So Many Tools, Not Enough Time

CBR001649Checking my tweets tonight, I discovered connections among two right away. The first, a voting poll question posted by Tech & Learning:

Would you pay for Ning?

With full appreciation for people who respond to surveys, I followed the link and registered my vote. I was an early responder, with only 13 responses counting mine. Hope you will let your voice be heard too.

But, couple that question with the second – and very amazing – site, Web 2.0 Tools and Applications posted by isteconnects. After exploring this site I just had to post my own question:

Why would anyone want to pay for access to a site when there are so many free sites available?

Yes, I am a Ning customer right now. I like the site, the customizable features and the flexibility. But why pay when there are other free resources available now and more created each day? Maybe I’m missing something amazing. If I’m wrong, please tell me.

E-Learning Featured in Education Week

An Education Week article focused on E-learning was published today (Davis, April 26, 2010), featuring references to the online learning projects of schools in St. Clair County RESA.  While E-learning is slowly emerging in the Michigan high school course line up, schools in St. Clair County are beginning to embrace it as a viable content delivery system.

Today, representatives from each district came together to share how they are using Education 2020, an online course content delivery system. Feedback from educators and students is positive. There are high completion rates and high levels of student engagement according to those responsible for managing student enrollment.

E-learning provides a way to engage previously disenfranchised students such as those who are currently enrolled in the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) of St. Clair County.

Learning from Twitter: New Thoughts on Leadership, Education and More

What can you do with Twitter? Recently, I’ve been involved in discussions around this question. Some think that Twitter is simply a social exchange site – a way to let people know what you’re doing at any given moment. Others see it as a way to capture social and political events as they unfold.

I enjoy Twitter as a learning tool. I can get caught up for hours following one Tweet and another to captivating people and research. My pallette is diverse, ranging from technology gurus like Richardson, LaPorte, and Pogue, to leadership experts such as Tapscott and Kanter.

Then, there’s my favority news media giants: Anderson Cooper, Larry King, and Sanjay Gupta. And, of course I follow current politicians such as Michigan’s Governor Granholm, and Senator McCain.

My favorite science sites include the main NASA site and SunEarthDay, celebrating the NASA event and solar research.

My friend Kit Tweeted a new term last week, “Tweeks.” Kit describes Tweeks, as “a week’s worth of twitter links which I chose to favorite” (April 23, 2010). Though his Tweeks, Kit chose to recognize top links that he found relevant to his interests.

With that idea in mind, and armed with the knowledge that some of my blog followers appreciate links to informational sites, I’ve decided to post a few of the top blog posts I discovered tonight as I followed the Tweets streaming through my account. They cover a variety of current topics aligned with my blog mission: to share information on leadership, education and technology.


Harvard Business Review, post Imagine the Future of Leadership, by Scott Snook, Associate Professor HBS (April 26, 2010). This series promises to be engaging: Week One – Fundamental Conceptions; Week Two: Future Challenges/Context; Week Three: Ideal Leaders; Week Four: Cultural Distinctions & Diversity; Week Five: Values; Week Six: Development. Promises to be an informative series.

Two stories that relate to issues educators in Michigan – and across the nation – are facing:

Should All Students Take Algebra 2? Who Should Decide? By Catherine Gewertz (April 26, 2010, Education Week, Curriculum Matters).

Denver: Incentivized Teachers [Fast Cities 2010]. By: Austin Carr, Fast Company (May 1, 2010). Relates the story of teacher performance incentives in Denver, CO.

Upcoming Events

Jackie Gerstein on “User-Generated Education” a webinar hosted by Steve Hargadon, Tuesday, April 27, 2010 8 PM EST. I attended more than one of Steve’s webinars. They were outstanding, featuring current professionals at the top of their game. International participation is invited.

More Great Leadership Ideas

MPj03863030000[1]From Idea Champions comes a great article, 41 Ways Business Leaders Can Foster a Culture of Innovation, by Barry Gruenberg, Director of Leadership Development.  Gruenberg’s ideas, arguably, apply to education as well.

Particularly in these economic times of reduced school funding, shrinking enrollments and escalating prices, innovation is essential to survival. Schools must rethink how they deliver programs and services. Leaders must reconsider how they engage the creative genius of employees.

Gruenberg’s Number 16 is absolutely critical. It’s easy to dispense information, but listening to what others think you said is sometimes hard to take. And I have tried to live by number 28, reminding myself to consider things from the other person’s point of view.

My favorites among Gruenberg’s suggestions are number 37 – explore what is possible, and 38 – “Resist efforts to revert to the ‘tried and true’.” While the “tried and true” is safe, it isn’t likely to lead to new destinations and new solutions. Risk taking is a must.

Finally, any leader worth her salt lives by Gruenberg’s Great Leadership Ideas Number 32:

Stick your neck out for what you believe in and value.

We need more educational leaders who are willing to stick their necks out for the students they serve.

Brainstorming by the Book



Today, my colleagues and I engaged in brainstorming as we planned for a professional learning workshop series. We accomplished our task of generating many ideas in a short (seven minute) time period. But tonight, via twitter, I discovered a great post, Josh Linkner’s The 10 Commandments of Brainstorming, that may have helped us be even more productive and on top of our game.

Reflecting on our brainstorming in light of Linkner’s list,  I’d say we did fairly well on one and three; we didn’t really pass judgment on each other’s ideas, and we surely didn’t get into editing.

It’s difficult to resist two and four. Our minds were running faster than we talked. And I think it’s only natural to want to comment or jump to the execution of an idea. That said, we didn’t do too badly here either.

We didn’t have anyone sapping energy. We didn’t compare ideas; and we certainly didn’t make fun of each other.  Neither did we worry or look back.  My colleagues are typically filled with energy and creativity. They make our collaboration and our work together fun.

For the most part, we stayed focused and avoided birdwalks. Though we did get bogged down just a bit, at the end of the session, we had a list of ideas from which to begin building our learning series.

My take aways from Linkner’s post:

1) share the article with my colleagues;

2) post his Commandments during future meetings; and

3) next time, bring kazoos.

Happy brainstorming.

College Completion – Let’s Help More Students

42-15641375The bar for student and school success has been raised by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. No longer is high school graduation enough. We must support students in attaining post-secondary success. Today (4.20.10), Melinda Gates delivered a speech to the American Association of Community Colleges supporting a national effort to help students earn college degrees, and calling upon community colleges to innovatively approach their work.

Now, we are embarking on a strategy to help twice as many students earn a post secondary degree, and we need your help again. If you take the lead, we are very optimistic about what we can accomplish together.

The speech aligns with the Education Strategy articulated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and posted on their foundation website:

We focus on improving education so that all young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We are working to ensure that a high school education results in college-readiness and that a post secondary education results in a degree or certificate with value in the workplace.

I agree, and so do many others, including Kati Haycock and the Education Trust, whose report Gaining Traction, Gaining Ground, studied average impact and high impact high schools. One of the distinguishing factors of high impact high schools was the focus on preparing students for post-secondary success versus high school graduation. This focus changed the school culture, the way educators talked about their purpose, the way they guided students, and how they celebrated success.

Kati Haycock’s recent blog post for Higher Ed Watch cautions us to carefully consider a seeming over-reliance on community colleges, particularly for specific populations.

There is something deeply troubling in the fast-building consensus that community colleges are our new silver bullet—a seemingly “perfect vehicle” for low-income and minority students who “cannot afford” to start at a four-year institution.

Haycock was not bashing community colleges, nor am I.  A portion of my own undergraduate credits were earned at a community college, and my oldest son is enrolled in a community college today. He earned a certificate for industrial electrician and is now completing coursework for an associate’s degree.

The answer is not one type of higher ed program or another – each has its place. The challenge is to help students and their parents understand the distinctions among the choices: public versus private, two-year versus four-year, degree versus certificate, online versus on campus. Navigating this maze can certainly be daunting.

St. Clair County’s KnowHow2Go initiative is focused on helping all students reach their potential through post-secondary success. Through a variety of student, parent and educator programs, the goal of county leaders is to increase the number of St. Clair County residents who earn post-secondary degrees. Our mission is to create a college-going culture in our community, our schools, and our homes.  To date, over 4,000 participants have taken part in evening seminars, college-prep events, and student programs that are equipping students and families with resources to traverse the journey to higher ed success.

NASA Deserves Our Support

I’m trying to cull out time to study President Obama’s proposals regarding NASA funding. The President recognized the import of decisions surrounding NASA funding in his speech at Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010,

“While the measure of our achievements has changed a great deal over the past fifty years, what we do — or fail to do — in seeking new frontiers is no less consequential for our future in space and here on Earth.”

In these trying economic times, I’m very concerned about funding for an agency that impacts so many facets of our national fiber. From the Sputnik generation to the ISS, NASA scientists have lead the world in creative genius.

We may be well served to hearken back to the early days of the “space race.”  During this time, President John F. Kennedy delivered a Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs (May 25, 1961), wherein he recognized the sacrifices necessary, yet the critical need for American space exploration:

If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take…..

But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share…

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts.

Not only did NASA exceed our expectations in space exploration, many scientific and technological innovations from NASA have also influenced “civilian” sectors – from computers, to medicine and more.

NASA’s vision to connect with students was articulated in Aerospace Technology Innovation (Vol. 11, No.3, Fall 2003):

The cornerstone goal of NASA’s new Education Enterprise is to inspire our next generation of explorers—the next wave of inventors, discoverers, technologists, scientists, mathematicians, engineers and educators.Some of my recent, favorite NASA resources are featured here. I argue that they are unparalled (Loston, A., 2003).

Some of the current NASA Education resources include the Earth Day project packed with resources including: 10 Things You Never Knew About the Earth, and NASA Home and City 2.0 an interactive site that features spinoff technologies created by NASA. These technologies have made their way into our cities and homes to improve our way of life.

And who doesn’t love the story of Apollo 13 and the genius that brought the astronauts home safely. NASA created resources for the 40 Year Anniversary, including a site that contains video footage from the Mission Control Apollo event, as well as an official Apollo Mission site.

NASA’s education resources are simply outstanding.  Who wouldn’t want to use real images from the Hubbell Space Telescope to teach about the planets and the solar system rather than a paper textbook?

The resources of NASA extend beyond science and technology to include the arts.  A CBS Sunday Morning feature today chronicled a partnership between Houston Symphony music director Hans Graf and NASA. The inspiring outcome, in which Graf and NASA combined NASA’s remarkable photography together with “The Planets,” music written by British composer Gustav Holst nearly a century ago. The CBS segment was shared on YouTube.

The performance, captured on DVD and Blue Ray and made available by the Houston Symphony, brought tears to my eyes. I ordered my copy tonight and can’t wait to receive it.

There are few who would say they have not been influenced by one or many NASA events. From the first steps on the Moon, to the Apollo missions, to the Space Shuttle and the ISS, we have been influenced by the sense of discovery, earnest commitment, strength in the face of fear, and achievements worthy of celebration and honor.

I’m very interested in hearing about what NASA means to you.