Monthly Archives: July 2013


Photo Credit: Yahoo Images

I’ve been on Twitter for just over a year and continue to be amazed at the power of social media as it relates to my own growth as a school leader.  When I connect with colleagues and meet new principals one of the first things I share is the value of Twitter as a professional development tool.  Admittedly, my Twitter exaltations have included plenty of buzz words, so my goal here is to provide a pithy and rhetoric-free explanation of how I’m using Twitter to learn and connect.

The impact of a PLN cannot be Overstated

“You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren.” ~William Hudson

Twitter has allowed me to expand my Professional Learning Network (PLN) to include some of the most experienced and inspirational teachers and leaders in the country.  The staff at Greenwood Elementary is amazing…truly amazing.  When I connect with additional educators around the country I am able to quickly exchange ideas and bring some of the best resources back to our school to support areas that our teachers are interested in.  The sum of all of us is better than each of us working independently, and the collaborative environment that Twitter provides helps me to fly more like an eagle instead of a wren working in isolation.

Learn with Others that Share your Passion for Learning

“Birds of a feather flock together.” ~Author Unknown

Networking with other educators that share my passion for helping kids succeed is inspiring.  This Sunday evening I was working on an Augmented Reality project and was thinking through the best way to approach some of the technology work-flow pieces.  I posed a question to somebody I really respect on Twitter and received his opinion back in less than 2 minutes.  The access Twitter provides to other like-minded professionals is uncanny, and by using hash tags and Twitter chats I’m able to further connect about issues important to our school.

Each of Us has Something to Offer….and Something to Learn

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” ~Chinese Proverb

The breadth of experts in the fields of education, business and technology is staggering.  The fact that I have access to their insights is really quite cool!  More importantly, I can connect with other principals and teachers that are doing the work every day.  Twitter provides an outlet for the teachers that are doing exceptional things to share with others; it allows me to personalize my own learning.  The vast amount of quality resources, links, podcasts and blogs that are shared on Twitter would take a person weeks to discover on their own.  Twitter enables those that have ideas to share with others looking to improve and grow.    

Twitter has helped me broaden my PLN, connect with others that have similar passions and exchange resources and research like no workshop or conference ever has.  Most importantly, I’m able to take the ideas/support that I receive via Twitter and bring them to the dedicated professionals at our school. 

I recorded a baby bird that fell from a nest beneath our deck and created a short video tribute to the power of Twitter and soaring with your PLN.

Summer Citizenship Challenge

Summer Bingo

One of the many things I love about my job as principal is the opportunity to connect with so many students and see first-hand how their learning and growth play out in different areas of our school; how students interact with each other on the kickball fields, in the hallways and at after school events is very important to me.  Just as our amazing staff takes great care to foster high levels of academic learning for our students, we also work very hard to support their overall development as people. 

I’ve heard it said that “everything that can be counted doesn’t necessarily count, and everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”  There is no state standardized assessment or MCA that prioritizes being a good friend and neighbor, but a student’s character serves as the underpinnings of all they will do and who they can become.  We approach their learning with the understanding that their capacity in the areas of citizenship, respect and caring can be developed.  We thank you for your support and partnership in this as well.

Our school is continuing this partnership to promote positive character development in a fun family-friendly way.  The final character trait of the school year is Citizenship.  On May 31st we’ll take some time to highlight what this trait means at an all school Character Assembly, and share an exciting summer citizenship challenge that I hope each and every family connects with.  Click HERE to print a copy of our Summer Citizenship Connect Four game!

Thanks for ALL YOU DO to invest in our students.  This awesome adventure called education truly takes a village, and we value your support!

Originally posted May 17, 2013

iPop Quiz


Q. How do you know when you are more than a fair weather tech-enthusiast?

A. When the most unexpected and potentially havoc-creating tech-mishap occurs and you still LOVE it!

Most people are aware of my love of learning and appreciation for innovation.  I also enjoy experimenting with new technology—not that I am an expert by any means (keep reading for further evidence!).

I recently purchased a new iPhone 5.  Having been an avid Droid user for several years, I was reticent to make the MAC migration.  This week I began noticing that a few of my calendar appointments did not sync over from my old Droid calendar to the new iPhone for whatever reason.  After exploring potential causes (through independent research, Google, trial-and-error, and conversation with my amazing wife, etc.) I contacted our fabulous technology team for assistance.  (They are exemplary.) 

The GOOD news is that all of my syncing issues have been resolved and my calendar is fully cooperating again.  The bad news is that some of my calendar events (also known as very important meetings) were not saved on either device.  This may not seem too terribly troubling…until you consider the fact that “ninety-nine point ten percent” of the time I rely on my calendar/phone to record, remind and recount my meeting schedule.

On a lighter note, a staff member was joking about my iPhone calendar dilemma with me today by holding up her paper desktop calendar and heralding it as ultra-reliable….I laughed and asked if they made belt-clips for that model of calendar.

Technology is a really cool and useful thing, and every once in a while we just need to roll with the punches.  I think the same holds true for our amazing teachers and students; to foster a supportive learning culture, we sometimes need to embrace the notion that mishaps and tech-glitches will occur.  It’s part of the 21st century human experience…and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Originally posted April 26, 2013

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It’s All About the Lens

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Our family recently had the chance to watch The Lion King in 3D.  The entire experience was stunning….except when one of my kids drooled Reese’s Pieces onto the comforter.  Actually that was stunning as well, and the miracles of OxyClean may be future blog material.

Back to the movie.  As far as I’ve surmised, the magic of 3D lies in the glasses.  Without the glasses you see a semi-fuzzy movie.  And you get a headache.  With the glasses…..ahhhh.  Let me tell you!  It is magical!!  During the movie there were a few instances that I caught myself dodging out of the way.  It felt like there was a pride of animated lions frolicking in front of the TV; and I’m not talking about my three little cherubs.

At any rate, I did a little research into 3D technology and found that there really is some science packed into the experience.

So what’s the point?  The lens we bring to any situation is critical; it can reveal magic, potential, and creativity.  Sometimes, forward-thinking occurs more readily when we are willing to release our grasp on the rear-view mirror.  School and the very nature of learning is in a transformational time, and we’d do well to ensure we bring the right lenses to conversations about change and 21st century learning.

I’m a firm believer in the mantra that, “What you look for in life you often find.”

Whether you are a parent, teacher, school leader, or otherwise; begin (and continue!) to look for opportunities to support students in their learning of 21st century skills and fluencies.  The work we all did as students was part of a different time, and less connected time.  It remains important.  And….there is new and different work to be done.  The tools our students and teachers have available to them today offer limitless potential.  As somebody who cares about education, I encourage you to carve out 10 minutes to reflect upon the contents of this website:

Watch a short video clip or two, and see if you can pair work your child is currently doing in our school to some of the concepts from the website.  Amazing things are happening and school is changing.  The role of the learner is taking center stage as we are moving towards a more personalized experience for each and every student we serve.  Rigid rows of desks are being realigned.  Collaborative clusters of kids are conferring on content that requires critical thinking and conversation.  Relationships remain as vital as ever.  Communication is key; and it is evolving too.

Our kids are counting on us to have updated lenses so that we can provide them a vision full of possibilities.

Originally posted March 25, 2013
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I LOVE to Read!

Pirate Pic Thumbnail

February is I Love to Read month and we are celebrating…Pirate-Style!!  Help your child “Seek Treasure in a Good Book.”  Check out the short podcast HERE to learn more about the adventures that await. 

Click HERE to download your very own copy of the Pirate’s Challenge game board.  Students should turn these into the main office at the end of the month.

Originally posted January 23, 2013

The Greatest Gift

This past week has been one of deep reflection and sadness. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut reminds us all of the fragility of life. My heart breaks thinking about the lives lost and the holes in the hearts of the survivors. It is crushing. It is difficult to know what to think or even attempt to make sense out of something so absolutely and devastatingly senseless. In fact, the only thing that truly made sense to me this past weekend was to hug my children often and to show my family abundant love.

As educators and parents we have the awesome responsibility of gifting future generations with lessons not found in most textbooks or e-readers; compassion, empathy, cooperation, respect and peace are character traits and virtues that we model and teach one interaction at a time….with our families, friends, coworkers and perfect strangers. While proficiency on the state standards and mastery of the ACT or SATs is a goal, one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to the children in our homes and classrooms is the ability to master caring and to help them be proficient in showing kindness.

“If you have the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” ~One of Mr. Brown’s precepts in Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

We are carefully reviewing our school’s safety protocols, and will continue to conduct regular crisis drills over the course of the school year. We will also do the little things that make a BIG difference. We’ll strive to make choices that impact attitudes and dispositions….lifting spirits and building community. I emphatically encourage you to join us in this important endeavor; when given the chance….choose kindness. Choose it often. Authentically. Unswervingly. Choose it when you are in a hurry. Choose it when it’s not deserved. Choose kindness because it makes a difference and impacts generations.

We never know what tomorrow will bring. Embrace the day and fill it with kindness overflowing. Let gratitude be your trademark and courage to confront callousness be your calling card.

Blessings and peace to you and yours.

Originally posted December 18, 2012

100 Flavors: Tapping into Personalized Learning

Freestyle Pop Machine

I sometimes joke with my wife that one of my “love languages” is eating out at restaurants. (If you have not read Gary Chapman’s book this initial reference may make no sense to you….but please keep reading; I promise the rest gets better.)

I take great joy in selecting restaurants, polling my children to see where they want to eat, and researching the various discounts available (free kids meal night, etc.). However, I’ve finally met my restaurant nemesis; meet the Coca-Cola Company’s new 100 Flavor Interactive Freestyle Soda Fountain. (I did not make that name up!!)

This is the machine that has captured the affection of my kids, and only a few restaurants have it. In fact, there is only ONE restaurant that my daughter associates the 100 Flavor Interactive Freestyle Soda Fountain with….so that’s ALWAYS where she wants to eat. Why???!!

She appreciates the chance to select from 52+ flavors of Hi-C and is enamored with the 43+ styles of Coke along with several dozen varieties of PowerAde flavors not seen on grocery store shelves. (I may be exaggerating…but only slightly). The point is she loves choices and values a personalized beverage experience. Truth-be-told, I totally get how this beverage machine won her over; the cherry Hi-C is soooo good!

The entire concept is really quite simple…she walks into her restaurant of choice and has many different flavor options to quench her thirst—more than ever before. The pathways to the end result (thirst quenching goodness) are nearly limitless.

If you are like me, you might be asking what this has to do with education or a principal’s blog. The answer is found in a few key words; choices, personalized and pathways. My daughter can choose from multiple pathways to quench her thirst, and the personalized experience has engaged her in seemingly limitless possibilities.

The talented professionals in our school’s classrooms have been engaging students in their learning for years. Through differentiated instructional strategies, forging meaningful relationships, and finely honing their craft teachers have excelled at helping students excel.

The most exciting thing is that through new and evolving technologies we will be able to personalize learning in ways that were previously unimaginable.

What if there is a way to offer each of our students an individual pathway to proficiency, or unique enrichment options that have them coming back for more?! Just like my daughter and the “100 Flavor Interactive Freestyle Soda Fountain,” I suspect that a more personalized experience could lead to a powerful and personalized connection to our school along with a life-long habit of inspired learning.

Originally posted November 28, 2012
Photo credit: Alice Gao

Social Media: When Schools and Parents Partner Kids Win

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We live in a hyper-connected world. Opportunities to communicate, collaborate and create using technology and social media are ubiquitous. Chances are…if you are unfamiliar with the apps Instagram or KIK your child has heard of them…or will soon enough. Truth-be-told, these apps are one way our children choose, or will choose, to communicate.

Some parents may not be aware of the minimum age requirements that Instagram, Facebook and other online apps have in place. Adhering to these requirements will allow your child additional time to learn important internet safety and etiquette at home and school before they interact more independently in these virtual environments. However, waiting until your child is of “Facebook age” to influence their digital citizenship (manners, safety, etc.) is too late. Schools are providing students controlled environments to practice virtual collaboration using tools like Google Drive right now, and this is a very positive thing!

With all of these expanded opportunities to communicate in and outside of school comes the reality that children will use these tools to explore who they are and who their friends are. Sometimes this means that online interactions and texting may become terse, emotional or inappropriate; just like when two people communicate in person. Other times this means that online conversations will be silly, lighthearted and very much appropriate; just like when students communicate in person. And just as I need to teach my own kids to use manners when speaking, I will also need to reinforce internet safety and etiquette with my young children now.

Student conversations and social plans that previously played-out in backyards and schoolyards are now being broadcast to the public at amazing speed (4G to be precise). This means that schools and parents need to be nimble and proactive in addressing these tools with children.

While our visceral response may be to recoil and prohibit all technology until our children are 18 years old (or 33….), a “teaching approach” with supervision and feedback will yield better results. If left to their own devices (literally and figuratively) students will fill in the blanks with their own cyber etiquette and form lasting habits.

This is precisely why our technology curriculum includes lessons on digital citizenship and web ethics. It’s also why we need to continue the conversation and partner together to support student learning in the area of online communication and collaboration.

Please view the web resources below to educate yourself, and keep an eye out for parent seminars being offered at our school this winter (more info to come):

Click HERE for a comprehensive and user-friendly web resource created by Wayzata Public Schools.

Click HERE for cyber-bullying and digital citizenship tips from Dr. David Walsh.

Commit to monitoring your elementary child’s communications (electronic, social media and face-to-face interactions) and provide age-appropriate guidelines, expectations to promote balance and feedback.

The investment we make together now will pay dividends as students become more independent and as technology continues to evolve.

Originally posted November 15, 2012

How Might We…

I recently read an article about the power of those words, “How might we…”  The article delved into the role language plays in either promoting creativity…or inhibiting it.  This was very interesting to me and there are obvious connections to how word-choice can support student learning.
It also prompted me to reflect upon a few questions:
1. How might we encourage independent and collaborative problem-solvers at Greenwood Elementary?
2. How might we build a culture of mathematical thinking, creativity and innovation?
3. How might we better partner with families to promote these same attributes in our students?
The tricky part about this reflection (and the one-person conversation I was having with myself) was that I felt compelled to find some answers!  As the pressure mounted (this was an intense one-person conversation!) I put together a few coherent thoughts…and intermixed a few coffee-induced ramblings.  Check out the short (2 minute) podcast below to learn more about how we can create a culture of mathematics and help students become “solution seekers!”  You’ll be pleased to know that our teachers are way ahead of the game, and several grade-level teams have even attended some exemplary professional development training in Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).  Working together we will equip our students with the strategies and collaborative skills to problem-solve now and in the future!

Originally posted October 1, 2012

Innovation & Creativity

I love creativity.  Passion inspires me.  Innovation is motivating because it is ripe with new learning and opportunities for our students.
I think that’s why I love my job so much.  I work with some of the most creative and passionate students and staff anywhere.  Anywhere.  The support from our school community is the best.  The best!
We work very hard and rely upon a professional creed that puts kids at the center of every decision we make.  Often times we operate from a widely accepted research base of best practices.  Sometimes….sometimes we delve into innovative waters and that’s where things get really cool.
Check out this new virtual tour of our school’s Media Center.  It’s both innovative and really cool!  The project has a literary twist and was filmed from the perspective of The Mouse and the Motorcycle—perfect for a virtual tour of a Media Center!
The video is the result of several weeks…months…. of work on the part of our very talented Technology Para, Mrs. Ingwaldson, and some creative students at Greenwood and other schools.  I want to thank Mrs. I for sharing her time and talents with us and give a special shout out to the students in the video that added an impressive and ever-smiling “wow-factor.”

This VIDEO originally posted September 12, 2012

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