Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category



Five years ago I moved to North Platte, Nebraska to take a position as the educational technology director for the North Platte Public Schools.  I had taught for 13 years prior to that as a high school and middle school social studies teacher.  Upon my arrival in North Platte I soon found a lot of opposition to embedding technology into the learning process.  One of the first school board meetings I attended I heard one gentleman accuse me of being “only a teacher.”

What a great compliment!  That phrase sticks in my mind, and I couldn’t be more proud to be called such a name.  My career as a teacher has led me to many places and on adventures with many great educators and students.  I now go back to the classroom to teach, to work with students, to feel like what I am doing is worth something.  Worth more than gold or riches.  Teaching is a profession that literally reaches into the future.

I am a teacher, a great teacher.  If only everyone would be…

It has been a few years since I heard Ian Jukes speak at the T+L Conference in Nashville (October 19, 2007).  However, his words continue to ring in my ears, and I want to share some of them with you as I reflect on where our school district is with embedding technology in learning.

Ian Jukes said:

“We have access to some new technologies but their use is generally optional not integral and certainly not required of all teachers – and the technologies are often used to reinforce old practices and assumptions about teaching and learning and assessment and do not require the teacher to change their current instructional practices.”

“Ask yourself this very important question – would your students be there in your classrooms if they didn’t have to be? Are they there because they want to be there? Or are they there because they have no other choice? And if they’re there only because they have to, what can we begin to do differently to help more students want to be in our classes?”

“…Our emphasis as professional educators has to be on more than just LOTS.”

“The starting point for making the necessary changes is that as educators we have to understand how truly different our students are.”

“This shift is so fundamental – the gap between them and us is so wide – that there’s no going back to the basics. There’s no going back to the way things were when we were kids.”

“The problem is that many educators just don’t get that there is a digital divide. Many of us pay lip service to the notion that this generation is different. We knowingly nod our heads but then we shut the door to the classroom and go back to business as usual where it could just as easily be 1960 all over again.”

“Most teachers know very little if anything about the digital world of their students – from online gaming to their means of exchanging, sharing, meeting, evaluating, coordinating, programming, searching, customizing, and socializing.”

“The bottom line is that we really don’t understand their digital world and we never will until we take the time to honor and respect where they come from. But to do this we have to be willing to acknowledge their world and start to educate ourselves about that world.”

“If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of our children, schools must become a place where students are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge and know how…”

“The context of a significant event provides a frame of reference and relevance for remembering the specific information about what you were doing long after the event. By providing a context for the new information teachers are actually helping students with long-term memory.”

My summary and challenge to myself and others that continues today:  As educators it is time that we take responsibility for our own learning.  If we want to create self-directed learners, we must become one.  We must model self-directed, independent learning, and we need to discover how our students learn in the 21st Century.

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Sadly I have belatedly learned of one of my great mentor’s death.  He lives on within me, in my mind and in my heart.  Leonard Bruguier was a great friend, first and foremost.  He was my professor at the University of South Dakota during the early 1990s.  I spent many a morning or afternoon in his office discussing history, life, and family.  We kept in touch off and on.  I would stop by to visit when in South Dakota.  I later found him in Mexico (Thanks to the www).  Leonard was a descendant of the great Yankton Sioux leaders Struck by the Ree and  Chief War Eagle.  He was a veteran of the Vietnam War and a decorated Marine.  I admired Leonard and respected his counsel so much.  I will dearly miss him.

The following are Leonard’s words to me a few years ago as I faced a new change and challenge in my life.  It is just as he typed it, and they are valuable words of wisdom from one of the greatest men I have ever known. God be with you until we meet again.

“well, your occupation tale sounds like another adventure best taken and not rued forever. i might have ants in my pants and happy feet but one thing i do practice is memories, and i carry them brightly in mind. i try to remember all those places and maybe that’s why i am able to smile today. working with other people in enclosed places with mucho politica is difficult, and as your ancestors know, who knows what’s over the horizon. us sioux b dat way!!!! the onliest thing i can say about that is always try to go and be where you can have a loving relationship with yourself and your family. but, never forget, somebody has to assign the stall cleaning details. that is sometimes an aggravating task, so make sure your heart is part of the equation on the next move. it would please me no end and continue to make me smile to see you finish your doctorate. that’s my biased opinion from the cloistered ranks of academia.”  Leonard Bruguier March 16, 2007

Unchained is probably my favorite Van Halen song.  It aligned with my youthful angst from what seems like many years ago.  I have read several blog posts, articles, tweets, etc. that touch on the topic of opening up filters, classrooms, allowing students to explore:  breaking down the walls of classrooms.

The following are a couple of a pictures of something that has bothered me since the day I saw it, and it typifies the lack of movement, restriction, or virtual, and in this case literal, chaining of our resources because of fear, “convenience,” or whatever seems to hold us back.  I took these pictures, and unfortunately I am minutes away from where I can take another of the same thing.  It is time for me to help these portable devices to become unchained.

Oh yeah, I also included a YouTube video of Van Halen performing “Unchained” live, in concert.  I’m sorry that some of you can’t watch it because it is blocked.  😦