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.  😦

As always  I have found interesting information at Miguel Guhlin’s blog Around the Corner!  The following three videos are worth reflecting on.   Thanks Miguel!

In this first video I hope the answer is YES!!!

Since I reside in Nebraska I wish I could have caught this act, but alas tragedy struck!!!  It’s kind of like my trees the power district cut down and the one they butchered (I have to let this go, but this song captures some of what I feel!).

It seems amazing to me that we would need to create a sense of urgency in education, but the ideas presented here are valid for any organization.

I had viewed this before and was reminded of it in a recent presentation I attended. Food for thought. Enjoy!

Now that we are two years in on the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and Institute for the Future 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education where are we now?

explorersThe labels, digital immigrant and digital native, have been floating around the blogosphere and education circles for a few years now. The digital natives are sometimes referred to as the millennial generation, current K-12 and college students, that have been immersed in a technological world. At a current, and young mind you, 43 years old I have been thinking where I fit into this picture, and I know where I am.

I was born in 1965, and just before my 4th birthday Sesame Street went on the air. For the most part I always remember having a television in my home. I remember my first digital football game, playing pong at a local eatery, my sister’s Atari 2600 video game system, our laser disc player, and the Apple IIe computers that entered our high school building pre-1984. From high school on out through the rest of the 80s, 90s, and now in the 21st century I have not known a time when I didn’t have access to a computer.

For those in my generation, late boom, early or pre-millennial, whatever you want to call it, we have feet placed on both sides of the digital immigrant and digital native worlds. I would say we are more native than immigrant, and we really don’t have an excuse when it comes to embedding technology into the curriculum. I am going to go so far as to say that if you were born after 1960, a digital native you are (As Yoda might put it!).

Starting in the 1980s we, the digital explorers I will name us, began attending and graduating from educational institutions that were digital, but pre-internet. We took each innovation into our lives and embedded it, we changed with the times, but we understood what a dial phone was, knew people who had actually grown up on farms, and had some compassion for those that couldn’t understand how to set the clock on the VCR. We helped our elders along the digital road and did it for our folks because they didn’t know how.

As the digital explorer generation, we hoped that our education system that we knew would be transformed, but after 25 years removed from my own high school graduation not much has transformed in the classroom. The internet connections are there now, much of the hardware and software is there, but too much instruction is the same as it was in 1984. Why?

As part of this newly named digital explorer generation I have a call to action. If we look around right now we may want to realize and notice, if we haven’t already, that we have reached the age of decision making. We are in a position to be great influences in generating a cultural shift that has failed to move as fast as we have always hoped it would. As educators we especially cannot rely on an excuse that we are digital immigrants, we are not. We are the digital explorers and the first digital natives.

My challenge to my generation of digital explorers is to set the example. Continue to embed technology in your classrooms, start embedding technology in your classrooms if you have been avoiding it (we really have no excuse as we know the language and the customs already), and we must help digital immigrants embed technology in their classrooms. I do, because I am a digital explorer and one of the first digital natives, and we are the generation that knows how to change. As for the younger digital natives they expect something different, and we must help forge the trail because we have been the digital explorers and know the way.

This was a wonderful experience spending time with some of the great leaders that inhabit  the fifth grade classrooms around western Nebraska!  The following is a podcast the students created:

Fifth Grade Leadership Day Podcast

I am proud to say my own son, Ronan, was a member of this great group!