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What Leaders Can Do Now

Page history last edited by Barb Thorson 10 years, 3 months ago


Have you ever been Stuck on an Escalator? Literally or figuratively? A literal stuck "seems" to warrant an obvious fix (except for these fine people in this video)--at least it makes sense that it would be. I have however been stuck on a metaphorical escalator a few times in my life and career, and it takes many forms: apathy, complacency, lack of vision, laziness, self-focused, etc. Not only is this video hilarious, it is àpropos to the way we sometimes respond to change. Here are some reflective questions: How does this video serve as a metaphor for the need to lead change and create new paradigms? How is this “Stuck on an escalator” metaphor (actions and attitudes that stagnate and stifle) detrimental to the work of an e-Learning Community (e-LC) or professional learning community (PLC)? What steps need to be in place to ensure that this attitude, complacency, lack of vision and commitment, etc. doesn’t erode what you are attempting to accomplish?


Ask yourself, “Am I stuck on an escalator?” Ask that same question to your faculty, to your leadership team, to your department, division or grade level teams.To avoid being "stuck on an escalator," I challenge you to implement these steps to lead and manage change. These steps are addressed to two systems of leadership (the Superintendency and the Principalship):

  1. Deploy and monitor: Create a deployment plan (one that focuses on the what? Who? By When? What action steps are essential to meet goal, who is responsible for managing and monitoring action step and evaluating and dialoguing data? By when will it be accomplished? What are the Next Steps? Use the sample template; begin the conversation with the following mapping strategy: What do we want? How do we Get there? How do we know we are getting there? How do we share and replicate the story to others?
  2. Model, model, model: Yogi Bera once said, “If you want to do something you have never done before, do something you have never done before.” Choose the Web 2.0 technology (www.twitter.com, www.facebook.com, www.ning.com are just three examples of social media that can help define and shape a 21stcentury learning, leadership, professional development approach) that best aligns to your work and the commitment of the school--don’t get overwhelmed. Start slow, to go fast later.
  3. Be the change you want to see. This mirrors and supports number 2.
  4. Internalize standards: Administrators (2009 National Education Technology Standards for Administrators),technology facilitators and leaders, and teachers (2008 National Education Tech Standards for Teachers) need to read, examine, and implement these standards; use them as an accountability, assessment and evaluation tool (for principals, tech leaders, teachers). Here is another assessment tool to help build an innovation roadmap and to evaluate innovation readiness (find at Teaching Matters: School Assessment and use the Innovative Roadmap Rubric to set direction and evaluate next steps. Also, make strategic indicators from assessment tool a part of Walk-throughs; in addition, use the following free observation tool from the International Society for Technology Education--ISTE): weekly evaluate progress as a standing agenda item or SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities for Improvement, and Threats) analysis, or conduct a stoplight schedule of priorities--what is working really well in terms if innovation transformation (green), what needs attention (yellow) and what is a definite priority (red)
  5. Inspect what you expect: Encourage (a "friendly" encouragement) each principal keep a Blog; use a wiki at the school level, cascading to departments and team work; explain purpose, alignment to goals, and how it will benefit them (administrators and teachers and other key educational leaders); provide enthusiasm, assistance, appreciation and recognition to those implementing the change; but don’t dictate or mandate; explore, discover, and collaborate—add value. Be the model in chief.
  6. Create an e-Learning Community (e-LC): Your team can begin building capacity through an e-learning community structure; examine the following examples (GO LIVE Google Site (in construction but still viewable),Educator’s PLN (includes groups for district and school administrators), Classroom 2.0NC 1:1 Learning Collaborative, many of the coursing structures in North Carolina Virtual Public School and Learn and Earn Online's (NCVPS/LEO) Blackboard course management system--LEA WAVES, Leadership Lagoon, DLA Spa, etc.). Use the district’s course environment to conduct e-LCs, create content, analyze data, monitor deployment planning, post videos, collaborate with groups, work on key processes, seek feedback, etc. (Follow the examples of North Carolina School Districts: Columbus, Rowan-Salisbury, and Avery); many free options exist as well. (www.ning.comwww.dimdim.comhttp://sites.google.comwww.facebook.com)



  1. Conduct 21st Century Learning PD; Create 21st century learning, skills, and leadership standing agenda items in district and school level administration professional learning communities (PLCs)—weekly focusing on 21st century learning (making sure leaders understand 21st century learning concepts, skills, themes—as found at www.21stcenturyskills.org) for district and school level leadership teams; same approach for teachers—weekly focus (f2f in PLCs), e-LCs using tools to communicate and collaborate; during departmental and school-wide PD, feature a Web 2.0 tool, modeling, and sharing best practice--be sure that it aligns to innovation team planning, school improvement plans, or the like. Remember that it is not about the tool, it is about changing behavior, creating new paradigms of learning and leading.
  2. Study the gurusEdutopiaEdweekLeader TalkeSchoolNews, Scott McLeod (Dangerously Irrelevant Blog), CoolCat Teacher Vickie DavisInnovative Educator Lisa Nielsen, Steven Anderson (aka Web20Classroom), Howard DiBlasiLarry FerlazzoEd Reformer Tom Vander Ark, Consortium of School Networking, NCVPS/LEO’s 21st Century Professionals DivisionLeaders Online Blog -- this Blog-- and NCVPS/LEO’s School Support DivisionVirtual Learning Consultant Blog.
  3. Implement Book Studies. The following are excellent books to study with teams regarding these provocative topics: leading and managing change (Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath,Who Killed Change? by Ken Blanchard, et al), 21st century learning, skills, and leadership (21stCentury Skillsby Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, Toybox Leadership by Ron Hunter and Michael Waddell, Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell, CATS: The Nine Lives of Innovation by Stephen Lundin), maximizing learning opportunities for the digital natives (Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott, Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn, The World is Open by Curtis Bonk, and Liberating Learning by John Chubb and Terry Moe), and establishing and maintaining e-learning communities or professional learning communities (Learning by Doing by Rick and Rebecca DuFour and Robert Eakers).
  4. Align key processes: Focus efforts on transforming technology; create alignment in school improvement plans to district improvement plans, create e-learning deployment strategies, focused action steps; establish e-learning/innovation teams to monitor, model, coach implementation.
  5. Engage teachers and staff in what matters most: A conversation about teaching and learning: Create a common voice and shared knowledge by communicating that e-learning deepens content understanding: learning that focuses on reflection, participatory learning, and higher-order thinking--analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Focusing especially on blended learning is quite beneficial--for blended learning resources refer to iNACOL’s whitepaper on Blended Learning and NCVPS/LEO’s Educating the Social and Mobile Generation).
  6. Commit to virtual options: Examine NCVPS/LEO’s four learning options: Classic (traditional, early calendar, and credit recovery), Modular (Credit Recovery Modular Learning), Mobile, and Blended Learning (Credit Recovery Modular, OCS Course of Study). Be aggressive, target enrollment numbers (here is an aggressive thought—require that every student grade 6-12 take at least one virtual class through NCVPS/LEO for graduation), develop purposeful and strategic student support plans.


                                                                                         Commitment is spelled . . .N-O-F-E-A-R


CommitmentPeter Senge put forth, "You can't force commitment, what you can do . . . You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create." To see that we are not "stuck on an escalator" and forward in our thinking to create such an environment, we need vigilance, commitment, purpose, direction, focus, and a 21st century learning and leadership consciousnessVance Havner once wrote and it bears repeating for its relevance to this issue: "The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps -- we must step up the stairs." So, there is just one thing left to say: See you at the top of the stairs, uh, I mean escalator.


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