out a business plan, got feedback from educators, students and parents, established potential investors, found an organization to partner with and started our social media campaign.  Presentation time was here. We sat down nervous and excited, watched as others presented their ideas to the judges and listened to their feedback.  Our presentation went well.  There were a few technology glitches, but we made it through. The judges asked only two questions of us and then were off to deliberate.  We waited, talking, wondering, waiting for the decision.  Finally they came out and announced the third place winner, the second place winner and the first place winner was us!  We won 1st place!!!  Middle of the Map: Learn has launched!

I’ll be journaling our progress here.  Please check back often and see how a great idea, a few passionate women volunteers and an innovation mindset can change the story of education!

Diversity: A Powerful Experience

Listening to The First Lady, Michelle Obama, inspired me to share my experiences with the power of diversity. The other day, I was asked about my view on inclusion (including special ed students in the regular classroom). Today’s post is a reflection of those two learning experiences and how powerful embracing diversity can be.

One of the comments made by the first lady was in reference to clubs.  Clubs in any organization are designed to be empowering and as a way to organize like-minded people. She mentioned the Black Student Union and the fact that students today don’t see the color of a person’s skin as something that makes a difference. The organization includes students of all colors. Today’s students take the racial diversity surrounding them for granted-and that’s a good thing.  Districts with racial diversity are richer for their variety and geography plays a big part in opportunities for racial diversity experiences. I envy those who grew up in environments full of racial diversity. 

Racial diversity wasn’t a part of my teaching experience, but pilot programs were. Inclusion was one of them. I wanted the special ed students in my classroom. I got a para and an aide to help with the day-to-day learning activities and met with the special ed teacher each week.  The para and aide were the kind of women who liked to have a purpose and I was the kind of teacher who liked to see my students on task making for a win-win situation. I gave up the concept of all students doing the same thing at the same time. That never worked anyway. All students were given assignments and tasks that were designed for their learning needs.  Sometimes there were several students who needed the same lesson so we grouped them together, sometimes students needed practicing a skill that no one else needed to practice. They didn’t know their education was being individualized, it was just a part of everyday learning. They were emerged in a diversity of learning experiences. Public schools have been and continue to do a great job of creating environments that encourage sharing likenesses and empowering all to accept those who are different making sure no one is left out or left behind.

This past year I’ve been involved in so many new experiences and met absolutely wonderful people.  People who are community and state leaders, people who are black, hispanic, handicapped…  They’ve inspired me to open my mind to possibilities, ideas and engage in conversations with those who aren’t like-minded.  I’ve grown. I’ve found that, although surrounding myself with like-minded people is comforting, taking differences into account and embracing them makes for a much richer life.



From What Works With Women at Work by Williams & Dempsey:

Gender bias differs by race.  While it’s tempting to focus only on the things we share, this often translates into removing women of color from the conversation altogether.  There’s room in women’s initiatives to take difference into account and to make sure no one is left out and left behind.

Accomplishments: Telling Your Own Story

We all do things that we are proud of.  Sometimes we do amazing things simply because they need to be done, and sometimes those things get recognized by others, sometime they don’t.  The trick is keeping track of those accomplishments, especially those you are proud of, without alienating others.  Tooting your own horn can look like you are bragging.  And being a woman who brags is just not professionally acceptable. 

In the many years as educators we’ve had the privilege of meeting so many absolutely, wonderfully, accomplished women.  Teacher’s doing an amazing job educating students who have a wide variety of learning and emotional needs.  Principals going above and beyond their required job duties because they know that the student or teacher needs them.  Superintendents making way for innovative, creative and out-of-the-textbook educators in spite of pressure from outsiders to keep classrooms uniform. We’ve also been in conversations where those amazing educators were viewed as ineffectual simply because someone was threatened by their accomplishments. Many accomplished educators just don’t tell their story because of the myths about self promotion.

Our own humility is doing education a disservice and the need to tell about public education’s accomplishments is greater now than it has ever been.  We all know educators who made their students think, who brought out talents no one know they had, and who inspired their students to change the world.  So, how do we tell about our accomplishments without appearing arrogant?

Facts, just the facts!  In conversations, in blog posts, inTwitter feeds and on Facebook statuses state your accomplishments as well as those in your network.  LinkedIn has a “Projects” feature designed for sharing accomplishments.  Use that feature to show what you are doing.  State them in a matter-of-fact way. Include those who helped make the accomplishment a reality, even if it’s someone’s influence from years back.  Be concise, be complimentary, be authentic, be humble and be confident.  We have the power and the tools to tell our stories.  We have the experience and the knowledge necessary to show that we do make a difference.  We have the obligation and responsibility to make our voices heard so that our story gets out there and the world knows what wonderful accomplishments we’ve made  in education!

Since this is another post in my series from the book “What Works With Women at Work” by Williams & Dempsey I’ve focused on women although the advice here can apply to anyone.