Friday, July 11, 2014

Feedback Needed: Creating the Right Professional Development Plan

DISCLAIMER: IF YOU ARE FROM MY DISTRICT, THESE ARE JUST THOUGHTS I'M GETTING FEEDBACK ON AND NOT SET IN STONE. 

I repeat, this is just a plan that I'm looking at and seeking feedback on.

The 2014-2015 school year is approaching quickly. As I enter my second full year as a technology director I have been thinking a lot about vision, branding, and professional development. My boss challenged me to put together a strong professional development plan for this school year. I recently shared my proposed plan with her and my team. 

I hope that you will take some time to: 

  • look at the highlights of the plan.
  • provide feedback.
  • make suggestions.
I am not looking for a pat on the back or affirmation. I need to be challenged and pushed in my thinking. I just finished my third year out of the classroom and I want to make sure my thoughts are still relevant to the teachers and students I serve. 

Data Driven Decision Making

First of all, you need to know that last year we sent out a massive survey called "GCCS Needs Assessment". It was a huge list of "I can" statements revolving around using the different technology tools available to our teachers. Our amazing principals also did walkthroughs all year long and every time they did a walkthrough they submitted a google form about what they saw. A big portion of my thought process was based on these two pieces of data, conversations I've had with teachers/admins/students, and other personal observations. 

eLearning Coaches

I am very fortunate to work with 3 amazing eLearning Coaches. They all 3 work with 6/7 schools a piece. Yes, I know we need more...we're working on it. Here is how I see them being utilized going into year 2 of their position. 


  • eLearning Coaches will base weekly PD on Needs Assessment, Goal Clarity Windows (Curriculum Maps), and the district weekly PD focus (pedagogy, literacy, balanced math, and College & Career Readiness).
  • eLearning Coaches will work with Director of Technology and building principals to develop a plan and times when coaches will work with staff through Period Zeros, team planning period, personal planning periods, and co-teaching opportunities

TEaCHing Tuesdays

Throughout my first full year we had great conversation about how technology should be invisible. It is not the focus of the work we do. What we do is about teaching and learning. I just believe in the power in leveraging technology in the pursuit of learning.

I am working with a couple of friends to come up with a graphic for "Teaching Tuesdays" where the letters for "tech" stand out in the work "teaching" to indicate that tech is integrated into teaching. They are not two separate things.


  • Teaching Tuesdays will occur most Tuesdays after normal school hours. (Actual time/location TBD)
  • Teaching Tuesdays will offer breakout sessions, both virtual and face to face.
  • Breakout sessions will center around integrating GAFE, MBC, web-based tools, ActivInspire and PowerSchool into teaching. Pedagogy will be a huge focus at these PD sessions. 
  • One session will always be an open session where teachers can come and work on lesson plans with a coach. 
  • Sessions will primarily be led by Director of Technology and eLearning coaches but could also be led by Teacher-Librarians, STCs (School Technology Contact), other certified staff members, and/or vendor-partners.

eLearning Website/Blog

    • eLearning Team will finish developing help websites with contact information and tutorials on the different tools we use in our district.
    • eLearning Team will provide a weekly blog post by a team member.
    • eLearning Team will promote and participate in Connected Educator month in October, Digital Learning Day/Month in February, and conduct a 15 Day eLearning Challenge.
        20% Time

        • 20% Time is the philosophy that gives employees the opportunity to work on a project of their choosing.
        • Each eLearning Coach would develop, document, and implement a 20% time project.
        • The project can be with a class, a school, or district wide.
        • Projects must be approved by Director of Technology and Executive Director for Educational Services.
        • eLearning Coaches will document his/her experience through a blog.
        • eLearning Coaches will be given a budget to work on their 20% time project.
        • eLearning Coaches will pick one day a week to work on their 20% time project.
        Teacher-Librarians

        One of the exciting I've got be a part of is the opportunity to work with passionate people and reimagine with them the work they do. After working with our media-center specialist, we decided their roles needed redefining. Two are biggest initiatives in our district are literacy and technology integration. Our media-centers should be the center of these initiatives. With some help from our current media-center specialist and the amazing Shannon Miller, we rewrote the job description and have started the process of transitioning to this rebranded position called Teacher-Librarian. This is the outline of my plan to work with them.


          • Throughout the school year the teacher-librarians will transition to the new job description.
          • The Director of Technology will meet monthly with Teacher-Librarians to assist in the transition to these new roles/responsibilities.
          • The Director of Technology and eLearning Coaches will provide PD opportunities and connect teacher-librarians to other teacher-librarians from around the country.
          We're also interested in rebranding the media-centers themselves. I'm thinking about the name "learning-centers". What do y'all think?

          Technology Strategic Plan

          Now my district already has a strategic plan. I just want to beef up the technology piece of it and help create a better vision and brand.


            • Purpose: To build upon the current district strategic plan and create ownership across all stakeholders.
            • A Technology Strategic Plan Committee will be formed with a representative from each building, at least 5 parents, at least 5 students, eLearning Coaches, tech service members, at least 1 school board member, and administrators.
            • Committee will meet regularly throughout the year and develop a plan around these 5 pillars.
              • Academics
              • Infrastructure
              • Digital Citizenship
              • Professional Development
              • Financial/Budget

            Feedback Needed

                Ok, this is where you come in. What do you think? What do you like? What would you change? What would you add? What would you take away? Does this help all of my stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, admins, school board members and community)?

                Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and for leaving comments!

                              Tuesday, March 18, 2014

                              Cause Over Competition




                              Sometimes I enjoy learning about myself more than anyone or anything else. I know. That sounds pretty arrogant, but I'm continuously amazed at how much I still have to learn about myself.

                              For example, if you want me to shut down, it's easy--put me in a competition. It's just not in me to be competitive against other people.  This is one of the many reasons I stopped playing sports at a young age; I make a much better fan than a player. I'll cheer for my team, and I'll analyze their actions and think of how they can improve. Of course, I'll do that for the opposing teams as well. 

                              Not that long ago I was playing basketball, and I was guarding a friend who is a lot better than I am. (Hint: most people are.) It was my job to guard him, so I was going to do everything in my power to stop him. However, he was draining every shot that night. If I guarded him closely, he just drove past. If I gave him space, he just shot over me. The thing is, every time he hit a shot, I felt good for him. It didn't bother me that he was embarrassing me. I was honestly happy for the guy.  I think I even gave him a high-five after a couple shots. It's not uncommon for a teammate to ask me if I know whose team I'm on because I'm happy either way, no matter who wins.

                              The last time I played organized sports is when I was in 7th grade. I played football. At the end of the year I was given the sportsmanship award. I will never forget about what my coach said about me.
                              "What I love about Brett is that even though he was a starter, he never complained one time when I took him out of a game. When I wanted to put him back in, he was easy to find because he was right next to me cheering on his teammates." 
                              None of this is to brag. It's just who I am. I am only in competition with one person, myself. The only person I want to be better than is the person I was yesterday.  It is what I loved most about Matthew McConaughey's speech when he won his Oscar. He said that the person he is chasing is himself 10 years from now.





                              This is what bothers me about the current state of education and what goes on in a lot of other areas as well. Everything is a competition. I constantly come across the mentality that if you don't give somebody a person to compete against, then they won't strive to compete at all. I push back against that mentality.

                              I want to give people a cause to fight for, more than a person to fight against.  

                              When you are fighting for a cause, you always have something to compete for or against. People win enough championships, they eventually win enough awards, and they will walk away from competition. I don't know many people who walk away from causes.

                              This mentality drives so many of my decisions. This is why I tell my own kids they have my permission to not take their state exams seriously because I don't let them get pulled into this competition to have the highest test score. And we don't talk about grades in my house. I will sign a report card if I have to, but I will probably only skim it, if I read it at all. When my sons' state test scores come in the mail later this year, they will immediately find their way in the trash can without being opened. They don't get to compare grades or test scores with each other. I don't put my kids in competition. I just ask them that they be the best them they can be, and be better than they were yesterday.

                              One of the hardest times in my career was at the end of my first year of being an eLearning Coach. We had a team of 15 and my boss was given the task by his boss to rank us 1-15 because they were going to be cutting our team down by a number that not even my boss knew. Each one of us had to go in for an interview and just talk about the work we were doing. I thought long and hard about just bowing out and heading back to the classroom.  I loved my classroom, and I miss it dearly every day. I will miss that role until the day I retire. My best years are ahead of me, but I fear my favorite years are behind me.

                              I hated what we were being asked to do, go in and fight to beat out others, because our team was not in competition with each other. We were collaborators! We were brothers and sisters! But here we were trying to fight to stay in our position. So why didn't I just back down? Because of the cause. I love education and want to make our schools the best they can be. It's something that is etched in my heart.

                              So I went into that interview with the mentality that I was going to refuse to place myself above anybody else on my team. For the majority of the interview I talked about what each person on the team brought to the table. I talked about the different gifts each of us had and how well they complemented each one of us. I honestly tried to give my boss every reason to keep other people on the team over me.

                              The day I got picked to stay on the team, and five of my teammates were cut, was one of the hardest days of my career. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to fight for my cause, but I was crushed that my colleagues, my friends, had an opportunity to think less of themselves.

                              That is what happens when you make things a competition. You always have a winner, and you always have a loser. You give somebody a reason to feel good about themselves, and you give somebody a reason to feel bad and defeated.

                              When you have a cause, you are taking a situation that is already struggling and you're trying to turn it around. Let me say it this way: you are taking a situation where people already feel like they are losing and you're helping them turn into winners. Nobody looses when you fight for a cause.

                              We need cause-driven leadership! 

                              We need leaders who will have their people take on a cause and not a competition. I remember working in a school district where the mission statement was "Equity and Excellence for All Children". That's a cause I can get behind and I can fight to provide. The district I am in now is "Bridging Excellence and Opportunities". My current superintendent often talks about being the bridge between college and career readiness. Again, that's a cause I can get behind. It's not for me to decide where my students end up. I'm just going to be the best bridge I can be to help them get there. I'm not out to build a bigger and better bridge than other school districts. I cheering for those guys and gals. I'm pulling for each district around the state and beyond! We are all pulling the same direction. At least, we're suppose to be.

                              Not really sure how to wrap up this post. I could spend more time on cause-driven leadership and maybe I will soon. This post was more for me than anything. It's my 100th post on my blog. I'm a little bummed that it's taken me this long to click on "publish" 100 times, but here we are. I hope to get better at this, and I hope to write more often because I know I can. Me 10 years from now is blogging a lot more than I am today. Me 10 years from now has written a book and has his doctorate degree.

                              The causes that I am fighting for will still be there 10 years from now. I am not sure how much of dent I will make in them over the next 10 years, but I will make a bigger dent in them today than I did yesterday and it will be the best dent I can make. In the end, that's the only competition I need. 

                              Saturday, December 28, 2013

                              Blogging Challenge

                              Ok, this blogging challenge/homework has been going around for a little while now and it got around to me thanks to my good friend, Shira Leibowitz. Here is her post!

                              HERE ARE THE RULES OF THE CHALLENGE:
                              Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
                              Share 11 random facts about yourself.
                              Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
                              List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition and a little blogging love!
                              Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

                              11 Random Facts

                              1) I hate the outdoors. I will only spend lengthy periods of periods outside for 2 reasons, a sporting event (watching, not playing) and if my kids ask me very nicely.
                              2) I was a teenager when I got married.
                              3) I play the bass guitar.
                              4) I currently have 52 tabs open in Chrome. 
                              5) I used to want to teach high school language arts. Then I realized I wasn't very good at language arts and didn't have the patience or desire to grade 100s of essays/stories.
                              6) I had a college professor talk me into getting my middle school endorsement my senior year of college. It saved my career. I was made to teach middle school but it took somebody else pointing it out to me for me to see it.
                              7) My brother Kyle and I can carry on a conversation with nothing but movie quotes.
                              8) I almost left education 5 years ago.
                              9) I miss being in the classroom every week but I would miss what I do now the same if I ever went back to the classroom.
                              10) I desperately want to go skydiving one day.
                              11) The longest I have ever stayed in one position is the paper route I delivered for 6 years as a kid. I have not stayed in any of my professional positions for more than 3 years.
                              12) I have always wanted to speak at a school's Red Ribbon week. Preferably either at a school district I work or have worked in or at my alma mater because I think relationships are critical when having those discussions. Although, I'd love to speak anywhere students were willing to hear my story. 
                              13) I'm an open book and could do this all day. I've deleted several things from this list.   

                              My 11 questions from Shira
                              1. When you were young and people asked what you wanted to be when you grow up, what did you answer? A teacher. I never wanted to be anything else from the time I was in the 3rd grade. 
                              2. What is one piece of advice you have to offer a first year teacher? Teaching is about relationships. If you don't have a healthy relationships with your students and colleagues, this job will be very hard for you. 
                              3. What is one piece of advice you have to offer principals? You don't have to do this alone. You have teachers, students, parents, and a community that want to see your school success as much as you do. You set and cast the vision and let the team carry out the mission. Also, see the advice above for teachers. 
                              4. How do you like to spend time off from work? Anything that involves family and church. 
                              5. What is your most important professional priority in the coming month? Taking our 1:1 to the next level. We're a semester in and it's time to push our thinking a little harder. 
                              6. What inspires you? Kids inspire me. They are so passionate, creative, resilient, and hopeful. It also breaks my heart when I see those things ripped away from our kids by a cruel world. 
                              7. If you could learn anything new (time, effort, practicality, and difficulty aside) what would you want to learn? To draw comics. I'm terrible at art and would love to be able draw comics for my boys and to teach them to draw. 
                              8. What makes you laugh? My boys, Micah, Nathan, and Levi! If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, they've probably made you laugh too. 
                              9.  What is a goal you have for yourself in the coming year? To start writing a book. I have lots of ideas for books but have yet to sit down and really start one. 
                              10. Who do you admire? My Bishop, J Todd Nichols. He's a very inspirational man. Also, Bill Ferriter. He's like a big brother to me and pushes me to be a better educator and leader. 
                              11. What are you currently celebrating? I am celebrating the birth of my savior, Jesus Christ. It's something I celebrate all year long. 

                              11 Bloggers + 1

                              Tim Wilhelmus
                              Jeff Tron
                              Brian Bennett
                              Michelle Green
                              Jason Bailey
                              Candice Dodson
                              Allie Holland
                              JD Ferries-Rowe
                              Marc Seigel (The only non-Hoosier on this list.)
                              My eThugs - JT Cox, Melissa Stewart, and Katie Hutchinson  (Time to start blogging!)
                              You - seriously, if you're reading this and want to join in, why would I stop you?

                              My 11 questions for you.

                              1) What is the most rewarding professional experience you've ever had?
                              2) If you were made the emperor of education, what would be the first 3 things you would change?
                              3) What was the last book you read for fun? for work?
                              4) Who is your favorite director? (If you say Brett Ratner or Michael Bay, I may unfollow you.)
                              5) If you could be on any TV show, what show would you want to be on?
                              6) Paperback, hardback, or eBooks?
                              7) Who's your favorite celebrity to follow on twitter?
                              8) How close or far away are you right now from where you thought you would be at this point in your life when you were a kid?
                              9) What's the most embarrassing hair style you've ever had? Bonus points if you include a pic!
                              10) I always loved how baseball players have a song they walk up to when they bat. What song would you pick?
                              11) What's your favorite browser and how many tabs do you have open? (I'm really looking for affirmation that I'm not the only one with an addiction to tabs.)

                              Have fun!