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Mirrors of Society: Technology in Schools

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“Technology in itself is not the solution. Technology helps us mirror what is happening in society.” - Dr. Rosa S. Atkins

I sat down with Dr. Rosa Atkins, a finalist of the American Association of School (AASA) Women in School Leadership Award, to learn about her role as Superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, a division of more than 4,000 economically, ethnically, and racially diverse students.  Dr. Atkins emphasizes the importance of community, and how each member of a school district plays an equally important role in developing the educational and economic future of students.

Dr. Atkins takes pride in personally meeting with teachers in her district to not only mentor but help give educators confidence to take on leadership independently. It's the opinion of Atkins' that a superintendent's legacy is built on the strength and independent moxie of the teachers in the district. A core group of great teachers is the finest way to improve young people's lives.

The League of Innovative Schools has honored Charlotte City Schools with their distinction. Dr. Atkins is excited to be part of a network of like-minded progressive schools that share curriculum ideas and innovations to prepare students for a technological workforce that is advancing in skillsets. Atkins is proud of the League's recent promotion of E-rate programs that help schools throughout the country gain access to the highest level bandwidth allowing for the best use of technology. According to Dr. Atkins, what is the use of acquiring advanced technological hardware without sufficient infrastructure?

About Dr. Rosa S. Atkins

Snip20170207_162Dr. Rosa Atkins is Superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, a division of more than 4,000 economically, ethnically, and racially diverse students in nine schools. During Dr. Atkins’ tenure, Charlottesville City Schools has become one of the top performing school divisions in the state with a graduation completion index of 89% and one of the best Advanced Placement programs in the area. In 2011, she was named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, as well as Virginia State University Alumnus of the Year for Professional Education.

In 2015-16, she served as President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. Under her leadership, Charlottesville schools have been marked by innovation and collaboration. The creation of advanced manufacturing and engineering labs at Buford Middle School and Charlottesville High School – as well as new curricula and engineering pathways – have been made possible by a partnership with area businesses, school divisions, and the University of Virginia. Because of this commitment to innovation, Dr. Atkins was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 Future Ready Superintendents in 2014 and was invited to the American Association of School Administrators’ Digital Consortium at the White House.

Follow Charlottesville City Schools on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit and now Forbes.
 
Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.
 

Inviting the Community into the Classroom for Improved Achievement

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The following is an interview with Gail Pletnick Superintendent of Dysart Unified School District, a large district in Maricopa County in South Central Arizona. Gail is the President-Elect of The School Superintendents Association (AASA). The transcript portion was originally written for The Huffington Post. I've gone ahead and added the audio recording here on Scholastic. Enjoy.

Interview

Rod Berger: Well, Gail, I’m looking forward to this conversation. I get to speak to a lot of leaders in education, and your resume is very, very impressive and significant in this space - what you’re doing not only in your district and being a part of the League of Innovative Schools, but also with the AASA and now, the President-elect.
 
I can imagine that you have a lot on your plate. How do you balance all of that from a leadership perspective, especially now that people are looking to you for guidance, even the stewardship of education when we’re talking about bringing together superintendents that have a strong voice?
 
Gail Pletnick: I consider it a privilege to have this opportunity to network with leaders from across the United States. We’ve been engaged in this work for almost a decade here at Dysart. We’ve been on this journey of being a part of AASA and the League. We’ve had the opportunity to work with EdLeader21 and some other organizations, which provided a lot of support to the district and it also, in turn, gives me the opportunity to share what we’re doing and help others.
 
It’s about doing hard work every day. We get everything done for our students. We’ve been given opportunities to share our work and bring great minds together as we continue to move forward.
 
RB: Gail, I know a big part of what you’re doing in your district is integrating high school students with the local community. Talk with me a little bit about the real world challenges and the impetus behind programs that do that. I’m very fascinated in ways that we can provide real-world experiences for students. It goes to the larger benefit of what we’re trying to do as adults and connecting them to the world that they inhabit already.
 
GP: Absolutely. When we started down this path, it wasn’t about having a single program or initiative. It was about making certain that every student has the opportunities to prepare for the challenges and opportunities when they left our school. We’re very serious about saying students need to be career, college, and life ready as graduates.
 
That led us again to a number of different options and opportunities that we wanted to provide for our students, one of which is internships. It allows students to have real-life work experience and we’re very fortunate here. In our community, we have a number of retirement communities that are part of our city. These are experts that have a lifetime of expertise, and they provide resources for us so that our students can get their hands into the pathways they want to pursue.
 
It gives the students an opportunity to find out what that world of work is going to look like. It’s much more than the knowledge that we’re providing in the classroom. We understand that you have to have a strong core knowledge. But, what about work skills, people used to call them soft skills or perhaps 21st-century skills?
 
RB: Yes, they did.
 
GP: We’re living in the 21st century, and these students have to be prepared to utilize those skills, whether they go into a post-secondary opportunity or whether they’re going to walk right into a career. We go one step ahead and provide internships. We have learning experiences where students go out and visit the various workplaces. We also have our volunteers coming in and working side by side with our students. A perfect example would be our automotive program, a CTE program that we have. Retirees who restore cars and then race them come and work with students on our campuses. In the past, they’ve restored a car that then was raced. What a great opportunity.
 
RB: I bet that was well received by the students.
 
GP: Yes, it was. It was so exciting, and students got to track the progress they made. It was a wonderful way to bring those opportunities to our students.
 
RB: Gail, I’m glad you brought up the integration of the community. It’s a unique opportunity that you have there with those different communities of individuals that you’re talking about. One of the things in education that I find interesting is how we find alternative ways to balance the playing field with funding and how we do that by incorporating the local community and the region where our districts are.
How have you done that within your district and how can we be more progressive in looking at ways to be more thoughtful with our funding? We only have so much funding per student in our district, and often, that does not meet the minimum requirements.
 
GP: Absolutely. One of the great ways for us to be able to provide opportunities is to have volunteers. We have thousands of hours of volunteer work in our school district. Whether it’s partnering with people to provide real life experiences, whether it is having the support of our community to come in and do some fundraising in our schools with our students. That fundraising means we can invest in the technology that we need. It may be in the form of when we go out for an initiative in our district such as an override, making certain our community understands what we contribute to its growth and the importance of having a collaborative relationship.
 
There are a number of ways that we reach out to our community; many volunteer in our district and provide the additional support that we need.
 
RB: Yes, they did.
 
GP: We’re living in the 21st century, and these students have to be prepared to utilize those skills, whether they go into a post-secondary opportunity or whether they’re going to walk right into a career. We go one step ahead and provide internships. We have learning experiences where students go out and visit the various workplaces. We also have our volunteers coming in and working side by side with our students. A perfect example would be our automotive program, a CTE program that we have. Retirees who restore cars and then race them come and work with students on our campuses. In the past, they’ve restored a car that then was raced. What a great opportunity.
 
RB: I bet that was well received by the students.
 
GP: Yes, it was. It was so exciting, and students got to track the progress they made. It was a wonderful way to bring those opportunities to our students.
 
RB: Gail, I’m glad you brought up the integration of the community. It’s a unique opportunity that you have there with those different communities of individuals that you’re talking about. One of the things in education that I find interesting is how we find alternative ways to balance the playing field with funding and how we do that by incorporating the local community and the region where our districts are.
How have you done that within your district and how can we be more progressive in looking at ways to be more thoughtful with our funding? We only have so much funding per student in our district, and often, that does not meet the minimum requirements.
 
GP: Absolutely. One of the great ways for us to be able to provide opportunities is to have volunteers. We have thousands of hours of volunteer work in our school district. Whether it’s partnering with people to provide real life experiences, whether it is having the support of our community to come in and do some fundraising in our schools with our students. That fundraising means we can invest in the technology that we need. It may be in the form of when we go out for an initiative in our district such as an override, making certain our community understands what we contribute to its growth and the importance of having a collaborative relationship.
 
There are a number of ways that we reach out to our community; many volunteer in our district and provide the additional support that we need.
 
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RB: Speaking of a community, a lot of superintendents are talking about new ways to communicate with the community - specifically parents - in ways that we can build a better relationship that schools and parents used to have.
 
How are you looking at that, especially being in a position of leadership as a lighthouse district, to lead change in this crucial area?
 
GP: Well, one of the things that we do is reach out and find out from our community how they want to be communicated with. There isn’t a one-size fit all for communicating with parents and constituent groups.
We’re trying to personalize learning for our students, so we really have to personalize our communication with our constituent groups. We utilize some of the traditional ways. We’ll communicate through traditional media, whether that’s the newspaper or announcements that we make. But, we’re also active on social platforms like Instagram.
 
The other thing that we have is the Dysart video library. What we’ve done is produce clips - sometimes as short as one minute - which provides a look at what’s happening in our classrooms, with our programs, and with our students. It’s a perfect way for our students’ voices to be heard and for the community to understand our impact because we’re supporting the success of each and every one of those students.
 
The other thing that we do is invite our community into our schools. We’ve done some bus tours where they actually come into the classrooms, watch what’s happening with our programs and get to eat lunch with the students. Who wouldn’t want an opportunity to have a cafeteria lunch! Those are ways, too, that we engage our community with what’s happening in our schools.
 
It’s amazing because often, we’ll hear from people that take those opportunities. They say it’s so different from what they experienced when they were in school. They’re just amazed by the kind of skills our students have and the things that they’re accomplishing. It’s a great way to build that understanding and reach out to the community.
 
RB: Gail, let’s change gears a little bit and talk about superintendents - the position of a superintendent and how that has evolved over time. How do you think that today’s superintendent is challenged in ways that maybe they weren’t in the past? How does that impact those that we should be looking towards for future positions as superintendents?
 
GP: I have been in this business for about 40 years. I have seen a great deal of change, especially in the past decade or so. I think it’s representative of what’s happening in our world right now.
 
One of the challenges is about communication. There are so many avenues that we have and making certain that you have transparency. That you are able to provide accurate information, and when something is happening people have the expectation that they’re going to know immediately.
 
That can be a true challenge because we always want to make sure when we’re communicating something out, we have all of the facts, and we’re not putting something out that could really generate rumors or concerns. That’s a challenge that we’ve been working on and working with our community to try to build that understanding of what they can expect from us and when they can expect it.
 
Also, the resources. It used to be that you could buy a textbook and it was in place for 5 to 10 years.
 
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RB: Mark it off the list, right?
 
GP: Yes. The resources were there, and the worst that would happen is someone’s dog would chew up the cover and then you’d have to replace it. But other than that they were reliable for an extended period. Of course, that’s not the case now.
 
RB: Right.
 
GP: Now, we have to be able to provide students with experiences that are real and relevant. That means having tools that are being utilized in the real world of work or post-secondary opportunity. That’s another challenge, just making certain that we have the resources we need.
 
I wish we all had a crystal ball so that we would know what the world was going to look like in that next decade, but we don’t.
 
RB: It’s not on your desk there, Gail?
 
GP: I’ve been trying to buy one! I thought Amazon had everything but apparently not the crystal ball, that isn’t there!
What we have to do is be certain that we’re constantly looking at changes that are there and that the skills and the knowledge that students need to be successful are things that we are adopting. I talk about this all the time; we aren’t trying to revolutionize education. It’s not that we’re trying to throw out a system that’s broken - it’s not broken. It needs to transform because our world is transforming. We need to constantly be looking at data, looking at trends and making the adjustments that we need to make. It seems that we’re on a much faster pace than we’ve ever been before.
 
RB: Let’s close with this, Gail. Whether you’re talking to pre-service educators or those that are contemplating going into the education field, what is something that when you walk into a classroom or you get off the phone with a parent that you smile to yourself and say, “This is why this is so exciting!” Aside from the negative – this is just rhetoric that we hear in popular media that there are amazing people, there’s amazing progress being made. What is something that you would point to as a reflection of a potential talent that might be filling in these positions like we were talking about earlier?
 
GP: I think every time I walk into the classroom, whether it’s one of our preschool classes or whether it’s one of our 12th-grade courses, I know that we’re making a difference in the lives of children. That’s why we want to do what we’re doing. We need to make these changes because we’re providing students with opportunities that will be there for a lifetime. I do this because I’m passionate. I’m one of those examples of what happens when you have caring individuals working as hard as they can everyday so that you can learn and grow as an individual.
 
RB: It’s been a great pleasure to get to know you, Gail. I wish you continued success, and I applaud your ongoing efforts to impact students all the way through the leadership ranks. It was a great pleasure. Thanks, Gail.
 
GP: Thank you so much.
 
RB: You’re welcome. Once again, I’m Dr. Rod Berger.
 
Snip20170208_165Gail Pletnick is President of The School Superintendents Association (AASA), as well as, superintendent of Dysart Unified School District 89 in Surprise, Arizona. Gail was awarded the 2016 Arizona Superintendent of the Year and is a member of AASA’s digital and personal learning consortia. Pletnick is focused on reshaping the national public education agenda and empowering district leaders through advocacy, networking, and PD. Pletnick has been a member of AASA’s governing structure since 2008 and has served on the organization’s executive committee since 2013. She has also been a member of the Arizona School Administrators Association since 2002. Follow Dr. Gail Pletnick on Twitter
 
Dr. Rod Berger, a respected leader in education communications, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and others.
Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter
 

A Superintendent's Promotion of Public Speaking in Schools

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Teaching Students To Stand Up To The Mic 

I sat down with progressive-minded, Dr. David Miyashiro, Superintendent of Cajon Valley Union School District and ACSA 2016 Superintendent of the Year to discuss new advances for his district and discover more about his path to becoming a superintendent. Miyashiro mentions frustration above all else, as the motivating factor behind every career rung up the educational ladder. Action rather than excuses and a belief that things can be done better has inspired Miyashiro to think outside the box, reaching out to an international community of best practice educators, as well as, top CEOs of Business. Technology has allowed for far greater influence, and Miyashiro is a believer.

A few years ago, Miyashiro attended a tour of the Google campus and was forever changed. Google obsesses over the livelihood of people who work for them; they want their workers to have easy access to everyday needs, and they have developed their campus around that model. Miyashiro asked the question, "Why not do the same for schools?" Why not put the same efforts toward teachers and make schools the very best place to work?

As Miyashiro set out to change his district's approach, he found himself drawn to Ted Talks and the motto "The best ideas in the community to improve the human condition."  After watching a Ted Talk by the highly esteemed Sir Ken Robinson, Miyashiro was hooked and became so inspired that he made it his goal for the kids in his district to learn the value of public speaking to a global audience, not to fear the "stage" and learn about presentation. The results have been astounding with one of his 1st graders already being flown to Ted Talk headquarters in NY to help polish his talk, "Math is Everywhere." Miyashiro is undoubtedly an inspirational superintendent preparing kids for success in the future.

Full-Length Video of this Interview with Thought Leader -  Dr. David Miyashiro

Additional Video:

About Dr. David Miyashiro

Dr. David Miyashiro currently serves as Superintendent of The Cajon Valley Union School District. David was named 2016 Superintendent of the Year by ACSA (Association of California School Administrators), Region 18. Cajon Valley has undergone a seamless transition to the digital age. Through inclusive planning, design, and an iterative approach, Cajon Valley has achieved system-wide success with blended and personalized learning for all students.  Cajon Valley has been dubbed "One to Watch" by The Classroom of the Future Foundation and has earned both local and national recognition for its leadership in transforming public education.  In 2015, The Cajon Valley Union School District was inducted by Digital Promise into The League of Innovative Schools, a bipartisan nonprofit, authorized by Congress in 2008 as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies through Section 802 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush.  This distinction ranks Cajon Valley in the top 73 US school districts for innovation and digital learning.  David believes the role and impact of public educators go far beyond the classroom walls. "In order to keep pace with the rapidly changing world, our systems of public education both in California and the United States must be in a constant state of evolution.”
 
In the spirit of TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) and “Ideas Worth Spreading”, the Cajon Valley Union School District launched the first district-wide TEDx and TED Ed Club in the United States.  David was invited by the TED organization to the first cohort of TIES (TED Innovate Educators)  This partnership has allowed all students in Cajon Valley access to a robust and personalized curriculum designed by the TED ED team that empowers kids to learn how to give TED-like talks. Cajon Valley brings the entire community together at its’ annual TEDxKids@ElCajon to celebrate children and “Ideas Worth Spreading” that may in some way, shape, or form...improve the human condition.  One of the most prolific ideas Cajon Valley has brought to fruition is the district-wide partnerships with Code.Org and Code To The Future to bring Computer Science to all students in the Cajon Valley Union School District.  All student in Cajon Valley Schools engage with Code.Org and computer programming beginning in Kindergarten.  Cajon Valley has also launched the first K-5 Computer Science Magnet Schools in the US.
 
David formerly served as the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for the Encinitas Union School District. In this role he designed and implemented a one to one digital learning initiative as well as a comprehensive yoga-based health and wellness program. David served as a Principal in the Fullerton and East Whittier School Districts. There he led two Title I schools with challenging demographics successfully out of program improvement status with a combined API growth of over 240 points. David completed his doctoral studies at UCLA, Masters of Education at Grand Canyon University, and Bachelor’s Degree at Long Beach State University.
 
Follow David Miyashiro on Twitter

About Dr. Rod Berger

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit and now Forbes.
 
Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.
 

Examining The Expanding Scope Of Literacy

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Jacy Ippolito, EdD, author of the recent Learning Sciences International (LSI) book, Cultivating Coaching Mindsets: An Action Guide for Literacy Leaders. Ippolito explains how demands on readers are greater today than ever before with a plethora of online information at students' fingertips.

Snip20170112_45Learning has turned away from memorization and now demands a heightened awareness of discernability and creativity when searching for authentic information. Literacy education has expanded into many disciplines asking children to dig deeper and search beyond the obvious. It's difficult to teach literacy today without simultaneously concentrating on digital learning and digital citizenship.

Ippolito continues the discussion by examining professional learning and literacy coaching. According to Ippolito, literacy coaching is not strictly bound to the coaching profession, but rather affects all educators. To best prepare students for 21st-century skill-sets, all teachers, coaches, and literacy coordinators need 4 Basic Mindsets:

  1. Work like a leader
  2. Work like a facilitator
  3. Think like a designer
  4. Act like an advocate

By adopting the above mindset principles, Ippolito believes all educators can attack literacy learning head-on while better preparing themselves to answer the tough questions surrounding equity and social justice.

About Jacy Ippolito, EdD

Snip20170112_46Jacy Ippolito, EdD is an associate professor in the School of Education at Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts. His research and teaching focus on the intersection of ado­lescent and disciplinary literacy, literacy coaching, teacher lead­ership, and school reform. Dr. Ippolito is specifically interested in the roles that teacher leaders, principals, and literacy coaches play in helping institute and maintain instructional change at middle and high school levels. He continues to conduct research on adolescent and disci­plinary literacy, literacy coaching, teacher leadership, and school reform while also consulting in K–12 schools. Results of his research and consulting work can be found in a number of books and journals, including The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, The Journal of Staff Development, and The Elementary School Journal. Recent books include Cultivating Coaching Mindsets: An Action Guide for Literacy Leaders (2016), Adolescent Literacy in the Era of the Common Core (2013) and Adolescent Literacy (2012).

Dr. Ippolito completed his undergraduate degrees in English and psychology in the University of Delaware’s Honors Program, before completing his master’s and doctorate in language and literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to his work in higher education, he taught in the Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a middle school read­ing specialist, literacy coach, and drama teacher. Thus began his professional interest in the roles, responsibilities, and impact of literacy leaders and coaches.

Follow Dr. Jacy Ippolito on Twitter

Dr. Rod Berger, a respected leader in education communications, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator, and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others.

Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter 

Rhode Island: A Lighthouse State For Technology In Schools

I recently had the pleasure to chat before the holidays with Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo about her initiatives to improve career advancement for students graduating from schools within her state. Raimondo believes strongly in preparing students for 21st-century skill sets that not only lean heavily on technological knowledge but also modern day communication advances and collaboration.

As a governor, Raimondo sees it as her duty to place an urgency on the educational needs of students within her state; preparing them for successful careers after graduation. Rather than waiting for students to graduate into the unknown of the employment world, Raimondo has asked businesses within her state to inform students exactly what they are looking for regarding skill sets, knowledge, and experience.

Through the help of the governor and her team, Rhode Island students have the chance to become some of the best-prepared members of the workforce.


Snip20170110_37Gina Raimondo
has served as governor of the state of Rhode Island since 2014. Before being elected governor, Raimondo became General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island in 2010 after receiving the largest number of votes of any statewide candidate.

Raimondo co-founded Point Judith Capital and was involved in dozens of successful start-up companies, including Providence-based NABsys, a health science research company, and Narragansett Beer. She clerked for US District Judge Kimba Wood and served as founding employee and senior vice president at Village Ventures.

Raimondo graduated with honors from Harvard University, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, earning her a doctorate, and is a graduate of Yale Law School.

Follow Governor Gina Raimondo on Twitter

Dr. Rod Berger, an industry leader in communications strategies for education companies, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator, and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others.

Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter 

A Winning Combination: Technology and The Flexible Classroom

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I sat down with Alicia Moss, 5th-grade instructor at Meadowlark Elementary in Andover, KS to discuss her role as a teacher and technology advocate. According to Moss, students are so technologically advanced at home, it benefits teachers to adopt that same level of technology for their classrooms. By combining technology based instruction with flexible classroom settings, students and teachers can find the perfect balance for long-lasting learning. 

Podcast

CoffeED Alicia Moss

Interview

Rod Berger: 5th grade is such a pivotal time. I think back to when I was a 5th grader and understanding what it must mean for young people at this stage of their education and how they relate socially. What’s it like for you to teach 5th grade when you think about all the things that 5th graders now are exposed to – with technology and the different ways to connect with the world. I know I didn’t have the opportunity to utilize the technology when I was in 5th grade. What is it like for you being their teacher and seeing that world?

Alicia Moss: Honestly, there was a huge shift in mindset for me last year. My kids were very cutting-edge, and they knew so much technology that there was no way that I was going to be able to do the things I did the year before because they would have been bored and it would not have worked for them. That's when I had to push myself and think outside my box to make them think outside their box. They were like no class I'd ever had. The amount of technology that they had in their homes was crazy. They had stuff that I said, "Oh, cool. Let's get this to our class." They replied, "Oh, yeah. We have that." And then I said, "Oh, no!"
 
RB: You were late to the party, right?
 
AM: I was. I am not like that. I do not want to be late. I'm very competitive; I want to be first to everything. We can have so much fun because they're independent and have very young minds. They want to take in everything. And that's the reason why I will never go to middle schools because I feel it stops at 5th grade. They want to know everything and they get excited when I brought something to the table last year. I was excited because I knew they were excited.
If you could see my classroom, it has changed this year because I feel every year I have to change. I need to keep getting better, and the new thing is flexible seating, and I noticed that is a big deal. I had so many kids that wanted to stand, and not sit. That doesn't bother me but it bothered me when they were in the middle of my classroom, and they were blocking somebody else. This year, I made that not an issue. We have all kinds of seating options here, and when they came for “Meet Your Teacher Night” (last night,) they were blown away. They were so excited because they've got to pick anywhere, maybe on a couch. Maybe they wanted to sit on the big oversized chair. Maybe they wanted to sit on the ground. I love 5th grade because they are pushing me to push them and there's never a dull moment. I like change, and we like to flip and move things around, and we change all the time. So they keep me young, that's why. That's why I like to be with them.
 
RB: Do you find that when you're looking at the technology because they're bringing it to you? There's going to be technology that you are exposed to that they are not just because they're not looking for educational resources in that way. Do you find that you know them so well now that your eye is so much more critical in what you're looking for in the ways in which you are evaluating technology because you know what they are going to utilize? How has that changed over time based on what you've seen from the technology they've been bringing to you? It seems like you have to translate a little bit because of what they're using at home or with their friends.
 

AM: Yes.
 
RB: Here's what I need them to do. Or something similar –
 
AM: Yes.
 
RB: – And here's sort of a happy middle. How does that process work for you?
 
AM: Well, I was able to get their feedback, and specifically, I was looking at Sphero's and a lot of them had them at home. And I said, "So what do you do with it? Tell me about it? What is it?" So I got their feedback, and then I did my stalking on Twitter. I had to look at what people were doing on Twitter to see how they are making it educational. How are they taking this robot that the kids are using for fun, and they are driving it all over their house? What are they doing? How does that apply to 5th grade? I had to look at – is it worth it? Is it one? Are we going to use it for one activity the entire year or are we able to take it and move cross-curricular to be able to do it? And as my cool background, you can see –
 
RB: I love that.
 
AM: Right there. Yes. My kids use Sphero in art to create that mural, and at the end of the year, they wanted to take it with them. I was like, "Oh, but no, I can't. I love it. Come on. No. Maybe a different time." And they were like, "Come on." I have to constantly get their opinion because they are the ones that are interested and then, obviously, they have it at home. What can I do in the classroom now to make it educational with the device they already know?
 
 RB: How have you found technology to change your outlook on the way in which you teach because, now, it sounds like you've actively embraced it over the last two years. You've said, "Okay, this is the new path I'm going down." How do you look at it from your profession and the ways in which you look at things you want to learn more about from a professional learning, professional development standpoint? Forecasting out into the world where you're fully integrated. They're using the Sphero, maybe they're presenting and using other technology, and maybe they're combining group work and sharing that virtually through different means and mediums. How do you forecast out and how do you think about it regarding your role?
 
AM: I feel like, even when I was a kid, I was more of the vocal one. I like to talk. And therefore, I got put into the leadership role. When I first started in this building, I wasn't that way because I was getting my footing, getting my groove to figure out what I was doing. Now that I have found this new path that I am very passionate about, I share it all down my hall, down my building, down the district, down the street, and with my friends in other districts, all over Twitter – because I can. I think there is excitement from me that’s transferred to my colleagues, to people in my building, they see it and then they want to do it - a case in point being the flexible seating.
Over the summer, it was being documented that my husband was making tables for me and this was what I was going to do. We came back, and the 4th and 5th grades in my building, all of them, are doing flexible seating this year. They didn't want it to be only my room that had flexible seating, so they had to jump on board with the idea. When you present the research, and you present the opportunities that are out there, it's kind of hard to argue. It's hard to say, "Oh, that's not a good idea," even though they're going to get a lot of movement and they're going to stay awake longer. It's hard to argue with what's best for kids.
 
RB: I hope it's obvious to the audience the energy that you bring even just to this interview. I can only imagine what it's like for the 5th graders to experience. There are terms like, "trailblazer" and "change agents," those are important terms out there when we're talking about an industry that sometimes just needs a little bit of a nudge and a push to provide thoughtful resources and ideas. There's so much going on at all different points in the school year and even during the summer trying to prep for the next year. Your husband making tables is a good example.
 
Well, it's been great to get to know you, and I look forward to following you. You just talked about social media. Where can people follow you and your energy in social media?
 
AM: I am @moss5thgrade. I also have a class Facebook page that we are always on, and it's Moss's Minutes. And those are my two things.
 
RB: Wonderful. Well, keep up the great work, and I do love that artwork behind you. That's great, and it's a terrific example for the next incoming class.
 
AM: Yes.
 
RB: Thank you so much.
 
AM: Thank you so much.
 
Snip20170109_29Alicia Moss teaches 5th grade at Meadowlark Elementary in Andover, KS. Currently in her 7th year of teaching, Alicia’s passion for technology leads her to include EdTech in her daily lessons and cultivating her students’ 21st century skills. This 5th grade educator and her class love using new technologies such as Buncee for a variety of creative activities and for creating engaging presentations on any subject.
Follow Alicia Moss on Twitter
 
Dr. Rod Berger, an industry leader in operations strategies for education companies, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator, and Forbes. As an industry personality Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others.
Follow Dr. Rod Berger on Twitter
 
 

The Impact Of Dyslexia Education On Teaching Practices

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I had the pleasure to sit down with Ben Shifrin, Head Principal at the Jemicy School, Baltimore, MD to discuss his personal journey and mission to help those with dyslexia. Shifrin shares his emotional story of being a kid in the 60's (before Dyslexia education was instituted,) and the saving influence of one inspirational counselor. Sometimes, it takes only one person to instill a sense of belief in ourselves to propel personal and intellectual growth.

Shifrin adds details of his present work at the Jemicy School where he provides an environment that ensures no student will ever have to experience the hardships he endured as a youth. I have interviewed many people in the education field, but few have exuded the enthusiasm, personal accountability, and passionate vision demonstrated by Shifrin.

I hope you take the time to listen to the audio below because I feel Shifrin speaks to the frailties in all of us and the courage to overcome.

Ben Shifrin Interview


Snip20161215_15Mr. Ben Shifrin, M.Ed. has been Vice President of The International Dyslexia Association since November 25, 2013. Mr. Shifrin serves as Treasurer and Director of
The International Dyslexia Association. Mr. Shifrin serves as the Head of Jemicy School, an independent day school in Baltimore County, Maryland, for college-bound students who need extensive remediation in reading, written expression, spelling, and organization. Mr. Shifrin has dedicated his career to helping students with language-based learning differences. Prior to coming to Jemicy in 2002, he was a special education administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Head of Westmark School in Encino, California.

Dr. Rod Berger, an industry leader in operations strategies for education companies, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator, and Forbes. As an industry personality Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others.

Teaching Digital Citizenship in a Technological World

Mike Ribble, Educational Technology Presenter, and Director of Technology recently discussed digital citizenship in our schools. As the author of Digital Citizenship in Schools, Nine Elements All Student Should Know, Ribble is enjoying the release of his 3rd edition, a culmination of efforts from his first two publications with real life examples from inside the field.

Ribble nicely explains how the digital life of the student is becoming so commonplace that curriculum and culture appear to be melding together. According to Ribble, soon the phrase "digital citizenship" may refer to "citizenship" as the former expression becomes more and more redundant.

Rod Berger: Well, I'm looking forward to this conversation, Mike. Digital citizenship is a hot topic, but it's also a very important topic as we're looking at transitioning students, teachers, educators and the community of education forward through learning opportunities in the world we live. As someone who has passion about digital citizenship, tell me where you stand regarding where we need to go moving forward? I think people understand; they recognize it in the pantheon of verbiage in education. But now I believe it means something different to people. Where do you see it?

Mike Ribble: As you mentioned, it was one of those things, 12 or 14 years ago when I got started in this area. It was a real sideline piece. It was tangential to education and what was going on. But now, because it is such on the forefront of how we live in a daily life, I tend to step back into my educator shoes where I started my career. I look at it from the respect of, "Are we preparing students to move on to that next level and how are we doing that?"

Digital technology is a part of how we live our lives. I'm not saying it's the core of it, but it is a major aspect of it. When you look at children in preschool using devices, how do we begin to prepare parents, so they understand the process that goes from the children's hands before school, to in school; how that relationship works together?

I think there's been a pendulum effect of trying to push a lot of technology because "we got to have technology," and now I believe we're coming back towards the center. That's where I feel digital citizenship resides. It's the balance between using the devices and how it's used in society and also, how it all ties together.

I know there are many proponents out there and I don't disagree with them that, but, at some point, we want to drop the word digital, and it should just be part of citizenship; how we live our lives, how we interact with other people. In the last two to three years it's become very exciting. I hear from a lot more doctoral candidates that are doing digital citizenship as their dissertation. It's moving this topic forward. How are we going to be as people using technology?

RB: Mike, let's talk about the responsibility if we can even say that, of the technologies out there. When I think about digital citizenship, I think about it from the lens of a parent. Or working in education, I think about the student's side and the way in which teachers are experiencing, teaching and talking about it. Then I want to think about the technology companies and what role they play and what responsibility do they have in this conversation about digital citizenship when it comes to what they are developing? I'm not trying to be Pollyanna because I know that when they're sitting in their sprints, and they're talking with their developers and technical teams, they're probably not having conversations about digital citizenship and that's okay to some degree. But if we're expanding that, and it's a group of CEOs, and they're talking about how to build their products, what do you think they should be saying or how should they include digital citizenship in a way in which they develop technology and think about the user experience?

MR: I think they should be part of that conversation. I think education needs to be at the table with those CEOs and discussing where they want to move this. The interesting thing is, a lot of the technologies that have come out, weren't meant for education and they've been almost shoehorned into education.

Now things have changed over time, the Apple products, the Microsoft’s, they've begun to meld and work those pieces together. But if you take something like the iPad, which is so ubiquitous in education; it's a product that wasn't originally created for the education market. It was a consumer device for individual users, and it slid into the education market. I think it surprised even the folks in Cupertino that all of a sudden it became this device with all the apps, etc. I'm not saying they were upset with the results (ha,) but I think they were caught a little off-guard.

I think some of these CEOs build it for one thing and we tend to shift it in education to something a little bit different, it's not terribly different, but it becomes something else. Our requirements in education are different. I think that we need to have that conversation and it would be great to have longer, more in-depth, interaction with CEOs, large companies and say, "Here are the things that we see in the field." I'm sure Apple or even Microsoft to some extent, have some of those people, but when you're such a large company, it's kind of like turning the Titanic, it's a very slow movement as you go along.

RB: Yes. I agree with you. It can be a delicate conversation with lots of different groups in the way in which they think it applies to what they're trying to do and the problems they're trying to solve. Some groups try to shoehorn their technology, but sadly, they see an opportunity. Hopefully, Education has done a good job of bringing them back to center to say, "Wait a minute, we still are the customers here, and here's what we need."

If we're looking at the technology, Mike, I'm seeing a trend with technology that combines kids, curriculum, creativity, self-publishing and understanding. That's the world these children and students are living in, and regardless of their skill set or their interests, that's one thing that is a commonality. So, how can I share and communicate my ideas in an integrated fashion that incorporates different technologies, different people, and different mediums?

Do you see the same thing and what do you think the long-term impact is on the way we experience curriculum?

MR: I agree, wholeheartedly. We see products like Buncee out there, starting to meet those needs to help educators in the classrooms to expand that idea of technology.

When we started off, we took the lessons that we had, and we tried to shift them into a technology realm. Phase one was an electrifying of the old lesson plans. Now, teachers are seeing that there are many other tools out there that can move well past what they have been doing in the classroom. My wife who's an educator as well teaches a third-grade class, and she uses here iPad in her classroom, to shoot videos of her students while they do the book "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." They do a weather forecast tied to that book that she videotapes.

It's a huge divergence from where they were, and it gives them a different way to expand their ideas and understanding of that text. It's not a long lesson; it doesn't go on for weeks and weeks but it's something that takes technology, it takes the interest of the students, and then it couples those together. It takes us past, "Here you go, now sit down, and write an essay about what 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' meant to you and tell us the main message." Now, they can take that and show it to the teacher in a different realm that they couldn't before.

I think we're going to see, a large explosion of that movement in education. I think we're ready as educators, to move away from this very static lecture response mentality, and move on to, "Hey, these kids can begin to build on these ideas." They were doing that before technology, but with the flip classroom idea, I can share the lecture piece. They can do it on their time as homework, and when they come into the class, now, we're not just talking about base stuff. Now, we're taking it to the next level, and we can begin to move past "Oh, here are dates, names and things like that. Now we have, "What does that mean? How do we start making that connection?"

Snip20161117_130RB: How do we plug-in our interpretation as teachers and students, and collaborative groups of students? Mike, I know you had your book through ISTE, Digital Citizenship In Schools, Nine Elements All Students Should Know. It's now in its third edition. I would imagine when you write a book, you obviously hope that you'll have multiple editions, right? It continuous to live, and breath, as a valuable piece of literature. What does it tell you now that you're in your third edition when it comes to who's buying it, and how they're applying it? How do you look at that?

MR: It's just been exciting to hear from folks, both in the United States and internationally. We've had a large contingent of people. It's so wonderful for me to go to things like the ISTE Conference. Here's a little example; I was sitting at the conference last year in Philadelphia, and I was near the bookstore, I had my badge on, and I was sitting there, and I was catching up on some emails or whatever. And this person, sitting next to me says, "I know who you are." I said, "Okay. Well, that's nice." (laugh) She mentioned how she just moved to the International School in Singapore, but she had been teaching in the Australian outback, and she had used my book with her Aborigine students to teach digital citizenship. When you see and hear those kinds of examples, how far your ideas have expanded; it's a little humbling when you think about it. This third edition to me was a real labor of love as far as the versions.

At first, I was getting it out there to get it going, the second edition was cleaning up, and making some adjustments, but by the third one, we used real life examples from in the field of how the nine elements, ideas, were being implemented.

I had an example from higher education, teaching pre-service teachers.

I had one from a K-12 district in Canada that used it over a five-year period and implemented digital citizenship in their district. The third was from some folks at the University of Kentucky and the State Department in Kentucky. They built upon it to create what they identified as iDrive Digital or the Digital Driver's License. It uses the nine elements, and it's a free product that anybody can use. It's still out there, and in its second edition; it's version 2.0, and just a great, great product.

RB: You know, you sound like a proud parent. (laugh)

MR: I am, very much. (laugh)

RB: I think it's great. It's needed from many different perspectives. It's nice to see that it hasn't been treated as a one-off. It's a way of incorporating principles throughout a school experience for a child, and also educators; then hopefully, like you said, it transfers over to daily life, at home and in our communities.

Well, Mike, it's been a great pleasure. The author of Digital Citizenship in Schools, Nine Elements All Student Should Know. And look, if you've been recognized at ISTE, that just means, "Say no more, right?" You're a star in the field, Mike. (laugh)

MR: (laugh) That's where I'm at. Thank you, Rod, I appreciate the time.

RB: Continued success.


Snip20161117_131Mike Ribble, Ed.D. has served as a classroom biology teacher, a secondary school administrator, a network manager for a community college, and a university instructor. He received a doctorate in educational leadership from Kansas State University. Currently, Ribble is the Director of Technology for the Manhattan-Ogden School District. Ribble has created and implemented a plan for identifying needs and providing equity of technology distribution in the USD 383 schools. He has led and participated in several projects that have provided additional technology and access to faculty and students while managing a budget of over $1.6M.

Dr. Rod Berger is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator and on RFD TV's Rural Education Special. A respected leader in marketing and communications strategies for EdTech companies, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and others.

Teaching Students To Drive Their Brains Through Metacognitive Learning

Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers, authors of Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas, sat down to discuss student driven learning methods highlighted in their new book. Metacognition is examined and nicely simplified by Wilson and Conyers as "thinking about your thinking" by forcing the brain to learn more efficiently and effectively.

By teaching students to drive their brains, Wilson and Conyers have seen students take ownership of their learning and become better discerners of information; resulting in higher levels of achievement.

Teacher preparation is also examined as an essential element to embracing metacognitive learning. Wilson points to strategies as "cognitive assets" that can be used as systems to teach not only the "gifted" student but every student. The results have been extraordinary as more and more students have qualified for higher learning classes by adopting metacognitive practices.

Conyers adds to Wilson's explanation by poignantly expressing how our metacognitive skills are the separators between effective and ineffective learning. By driving the brain, students become independent, free thinkers; learnable, teachable and most importantly increasingly dedicated to the results.

Visit ASCD for more information on Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas


Snip20161111_118Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers are internationally recognized experts in the domain of brain-based teaching and leading (mind, brain, and education) in both professional development and teacher education. Dr. Wilson began her career as a classroom teacher in Oklahoma and realized many of her students were not benefiting from standard teaching practices. Looking for solutions, she became a school psychologist. She then conducted over 1,000 diagnostic assessments and discovered that the majority of students had the potential to be achieving more academically, but had not been taught the cognitive and affective skills they needed to do so. Dr. Wilson then returned to the classroom to co-teach, with a focus on guiding children to learn and use cognitive, affective and metacognitive strategies. The positive impact of that approach led her to seek out opportunities to share with other teachers the implications of mind, brain, and education research to improve student learning and achievement. A longtime professional developer and teacher educator, Dr. Wilson serves as head of academic affairs for BrainSMART, Inc. and the Center for Innovative Education and Prevention (CIEP).

Snip20161111_119Marcus Conyers originally founded BrainSMART, Inc. and developed the BrainSMART(r) program for leading, teaching, and learning. A doctoral researcher at the University of Westminster, he explores processes for improving teaching practice by applying implications of mind, brain, and education science. Conyers is a member of the International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology and the American Educational Research Association and AERA's Brain, Neuroscience and Education SIG. He has led three-year initiatives with the Florida Department of Education and with Florida Atlantic University, the latter supported by an Annenberg Challenge Grant Award. His audiences have included ministers of education in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and Ontario, Canada. Conyers serves as Director of Communications for the Center for Innovative Education and Prevention.

Snip20161111_114Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers are the authors of more than 40 books and professional articles for educators, including, most recently, Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas (ASCD, 2016), Smarter Teacher Leadership: Neuroscience and the Power of Purposeful Collaboration (Teachers College Press, 2016), Positively Smarter: Science and Strategies for Increasing Happiness, Achievement, and Well-Being (Wiley Blackwell, 2015), Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice (Teachers College Press, 2013) and Flourishing in the First Five Years: Connecting Implications from Mind, Brain, and Education Research to the Development of Young Children (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2013). Wilson and Conyers' articles have been featured in Kappan and Educational Leadership with ASCD.

The team has led professional development for more than 160,000 educators in 35 states and at various locations around the world. Wilson and Conyers have presented with many professional organizations such as NEA, Jamaica Teachers Union, ASCD, Title I, Learning Forward, American Educational Research Association, International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology, American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, National Association of Secondary School Principals. Leiden University in the Netherlands, Florida Atlantic University, University of Central Florida, and Cambridge University, and Rollins College. Dr. Wilson also serves as an assessor on National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence teams.

Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers are co-developers of the curriculum for the Master of Science and Educational Specialist degree programs with majors in Brain-Based Teaching and Reading and Literacy. Their higher education curriculum in teacher education also includes courses at the doctoral level. Today, graduates from programs in Brain-Based Teaching based on the curriculum Wilson and Conyers co-developed are supporting student achievement in 47 U.S. states, Canada, Japan, South Korea, China, the United Arab Emirates, Bermuda, Malaysia, Vietnam, Guam, France, and Germany.

To learn more with Donna Wilson's and Marcus Conyers, visit www.brainsmart.org

Dr. Rod Berger, an industry leader in communications strategies for education companies, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator, and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others.

 

Transforming Schools Through Standards, Individualized Learning And A Community Of Innovators

Snip20161107_103Kyle Wagner, an educator, and author sat down to discuss the unique choices that led him to his new book, The Power of Simple: Transform Your School By Conquering The Standards, Individualizing Learning, and Creating A Community Of Innovators. Wagner shares how the need for a greater personal challenge and the wish to effect satisfying change, led him to leave a well-established school in the U.S. for the unknown of China.

In China, Wagner began teaching in the International School within the Chinese system. He found the open approach to active student learning to be one of the most successful components of his experience in China. Whether stateside or internationally, Wagner believes there is always an element of challenge to changing a traditional mindset or methodology. Simplicity through a community of shared values, driven by clearly defined vision statements has the greatest chance of traction that can lead to long lasting improvement.

Wagner illustrates how student-based learning coupled with project-based tasks can lead to highly effective student ownership. By putting the student in the driver seat of their education, schools can move away from top-heavy assessment testing toward a more individualized, self-accountable, and long lasting learning practice. Innovation is not only technological but cultural, and with a community of shared values, teachers can most effectively identify challenges and create solutions. In the end, simplicity is key; a simplified structure acts as the foundation for the integration of best practices.

Visit Kyle Wagner's The Power of Simple: Transform Your School By Conquering The Standards, Individualizing Learning, and Creating A Community Of Innovators for further discovery

Snip20161107_100Kyle Wagner is the former Futures Academy Coordinator at the International School of Beijing and an educational consultant for innovative schools around the world. He is absolutely obsessed with pursuing his passions and helping teachers and students discover their own. His obsession led him to write The power of SIMPLE, a book that helps educators spend less time on the things that drain their energy, and more time on the things they love. Kyle is a former project- based leader at High Tech High and holds an M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership. When not writing or teaching, he is performing with his original band, singing karaoke at KTV's and traveling the world with his partner. He currently resides in San Diego, California where he spends time developing a school of the future and helping other school leaders build theirs. Find out how he can help your school transform at www.transformschool.com

email: kylewagner@transformschool.com

Dr. Rod Berger, an industry leader in operations strategies for education companies, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator, and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others.

An Editor’s Reflections: Interview with Educational Leadership’s Marge Scherer

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Snip20161103_93Educational Leadership Editor in Chief Marge Scherer has been with ASCD for more than 25 years and Editor in Chief for 20. She is retiring this week, and although she’ll leave the publication in great hands, her influence is sure to be missed. Educational Leadership (EL) is the flagship publication of ASCD and is renowned for both its reach―a circulation of 135,000 educators, not including countless “pass-along” readers―and its quality―EL was named “Best Overall Publication” by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) at the 2016 REVERE Awards. The magazine remains one of the most valued resources on many educators’ desks and coffee tables. I had the opportunity to correspond with Marge for this interview and to ask her about her career in education publishing and the continuing legacy of her work.

Interview

Rod Berger: Marge, thank you so much for allowing me this opportunity. There are so many places we could begin, but let’s start here: In two decades as Editor in Chief of Educational Leadership, you’ve published hundreds of issues and thousands of articles. Are there one or two particular issues over the years that stick out in your mind as making a particular impression on yourself or the readers? Are there any specific articles that you find yourself thinking about often?

Marge Scherer: An editor’s favorite is always the last one published, I guess. Our November issue looks at “Disrupting Inequity,” and our authors talk about hot-button issues of the day: race, gender, and poverty. Two authors look at discipline disparities for black boys, and girls and another describes the schools transgender students need. We have several about broaching the difficult conversation about race, a few that talk about the unconscious ways bias is furthered, and a piece on restorative justice. Our authors describe practices that will help their fellow educators with the difficult job of trying to identify and eradicate inequity. It’s an eye-opening and thoughtful issue.

Over the years, my favorite topics have often been about teaching reading, especially when we looked at the research around reading and the brain. I’d have to say our issue called Faces of Poverty was one of my favorites, and one that was a lot of fun doing was the May 2010 issue that tweaked Newsweek. The Newsweek cover repeated the chalk-written line, “We must fire bad teachers.” Our cover’s chalkboard repeated, “We must support good teachers.” Inside I wrote an editorial titled “What Newsweek Gets Wrong.”  

RB: One of the impressive things about EL is that you always seem to be right on top of the key issues of the day, as well as those that will prove to be essential over time. Looking back 20 years into the archives I can find issues dedicated to social and emotional learning, parent engagement, and equity, to name a few―topics that are just as relevant today and are getting increased attention. How have you managed to keep the content so relevant each year, while also keeping it substantive and not bending to short-lived “flash in the pan” topics or trends?

MS: The EL staff always does a lot of research before we set themes. We start with brainstorming; then we ask some of our key writers about the nuances in their field. That’s how we came across the topic “Feedback for Learning,” which was very popular.

Often we have invited to our office a dozen educators from our tri-state area to tell us about their challenges. One year, they told us about how bad morale was in their schools, so we did a theme issue on “Building School Morale” and another one on “Communications Skills for Leaders.” Another group impressed upon us how much the populations of their schools were changing and becoming more diverse. Our issue last year on “Helping ELLs Excel” came from their comments.

We host an international group of educators at our annual conference, as well. And this year, we asked the state teachers of the year what their favorite themes were. Near the end of the process, we also ask our ASCD leaders to weigh in. We plan on publishing the 2017-18 theme list on the Web in late December and in print in the February issue.

RB: You’ve overseen a lot of innovation in your time with EL, including the introduction of the popular summer digital issue, an EL mobile app, a regular video column by Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey, study guides, and plenty more I won’t take the time to list. Is there any particular innovation of which you’re most proud?

MS: Each spring, we discuss how we will improve the magazine’s content and format. “Takeaways,” a department that features selected quotes from the issue on the last page each month and is illustrated with some great media-ready art created by our artist, Judi Connelly, is one of my favorites. I’m proud of all our columnists, whose writing and thinking is very innovative. The idea of having a video column was a fun one whose time had come. And Nancy and Doug were perfect video columnists because they are in this wonderful school where they do videotaping all the time.

The app and summer all-electronic issue have given us a chance to experiment with a more tech-friendly style. This year we are doing Tweets in a big way, with fun graphics and animation. We also have a new virtual reader's advisory board commenting on each issue. Those things happened thanks to our innovative staff, who keep sharing good ideas and take on extra work to make them happen. But, bottom line, featuring innovative thinkers is the key to a quality magazine.

RB: From an outsider’s perspective, I think the high standard of quality EL maintains probably the most difficult of your achievements, and in my opinion the most impressive. Can you discuss your mindset regarding quality and how you’ve remained driven to maintain such a high standard?

MS:  My former Editor in Chief passed along two antique gifts when I became Editor. One was an extra-long pica pole, and another was scissors with 12-inch blades, used to measure type and cut galleys years ago. He said they were symbolic of the right tools and the courage to use them. I have always tried to hold out for publishing the best collection of articles each month even under pressure of expediency. And I’ve tried to make good articles even better through strong editing. I am proud that our whole staff believes in high standards.

RB: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with any readers here who may aspire to follow your career path? There may be individuals at all stages―maybe they’re still at a university, or maybe they’re making great progress in a career but hoping to carry on to the next step―who could benefit from your insight.

MS: I am so fortunate to have had a career that made the most of my main skills—writing, reading, and magazine publishing. And I’ve been fortunate to have a job that allowed me to use and grow my talents. I know we’ve been saying it for a number of years, but it’s a transitional time both in journalism and in education. And the wisdom of the day is that an editor-to-be had better immerse himself or herself in digital skills to be ready for the next tech revolution. However, what is the key to success is continuing to learn, pushing oneself to the max, whichever way that takes you. But go the way you are bent—it is no use fighting the cowlick, as my hairdresser tells me. You have to enjoy what you do and find yourself a place that is kind to your soul.    

RB: We’ll close with one final question. If there’s one message that’s always clear from EL, it’s that you truly understand and respect your readers. Is there anything you’d like your readers to know or a message you’d like to give them, whether they’re folks who have been reading for decades or just started recently?

MS: The first words are “Thank you.” In Educational Leadership, educators write to educators, and every month they share their time and best thinking on our pages. They are a remarkable group.  

RB: Thank you again, Marge, for taking the time to do this interview with me. I think this will be a wonderful piece for our readers.

Educators can learn much more about Educational Leadership magazine and read articles from the latest issue, “Disrupting Inequity,” as well as all previous issues, at www.ascd.org/educationalleadership. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ELMagazine to get a steady stream of content from EL and ASCD’s newsletters, Education Update and ASCD Express.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Down the Hall are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.