Tag Archives: Lead4Change Model

Shared Visioning in Action

I recently started a new job: Policy Director of the Learning Through Technology Team (LTTT) at the Maine Department of Education. It’s essentially the state tech director position, and its largest responsibility is managing the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI – 1to1 in 7th & 8th statewide – since 2001! – and making it easy for districts to buy in at other grades), and supporting schools as they think about how technology can support learning.

I have a small (but awesome!) team of 7 colleagues that help make all this happen. If you follow this blog, you already know I’m a strong believer in “Leading Beside” which includes both shared leadership and working from a shared vision. So it won’t surprise you that one of the first things I did with my new team was set aside a morning for us to build a shared vision.

We used the same process that Bette Manchester introduced to districts at the very beginning of MLTI: To think of a preferred future for young people we care about (the Preferred Future), then think about about what students need to start doing today to get ready for that Preferred Future (the Vision for Learning), then think about what teachers, schools – and the Learning Through Technology Team – need to do today so students can do what they need to do (the Strategic Plan). (A process Bette would credit to Bruce Wellman’s work.)

Building a Preferred Future

We started by thinking about a young person we care deeply about. Then thought out into the future, beyond middle school, beyond high school, beyond college or job training or military, and then a few more years, until that person was getting settled in their jobs and, perhaps, their family.

And then we thought about three questions:

  • Where would we like them to be able to work?
  • Where would we like them to be able to live?
  • Where would we like for them to be able to learn?

Here’s what the team generated:

These charts represent the Team’s Preferred Future.


Identifying Our Shared Vision Vision for Learning

The next step was to think about these same students today. If the charts above represent our preferred future for these young people, what do they need to do today to get ready for it?

Here is what we generated:

So, these charts represent the Team’s Vision for Learning.


Creating Our Strategic Plan

So, if this is what we believe students need to start doing today to get ready for the Preferred Future, what do do we believe teachers need to do, so students can do what they need to? Our thoughts:


And then, what do we believe schools (principals, tech directors, district administration, etc.) need to do so teachers and students can do what they need to? The Team’s lists:

These charts represent what we hope teachers and schools might adopt as their strategic plan.

But they also lead us to think about our own work and responsibility for making our Vision for Learning a reality. What does the Learning Through Technology Team need to do to support the work of students, teachers, and schools?



Accomplishing 3 pages of strategic steps is a daunting task! (Actually, self defeating! We need a little focus!) I gave each Team member 6 dots to place on the charts. The prompt was, “Which are the most important pieces for us to work on right now.” All of them are important, and should be tackled as some time, but we needed to identify where to start. Team members could distribute their dots in an way they wanted (all 6 on one item, or spread out across items, etc.), but they each only had the 6 dots.

You can see where they placed their dots above.

That translates into the following as the Learning Through Technology Team’s Strategic Plan for the coming year:

  • Collaborate with our Vendors/Partners to give life to our Vision
  • Foster Postive Collaboration with School Leaders
  • Know the Field – where are their successes and challenges?
  • Improve Communications (Organizations, Schools, Partners)
  • Capturing data / Evidence of Impact


Where We’ll Go Next

It’s not enough to capture a Vision on paper. It needs to be used as a filter and a compass.

In order to do that, we’ll have to polish our Vision for Learning into a shareable document (it’s a little too rough for sharing in this current form), and create a mission statement. Then we can put together a “Compass and Filter” document (that includes our vision, mission, and strategic plan goals). We will use it to help us decide how to prioritize and do our work, and help us decide which new opportunities to take on. We can also share it with the schools, organizations, and other partners we work with (or might start working with) to see where there is alignment between our work and theirs.

But I’ll save that for future blog posts…


Deliberate Leadership for School Change: an Overview of the Lead4Change Model

Large-scale school change often involves both complex systems (lots of different people, schools, organizations, etc.), as well as, things that teachers have never experienced themselves.

That's why schools need a model of deliberate leadership for school change. One such model is Lead4Change.

Lead4Change grew from early learnings from the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) about what strategies successful schools were using, and were often missing at schools having less success. Working with a variety of schools designed to motivate students, it became clear that the lessons generalized nicely to all kinds of school change, not just 1to1 laptop and tablet initiatives.

This 16 minute video provides an overview of the model.

My school district is applying this model to our technology initiatives, MLTI & Advantage 2014, and several districts, including mine, is using it to help shape our work around Customized Learning.


Positive Pressure & Support Part 3: Support

Schools need effective, practical approaches to helping more students succeed academically.

A focus on student motivation and meaningful, engaged learning, on project- or problem-based learning, on personalized, customized learning, or on technology rich learning environments are all approaches that can help make that happen, but require a paradigm shift for teachers, since few of them have experienced these approaches themselves.

Successfully implementing initiatives that require a paradigm shift for educators requires strong, deliberate leadership for school change. The key pieces of Positive Pressure and Support (setting expectations, supervising for those expectations, and supporting those efforts) are necessary components of that leadership, and is the primary way to drive your initiative to a higher level of implementation.

Teachers will start using more core strategies of your initiative when they know it is expected of them and is being monitored—but they need (and deserve) support in getting there. What follows are some of the support strategies that I’ve found helpful.

Support: Celebrating Successes
Celebrating successes is the place to start. Implementing signficant school change is a long road, so the people working to implement those changes need encouragement and to know they are on the right track. Your expectations may be high, but teachers, like students, need to progress (to some extent) at their own pace and within their own capabilities. Nudging, prodding, and pushing are much more effective when combined with pats on the back and kind words, even if it is just small things being noticed.

For the teachers most resistant to change or the most challenged by the change, celebrating baby steps is especially important. With our own children, we didn’t wait to get excited until they could run. We got excited when they could crawl, then when they could stand, and again when they could put one foot in front of the other, and on and on. We need to celebrate each developmental growth step the staff passes through.

Often the best “celebrations” aren’t time consuming or expensive. As you’re walking down the hall, walk beside the teacher and say, “Your kids were pretty engaged during that lesson. You must have done a great job with that new strategy!” Or stick your head in the door during the teacher’s break and say, “Do you mind taking 5 minutes at our next meeting to tell the staff about that thing I saw you do this week? I think others will want to know how to do that.” Or as you leave a walk through, hand the teacher a 3×5 note card, where you’ve written, “I know you were frustrated with how things went in general, but I think you need to remember that the part where you did X, Y or Z went pretty well.” (Notice how the whole thing doesn’t even have to go well to celebrate the parts that did!)

Celebrating growth, progress, and success gives the message that this is important, that you noticed what they have done, and that they are on the right track. This is the fuel that keeps a staff working on hard work.

Support: Facilitate the Sharing of Ideas
By definition, this is “new” work: new to the teachers, new to the students, new to the leadership team. Sure, this initiative may be similar to others, or share components with those you’ve worked on in the past. But I’ve been defining large-scale school change as often being A change that teachers don’t have much experience putting into action, even if they have read about it, have heard about it, or are familiar with the key ideas.

And I have a friend who likes to say, “Teachers can’t do what they haven’t experienced.” Teaches are more often stumped with implementing an initiative by that lack of knowing what it looks like, feels like, tastes like, that not knowing for sure how to put it into action, than by any intent or determination to block or sabotage (even if blocking and sabotaging are how fear of failure most often surfaces for teachers!).

As the high school in Auburn is working toward implementing Customized Learning, many of our teachers are starting to use a Parking Lot, a kind of poster used to solicit students’ ideas, questions, feedback, and input. One of our teachers recently told us that he doesn’t believe in the Parking Lot because he put one up and students don’t use it. But, if we want teachers to put into practice something they haven’t done before, we owe it to them to help them find ideas on how to put it into action – how to make it work. We know that Parking Lots have been implemented effectively elsewhere. What strategies did those teachers use, and how could we connect our teacher with those strategies?

I wrote quite a bit in the last post about how talking about the initiative in meetings and modeling lessons can help with sharing ideas. Having teachers share in staff meetings and professional development sessions about their challenges and successes with their work in the classroom provides opportunities to get advice from their colleagues and to learn new strategies. So can having teachers visit schools and classrooms where the initiative is already in action (even within your own building or district!). Alternately, have teachers watch videos or read stories of how others implemented similar work – not informational pieces “about” the initiative, but those that actually illustrate “how” the initiative works, those that provide vicarious experiences.

Regardless of how you make it happen, you need to be thinking about where you can help teachers find their new ideas on how to implement the core strategies of your initiative.

Support: Provide Opportunities for Training and Professional Development
Part of support is looking for ways to provide further training and professional development. In fact, PD may be the first thing you think of when you think “support.” I know if you are thinking of a new initiative, you are already thinking about how to get your staff trained.

But you can’t think about this only in terms of initial training. If this is a big initiative, such as Customized Learning, then you need to be thinking about implementing it in phases, that means delivering training in phases, too. In Maine, the training for the first couple phases of implementing Customized Learning is generally “Own The Learning” (awareness), “Classroom Design and Delivery” (creating a culture of voice and choice), and “Instructional Design and Delivery” (working with the curriculum and organizing instruction around it). Not all the staff needs to be trained in the phases at the same time. In fact, staggering the training for staff can mean that folks a phase or two ahead can become resources for the rest of the staff.

But even if an initiative doesn’t lend itself to clearly defined phases, make sure that you are thinking of training in ongoing, not “one shot,” terms. In our kindergarten iPad initiative, we had one training at the end of the school year for teachers new to the initiative to get their iPads, learn how to use it for as a personal tool, and how to start identifying apps that might relate to their teaching. That was followed, late in the summer, with a two-day training helping teachers think more about teaching with the iPads. Then, throughout the year, we took advantage of Early Release Wednesdays, meeting nearly every other week.

Where are there other opportunities to get staff trained? Can you cajole your colleagues in another district for a handful of seats in their training? Is there a workshop or conference coming up in your region that directly addresses a need within your initiative? Do you have staff that you could groom to train others on some aspect of the initiative? Do you have someone you could free up to go into colleagues’ classrooms and coach them?

Your walkthrough data, teacher survey data, and conversations about the initiative at staff meetings should help you focus on the training and support your staff needs most at that moment.

Support: Provide Resources
Do your staff have the resources they need for this initiative? Do they have their own school-issued iPad or laptop? Does the wireless network adequately support as many simultaneous users as you are likely to have? Are there apps or programs your teachers need? Can teachers get to the websites they need to get to? Is there a book that will will help them design their lessons? Are there materials teachers need to execute those lessons? Do teachers have access to the expertise (perhaps in the form of books or of people) to put their learning activities into action? Do they have a reasonable number of the texts or equipment they need?

I was once involved with a non-traditional school in a mid-sized city. The school was trying to be a project-based career academy for students who were over-aged, but under-credentialed. We had a pretty effective and engaging online literacy program for students who were struggling because of their literacy ability. But the district Director of Curriculum (who also used to be a literacy specialist) insisted that we only use the district-approved literacy program (you know, the one that hadn’t worked for these students yet…). But we said ok, and she promised to send us the materials.

What showed up were the left over materials from the other schools in the district. Not only were there not enough of any item for there to be a class set (and we had 12 classes), there wasn’t even at least a single copy of each key set of materials in the program!

If you want your teachers to put your initiative into action, then make sure they have all (reasonable) materials they may need to do so.

Support: Remove Barriers and Run Interference
Doing something new is hard enough. But it is almost impossible if you see barriers around you, or you are left exposed to criticism. One of the most important ways you can support your staff is also something that they may never know that you do: removing barriers and running interference. Teachers making a good faith effort to implement your initiative deserve support in getting obstacles out of their way.

Many of the typical barriers you’ll remove simply by following the other suggestions in this post. Does a teacher not know how to implement a component of your initiative? Connect them with training or other teachers who can share their ideas on how to do it. Is not having certain resources or materials interfering with the teacher increasing their level of implementation? Find a way to get them the resources they need.

Time may be the largest perceived barrier for teachers. Find ways to create protected, designated time for planning and collaboration. Even if you have the protected time, sometimes teachers have so much going on that the time is used for other things, or to vent (perhaps not even about the initiative). Working to have those planning and collaboration times, and creating an agenda for each meeting to guide the work can remove that barrier.

Another type of barrier is the unhappy parent or colleague member. Such complaints are often based on a little truth, but often with a lot of missing information. As a leader, you have an opportunity to protect your staff from attacks and distractions. You can deal directly with the unhappy person and take the heat, then bring the legitimate pieces of the concern to the staff member in a much more calm, safe, supportive way.

Another way you help run interference for your teachers is by encouraging everyone (especially yourself) to “seek first to understand” (one of Stephen Covey’s habits of highly successful people). What is the full story of the thing the person is upset about? Students don’t like the way the teacher is teaching? What exactly is the teacher trying? What parts does the teacher think are going well and not so well? What does the teacher see as his next steps? It may be perfectly appropriate to respond to the parent or colleague, “Well, that teacher is working hard to implement the initiative beyond where he has been trained. He’s aware of the challenges he is having and has already asked for help in addressing those challenges.” And frankly, we need teachers who are willing to take those kinds of risks and blaze a trail of the rest of the staff.

My mantra is that if we want teachers to learn how to do things they haven’t experienced before, then we better be ready to support the heck out of them. If you want to drive your school initiative to a high level of implementation, help your teachers help you get there. How you get your teachers the training and ideas they need, work to remove barriers for staff doing this work, run interference as they make good faith attempts to implement new ideas, and how you connect staff to resources will also leave your teachers feeling supported as they work to meet higher expectations.

How do you plan to support your teachers as they strive to implement your large-scale school change?


Positive Pressure & Support Part 2: Supervision

So, you’re waist deep in your school’s initiative. Maybe it’s improving learning by taking advantage of 1to1 tablets or laptops, or through Mass Customized Learning, or with a focus on student motivation and engagement.

And you are providing teachers with training and resources. And you are working to leverage Positive Pressure and Support to drive your initiative to a high level of implementation. You’ve taken the first step and set expectations with your staff. In general, your staff are working to put those into action.

And you’re ready to move your implementation to the next level. It’s time to focus on supervision.

Most educators really do work hard at trying to do a good job in all aspects, not just for the initiative, and that means that they are busy and have lots of (sometimes contradictory) priorities they are trying to address. Knowing what school leaders are keeping an eye on can help focus their efforts. Frankly, even the best teachers are more likely to address priorities that they know are being supervised. An expectation that is simply stated is not as likely to be implemented as one that is both stated and monitored. Think of the old assessment adage, “What gets measured gets done.”

Several strategies help leaders supervise for the implementation of their initiative.

Supervise: Check With Teachers
Periodically checking in with teachers can go a long way toward increasing implementation. Check their lesson plans. Are they clearly planning to use desired strategies as often as you’d like? You don’t necessarily have to have everyone turn in their plans weekly. Random spot checks can be powerful and not a time-sink for you. You can always increase the frequency of checks with teachers who need a little extra encouragement.

Alternately, give teachers a weekly survey. In Advantage 2014, our iPads in kindergarten initiative, we used a Google form to survey the teachers each week. They simply had to select drop down choices for each item, such as how many times this week did you use iPads in literacy centers? Or how often this week did you use iPads for individual student interventions? These survey questions came directly from our expectations for the program. We also included “what have been your successes?” and “what have been your challenges?” as open response questions in the survey. This has been an added bonus, because it provides invaluable information on when a teacher might be a resource to others and where teachers need additional (and timely!) support.

Supervise: Talk About Implementation at Staff Meetings
Take a little time at every staff meeting (or grade level meeting, or department meeting, etc.) to talk about the initiative. I like to make sure there is time for teachers to share what specific things they have done and what has gone well or what has been challenging. Sometimes I’ll use information I’ve gotten from the surveys to either offer a tip that might be a quick fix to a challenge, or to ask a teacher who has had a success to take 5-10 minutes to describe what they did, or to model a lesson.

It doesn’t hurt to review the specific expectations and even have a conversation about any of them that teachers want to talk about. Of course, people are people, so such open conversations about expectations, expectations that some might be struggling with, takes good facilitation skills (e.g. have you collaboratively set norms with your staff for discussions in staff meetings?).

(Note: if you want to be a leader for school change, one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to learn effective strategies for facilitating difficult conversations. No one really enjoys conflict or when emotions are running high, but, in the end, your colleagues will appreciate you’re working to deal with those situations is a respectful, safe way, rather than avoid them and brush them under the rug – or worse! Deal with them ineffectively to increase conflict and make emotions higher…)

It is clear that taking the time to talk about their strategies for implementing the initiative (and meeting expectations) will reinforce the expectations. And this strategy will tell the staff that this is important and we want to keep moving toward our vision.

But it is also a supervisory move. Who is sharing and who isn’t? What does what each teacher shares tell you about how they are doing with the initiative? Are they just “yes ma’am”-ing you, or are they really trying strategies (even if they aren’t being entirely successful yet)? Do their comments show depth (like they’re really trying and thinking about what they are trying), or are comments kind of superficial (like they want you to think they are trying)?

Supervise: Conduct Walk Throughs
“Walk throughs” can mean different things to different people, or in different contexts. Here, I mean frequent, brief classroom visits. It is helpful to use some short of checklist or form to collect a little data on observable instructional characteristics connected to your initiative and to your explicit expectations. So, in the context of Positive Pressure and Support, walk throughs are when you quietly drop into the room, watch, make a few marks on a form, smile at the teacher, and leave.

And I especially do not mean the classroom observations that are used for evaluation. Walk throughs work best when they are used as formative assessment (information to guide and inform your efforts to increase the level of implementation), rather than as evaluative data. Teachers will behave differently when they believe they are being evaluated, not simply observed or supported. The best walk through data (data that will help you increase the level of implementation of your initiative) comes when teachers feel safe when being observed.

In fact, if you are the one doing teacher appraisals and evaluations, you may not be the right person to do the walk throughs. If you are going to do these walk throughs, you may have to do some groundwork with your staff to help them understand the difference between this data and appraisal data, and reassure staff that this data will be used to help the school get better at the initiative, not for their evaluations. (Of course, it goes without saying that the quickest way to undermine your own initiative is to violate staff trust by using this walk through data for evaluations.)

Alternately, having teachers do walk throughs on each other can be a powerful strategy that produces added benefits. You can free staff to take a period every couple of weeks to do drop-in walk throughs of their peers. Not only do teachers often feel safer being observed by their peers, but teachers are often isolated from each other, and seeing other teachers teach can give the visiting teacher ideas for their own practice.

Observations forms should match your initiative’s goals and your expectatons. A quick google search will help you find samples, or you can create your own. For Advantage 2014, we created this walk through form for principals, connected directly to our expectations. When working with schools on using Meaningful Engaged Learning, I have used this walk through form that looks for low-impact and high-impact motivators. There is a wonderful online walk through service called iWalkThrough. It allows you to use a laptop, tablet, or smart phone to record your observable data using one of their pre-established observation forms.

Supervise: Talk About Walk Through and Level of Implementation Data
Clearly there is little “positive pressure” unless you use the data you have collected. How do you leverage that data, if you aren’t going to use it for evaluation? How can it be used to increase the level of implementation?

Start with tabulating data so that you can get a quick picture of where the staff is as a whole. One advantage of iWalkThrough is that it automatically does this for you (in fact, because everyone using iWalkThrough is using the same observation forms, you can even see how your school is doing against the agregate performance of all iWalkThrough users). Sharing this data at a staff meeting gives you the opportunity to have the staff comment on the school’s progress (including praise, and recognizing effort and progress), and even brainstorm how they might move to the next level. This is especially helpful as data is collected over time and the school can track its progress month to month, or term to term.

Tools like iWalkThrough will even allow you to use the data in interesting ways. In one staff meeting at a school I was working with, we called up the data and created a graph mapping “level of student engagement” onto “level of Blooms.” Wasn’t that telling! You can do similar kinds of investigations if you put your own data into a spreadsheet, but that’s a little more involved.

Tabulating individual teacher data will let you know where each staff member is, and provides the opportunity to have conversations with each teacher about their own progress and about setting individual goals (but I don’t recommend this unless you have been using the school data alone for a while and are starting to see progress). Having teachers examine their own level of implementation against the school’s agregate data can be a reality check. Sometimes, teachers who are struggling think everyone else is, too, and they believe they are doing just fine. But seeing that the school as a whole is ahead of them can lead them to ask what others are doing that they are not (if they feel safe and supported). Conversely, teachers who are way ahead of the school as a whole can shift from being frustrated that others aren’t further, to thinking about how they might support their colleagues.


Supervising is where you create the “positive pressure” to move your initiative to a higher level of implementation. Supervising helps provide your staff the feedback and evidence they need to continue to move toward the school’s vision. But keep in mind that it is “positive” pressure you’re looking for. Negative pressure is likely to take you in the other direction, toward a lower level of implementaiton. You need the pressure to help drive your initiative, but you need to be mindful of whether you are creating positive or negative pressure.

Other than the strategies described here, how else might you create positive pressure?


Driving Your Initiative: Positive Pressure & Support (Part 1: Expectations)

So you’re working on your school initiative, and you really believe in it, and you really want it to make a difference.

And you are trying to pay attention to leadership for school change, and have certainly provided training to your staff and have made resources available.

Unfortunately, simply participating in training and having the resources available does not mean that students will do better or that your initiative will have it’s desired impact. The degree to which teachers implement your initiative and related strategies matters. Level of implementation matters.

So, how do you get your level of implemention up?

Providing Positive Pressure and Support is how school leaders affect the level of implementation. Positive Pressure and Support is made up of three easy pieces:

  • Expect
  • Supervise
  • Support

This is the first in a series of three posts on Positive Pressure and Support, each on one of the three pieces, and this first focusing on setting expectations.

Expect – Start Simple
When MLTI, the country’s first statewide learning with laptop initiative, first got started in 2001, there were still an awful lot of teachers who had not used technology much themselves, let alone used it in the classroom with students. The goal, of course, was to impact learning, but more than a few teachers were a little intimidated by either having to teach differently (especially with a device they weren’t that familiar with), or by having every middle schooler sitting in front of them having a laptop (that the student was probably a lot more comfortable with it than they were!).

But we started seeing good progress in schools where the principal made a simple expectation: Do one unit, between now and Christmas, that involves students using the laptops.

That seemed to take the pressure off of teachers who may have assumed that since laptops were everywhere, they needed to be used all the time. In fact, many of those teachers then did their single unit (perhaps to get it out of the way) and discovered that it wasn’t so bad and started using the laptops pretty regularly.

But without the expectation, reluctant teachers may have continued to put off using all the technology in their classrooms.

Similarly, setting initial expectations for Meaningful Engaged Learning can be as simple as letting teachers know you expect to see greater implementation of the Focus Five strategies. Setting expectations for an iPad initiative can be as simple as letting staff know you’d like to see the iPads used in centers. Expectations for getting started in another initiative might be the following: participate in the offered training; increase the use of higher order thinking strategies in daily lessons and activities; do at least one engaging task with students each week; and do one project in a unit in one class before the end of the next grading period.

But setting expectations (even starting with simple ones) can help overcome the (often understandable) inertia that some teachers may feel at the start of a new initiative.

Expect – Participate Yourself
Another way to set expectations is to participate yourself. Busy leaders sometimes find it hard to take the time to attend trainings. But doing so sends the vital message that you value the training and think it’s important. Participating in the training also means that you know what you can expect your staff to be able to do in their classrooms and can better supervise and support the implementation of those strategies.

I once worked with a school where the principal would announce the professional development then leave. We had a hard time getting staff to an adequate level of implementation, I’m sure in no small part because many staff felt that if the initiative wasn’t important enough for the prinicpal’s time, why should it be important enough for theirs…

Meaningful Engaged Learning goal setting form

Expect – Have Teachers Set Goals
Teachers seem to do better with expectations when they have a voice in setting them. One way to do that is to have teachers set goals. When I have worked with schools using Meaningful Engaged Learning as their School Improvement Program, I have had teachers think about the five components of Meaningful Engaged Learning, and asked them to rate themselves on where they think they are in implementing each component (I have used this form).

I then ask them to think about where they would like to be on implementing each component at the end of some timeframe (the end of the semester, for example). When that time frame is up, we can reflect again on what progress has been made.

This approach sets the expectation that we will get better at each component, while both validating that the teacher may already be good at some of those components (is already meeting that expectation), and giving the teacher a voice in deciding how much energy to put into each component, and which they will focus on the most.

iPad expectations

Expect – Collaboratively Set Expectations
Another way to give teachers voice is to collaborate with them on setting those expectations. That’s what we did in Auburn, as we started Advantage 2014, our math and literacy initiative that includes iPads in Kindergarten. We simply had a conversation. What should our expectations be? In what kinds of activities should we expect to see the iPads used? How often?

The consensus that grew from those discussions became our expectations for the program. This included general guidelines, like apps should correlate to our curriculum, and that iPads are part of of balanced educational program that includes traditional approaches, and included minimum expectations for use, such as using iPads daily in literacy stations, or using iPads for interventions with students.

When collaboratively planning expectations related to implementing new initiatives and strategies, it should be a goal to set specific expectations on those strategies:

  • How many?
  • How often?
  • By when?
  • By whom?


These four strategies for setting expecations should help you get started with Positive Pressure and Support. How will you set expectations with your staff? What will those expectations focus on?


3 Tools to Assess and Guide Your Deliberate Leadership

So, you’re working on your school’s big change. Maybe it’s getting instruction shaped up for the introduction of the Common Core. Or maybe all your students and teachers are getting laptops or tablets. Or maybe you’re making the move to customized learning, or project-based learning, or…

And if you’re reading this blog, then you’ve probably found this model for school change to use when it’s a biggie, such as when it requires a paradigm shift for educators (and perhaps the community) because it’s different than when they were a student and maybe they have never taught this way or been trained to teach this way.

And maybe, like a lot of schools, you had a good start and you paid attention to all the Key and Supporting components of the model, but as the year went on, and the initiative went on, and the day to day running of the school/district loomed big, you have begun to wonder, how do I know we’re still paying attention to all the moving parts of our initiative? How can you get a little check to make sure you’re still on track?

The three tools described below are designed to do exactly that. The three work in concert to help you or your team identify what you’re doing in the initiative, where there may be gaps in providing leadership for the initiative, and what can be done to make the initiative more complete.

This process can be done individually by an initiative leader, or with a leadership team, or with a larger group of stakeholders. I’m partial to using a team effort. Over and over and over again, I’m surprised about the things that are captured and dealt with because team members have perspectives and strengths different than my own. These were always things that would have fallen through the cracks, if it hadn’t been for the diverse perspectives of team members. When working with a group, decide if it is most appropriate to work through each component as a whole group or to divide up into smaller groups, each working on a different component.

A group can work through all three of these tools in 2-3 hours.

The Lead4Change Check-In Tool
The Lead4Change Check-In tool has one sheet for each of the 7 components of the Lead4Change Model. The intent is to reflect on what work is currently underway in each category. It’s a way to gather your list of efforts toward your initiative. The intent is to determine what is going on right now, in preparation of asking the question, are we dealing with all the parts we should be dealing with?

As each effort is listed on the form, the note taker can check which piece(s) of the Component the effort relates to. Some efforts will not only relate to more than one piece of a Component, but to more than one Component. There is no problem with listing an effort on more than one sheet. In fact, you want to make sure that all your efforts toward each Component are recorded.

I’ve done this work with a leadership team through a modified Carousel Activity. I broke the large team into smaller groups. Each small group worked on a different Component for a certain amount of time, then passed the individual Component sheet to the next group. The next group would add to the sheet, passing it to the next group when time was up. Each Component sheet would eventually visit each group. One advantage is that this kind of small group work is more likely to engage every member of the large group than when the same work is done in a “whole group” approach.

The Where Are The Holes? Tool
The Where Are The Holes? tool let’s the same group of reflective practitioners to then look back over the Check-In documents and think about each piece of each Component. They would decide if that piece is “covered” or a “hole.”

Why not skip the Check-In and jump right to here? I think that sometimes, when presented with a checklist, it is too easy just to look at an item and say “Yup! Doing that!” without really stopping to think about “how are you doing that?” Using the the Check-In tool forces you to provide the evidence of if you have covered it or not.

Is it always a problem when there is a hole? No. Large-scale school change initiatives take time and have lots of pieces to pay attention to. There are times when you will look at a hole and say something like, “It is okay that that is a hole right now, because it isn’t time yet to do that. We will be addressing that next semester/year/etc.” But finding the holes insures that any current hole is a hole on purpose, for a good reason, and not just because the team has overlooked it.

The What Could We Do? Tool
So now you know what is going on, and where you have holes and need to pay attention. Now is the time to capture some ideas of what the initiative could do, especially to fill those “overlooked” holes in implementation.

The What Could We Do? Tool helps with this. Groups fill in their ideas of what could be done, recording whose idea it was, who could be a contact person, as well as, what Component and piece it relates to. Special attention should be paid, of course, to those pieces that you identified as holes.

The ideas listed on the sheet are brief and sometimes the sheet sits for a while before the leadership team gets back to it. Capturing whose idea it was allows the leadership team to go back later and find out more about the idea if they have clarifying questions.

Listing a contact person allows the group to get in touch either with who would be responsible for getting the suggested idea going, or with an outside contact person who has implemented similar work.


Having your leadership team work through these three tools, could be a useful approach to revisiting the Lead4Change Model as a piece of your continuous improvement plan.

Responding to Critiques of Auburn’s iPad Research Claims

When we announced our research results last week, Audrey Watters was one of the first to cover it. Shortly thereafter, Justin Reich wrote a very thoughtful review of our research and response to Audrey’s blog post at his EdTechResearcher blog. Others, through comments made in post comments, blogs, emails, and conversations, have asserted that we (Auburn School Department) have made claims that our data don’t warrant.

I’d like to take a moment and respond to various aspects of that idea.

But first, although it may appear that I am taking on Justin’s post, that isn’t quite true (or fair to Justin). Justin’s is the most public comment, so the easiest to point to. But I actually believe that Justin’s is a quite thoughtful (and largely fair) critique from a researcher’s perspective. Although I will directly address a couple things Justin wrote, I hope he will forgive me for seeming to hold up his post as I address larger questions of the appropriateness of our claims from our study.

Our Research Study vs. Published Research
Our results are initial results. There are a lot of people interested in our results (even the initial ones – there are not a lot of randomized control trials being done on iPads in education), so we decided to share what we had so far in the form of a research summary and a press release. But neither of these would be considered “published research” by a researcher (and we don’t either – we’re just sharing what we have so far). Published research is peer reviewed and has to meet standards for the kinds of information included. We actually have more data to collect and analyze (including more analyses on the data we already have) before we’re ready to publish.

For example, Justin was right to point out that we shared no information about scales for the ten items we measured. As such, some of the measures may seem much smaller than when compared proportionally to their scale (because some of the scales are small), and we were not clear that it is inappropriate to try to make comparisons between the various measures as represented on our graph (because the scales are different). In hindsight, knowing we have mostly a lay audience for our current work, perhaps we should have been more explicit around the ten scales and perhaps created a scaled chart…

Mostly, I want my readers to know that even if I’m questioning some folks’ assertions that we’re overstating our conclusions, we are aware that there are real limitations to what we have shared to date.

Multiple Contexts for Interpreting Research Results
I have this debate with my researcher friends frequently. They say the only appropriate way to interpret research is from a researcher’s perspective. But I believe that it can and should also be interpreted as well from a practitioner’s perspective, and that such interpretation is not the same as a researcher’s. There is (and should be) a higher standard of review by researchers and what any results may mean. But practical implementation decisions can be made without such a high bar (and this is what makes my researcher friends mad, because they want everyone to be just like them!). This is just like how lawyers often ask you to stand much further back from the legal line than you need to. Or like a similar debate mathematicians have: if I stand some distance from my wife, then move half way to her, then move half way to her again, and on and on, mathematicians would say (mathematically) I will never reach her (which is true). On the other hand, we all know, I would very quickly get close enough for practical purposes! 😉

Justin is very correct in his analysis of our research from a researcher’s perspective. But I believe that researchers and practitioners can, very appropriately, draw different conclusions from the findings. I also believe that both practitioners and researchers can overstate conclusions from examining the results.

I would wish (respectfully) that Justin might occasionally say in his writing, “from a researcher’s perspective…” If he lives in a researcher world, perhaps he doesn’t even notice this, or thinks it implied or redundant. But his blog is admittedly not for an audience of researchers, but rather for an audience of educators who need help making sense of research.

Reacting to a Lay Blog as a Researcher
I think Justin has a good researcher head on him and is providing a service to educators by analyzing education research and offering his critique. I’m a little concerned that some of his critique was directed at Audrey’s post rather than directly at our research summary. Audrey is not a researcher. She’s an excellent education technology journalist. I think her coverage was pretty on target. But it was based on interviews with the researchers, Damian Bebell (one of the leading researchers on 1to1 learning with technology), Sue Dorris, and me, not a researcher’s review of of our published findings. At one point, Justin suggests that Audrey is responding to a graph in our research summary (as if she were a researcher). I would suggest she is responding to conversations with Damian, Sue, and me (as if she were a journalist). It is a major fallacy to think everyone should be a researcher, or think and analyze like one (just as it is a fallacy that we all should think or act from any one perspective, including as teachers, or parents, etc). And it is important to consider individual’s context in how we respond to them. Different contexts warrant different kinds of responses and reactions.

Was It The iPads or Was It Our Initiative
Folks, including Audrey, asked how we knew what portion of our results were from the iPads and which part from the professional development, etc. Our response is that it is all these things together. The lessons we learned from MLTI, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, Maine’s statewide learning with laptop initiative, that has been successfully implemented for more than a decade, is that these initiatives are not about a device, but about a systemic learning initiative with many moving parts. We have been using the Lead4Change model to help insure we are taking a systemic approach and attending to the various parts and components.

That said, Justin is correct to point out that, from a research (and statistical) perspective, our study examined the impact that solely the iPad had on our students (one group of students had iPads, the other did not).

But for practitioners, especially those who might want to duplicate our initiative and/or our study, it should be important to note that, operationally, our study studied the impact of the iPad as we implemented them, which is to say, systemically, including professional development and other components (Lead4Change being one way to approach an initiative systemically).

It is not unreasonable to expect that a district who simply handed out iPads would have a hard time duplicating our results. So although, statistically, it is just the iPads, in practice, it is the iPads as we implemented them as a systemic initiative.

Statistical Significance and the Issue of “No Difference” in 9 of the 10 Tests
The concept of “proof” is almost nonexistent in the research world. The only way you could prove something is if you could test every possible person that might be impacted or every situation. Instead, researchers have rules for selecting some subset of the entire population, rules for collecting data, and rules for running statistical analyses on those data. Part of why these rules are in place is because, when you are only really examining a small subset of your population, you want to try to control for the possibility that pure chance got you your results.

That’s where “statistical significance” comes in. This is the point at which researchers say, “We are now confident that these results can be explained by the intervention alone and we are not worried by the impact of chance.” Therefore, researchers have little confidence in results that do not show statistical significance.

Justin is right to say, from a researcher’s perspective, that a researcher should treat the 9 measures that were not statistically significant as if there were no difference in the results.

But that is slightly overstating the case to the rest of the world who are not researchers. For the rest of us, the one thing that is accurate to say about those 9 measures is that these results could be explained by either the intervention or by chance. It is not accurate for someone (and this is not what Justin wrote) to conclude there is no possitive impact from our program or that there is no evidence that the program works. It is accurate to say we are unsure of the role chance played on those results.

This comes back to the idea about how researchers and practitioners can and should view data analyses differently. When noticing that the nine measures trended positive, the researcher should warn, “inconclusive!”

It is not on a practitioner, however, to make all decisions based solely on if data is conclusive or not. If that were true, there would be no innovation (because there is never conclusive evidence a new idea works before someone tries it). A practitioner should look at this from the perspective of making informed decisions, not conclusive proof. “Inconclusive” is very different from “you shouldn’t do it.” For a practitioner, the fact that all measures trended positive is itself information to consider, side by side with if those trends are conclusive or not.

“This research does not show sufficient impact of the initiative,” is as overstated from a statistical perspective, as “We have proof this works,” is from a decision-maker’s perspective.

We don’t pretend to have proof our program works. What is not overstated, and appropriate conclusions from our study, however, and is what Auburn has stated since we shared our findings, is the following: Researchers should conclude we need more research. But the community should conclude at we have shown modest positive evidence of iPads extending our teachers’ impact on students’ literacy development, and should take this as suggesting we are good to continue our program, including into 1st grade.

We also think it is suggestive that other districts should consider implementing their own thoughtfully designed iPads for learning initiatives.

Professional Development for Auburn’s iPad Kindergarten Teachers

Auburn is excited that our initial research results strongly suggest that our initiative is extending the impact our teachers are having on their students. It has prompted lots of requests to know more about what we’re doing for professional development with our teachers. Professional development is, clearly, one critical component to any school change initiative, and designing and providing the right kind of PD and support is a critical leadership role.

What professional development did we conduct with our kindergarten teachers?

Content of Professional Development – All of our PD and training has focused on a couple of topics. We wanted to expand our teachers’ skill at applying literacy best practice, and to insure that our teachers and specialists working with kindergarten students had the capacity to select and apply appropriate apps directly toward student academic needs, as well as how to manage the iPads and work within the unique demands of this initiative. We have summed this up at the beginning of each of our PD session agendas with the following goals:

  1. Link iPads to learning.
  2. Problem-solve technology-related issues.
  3. Discuss best practices.
  4. Discuss and review apps.

How did we manage professional development and support that achieved these goals?

PD for Paradigm Shfit – Although teachers can often, sometimes with coaching, apply best practice they are familiar with to unfamliliar contexts, the integration of technology at this level is often a paradigm shift for teachers. Rarely have teachers experienced learning with technology themselves, and many have received very little training with computers, let alone iPads. “PD for Paradigm Shift” recognizes that changing paradigms requires more than sharing information. Schema theory sheds the best light on how to structure professional development for large change: provide models and experiences. See it in action. Live it in action. That’s what we’ve tried to do for our teachers.

Getting Technology into the Hands of Teachers – A terrific first step for professional development is to get the technology into the hands of teachers, so they can become used to it through their own use. We made sure that every teacher had an iPad to use over the summer for this purpose. But it is important to keep in mind that this will develop a teacher’s personal use skill, not their integration for learning skill. That’s not a problem. The problem comes from thinking that if teachers know how to use their iPad that they also know how to leverage it for their students’ learning…

Modeling: Visiting Classrooms – When teachers don’t have a lot of experience with an innovation, one way to get them that experience is by having them visit other teachers who are successfully doing similar work. This can be done in person, or vicariously through videos or stories (not descriptive articles, so much as those that tell the story and paint a picture for the reader – remember, this is not about information, it’s about experience). Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of classrooms for us to visit when we got started. We have tried to make it easy for our teachers to visit each other’s rooms, and we have had teachers video (on their iPads!) and share examples of what they are doing. Now we’re working to make sure that other teachers can come to visit our classrooms so they can begin to expand their experience (although we’re trying to be careful how we schedule and manage such visits as not to distract too much from the learning that is supposed to be our first order of business!).

Modeling Effective Practices – Did we see a teacher do a great lesson? We had her model that lesson to the other teachers in a PD session. Did we learn a better way to sync or manage apps? We modeled that approach in a PD session. Did we think the press might start contacting teachers? We’d review procedures for dealing with press requests, as well as share talking points and provide them language they could choose to use if interviewed. (Our teachers’ favorite talking point: “That’s a great question! You should ask the superintendent.” I think they might be a little press shy!) 🙂

Connecting with other Educators – A different approach to helping teachers and program leaders build models is to provide them opportunities to communicate with educators who are doing similar work. Networking is a powerful way for teachers to develop their own practice while helping colleagues (often in different states or countries!) to develop their own. Although few teachers have taken us up on these options to date, we encourage them to consider tweeting or blogging about their experiences, since it can help build a diverse professional learning network for the teachers who do. Our teachers are more eager to connect with teachers in more traditional ways: on the phone or via email. One avenue which has really opened possibilities for these connections was the national iPads in primary grades education conference we hosted last November. About half our participants were from Maine, and the other half from across the country (we even had one from India!). We’re already planning next year’s conference.

Constructivist Approach – As we thought about designing PD for our teachers, we didn’t want to just hand teachers information or resources; for example, we didn’t just want to hand them “approved” apps. We wanted teachers to have an intimate understanding of various components of the initiative they were on the front lines of implementing, including app (educational resource) selection. We decided to take a constructivist approach. For example, we had our teachers start by simply exploring apps. They had a limited budget for apps, but could also download as many free apps as they wanted. Then teachers made recommendations for apps that they thought would be the “core collection” of apps, those apps the district would purchase for every classroom. We would give teachers two similar apps and ask, “which one’s better?” to get them thinking about criteria for app selection; this eventually was developed into a rubric. Finally, we correlated apps to our kindergarten curriculum. The constructivist approach insures a deeper understanding based on their own experience.

Collaboratively Designed – I think one of our best secrets to successful professional development and support is realizing that none of us is as smart as a group of us together. We have tried to have a team approach to all design work for this initiative. Our Advantage 2014 Design Team includes central office administrators, our grant writer, a couple School Committee members, a couple parents and community members, as well as our some of our teach folk, and one of our elementary principals (and, of course, me, the Multiple Pathways Leader). We have smaller groups working on specific aspects of the program: funding, research, the Institute, and professional development. Our professional development planning group includes our Tech Director, our elementary Technology Coach, an elementary principal, one of our Special Education administrators, and myself. And even though no teacher is officially on the PD design team, in reality, they all are. We solicit their input in a variety of ways and work hard to be responsive to their needs (see the next section). Teachers helped us craft our policies and procedures, our expectations for teachers, our core collection of apps and our app selection rubric, and other significant components of our initiative.

I can’t over state this: this work MUST be a team effort. I can’t tell you how many times in the last few weeks I’ve said, “See! That’s exactly why we have a team planning this!” And not just for PD, but for lots of different aspects of this work. I don’t care how good some individuals in your district are; he or she doesn’t have the capacity represented by a collection of your staff, with various experience bases, perspectives, and areas of expertise.

Continuous Improvement Focus – We’ve tried to be highly responsive to the needs of our teachers. In additional to listening to our teachers, asking them directly, and being tuned in to situations as they develop, we use two tools. On a regular basis, we have our teachers complete one of two surveys we created in Google Docs. One asks questions about how often they used the iPad that week for various types of tasks (these correspond to our expectations for teachers that we collaborately created with the teachers, and essentially gets to fidelity of implementation). The other survey simply asks about their recent successes and challenges within the program. Although quite simple, both provide us with amazing data on what the teachers need right now. Although we plan our PD sessions in advance, we’ve been known to completely redesign a session hours before it starts based on what we’ve learned the teachers need.

Imbedded Support – Our district has three technology integrators: one for the high school, one for the middle school and one serving our elementary schools. As you can imagine, we’ve had our elementary technology coach spend much of her time working in our kindergarten classrooms. A good technology coach is really a good pedagogical coach. She can collaboratively design lessons with teachers, co-teach lessons, model lessons, sit back and observe and provide feedback, make recommendations to resources and otherwise support teachers. Although the technology coach becomes eyes and ears for program leaders, it is not an evaluative position. The teacher needs to feel safe with the coach working in her room, and we only use information from the coach to help direct resources and support.

Built On A Strong Literacy Foundation – Our teachers had been working on literacy instruction for several years prior to Advantage 2014 and the introduction of iPads to their classrooms. Auburn had been part of the Maine Literacy Project out of the Univerrsity of Maine and our teachers had done graduate level work with the Project. Adding the iPads and its apps was a logical extension of this work, and training we conducted specficially about the iPads was intended to extend this earlier work, not replace it.

Where Did We Find the Time? – We used the usual approaches: taking advantage of workshop days, after-school opportunities, and scheduling a couple days in the summer prior to school starting. But we also had the advantage of the district already having “Early Release Wednesdays” available for our elementary schools. We have used nearly every other Wednesday to provide several hours of training. Some days we met just with the “September Teachers” (the first round of teachers to get the iPads). Other times we met with all the kindergarten teachers, or just the specialists, or everyone all at once.

It’s Your Turn:

What are your best strategies for delivering professional development and support to your staff?

Confirmed: iPads Extend a Teacher’s Impact on Kindergarten Literacy

I’m excited! I’m REALLY excited!

Our “Phase I” research results are in…

iPads in Kindergarten

We (Auburn School Department) took a big risk last May when we started down the path to have the first 1to1 kindergarten learning with iPads initiative. We had confidence it would help us improve our literacy and math proficiency rates. One of our literacy specialists had used her own iPad with students to great success (one of the big reasons we moved forward). But there were also segments of the community that thought we were crazy.

Now we have pretty good evidence it works!

We did something not a lot of districts do: a randomized control trial. We randomly selected half our kindergarten classrooms to get iPads in September. The other half would use traditional methods until December, when they received their iPads. We used our regular kindergarten literacy screening tools (CPAA, Rigby, Observation Survey) for the pre-test and post-test. And across the board, the results were emerging positive for the iPad classrooms, with one area having statistical significance.

These results are a strong indication that the iPad and it’s apps extend the impact our teachers have on our students’ literacy development. We definitely need more research (and will be continuing the study through the year, including comparing this year’s results to past years), but these results should be more than enough evidence to address the community’s question, “How do we know this works?”

And I’m especially excited that we went all the way to the Gold Standard for education research: randomized control trials. That’s the level of research that can open doors to funding and to policy support.

Why do we think we got these results?

We asked our kindergarten teachers that question. Anyone walking by one of the classrooms can certainly see that student engagement and motivation is up when using the iPads. But our kindergarten teachers teased it out further. Because they are engaged, students are practicing longer. They are getting immediate feedback, so they are practicing better. Because we correlate our apps to our curriculum, they are practicing the right stuff. Because we select apps that won’t let students do things just any way, we know the students are practicing the right way. Because they are engaged, teachers are more free to work one on one with the students who need extra support at that moment.

We also believe we got the results we got because we have viewed this as an initiative with many moving parts that we are addressing systemically. A reporter asked me, how do you know how much of these results are the iPad, how much the professional development, and how much the apps. I responded that it is all those things together, on purpose. We are using a systemic approach that recognizes our success is dependent on, among other things, the technology, choosing apps wisely, training and supporting teachers in a breadth of literacy strategies (including applying the iPad), partnering with people and organizations that have expertise and resources they can share with us, and finding data where we can so we can focus on continuous improvement.

And we’re moving forward – with our research, with getting better at math and literacy development in kindergarten, with figuring out how to move this to the first grade.

So. We have what we were looking for:

Confirmation that our vision works.

It’s Your Turn:

What do you think the implications of our research are? What do our findings mean to you?

Learn More about Projects4ME and Auburn’s iPad Program

The other night, I had the pleasure of joining Cheryl Oaks, Alice Barr, and Bob Sprankle on their Seedlings podcast.

We had a chance to talk about Auburn’s literacy and math initiative at includes 1to1 iPads in kindergarten and Projects4ME, Maine’s statewide virtual project-based program for at-risk youth.

Check out the links and podcast here.