Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Year, New Adventures

Each September I am excited like most educators to get back to business doing everything I can to help students succeed.  Don't get me wrong, the summer months are invaluable to me as I spend my time immersed in the flow of information that my social networks provide, developing action plans, analyzing data, and hiring staff.  Many of the initiatives that I am about to pursue either came directly or indirectly from my Personal Learning Network (PLN).  With this being said, there is just something magical and invigorating about having students in the building.

Many of the initiatives I am about to briefly discuss are not new to the field of education, but they are to NMHS.  So what's on the horizon at my school? Here is a quick synopsis:

1. Professional Learning Communities (PLC's): The district will be moving to this research-based model as our main means of professional development.  The more I learn about the power of PLC's the more excited I get!  One great resource I discovered is All Things PLC.  If you are not familiar with this site check it out.  PLC's are fantastic for professional growth as they empower educators to work collaboratively on areas that they are interested in and are entirely focused on improving student achievement.  My challenge is deciding what PLC I want to pursue!

2. Classroom Walkthoughs:  This is something I have been researching since last winter and my PLN has provided me with numerous resources to get started.   By regularly performing 3-5 minute walkthroughs I will now have more of a presence in classrooms.  More importantly, I will now be able to further assist my teachers in their quest to become better educators.  The data that I will collect and share with them will serve as a catalyst for their improvement in the areas of teaching and learning.  In doing my research I discovered some common pitfalls with the classroom walkthrough process that I must avoid.  These include not sharing the results with the teachers, using the data as part of their evaluation, and not allowing them to have input into the specific form to be used.  I purchased iPads for each of my administrators to collect the walkthrough data and then we demoed multiple programs to see which was the best fit for us.  My administrative team settled on a program by Teachscape to collect, analyze, and disseminate the information collected.  What is great about their tool is that it is research-based, customizable to our needs, and has a free app for the iPad.  There is also a web-based component available to the teachers that contains resource libraries and discussion forums that I plan to use not only with the classroom walkthrough data, but also our PLC's.  A training session for all staff is planned on 9/20/10. For more information on classroom walkthroughs visit this site.

3. Tri-State Educational Technology Conference (TSETC): I have previously blogged about this event, but am compelled to mention it again.  This is going to be a great opportunity for my staff to truly experience the power inherent in educational technology when combined with pedagogy.  I am proud to be able to co-organize a FREE event with Schoology that has already attracted over 200 innovative, passionate educators and presenters from various parts of the country.  I was informed yesterday that some exceptional educators from Germany and Canada will be presenting via Skype.  The conference will be held on Saturday October 2, 2010.  If you can make it, register now!

4. Expansion of Mobile Learning Devices:  Since I played a prominent role in our current cell phone banning policy isn't it ironic that I am now the one trying to develop innovative ways to integrate them into instruction?  I am in the early stages of research in this area so stay tuned.  Initially I would like to see some pilot classes begin to use Poll Everywhere to increase student engagement.  In another mobile device area I recently submitted a grant for a mobile iPad learning lab.  My fingers are now crossed!  If my school is awarded this grant I will be sure to blog about the innovative possibilities that this will bring to my students and staff.

There you have it, my new adventures for the 2010-2011 school year.  If you can add any resources or tips under each of these initiatives please do so in the comments section.


  1. Everything sounds amazing Eric! I like your plan for walkthroughs. It is good to alert the teachers up front that this is not a formal evaluation and to simply teach. Tell them it is like channel surfing; you just want to get a gist of what is going on in the class. This is also a great opportunity to be a presence in your school and allow students and teachers to see their leader frequently. Plus, I think having an iPad for data collecting will be a great way of organizing and planning year to year. This will surely benefit all who learn under your roof.

    I hope you have an excellent school year and look forward to hearing about your data and the walkthroughs.

  2. I am glad to see that your district is moving towards PLC's. I think that authentic PLC's (goal focused, but teacher driven) are the best investment for PD time -- If we want continual improvement, we need to give teachers the collaborative time, space and support to make it happen!

  3. Great post, Eric! I like that there's a coordinated effort to build PLCs in your building, and that it seems like you are building several smaller ones. Every time we talk about a PLC here, it is just that - one big one in a whole building. but we really learn in small groups, don't we?

    Walkthroughs are a good idea, too. I appreciate it when my administrators stop by in less formal ways rather than evaluation day being the only time they hang out in my room.

    Best wishes in fulfilling your goals this year!

  4. Great stuff, Eric. If you haven't already blogged it, I'd be really interested in reading about your journey from mobile-device blocker to evangelist--then maybe we could get more principals to follow that path.

  5. Really exciting Eric! Glad to see your walk-through collaboration and research in the Edutopia admin group ( led to great things.

    Please keep us at Edutopia informed of your schools progress - we may be in touch about a future guest blog on your progress.


  6. You have a busy, exciting year ahead! We embarked on the PLC journey last year. I think my teachers are beginning to feel more comfortable in this collaborative, student-centered frame of mind and are more often seeking out each other's expertise for planning and responding to student needs. All Things PLC is a resource I have used often! Many of our PLC resources came from Solution Tree as well.

    In regards to walkthroughs, last year we went electronic, and I felt the platform helped me stay organized and provide more specific feedback to my teachers after my visits.

    Looking forward to hearing about your year!

  7. You are definitely the 21st Century principal that all schools should have as their educational leader. One suggestion is for you and your other administrators to take the IWB (or even chalk if you still use it in your school)and model successful practices for teachers in their subject areas.

  8. I always learn from your posts. Thank you for writing, sharing and challenging others (like me) to go the extra mile.

    I'm going to begin using an iPad this month ... your links are helpful as I begin to prepare for my own growth as a coach and mentor.


  9. Scott Friedman - irishscottSeptember 10, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    We embarked on the PLC journey last year and have not turned back. Our work regarding learning teams in our school has had a direct impact on student achievement. The professional learning we implemented focused on building the skills of each learning team facilitator. We found that a community of learners is only as good as the facilitator facilitating the work. The National Staff Development Council has been invaluable to us and our work. Two books that are a much get are: Learning by Doing (DuFour et al.) and Team to Teach (Anne Jolly).

    Best of luck and if I can be of any help don't hesitate. Lord knows I have taken a lot of information from you and your blog in my school leadership journey!


  10. Eric, Great post. We are adopting similar initiatives at our school. I ,too, recently ran into the allthingsplc website when looking for resources for a recent post on my blog.Our building leadership team is receiving PLC training and I think that for the first time in about 5 years of "talking" PLC we are on the path for actually integrating the PLC model to become more effective in our jobs.

    We have also started a more formal walk-through process. We encouraged our staff to be a part of the form development. We make it clear that it does not reflect in their evaluation process. We looked at Teacherscape as well. There are some schools in our district that will be using that program. We are a Title 1 school, so we decided on the free "google form" version. I just set up a form that has all of the sections of our walkthrough. Once we submit the data, it is dumped into a spreadsheet. Then we can manipulate the data to make it most useful to provide feeback to teachers.

    Again, great post!

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.