Posts by Patrick Larkin

I feel blessed to be an educator. I have had the good fortune of working as an English teacher, an Assistant Principal, a Principal and an Assistant Superintendent. I currently serve as the Assistant Superintendent of Burlington Public Schools (MA).

BYOT and one-to-one initiatives are literacy initiatives

The following post was on the Smart Blog On Education earlier this week.

As a school leader who recently sold my community on the importance of moving to a one-to-one environment where every student has access to a web-based device, I believe strongly that our students will be more literate than students in other schools who do not have access to web-enabled devices.  A look at the world outside of our schools and the technological resources being accessed in so many professions that allow people to work “smarter” is a clear indication of the track that our students need to be on in order to be able to function in the “real world.”

The biggest stumbling block in schools even if we can get the devices is the proficiency level of the adults in the building in utilizing the technology resources effectively. This is not meant to be an indictment of educators, but it is a critical question that we all have to look at, assess, and then move forward. Technological tools/resources can assist educators in some of our biggest undertakings (i.e. common core standards integration, teacher evaluation, providing relevant professional development, etc.). However, because so many educators in schools are not comfortable with the most modern literacy skills we are not able to make better progress.

Are these your literacy standards?
From an educator’s perspective there are a few places that we can turn for a concrete look at the standards.  The best resources for modern literacy standards are the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Let’s start with NCTE.  The Definition of 21st Century Literacies listed below was adopted by NCTE in 2008. While you look at the list below,  think about how many educators in your community are comfortable in these areas.

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

As educators, we need to be able to start to list concrete examples of how we meet each of these standards and then assist our students in doing the same.

What about the ISTE standards?
Like NCTE, ISTE also provides us clear standards to help schools better prepare students in the digital age. Unfortunately, the vast majority of educators look at the ISTE standards as technology standards when in reality they are learning standards. As the introduction to the standards states on the ISTE website, “Technology has forever changed not only what we need to learn, but the way we learn.”
Like the NCTE standards, ISTE’s contain six focal points:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

As with the NCTE standards, I question how many of these our staff members are comfortable with at this point.

Is this even on our radar?
So as we look towards the new things on the agenda for schools throughout our country like common core implementation and new teacher evaluation methods, I am worried that the integration of technology is still looked upon as a detached task that will have to be kept on the back burner.  The reality of the situation, however, is that if we understand how to utilize the vast array of collaborative resources out there that we can accomplish our tasks more effectively. But we cannot even start down this road if we do not provide access.

There is a great quote about technology in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”: “Technology alone is not going to move an organization or an individual from Good to Great. However, technology that is thoughtfully deployed can help us move a bit faster. ”

In closing, I have to mention the seven survival skills that Tony  Wagner discusses in his book “The Global Achievement Gap,” skills that our students need whether they are going on to college or the workplace.

  1. Critical thinking/problem solving
  2. Collaboration/leading by influence
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination

We cannot get where we need to go, if we as educators do not model these skills and we cannot model these skills if we do not provide learning environments where staff and students have access to digital resources that allow them to experiment and discover the power of being a connected learner. We are at a point where we have to consider whether or not those who are learning in “disconnected” environments can be called literate by today’s standards.
So as you are thinking about whether or not a BYOT or one-to-one initiative is right for your school, you need to ask yourself the following question: Is it important that students in our school are literate?

Patrick Larkin (@patrickmlarkin) is the assistant superintendent for learning for Burlington Public Schools in Massachusetts. He is a former high school principal and former commission member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

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BYOT and one-to-one initiatives are literacy initiatives originally published by SmartBlogs

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A Peek At School and Classrooms Through Their Blogs

It is so great to be part of a school community where educators share so much about what is going on within their schools and classrooms. As an administrator, I am frustrated sometimes by the fact that it is impossible to get around and see firsthand all of the wonderful things happening in the Burlington Public School System each day.  But thanks to the growing number of teachers and administrators sharing on websites and blog, I am able to feel like I am in the loop even if I cannot be present to witness all of the neat things occurring in our district daily.

As I a parent, I can only wish that the school system that my children attend provided such wonderful access!

Anyway…Here is a glimpse at some of the things that I saw yesterday as I checked out some of our district’s blogs.

From the Marshall Simonds Middle School Blog:
A peek inside our newly renovated middle school.

Tuesday, September 4th 2012 – the eagerly anticipated opening of the new addition and partially completed renovation of Marshall Simonds occurred. When you visit us you will understand why this construction project was well worth the wait. We are proud of the dedicated spirit of the teachers and staff who worked so hard to make the opening of the building and start to the 2012-2013 school year such a success.

Check out a few more pictures from MSMS last week below.


Parents please note our Back to School Nights have been scheduled:

Grade 6 – Tuesday, September 18th, 7pm

Grade 7 – Wednesday, September 19th, 7pm

Grade 8 – Monday, September 24th, 7pm
That evening will give you a chance to see all the changes at Marshall Simonds Middle School.

   From The Pine Glen Principal’s Blog:
Hero Assembly 2012

Today (9/11/112) we had our Hero’s Assembly at Pine Glen Elementary School.  On this day we say thank you to the police officers and firefighters in our community that help keep us safe.  We also say thank you to the brave men and women in our military forces that keep us safe.  In addition, we remember Lieutenant Commander Thomas McGuinness, an F-14 Fighter Pilot and alumni of Pine Glen Elementary School.  Thomas left our Pine Glen Community on September 11, 2001 when he was acting as the co-pilot of Flight 11. 
In the first picture above is our music teacher, Mrs. Agati, who can been seen directing students in the musical performances.  Other pictures include students holding flags of the different military branches (Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Cost Guard), students sitting at the assembly, and Burlington Public Safety Officials.  

How-To Video Series – Accessing Microsoft Attachments When All I Have Is Google

I am in the process of creating some How-To videos One of the changes here in the Burlington Public Schools this year is that we are no longer supporting Microsoft Office. This is a big change for folks that have been utilizing this resource for many years. Despite the fact that we do not have Microsoft Office, we can still receive and access Microsoft documents in Google Drive. The video below shows folks how they can drag Microsoft Office attachments into their Google Drive and access them. Please feel free to let me know if there are other Google-related questions you have.

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Staff and Students At Pine Glen Are Building Community By Filling Buckets

From The Pine Glen Principal’s Blog:

Check out the letter below from Pine Glen School Psychologist Lee Garneau explaining this great program that was made possible through a grant from the Burlington Education Foundation.

We’re Filling Buckets!
September 10, 2012
Dear Families,

I hope you had a wonderful summer and are rested and ready for the new
school year.

At the end of the last year I was awarded a Burlington Education Foundation
grant as well as supplemental money from the Pine Glen PTO to implement a
school wide positive behavior program. The “We’re Filling Buckets!” program has
been designed to foster a greater sense of community. By utilizing the theme
from Carol McCloud’s book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”, students and
staff will spend the year recognizing positive behaviors towards themselves and
others. My intention is enhance our school community environment by
highlighting good citizenship behaviors.

For those of you who have not yet read
the book (I encourage you to do so, if you have the opportunity), Bucket
Filling is a simple concept… “Everyone in the whole wide world walks around
carrying an invisible bucket…Its purpose is to hold your good thoughts and
feelings about yourself.” Our buckets are filled when we show acts of kindness
and respect towards one another. I have visited each classroom this year and
explained this new program to the students and they have all listed many ways
we can practice being good bucket fillers.
If you would like to
learn more about bucket filling, visit the Bucket Fillers website,

Small buckets have been provided to each classroom and staff have been asked
to present small recognition slips to students who exemplify behaviors
consistent with good citizenship/filling buckets. I will be going around to
each classroom collecting the bucket slips on a consistent basis and creating a
visual representation by the front entrance of all the buckets we fill at Pine
Glen. The students are working to beat my goal of filling 1,000 buckets this
year. The program will culminate with a special school wide presentation in

I have also created a blog this year to document our bucket filling at Pine
Glen as well as serve as a resource for our families with information about
relevant mental health topics, school/community events, etc. Please take a
moment to check it out at

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look
forward to working with the students again and hope we fill many buckets this
Lea Garneau,
M.Ed., Ed.S., NCSP
Pine Glen
Elementary School
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Breaking News From The BPS Ed Tech Team! – Google Drive iPad App Update

From The BPS Ed Tech Team:
By Andy Marcinek

After a long wait, Google Drive is now available for the iPad with the full functionality of the web-based version of Google Drive. To refresh, Google Drive is the new name for the Google Docs Suite. This suite includes Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms, and Folders.
The updated version of the Google Drive app allows you to create, collaborate and edit documents with ease on the iPad. Before, this process was rather cumbersome through the mobile view and desktop interface on the iPad, however much has changed with this update. Users can also upload photos and video right to Google Drive directly from the iPad. This will allow students to upload video projects and photos immediately.

The home screen for the Google Drive App

The best update to arrive in version in Google Drive version 1.1.0 is the editing option. Users can edit much easier and with a cleaner interface. Plus, the editing and collaboration features are much faster through the Google Drive App. Users can also see who is editing on the doc at the same time. In addition, docs can now be accessed offline as well. Users can edit a doc offline and once it hits a wi-fi connection, the doc will sync with Google Drive and save in the cloud. This feature will happen automatically or via the refresh button in the upper-right hand corner of the home screen of the app

Editing view in the Google Drive App

The Google Drive app also gives users the ability to organize their entire Google Drive. Users can create and share a folder as well as create and share a doc through this app (at this writing only docs can be created directly through the app). Also, users can move docs to folders and organize their entire Google Drive from the iPad app.

Create a new doc, folder or upload media

While creating presentations, spreadsheets, and forms is still unavailable, I imagine this feature will be added soon. Even though you cannot create presentations, spreadsheets, and forms directly from the app, users can still view these documents within the app. In addition, users can open a Google Spreadsheet and access the “open in…” feature from the app that will allow users to open the spreadsheet in supported apps (such as Notability, Evernote, Dropbox, etc.). For presentations, users can view and present from the app, but not yet create a presentation directly from the app. Again, I imagine these features are not far behind this update.

Open spreadsheets in supported apps

Users also have the ability to share a doc directly from the app and can access a populated contacts list from simply typing in the first letter of the email. The share feature also allows the doc owner to set permissions for “can edit”, “can comment”,  and “can view”. The doc owner can also toggle viewing permissions and completely remove a user from the doc.

Share docs, view and toggle permissions

If you’ve struggled with Google Docs on the iPad in the past, this is update will make your life and classroom work-flow more enjoyable. This is not a perfect update, but it is a giant step in the right direction for those of us using Google Apps for Education in a 1:1 iPad environment. If you have any questions about this update, please visit the help desk for assistance.

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Don’t Miss This Week’s #PTchat! Parents & Teachers Discuss Digital Citizenship & Internet Safety

We have certainly had many conversations about how we are supporting our students and parents in regards to citizenship and responsibility in the digital age. While our move to a 1:1 high school where every students has an iPad has brought a great deal of positive feedback, there have also been parents who have raised concerns about the increased access to the world wide web that their students now have.

As you can imagine, the questions and concerns that we are dealing with here in Burlington are the same ones that are being discussed in communities throughout our country (and beyond).  This Wednesday night you have the chance to collaborate with parents and teachers from all over the map on this subject.  Check out the blog post below from eFaceToday for more information:

Image credit:
Guest post by #PTchat moderator and New Jersey teacher Dana Sirotiak (@sirotiak02)

As we prepare our students and children for the 21st Century, there is a certain responsibility required when educating students on how to practice safe and responsible usage of online information.  The positives of technology integration include collaboration and increased productivity, but in order for students to demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning, we must instill practices when preparing students for appropriate Internet usage.  

Join us this Wednesday, September 12th at 9pm EDT/6pm PST as we discuss what it means to be a digital citizen and how teachers and parents can develop a partnership to facilitate Internet safety both in school and in the home.  All #PTchat archives/resource gDOCs can be found here
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Help Support the BHS Marching Band This Sunday

From The BHS Principal’s Blog:

The Marching Band will be at the Burlington common this Sunday Sept 9th from 10 am to 3 pm at Truck Day.  The BGood truck will be there selling shakes.  100% of the money that is collected from the sale of the shakes will be used to support the band’s trip to Disney this spring.  The band will also be selling candy, scarfs and football cushions.

Best-Selling Young Adult Author Mike Lupica in Burlington Tomorrow

As a former sports-writer, I have been a fan of Mike Lupica for some time.  The veteran sports writer for the New York Daily News is also a best-selling author of young adult fiction with a phenomenal series of sports-related stories to his credit.  He will be in Burlington tomorrow at Barnes and Noble at 4 p.m. to sign his most recent publication True Legend.

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Education Leadership: Will Richardson’s TEDX Talk

Originally posted on the Connected Principals Blog

I am always looking for entry points for our school community to engage in a meaningful discussion of our vision for students.  Will Richardson’s TEDx Talk from Melbourne, Australia (below) provides a clear description of where we need to be headed.

All schools need to answer the following question asked by Richardson:

What is the value of school when you don’t really need school to do school if we define school in the traditional sense?

Here are two key points from Richardson’s talk that get to the heart of this question:

  1. Learning is what our kids need to be doing in the classroom, not getting ready for assessment that were built for another time.
  2. (via Justin Reich) We pay so much attention to the measurable part of education that we miss the immeasurable part.creativity, perseverance, problem-solving are what are children need.

I would love to hear your thoughts after watching the video!

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Hey Forbes Magazine! What About The Students?!

Originally posted on the Connected Principals Blog

We won’t go wrong if we keep students the focus of our plans.

I was excited to see the headline on a Forbes magazine piece in August titled – Why Public School Leaders Must Embrace Social Media Now  As I read the article, I was in complete agreement with the points that were being made by the author, Joel Gagne, a consultant who works with schools on communicating more effectively with stakeholders.

Gagne pointed to the following as reasons for schools to start using social media:

“Communications: Often, schools communicate with stakeholders via either regular postal mail or the school website. When a school district decides to utilize social media, their stakeholders can receive information like the “Principal’s Report,” event information, schedule changes, and more in real time.  They can also use social media to listen to what many in their community are thinking about their local public schools.
Public Relations: Given so much negative media about public education, schools can no longer leave public relations to chance. Social media allows schools to direct their followers to newspapers and TV segments featuring positive information. School districts can also use social media to highlight the hard work of their students and staff, and their school district’s accomplishments.
 Branding: Whenever someone sees the Golden Arches, they know they’ve found McDonald’s. This should be a school district’s goal through social media – that whenever someone sees their school district’s logo, they should think “innovation” (or whatever the desired brand may be).

The above are a great starting point in regards to why schools should be utilizing social media resources.  But are these the most important reasons for us to start embracing social media?  In my mind, these are low-level tasks that have been and always will be important to any organization, including schools.

However, the biggest concern I have with school leaders be unwilling to utilize social media resources, or even worse banning them in their school, is the fallout for the students.  Students who do not know how to utilize these current resources to communicate, collaborate, and learn are not competent according the National Council of Teachers of English  framework developed on 2008.

According to NCTE :

Twenty-first century readers and writers need to

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
In looking at this list, I am concerned that we are a long way off  from having students who can meet these standards.  If the conversation with school leaders is one that focuses on the low-level tasks described above then we will never lead our students where they need to be.  The bottom line is that if school leaders do not model the use of these resources then we cannot expect teachers to make it a priority either.  If teachers aren’t using these resources then the capacity of students to integrate them will be greatly inhibited.

In closing, I want to make it clear that I intend no disrespect to Forbes or Mr. Gagne, but the fact that school leaders would need to turn to a private consultant to market their schools has me a little bummed.  There are a number of places that our colleagues can get help for free in this areas and some great models available in school leaders that are already doing this work.

I guess it brings me back to the same question we have been asking for a while here..How do we get them to get them on board and see the bigger picture? Any suggestions?  The students are missing out! 
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