Why I’m Attending ISTE’s Leadership Forum (and You Should Too!)

When I first heard about the possibility of an ISTE Leadership Forum, I was thrilled about the prospects of a conference that would allow me to collaborate with school leaders and share solutions to the most pressing issues we are facing in our schools today.  As the October event draws closer my excitement continues to grow because I know this event will leave me with a wealth of concrete ideas to bring back home to my district. In addition, I know that the connections that I make with colleagues from around the country will allow me to grow my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and have an expanded list of educational experts to reach out to as new challenges arise.

Here are some bullets from the forum’s website regarding why individuals in leadership positions and leadership teams should attend:

  • Maximize your tech investment and stretch your dollars.
  • Leverage social media for instruction and establish a social media policy.
  • Employ technology to meet the Common Core.
  • Support and motivate your staff to embrace new strategies.
  • Engage tech tools to assist with parent communication and involvement.
Here are my top reasons for coming:

1.  Connect With Amazing School Leaders  

First off, Chris Lehmann is the opening keynote and having the chance to sit down with Chris and hear his thoughts is an amazing opportunity in itself. But more importantly, Chris and the other ed. leaders who will be there (i.e. George Couros, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and many others) are accessible every day of the week through their blogs, twitter accounts, e-mail, etc. 

2.  Michael Fullan is the lead facilitator 

Michael Fullan is one of the most highly-regarded change leaders in the world when it comes to the field of education. I had the chance to spend a full-day workshop with him over 10-years ago, shortly after the release of his book Leading In A Culture Of Change and it is still among the top Professional Development experiences of my career. More recently, Fullan has published Change Leader, another great resource for educators to rethink the traditional model of schooling that is holding back our staff and students.  

3.  Leaders Need To Model The Changing Definition of Literacy 

A few years ago the National Council of Teachers of English created a new 21st Century Literacy Framework.  The truth of the matter is that what it means to be literate in 2012 has changed a great deal from when many educators were in school themselves. In order for us to truly fulfill our role as instructional leaders, we need to understand this shift and become comfortable with this new skill-set and model it for staff, students, (and our communities). Fortunately, ISTE has a set of clear standards for administrators, teachers, and students to help us in this critical work. 

For all of these reasons, I feel the ISTE Leadership Forum will be my most important Professional Development this year.  I will have the opportunity to continue to expand my vision and goals for myself and my school and ensure that we are on the right track in providing our students with the most relevant educational experience possible.

Thank you ISTE for making this event a reality! Please spread the word to other educators in leadership positions. This is something that they will be sorry they missed!

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A Great Way To Approach Technology – "Pause — Think — Crawl — Walk — Run."

One of my favorite leadership books of all-time is Good to Great by Jim Collins.  He captured my attention three sentences in with the following statement:

“We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools.” 

It is ironic that when I first read the book shortly after its publication in 2001 I skipped quickly past Chapter 7 which is titled “Technology Accelerators.” At the time, I was in a place where technology purchases were few and far between and that was fine with me as I dealt with so many of the overwhelming details of being a brand new Principal.  Another reason for my jumping past the chapter was that Collins said the following about technology:

 “Technology and technology-driven change has virtually nothing to do with igniting a transformation from good to great” 

I have to admit that my perception of the situation was that we had a great deal of work to do in creating a more student-centered approach and coming to agreement on learning expectations. So, I was happy to put technology discussions on the back burner and have one less thing to worry about.

Fast forward to Burlington in the present and I have a different view of Chapter 7 from Good to Great.  The quotation from Collins about technology has become a “yeah, but…” for me. While I know that technology alone cannot change an organization, it is now clear to me that technology when deployed thoughtfully can bolster improvement efforts. It gets to the heart of what is intended in the quote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach above. 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. 


Great schools and teachers will share that traits of the great companies that Collins described by selecting and focusing solely upon the development of a few technologies that are fundamentally compatible with their established strengths and objectives.”  They will not fall in love with the newest or shiniest toy that the vendors are peddling.  I can’t help but wonder how many millions of dollars have been wasted on Interactive White Boards in schools that did not first consider how they would be used or if they fit well with the goals and objectives of teachers who received them. 

As we receive visitors, calls, emails, etc here in Burlington about our iPad initiative, I caution schools to employ Collins approach to adopting technology  – “Pause — Think — Crawl — Walk — Run.” 


Here is my interpretation of each term:


Pause – Don’t get caught up in the initial wow factor of a new resource.


Think – How would this support current objectives and initiatives you are currently working on? 


Crawl – Have some teachers start to utilize the resource on a small scale and provide school-wide feedback to all staff. Also begin staff training on use of resource in the classroom. 


Walk – Get a whole department or cohort going with the resource and have them report out to the entire school community staff members on how the resource is impacting learning outcomes. Ramp up training. Ensure all staff have access to differentiated training.

Run – Continue to ensure that there are frequent opportunities for learners (all school community members) to provide feedback on best practices. These opportunities should extend to other school communities doing similar work.

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