Leading Change


The old saying is that “No one likes change but babies in diapers.” (Barbara Johnson) If that is true, how does a district make systemic change? Kotter International states, “Urgency is becoming increasingly important because change is shifting from episodic to continuous. That means there is a constant need for an urgent focus on what is important.” Change is around every corner. There is no longer a period of breathing room in education. In North Carolina, it is no different. Our districts are facing very large changes:

  • Focusing on 21st century skills
  • NC Teacher/Administrator Performance Evaluations
  • Common Core/Essential Standards curriculum changes
  • Online assessments to be given statewide in 2014

We must communicate a sense of urgency to all education stakeholders. Parents, teachers, students, and community must be involved in how schools do business. They must understand the WHY of change as much as they want to know the HOW of change. Without a sense of urgency, it is easy to put off what needs to be done (spoken by a true procrastinator by the way!). Most change needs immediate action. By waiting, it can compound issues to where you have to climb a mountain to solve a problem rather than a small hill.

When I took my first leadership role, someone recommended I read the book “Our Iceberg is Melting” by John Kotter. This is a very quick read (within an hour) and is presented in a narrative format. Through the example shared, Kotter reveals several steps to bringing about change successfully. These steps have helped me throughout my career. Upon reflection, I realize that I have developed my own off-brand approach.

  • Build the infrastructure: As a leader, you must know the political landscape and the resources that you have at your disposal. Are there structures in place for communication? How does everyone collaborate? Find out what is there and see if it can be used to accomplish your goals.
  • Know the players, build a team: People are important. If you are not a “people person”, education is not the place for you. A good leader will take the time to know the players of the game and figure out how to strategically place them to bring about the best results. Find strengths and play to those. If weaknesses are too great to ignore, figure out how to grow strength in those folks or help them find a place better suited for them.
  • Answer the “so what?” factor: Everyone wants to know what is in it for them. Why should I care? I remember asking my own high school teachers that very same question. It is the same for leadership. Teachers have tons of responsibilities on their plates. It is the job of the leader to make connections so that everyone understands how to work smarter. I use the analogy of “Chopped” on Food Network. On the show, chefs are given random ingredients and told to make a meal from them. The key is to make something that tastes good, looks good, and is good. Leaders in schools have to do the same with the different issues, programs and responsibilities on that teacher plate.
  • Bottom-up: Change needs to be a grassroots effort. If you can get buy-in by those affected the most, it can be very successful. There is a great video about leadership from the perspective of the “first follower.” Although funny, it illustrates perfectly how change can become a movement.
  • Top-down: Leaders need to lead change. Period.
  • Differentiate for the learners (a.k.a. give them choice): Have multiple methods for teachers to get on board. This might be in timing (letting some go first or let those who need to be last, be last), in presentation of the information (multiple formats), or in application of the change (let them choose where they will contribute to the adoption of change).
  • Meet them where they are: Don’t make the assumption that everyone is the same. Figure out the needs of your audience/staff and work towards that. My husband is NOT a technology person. He gets overwhelmed with the technical knowledge I have. If I tried to teach him on my level, he would shut down. Instead, it is important for me to teach him something about technology WHEN he needs it or wants to learn it. Then he embraces the knowledge instead of kicking back.
  • Be ready to drop back and punt: Not all change will be smooth sailing. Give the change time to take hold but if the writing on the wall early on says that this is not the way to go, don’t be afraid to stop the implementation of change and work toward a better solution.

 Image by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mabi/208649874

To YouTube or not?

In my role as Instructional Technology Director for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, I end up in a regular conversation/debate about why we block YouTube in our schools. My usual argument involves the following points:

  • YouTube was not designed for education and therefore has very little regulation
  • Although there are some fantastic videos available, the bad outweigh the good.
  • Most educational videos are being offered on both YouTube and Teacher Tube (which we do not block).
  • Although we keep it blocked in the buildings, we teach those interested how to download videos from YouTube at home in order to bring them in for lessons.

I must admit that I am a YouTube junkie. In fact, I have my own channel where videos of my son are posted (he will be a rock star…mark my words). This debate is something I struggle each time I am involved.

It does make me curious though…If you read my blog, what does your system do? How do you think this should be handled in order to keep children safe and be compliant with CIPA?

Why change? Why now?

**This is also being posted on http://wsfcsintouch.blogspot.com

For the past several months, I have been preaching to district and school level technology staff that we must spend a MINIMUM of 15 minutes a day learning new information. This will not keep us ahead of technology and learning but it will help us keep the pace. Each day, I find myself spending more and more time (mostly at home much to my husband’s chagrin) and it does get my head “spinning” to quote Carol Grandy.


During my time last night catching up on my Google Reader and my Twitter feeds, I came across the video above on YouTube. Although I have used other videos to discuss change and the 21st century skills, this may be my new favorite. I have now watched it several times, stopped and started it, and written down a few notes…


“Every device turned off is potentially a turned off child.”

By school board policies, we ask our children to check their devices at the door. We worry about the cheating and the lack of attention paid to school work. As I read David Warlick’s post on AUP dated today May 8, 2008, I found myself cheering for a school who is thinking outside of the box and connecting kids rather than disconnecting kids. Here is what he said…

Then, taking a minute to thumb through the April issue of Technology & Learning Magazine (Welcome Kevin Hogan), I ran across six schools in Brooklyn who have given cell phones to their students — a total of about 2,500. Each phone is preloaded with with 130 minutes of talk time. Students can be rewarded with additional minutes for good behavior, attendance, homework, and test scores.

Kids are living in the “NEARLY NOW” It is not quite synchronous. It is a place to reflect, research, and repeat. It is a great world for learning.

Don’t we want this for our students? Don’t we want this for us? As educators, we need the time to process the information coming at us and then reflect on what it means to us. If that becomes part of our daily practice, we can model it for our students.

“We have a classroom system when we could have a community system.”

No matter what your politics are, we ALL know “it takes a village.” Our system is trying to focus on developing Professional Learning Communities. 21st Century Skills call for global awareness. We need to think big not small.

“If I want the students to make global connections, give the tools to the teachers first. Provide them with opportunities [for global connections].”

Our kids are starting to understand global connections. It is time to get our teachers to rethink the possibilities. As I moved from my classroom to a school-level position to a district-level position, my eyes were opened to my community and that allowed me to have a better understanding of my roles and responsibilities. Students and teachers will benefit from connecting with others. It can be the most powerful staff development/learning environment. A great example of this is Twitter. As I began to use Twitter, I quickly was in touch with educators from around the world. Suddenly, I heard about projects and resources being shared by classrooms from different countries, states, and systems.

21st Century Learning is not about memorizing facts. Do you know how to find information, validate it, synthesize it, leverage it, communicate it, collaborate with it, and problem solve it?

This became clear to me a little over a year ago when, at NCaect, Will Richardson spoke and posed the question, “Is it important to memorize the state capitals or know how to find the answer?” Karl Fisch states in his “Did You Know 2.0” video that by 2010 information will be doubling every 72 hours. How can kids memorize information (all new information) every 72 hours? Isn’t it more important to teach students how to harness the power of information, evaluate it, and communicate it?

“Teach a man to fish…”


How exciting! I want to be part of a community that is focused on learning for all. Why change? Why now? Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says, “Teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by teachers who do.” I plan on working for schools for a long time. Hope you’ll join me!

The Winds of Change

I am going into my 8th month in my new job. I decided in January that I wanted to visit all 75 schools we have in our district to determine the concerns, needs, and wants of technology and leadership. Some visits have been better than others. I have been fortunate in the last couple of weeks as my boss and I have been invited to come and talk tech with a few middle school principals and tech facilitators. I love to see the lightbulb come on when leadership finally gets it! We have talked equipment (my least favorite of the discussions), furniture (surprisingly fun when we are looking at cyber cafes in schools!), and staff development. There are so many possibilities for these schools and I can’t wait to see it develop.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

For the past year, I have been reading about Twitter from some of our greats in educational technology. I have to admit that I could not see the purpose in telling people what I am doing in 140 characters or less nor reading what they are doing. At FETC this year, I decided to fold under the pressure and finally take a look. After setting up my account, I immediately started following some of my favorite bloggers (whose updates in my Google Reader never seem to get read and up-to-date). WOW! I did not realize that I would get little quick updates on their resource findings, ideas, and general information. By using Twitter, I did not have huge blog posts to read at night but through the day, I am able to read quick updates. Talk about the power of just-in-time staff development. I love to find new web 2.0 resources from Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher), keep up with the latest ed tech news with Will Richardson, and get provoking thoughts from David Warlick. I have also found others who give me information and inspiration. I have been TWITTERIZED! Come and join me!

How to be a Diva…

A pearl forms when a tiny particle finds itself in an oyster. This tiny particle or organism enters the oyster when the shell is open for feeding and respiration. As the oyster layers the particle with mother-of-pearl, it forms a rare and precious jewel. Technology can be that particle for teachers. On its own, technology is useless and dull. But for a teacher with an open mind, technology can be layered with curriculum standards, best practices, and a willingness to learn in order to transform teaching into a captivating, inspiring art.

How can you begin to cultivate your own “pearl” of a classroom?