Monday, December 30, 2013

Black Monday: What type of Coach are you?

In light of the NFL's Black Monday with 5 coaches getting the ax before noon, it brought home a great point for me:    What type of coach am I?

Everyone in education is a coach...Teachers constantly coach their kids...Principals coach their staff...Administrators coach their schools. Ultimately, coaching is your relationship with people, how you interact/inspire/motivate/lead the people you work with has more to do with your success (in the NFL's case failure) than any other facet of your matter what it is.

So what type of coach are you?

"Old School" - Do you rule with an iron fist? Demand respect because you're in charge? You know this will work so we're going to do this and succeed. Are you so focused on the task at hand that you tend to alienate those that don't follow your lead? Can "My Way or the Highway" coaches succeed in the 21st century?

"Players" - Everyone loves this coach...great person...will always be someone I can talk to. Players (staff) feel at home and comfortable, but, are they working to their full potential? Has complacency set in? Can your staff step up during adverse times? You're a people person but what happens when your people don't perform?

"Figurehead" - Is every decision you make second guessed by those above you on the corporate ladder? Do you need approval before making any decision? Are you really in-charge or are you just the one making the decision public? You speak well, are eloquent and toe the company line...but...are you really in control of the situation? Does your staff believe you're the one making the decisions?

"Emotional" - Do you thrive in a constant hyper-state of emotions? Are you jumping up and down high-fiving...I mean fist-bumping everyone in the building when tests scores are above Standard and maybe dragging your iPad when they fall short? Do you ride that roller-coaster of High's and Low's throughout the year?

 "One & Done" - Maybe, just maybe you walked into the wrong situation. Were you ready for the responsibility? Did you do everything you could to better the situation? Good people end up in the wrong situation all the time, can you recognize this and change things before they are changed for you?

Each NFL coach discharged today falls into one of these categories from all that's been discussed, I'll leave it to you to decide which is which. More importantly is where do you fit?

Can you identify you coaching type? Does it fit well with your staff/students? Does it fit well with your leadership team? And the biggest fit of all...does it make your school/classroom the best it can be for your kids?

Coaches and leaders need to be true to themselves first and foremost. To lead you must be genuine, believable and honest or your staff will know it's just an act. Recognize your strengths as well as your weaknesses, know your staff/students and have a vision on what's best for your kids.

The key to successful coaching in the classroom or the boardroom is knowing which of the coaching types you need to apply to get the most out of each of your staff/students. There will be times when you have to be your passion...share your enthusiasm. Other times you have to make hard decisions that won't be loved by all but are the right things to do. Be present with your staff/students everyday...get to know them...ask them about their relationships. Do this and your decisions will be easy.

Coaching/Teaching/Leading success hinges on the people you are coaching...your job as a leader is to get the most you can out of each student/staff member each day. Do this and you won't have to worry about Black Monday...or Tuesday...or Wednesday...or Thursday. I can't help you with Black Friday, the retail train is going way to fast to derail.

Have a Safe and Happy New Year

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is It About You? or Are You About It?

if you live your life to make others better...
yours will be well rewarded

Thank you Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

EdCamping in a Blizzard (well any camping in a blizzard)

What happens when a Planned Early Out becomes a Weather Related Early Out?

Just like regular camping...our Hybrid EdCamp-style PD gets postponed and we get a little dejected because we had a great day planned. We had to make some quick adjustments due to 5-8 inches of snow and the ever-present NW Minnesota wind that sent our staff home a little earlier than planned.

At Challenger Elementary and Lincoln High School we postponed our EdCamp-style Show and Grow sessions to our January early out. Staff at Frankiln Middle School were able to use the shortened PD time to share some tips and tricks for integrating iPads in their classrooms.

I'm really jacked-up for the Hybrid EdCamp's...the thought behind this is staff sharing new things they've found useful since the start of our 1:1 program in 2-3 minutes fast paced presentations. Staff will then get to choose which of the presentations they would like more information on and meet with the presenters to brainstorm and apply the tools to their classroom.

At LHS we're doing a 20 Tools in 60 Minutes (a takeoff on the great job @MarkGarrison does with 50 Sites). While at CES we have staff from each grade level presenting a tool/technique in a little longer period then doing what I call "speed dating" training. Staff choose 4 of the presentations and attend a focused 15-20 discussion group on the tool/technique and how it could be used in their classroom. Then rotate to the next tool/technique on their list.

What I really like about these presentations is that most of the presenters at both schools are "new" staffers. We asked our regular Champion's of Technology to step back and challenged other staff members to present. This is great for our regular trainers to get a little time to recharge (not that any of them need it...they are so pushing forward) and other staff to share their successes.

Check back in in January as I will post how this Hybrid EdCamp turns out...barring another 8 inches of snow :)

Thanks for reading, have a great day and Keep Pushing Forward....Our Kids Are!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Time Flies when you're rolling out 1300+ iPads and 700+ MacBooks

How does one get back on the blogging horse?

Checking my blog and where did 6 1/2 months go since my last "..." key has more dust on it than the Bunker after year two of building construction.

We've seen so many great things in Thief River Falls over the past 2 years, it truly is an amazing place to work and I've been blessed with the opportunities for pushing forward we've had.

Our three main buildings (soon to take care of the District and Area Learning Center building) are all but finished with WiFi access point in every classroom. I'm happy to report that after 3 months of use by all 2000 wireless devices the network has been fully functional (knock on wood). The building projects main goal of upgrading our network infrastructure has been met.

We recently reported to the School Board on the 1:1 program so I thought I'd start the blog express again by recapping how we got where we are today.

Setup/Handout - Getting the devices in the hands of the kids
The investment in the right tools, a good planned process along with some dedicated "Assembly line Workers" made the configuration and imaging of our devices go very smoothly. Using Casper Suite from JAMF Software allowed us to image a MacBook Air in about 4 minutes. I can't stress how important; having a plan and process then sticking with it, is when imaging this many devices. But, most importantly is having great people execute the plan is the biggest key. Our team; LynnDyer (LAN Manager), ScottHetherington (Science Teacher), Kayla Delzer (2nd Grade Teacher) and Kelly Weets (LHS Media Specialist), Jenna Weets (4th Grader) and Jillian Weets (2nd Grader) made the Assembly Line move right along...couldn't have done it without them...can't thank them enough.

Here's a part of the workflow whiteboard we followed. Total Time for 700 MBA imaged and cased 48 hours
The MacBook Air handout at LHS couldn’t have gone better with great presentations at our parent informational nights, communicating our initial goals, outlining our expectations of students and staff and finally handing out the devices to the kids.

The iPad handout at FMS also was very successful. Another round of great presentations on parent informational night and the dedication of staff in explaining expectations to students made the process smooth. We spent progressively more time in setting up Google Doc accounts and AppleID's for each grade starting with 8th down to 6th.

Adoption and Training - Meet staff where they are…

One of the biggest things we stressed throughout our planning process with this large of a program was that we were going to "meet staff where they were" other words we weren't going to force feed the devices on our staff. We also didn't want to stifle or hold back our hi-flying staff that were ready to adopt the devices in their classroom. 
It has been great to see the growth in use of the devices in classrooms, driven by students to students and more importantly students to staff. I thoroughly believe that any successful 1:1 initiative will be driven by students, parents and peers. Students and Parents are our Customers...when they start telling you what they want you better be ready to give it to them. The power of teaching peers showing how successful they are in integrating the devices in lessons make adoption by those that are a little skeptical that much easier. We are constantly celebrating our successes in integration and developing "Champions of Technology" help build a unified staff that has several people to go to for help.

Where do we go from here

I can't say enough about our staff at each of our buildings. They aren't afraid to try things and are thirsting for more information. This year we added monthly early out days for Tech Training providing for additional PD and more opportunities for sharing what we learn along this 1:1 journey.

I will be blogging about what we've done, what we plan to do and all of the sensational surprises that we never imagined we'd face (good and bad). Thanks for reading and helping share our story.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Make It Your Own...Twitter for PD

If you're reading this and you do not have a Twitter account...well GET ONE!
For all you hear about Twitter being just for celebrities and kids tweeting what they are eating, what they are wearing, who they are seeing...I offer this...MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

You don't have to follow everyone from your favorite TV show, sports figure, talking head, former student, favorite candy, Tech Coordinator (well maybe this one you could make an exception) can but no one's making you but yourself. If you don't mind sorting through the meaningless posts to find the perfect quote/idea/lesson then follow as many as you like. When they become mass marketers and bombard you with more tweets than humanly possible in an hour unfollow them. Simple as hanging up the phone on a telemarketer. MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

If you are a lifelong learner hoping to be part of molding more lifelong learners, Twitter should become one of your go-to learning resources. Need a quick burst of inspiration to make it through the day? Open Twitter and several tweets are there for you. How is your National Science Fair student doing at his/her latest competition? Tomorrow's lifelong learner is already connected (click link on student to see). Wondering what others in your area of study are doing/trying/failing(if you think this is a bad thing you're reading the wrong blog)? Find a Twitter #hashtag and open your eyes to the globally connected world we have to be connected to. If we aren't, how can we expect our students to be?
Several amazing people have created resources and lists of #hashtags including this one containing weekly Twitter Chats about issues in education. Find one and MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

UPDATED after (you guessed it) a Tweet from today:

The Academic Benefits of Twitter

Here's the 6 Degrees of Separation (which is down to 4.67 on Twitter) on how it found me (no hide and seek it just showed up)

@doccarpenter (we have a mutual following relationship) Retweeted a Tweet by @POUSDSupt (I have no clue who this is) who was ReTweeting a Tweet by @ELSCOE of an article written by Carole McGranahan (again never heard of her before this)

Grab your morning coffee/protein shake/OJ/Moo Juice and follow #satchat or #sunchat...Be a Lurker, Be a Contributor, Be blown away at the pace of information flowing (this is how tomorrow's learners process it or hate it it's how they do), Be connected with the other people posting info, Grow Your PLN...MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

On my reading list is:

Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess @burgessdave

Which has it's own hashtag following: #tlap
and reminds me of one of my favorite sayings "Know the World...Steal the Best"

Have a wonderful weekend and don't be afraid to venture out into the Twitterverse...if making connections with your in your classroom is a priority (and it should be) then model it and start making connections with peers throughout the world!

Post name Updates:
7:45 - PD without a Budget
8:00 - Twitter: Replacing your morning paper
8:15 - Deleting this post no time to write it right
8:30 - Twitter: Make It Your Own
8:45 - Make It Your Own...Twitter for PD

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ben Franklin Asks (really what I ask with Ben's help)?

In addition to discovering electricity, inventing bifocals (hoping to avoid this one) and introducing the concept of daylight savings time (except in Arizona and Hawaii). Benjamin Franklin also said a few amazing things...Sir Ken Robinson quoted Mr. $100 Dollar Bill in a recent TED talk:

“All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” – Benjamin Franklin

When you take the time to reflect (and you really should take time to reflect) on your position in life, your work or your home...Think about what class you fall into:

Are you Immovable...resistant to change..don't get why you should change...don't want to change

Are you you see the need for change...are you prepared to listen to reason and move to better things

Are you a you Make Things you you encourage positive outcomes

In your chosen field, as well as your life, do you encourage people to be movable, a mover or are you immovable? 

Good things happen when we become Movable or Movers. When we band together and become Movable or better yet Movers GREAT things happen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Go places…not just the ones you can find on a map, but the one's you can find in your heart.

Go beyond everything you know and embrace everything you don't.

Once you have reached your destination….keep going, because inspiration doesn't favor those who sit still, it dances with the daring…… and rewards the courageous with ideas that excite, challenge and inspire.

Ideas that take you places that you have never imagined.  Ideas big enough and powerful enough to make the heart skip a beat and in some cases maybe 2.

Keep Pushing Forward....Our Kids Are!

Borrowed this from an email Lincoln High School Principal Shane Zutz sent to all his staff...give him a follow @szutz

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You Can Lead...

and as a 21st Century Technology leader I suggest you rework a 12th Century Proverb into your daily leadership routine.

12th Century:  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

21st Century:  Give me a thirsty horse and I'll get it all the water it can drink.

When it comes to technology integration recognize the thirsty horses (the ones that devour new ideas...try new things...push the envelope) and provide them all the resources they need to excel.

Don't lose your focus or get derailed by trying to bring technology to everyone.

Don't worry about those that will be slow to integrate (in any project 25% of the people will be reluctant to change).

Focus instead on the "Champions of Technology" you have in your classroom/building/district/community and provide them everything they need to be successful.

What you will find is, those horses reluctant to drink will suddenly realize they're unable to keep pace and either start drinking or fall completely out of the race.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Connected Universe

Just how connected are we becoming?

I spent last Friday driving across the state of Minnesota, on an all too familiar trek from Thief River Falls to Grand Rapids to Princeton. Friday night, I went to the Wild game and was able to be in contact with our Business Manager, Apple Rep and Purchaser to finish off a $1.4 million 1:! purchase. I'd say intertwined is a better word for it.

As much as I'd like to say I was able to do everything on my iPhone, comparing spreadsheets required a little wifi time and rather than burn up the data plan on my iPhone hotspot, my daughter and I stopped off at the first available MickeyDee's on our journey. The deal had several logistical issues and a plethora of paperwork policies prudently placed by both parties, perpetrated a prolonged passage of posts with properly placed pieces to perfect the plan. Proudly the product of this pursuit was put to bed over a very HAPPY meal (not to be confused with the Happy Meal that no longer comes in a box apparently). PO's were emailed and acknowledgements were sent. Coordinated between four different location in near real-time and pushing us forward and one step closer to 1:! for the kids of our community.

There was I was chauffeured to the game by #2 (2nd son Carl) and got to know the backseat of my Mazda (not as small as some have said...but rush hour traffic and my admittedly poor riding skills didn't help the relaxation from the backseat) I was able to check email and find that the order was put on hold for some delivery questions. Which, I was able to reply to and keep the process rolling all while backseat driving and delivering Siri inspired navigation instructions to the X.

How would this have been accomplished 5 years ago? It would have waited 4 days before emails could have been answered and replies sent and phone calls made between meetings...I like the connected you?

I think it's safe to say the largest purchase ever made at the Aitkin McDonald's was the product of our connected universe and a committed community, district, administration, staff, teachers and students that deserve the best educational opportunities regardless of location, demographic or economic status. Keep Pushing Forward....Our Kids Are!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Everyone Needs a Push...thanks #sunchat

As most know I'm more of an evening person...but I was pulled towards some early Sunday conversation via the Twitter hashtag #sunchat and @sjunkins.

It's worth your time to take a listen and participate in a "no such thing as a bad post" forum filled with free thought and amazing exchange of ideas. And for me, a little push to share more and expand my reach.

So thank you to the #sunchat peeps for the follows, the favorites, and the retweets! Time now keep you interested, not because you will always agree with what I say, but because passionate people bring passion to all that they do.

Our kids are important, and our job is to help them and each other to do our best...Challenge Accepted!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fantabulous Finish to Friday!

With due respect to the events in Boston the Fantabulous Friday Blog Post was postponed until a more appropriate time...that time has come.

To see the commitment by authorities to protect the community members and capture the second bomber provides hope that this tragedy may end with some questions answered. Amen.

Friday, April 12, 2013

1:! Community Meeting Recap

Thanks to all that came out to the LHS Commons on 4/9/13 for the first of several community informational meetings about our 1:! Program.

About 40 people representing parents, students, staff, administration and school board were in attendance. We gave a 30 minute re-cap of how we got to this point in our journey to transforming our use of technology with the students of Thief River Falls. A 30 minute Q&A period followed that lasted closer to an hour (not my fault...well mostly my fault) with questions ranging from "Why Apple and not a Windows/Android device?" to "How will insurance of the device be handled?"(see the FAQ tab for the answer for this question).

The next presentation and forum for asking questions about 1:! will be at the Thief River Falls Community Expo on April 25, 2013 from 4:00 - 7:00 @ the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.

We will be setting up a sample classroom from each of our buildings at the TRF Public Schools end of the arena. Stop by each classroom and the kids will show you what they do daily and maybe even teach you a few things about the device.

Administrators and Staff will be available to answer your questions and tell you all about the wonderful things happening at Thief River Falls Public Schools.

Keep Pushing Forward....Our Kids Are the Swinter Version

For those of you who usually escape the wonderful winters we have in Minnesota I'm certainly glad that you are able to experience a nostalgic trip back in time to see what winter is like while you're snow-birding in Arizona, Texas, Florida or any other place than here. 

But enough is enough...I've long since passed the cabin fever of most winters and am now oblivious to whatever form of coldy, rainy, snowy, sleety, gray-y, browny, dirty, frozeny, slippery, shivery, gloomy day greets me as I head to the car.

So today marks the start of Fantabulous Friday's...each Friday from now on, my blog post will be nothing but a positive, pontification of perfectly, pleasing pleasantries to the point of almost...(insert losing your lunch phrase of choice here).

What else can one do...complaining only seems to bring down more wrath from the weather gods. Grumbling about it only makes me Google the grumpy cat to find solace in surliness. Planning anything of outdoor significance leads to disappointment, and an ugly form of shiver dancing (which did get me on TV at the 4/3 Twins Game). So, I will be greeting every Friday from here on out with weather blinders on. If it's raining cats and dogs, I'll whip out my iPhone and take pictures that someone somewhere on Twitter, Facebook, or the Interweb will find almost as amazing as I do.

So welcome to Fantabulous Friday's! Read the blog on Friday as the gospel truth...or as a sarcastic salute to Minnesota Swinter (spring and winter combined for those in Hawaii) how you choose to take it is up to you!

Keep Pushing Forward....Our Kids Are (and it's a good thing because who else is gonna push you out of the ditch when you slide off the ice covered roadways)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

1:! - a Definition

What started out as a harmless "lazy shift key" typo has grown to define our effort to bring the best educational opportunity to the kids of Thief River Falls Public Schools.
1:1 is every student having access to a device (computer, laptop,tablet).

1:! provides students and staff with the device and the passion/expectation of great things being done with the device...this isn't a 3 year pilot/'s a commitment!

The community of Thief River Falls is unique not only for the greatest school nickname, Prowlers, but for it's progressive businesses, community leaders and schools.

Spend any extended time in the community and you can't help but feel Prowler Proud!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Thief River Falls Goes 1:!

On Monday March 11, 2013 the Board of Education of Thief River Falls Public Schools voted unanimously to move forward with a 1:! program that will provide every full-time student grades K-12 with a digital device. These devices will transform their educational experience and prepare them to be active participants in the global world they will live and lead in.

The Board and administrative team needs to be commended for finding and executing a financing plan that funds the building projects and 1:! for 6 years (with a district wide refresh of devices after 3 years) while still returning dollars to the taxpayers.

Here's a brief overview of the 1:! Program:

K-3 Students  -  iPad Mini for each full time student

4-8 Students  -  iPad for each full time student

9-12 Students - 11" MacBook Air for each full time student

Devices will be refreshed after 3 years.

More details of the plan will be available here on the blog as we move forward.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What the heck is a TechSpectation?

Welcome to TechSpectations...a collection of thoughts gleaned from 22 years of working with schools and technology.

At some point or other I've probably been where you are right now, as a parent/student/teacher/coach/administrator and hope to shed some light on where we need to be as information technology (IT) staff in K-12 schools.

Protecting data and students and the network and spam and viruses and printers and the budget is a daunting task. That's a lot of "and's".

I hate to admit it but...I was the over-controlling, lock-everything-down- to-"protect" things Tech Coordinator. At the beginning of the digital revolution, this was needed to get our heads around the globalization and freedom of information.

Then I ran across this post on dangerously!irrelevant and it hit home...who am I working for? How can we educate kids if we aren't exposing them to the temptations they will be faced with when they head off to college, or the workforce? How can we teach them to manage those situations? Isn't it our job to prepare them for what they will face? 5 years ago a student spent more time trying to proxy past the firewall/content filter than they did on their research paper. Were we teaching how to get around the rules or how to manage the temptation of being pinged (or Dinged by those who have been trained by First Class like Pavlov's dog) via email, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Notifications from Magic Piano/Subway Surfer and every app written from now on?

In the real world of our kids generation, dealing with these distractions may well be the best skill we can TEACH today. Hence the birth of TechSpectations, a change in my way of thinking about things. Hopefully you will find some things worthwhile or at the least semi-humorous.

Thanks for taking a look at my blog...