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Apps: Productivity vs. Content

Cloud computing and mobility concept


When I first started working with iPads in schools, my role was a Lead Teacher. I would mentor and provide professional development for staff.  When staff first received iPads, my first priority was how can they use this tool in their classrooms and for me, this meant how can I find content apps to support teachers in their instruction.  Fast forward three years (joined Twitter and my eyes were opened to SAMR, Eric Sheninger and George Couros amongst other items) and my mindset has changed about instructional technology.  I have since become an administrator and have torn through Eric Sheninger’s books as well as George Couros and fully believe and embrace being a digital leader.  I am fortunate enough to have a powerful PLC (Michael Chilcutt, James Aleshire, Gary Willow) as well as work with some amazing teachers.  I often have conversations before, during, and after school with Amy Kelly, Josh Edwards, and Stephen Schawalder about moving our school forward utilizing technology (all can and do redefine the classroom daily and are three of the best teachers I have worked with).  These conversations have helped change and shape my mindset on technology and the iPad.  These three and I often have conversations about how to use the iPad across contents and they always remind me that it’s not looking at apps for content but how they can help you be more productive in your classroom and your work flow.  Schoology, Formative, NearPod, Google Drive, Adobe Voice, etc… can be used across contents and can help teachers be more productive in their classrooms.  Content apps will not redefine the classroom (not saying they are bad) but productivity apps used across contents can.

I would love to dialogue about apps and your thoughts on this brief post.  Please leave a reply or tweet at me (I’m always on Twitter).  I always look forward to learning and having conversations with my PLC.  Thanks.


Embracement or Buy-in?


New ideas or changes can scare people.  One important aspect of a leader is being able to understand, promote, and receive “buy-in” from their staff when a new idea is broached.  As I was reading Eric Sheninger’s first book, Digital Leadership, I came across the importance of having a staff embrace change or new ideas.  He states that buy-in “requires a salesman-like approach that might contain if-then rewards” where as embracement is “attained through empowerment and autonomy”.  He goes on to state that empowering teachers “to shift their instructional practices and giving them needed autonomy to take risks and work on effective integration techniques” can work to intrinsically motivate staff to change.  I found this comparison to be very powerful and it made me think about what is the best way to approach our Digital Learning Plan.  How can we get staff to embrace this wonderful opportunity to redefine the classroom and not just “buy-in” to this new initiative?  I believe we are on the right path at Clear Spring because we started by discussing hopes and fears.  It is important to listen and validate the fears.  We have to work together to make sure that our staff feels comfortable  and that we come up with solutions and ways to ease their fears.  Our approach to to attaining embracement consists of:

  • Working together to celebrate the hopes while working to ease fears.
  • Listening to staff and planning relevant PD that is provided in small groups, thus allowing staff time to ask questions, work with their departments, and be given an opportunity to play and create with what they are being presented (Schoology, NearPod, Actively Learn, Explain Everything, Difference between Google Drive on the iPad and a Mac/PC, etc…).
  • Encouraging collaboration (learning walks, planning, PD) and risk-taking.  Staff have to be given an opportunity and a climate where risk-taking and failure are encouraged and celebrated.  Lessons will not work, but reflecting and learning from your first attempt is important.  Be resilient!
  • Allow opportunities for team-teaching and offering tech support while a hesitant teacher is attempting to try new technology.  We are lucky to have staff members available to help with lessons.  I was observing a teacher using Schoology for the first time and he had one of our “tech-sperts” in class with him to trouble-shoot and help him feel comfortable.

I have studied and read about numerous 1:1 Programs and I understand that overall success and even embracement will take time; most programs I have read about take about 2-3 years before this mindset becomes business as usual.  There will be mishaps but leaders have to model resiliency for their staff.  Stay positive and celebrate!!! We are given a chance to redefine the classroom with technology; will you embrace this?


Please leave any comments or tweet at me @chrisclinewcps.  I’m always looking for ideas and to increase my PLC.  Thanks.

Threat To Teaching Or Opportunity To Refine?


Is technology a threat for teachers and how they do things or is it an opportunity to redefine the classroom? Is it one more item on a teacher’s full plate or is it an opportunity to personalize learning for students? Is technology one more thing teacher’s have to learn about and receive PD on or is it an opportunity to engage our students with relevant lessons with tools they be using in their future endeavors? (hint: I hope you believe it’s an opportunity)

As we are getting closer to deployment in our county (1:1 iPads), we are working with our staff to look at their hopes and fears for this initiative.  If you follow me on twitter or have read my previous posts, you know that I fully embrace technology and believe it is what is best for our students; but I understand that not everyone may share my passion or belief in technology as an accelerator for learning.  It is our job to notice that teachers have real fears about technology and that we need to communicate to them that having fears are expected and ok but that we are going to support them in this initiative.  We want a culture where:

  • failure is ok (reflect and learn from it- FAIL forward)
  • be resilient-don’t quit the first time technology doesn’t work
  • teachers take risks and model this attitude in front of their students
  • teachers understand that they are no longer the sole proprietor of knowledge in their classroom and that they can turn some of the control over to students
  • collaboration and sharing ideas/best practices are valued, sought after, and are the norm (if you have not, become a connected educator)
  • pedagogy still trumps everything; the technology will be a tool to support teaching and learning outcomes

My question to other administrators, is are you comfortable supporting and embracing this shift? I believe that administrators are the instructional leaders/lead learners in their buildings and that our attitudes/beliefs/actions set the tone for the building.  Are we offering and leading PD sessions in our building (we should be)? Do we try new ideas in front of staff? Do we collaborate with other leaders and grow our own PLC? Are we communicating with staff and getting in classrooms to watch and support them?

I believe you can either look at technology as a threat or opportunity in education.  I wholeheartedly believe this is an opportunity to engage our students and make schooling relevant.  We have the opportunity to personalize learning while making our students creators and not just consumers of their education.  Create the culture that this deserves.  Are you ready to embrace the challenge?

If you are looking for resources on technology and innovation, then I highly recommend two books- UnCommon Learning by Eric Sheninger and Innovators Mindset by George Couros.  These two books are great reads and will challenge your thinking to embracing the change that is needed to engage our students and make schools relevant.  Students are our greatest stakeholders and we need schools designed for them with staff the embraces 21st Century Learning for College and Career Readiness.


Learning a Different Way


Saying that I am excited about our new Digital Learning Plan would be an understatement.  Teachers will be able to engage students in learning with tools that our students use on a daily basis.  Our teachers will have the opportunity to redefine their classrooms and students will have platforms that are geared towards their learning styles.  With that being said, it will be our job to make sure that teachers are well prepared to teach utilizing a digital platform and that technology is being used with a purpose.  Technology cannot be used just to use it; you cannot plan solely focused on the device.  Teachers will still plan with the end in mind (enduring understandings, not a product or app) and focusing on essential questions/standards.  Technology is a tool that can help them or accelerate our student learning but it has to be planned and used effectively.

Focuses that we are planning at our school as deployment nears are but not limited to:

  1. Addressing Hopes/Fears of staff- I look forward to answers on both parts at our next faculty meeting.  Overcoming fear of the unknown and supporting our staff will be critical.  I truly believe SAMR is a growth model and our staff will know that we will do everything we can to support them and that they feel comfortable using the iPad.
  2. Professional Development- We have provided a fair amount of PD aimed at instructional technology (Our School’s Technology PD Page) but our focus is going to be on the Apps that are coming pre-loaded on the iPads so that our staff has a comfort level using and instructing with the devices.  A key is realizing that we are looking at how apps can make you and your classroom more productive and not solely focusing on “content” apps.  We will also look at App Challenges with our staff (thank you Craig Badura) as a fun way at learning and working with different apps.
  3. Sharing content- how are we going to share great instructional teaching and resources in our school?  We will continue to add to our webpage as well as having teachers take learning walks to see the great instruction in our building.  We are also looking at tech meetings (appy hours, Tech Tuesdays) to share great ideas as we shift from teacher-centered classrooms to a student-centered learning environment.
  4. Looking at student expectations and school-wide user agreements- luckily I have studied and researched other 1:1 school systems and have looked for what has worked and what has not.  I have also reached out to my PLC on twitter and have found some great resources as well.

I am excited about the work ahead and I look forward to working with and discussing our Digital Learning Plan with our staff.  We have a great staff and their willingness to work with and learn from each other is remarkable.  This attitude of working together and willingness to try new things (we stress risk-taking) will help us be successful with this new initiative.  I cannot wait.

My next post will focus on my next presentation with Lindsey Reynolds that we are giving next week to leaders in our county.  We will be presenting 21st Century Presentation Tools and I will share that and reflect on that in my next post.

Failing to Plan…



Words cannot describe how excited I am over our new Digital Learning Plan.  Our students will now work daily with tools that will provide them access to endless content and prepare them for College & Careers in the 21st Century.   Our students will face greater responsibilities with these tools, but they will be better for it.  We will have to teach and embed digital citizenship into our lessons, but this is a vital resource as we teach our students to become adults in a changing world.  I have gone from complete adulation and joy over our digital learning plan into planning mode.  I have already looked at our current schedule and made modifications for students picking up their devices in the morning and turning them back in at the end of the day.  I have looked at PD and app challenges that will engage our staff and help them grow through the SAMR model.  We have some staff that are in the modification and redefinition phase; the key is looking at differentiated PD needs to help all staff grow that are in Substitution and Augmentation while also reaching the needs of teachers who are already doing great things with technology.  Currently, Mr. Marriott and I are planning to go to a middle school in our county that has been 1:1 for over a year now.  We want to look at their model and discuss PD, best practices, and implementation with their Principal and Lead Teacher.  We are meeting with our technology team next week to discuss distribution, PD (app challenges, differentiated, department led, SAMR model), scheduling, and other questions/scenarios from our brainstorm-meeting.  I am reaching out to my PLC for any tips or best practices in implementing a 1:1 iPad at your school.  I am excited and I consider myself a digital leader in our county (thank you Eric Sheninger for your resources on twitter as well as both of your books that I have read multiple times and tabbed to death).  I’m ready to take this task on and redefine how education looks at our schools in 2015; our county has made a decision that is best for all kids in our schools and I cannot wait to start this journey.  I have wanted to work and lead a 1:1 school for years and this will come to fruition in 2016.  I cannot wait for this to begin which is why I have been going through endless ideas/plans in my head.  If we fail to plan accordingly for this, we will fail at the school level.  Please tweet at me any suggestions or best practices you have for a 1:1 digital learning plan.  Below are just a few of the links that I keep in my 1:1 technology folder and leadership folder in my e-mail:

8 Mistakes Teachers Make When Implementing iPads

Evaluating Apps

iPad Classroom Visit Look For’s

Integrating Tech the Right Way

Math + SAMR

TRUDACOT (thanks Eric)

Let the redefining the classroom begin……


Future Ready



I am a firm believer that technology is the force multiplier in education.  Technology in the hands of great teachers can transcend and redefine the classroom.  It is our jobs as educators to prepare students for College and Careers (aka the “Real World”) and the best way we can do this is by teaching and learning with tools that students use everyday.  It is our job as educational leaders to ensure that teachers have relevant professional development to meet their needs and that they feel comfortable teaching with technology; lesson planning with the end in mind and asking how can technology support the learning standards?  Teachers cannot plan solely asking how will I use this tool tomorrow; the planning has to seamless.  The technology cannot be forced but this will speak to the importance of professional development, PLC’s, and teachers becoming 21st Century Educators (an earlier post of mine).  Future Ready also states the importance of having leaders who can use, model, and understand how technology can be utilized in the classroom every day and how it can redefine the classroom.  Administrators have to be lead learners and model/present PD to staff and engage stakeholders if a school is truly going to become a model school that utilizes technology everyday to engage our students/stakeholders and properly prepare our students for College and Careers.  I wholeheartedly support the Future Ready Pledge and would encourage all to read about their Initiatives.

Future Ready is a nice term to describe utilizing technology effectively in the classroom on a daily basis to engage our students.  I see it more as Present Ready; students are using these tools today to interact and gather information.  How can we ask students to be plugged in everyday of their lives and use these tools for everything yet unplug for their education.  If we are not engaging students with technology and looking at innovative ways ( Innovator’s Mindset  and  Uncommon Learning are two must reads) to teach then we are doing them a disservice.  We are using an industrial revolution model with our students when we need to accept the technological revolution has happened and continues to happen and that we need to meet our students at what is best for them.  What is best for students is not always best for the adults but our business is doing what is best for students.

It is important that as we embrace Future Ready, that we embrace personalized PD for staff and understanding that SAMR is a growth model.  Teachers may start at different places and that is ok.  Some teachers are ready to hit the ground running where other teachers will be in substitution and will begin by mastering a few small pieces first.  We cannot throw 25 apps at a teacher who is not comfortable with technology but we can work with them on Google Docs and Google Classroom for example.  Once they become comfortable with these, then we can work with them on other technologies (apps, websites, GAFEs, etc…) that they can use to engage students.  Collaboration will be key as well as PLC’s within your school and county that teachers can work in to improve their understanding of teaching with technology.

I have read and fully believe that pedagogy is king.  Bad teaching with technology will still be a bad lesson.  Teachers have to plan with the end in mind and thinking of how they can best teach their curriculum and standards.  I believe that technology is the accelerator in helping teachers get their faster and better.  Mechanics, doctors, and carpenters are all shown and taught to use the tools they will use everyday; we need to do the same with our students.  Our students need to be digital literate  and we need to be Future Ready.

Leadership PLC: Decision Making


This past Tuesday, I co-moderated a Twitter Chat with Lindsey Reynolds for our county and the focus was decision-making as school leaders (you can see the Twitter Chat here).  As administrators, we make decisions daily that will impact school culture/climate, student learning, and stakeholder satisfaction just to name a few.  Leaders make decisions in a timely manner with the information they have; effective leaders make decisions with an understanding how the decisions they make now will impact future learning and the overall big picture and vision for their school.  How will the decisions that are made now effect not only students, staff, and stakeholders now but weeks, months, and years from now?  Leaders do not have to work in silos. We encourage teacher collaboration and speak to how 21st century teachers share/create/interact with other teachers from their school, county, and hopefully a global PLC; leaders should do the same.  It is important to include teacher voice in decisions that will impact student learning, talk/discuss topics with your school leadership team, and reach out for guidance or other ideas when faced with a decision that you may not be in the expert in.  I am thankful to have wonderful leaders in our county to work with and ask questions when I may need help.  Leadership can be very lonely and it is important not to seclude yourself but surround yourself with people who are good at what they do and reach out to other leaders who may have strengths in areas that are weaker for you as a leader.  This is not called weakness, this is called good professional practice.  I want to make the best decision for my school; not the quickest decision to move something off my desk so I can focus on the next item.  I am thankful we are having Twitter Chats in our county as I see this as a way to strengthen our Leadership PLC as well as a training ground for new or aspiring administrators/leaders.  We have recently started including scenarios in our chats so that we can see best practices that are going on across our county, increase consistency from one school to the next, and hopefully providing aspiring administrators ideas to think about as they develop into leaders.  Our goal is to branch this chat out and hopefully have leaders from outside our county/state join in.  I believe we truly become better at what we do when we are able to share and learn from other great leaders.  Please join our next leadership chat on December 15th at 8:00 p.m. EST at the hashtag #wcpsmdchat.  Please share your knowledge with us as we continue to expand our PLC.