Jul 01

Inforgaphics to Share Your Message

I am currently sitting in on a session on using info graphics to visualize data.  Data visualization is an interesting areas and something that had great potential in education.  Think about how you like to receive information.  Would you rather read through a list of stats or see them presented in a visually pleasing manner.  Think about the majority of people and what they would prefer.  Really, it is about people receiving your information.  What is the best way for you to present information so that people receive it?

I have used piktochart before to create an inforgraphic for our state required “Report to Parents” while in South Carolina.  This was a yearly requirement and we dutifully made the tri-fold brochure that seemingly every other school did.  We always felt it was an exercise in futility.  Who would read this?  We felt like we were seriously wasting our time.  We talked about ways to actually get our message out there so people would be better informed about our school.  We figured an info graphic would be a great way to share information that otherwise would be filled out on some form just to meet a state requirement.   Having no experience at all with creating info graphics we googled it and came across piktograph.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 8.54.01 AM

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 8.54.17 AM ”Report to Parents as an infographic (parts shown)”

In this session they are mainly talking about ways to use info graphics in the classroom.  I have not had the chance to use them with students but I think it would be powerful.  You have to really think and process information while creating an infographic.  It also makes you drill down and be succinct.  There is only so much information that an infographic can hold. That is powerful. We know how students often struggle with summarizing information and this is a great way to teach that skill.

This has been one of the best sessions I have attended at ISTE!


Jun 30

It seems like it’s been years

It has been some time since I logged into my blog. In fact I noticed today that my blog has been active for 8 years – but I haven’t posted anything since late 2013.  So much has changed since then it would be impossible to go back and try to cover it all! I am really going to try and post regularly to my blog so I can better reflect on my professional experiences. It is a matter of making the time necessary to do it.

Here is why I need to stop with the excuses and get back to blogging:

1. Reflection 
We know how critical it is for teachers to reflect. Same goes for administrators. I constantly reflect on what I do and what goes on around me, but I need to use this blog to assist in thoughtful reflection.
2. Fleshing out thoughts
Blogging allows me to better flesh out my thoughts. It allows me to dive deeper into my thoughts and make connections. Often when I write a post I am thinking of it as I go. I do not have a lot “pre-planned”.
3.  Collaboration is KING!! 
Since I have posted I have moved into a new role. I now serve as a Co-principal/Transformational leader with Dr. Latoya Dixon (@latoyadixon on Twitter).  There is much more to come on this unique approach to school leadership, but it has been a wonderful experience.  It has shown is how powerful collaboration is for school leaders. This is a severely neglected area for principals.
We will see how it goes this time!
Dec 08

Does Your School Value Reading?

If you have read this blog before you know how much I value literacy and creating a culture of reading at your school.  At our school we have consistently talked about building a culture of literacy.  As the principal I think this is the key focus for any school.  Yep, from pre-school to high school.  Some say kids should be reading at home and not in school.  If we believe that, then why should we spend time doing science experiments in school?  Kids should do that at home.  If we believe that then we should say kids do not need PE because they should exercise at home. We talk so much in education today about making school “hand on, minds on” and we have so many more cute saying that essentially mean kids should be “doing” in school and not just receiving information.  I am perplexed that we do not have the same attitude towards reading.   If we want our kids to be better reader then they need time to read.

You can look through older posts and see how we handle literacy at our middle school. Click here for a summary post on our literacy efforts.  I encourage you to check it out and see some of the things we have done to encourage our kids to become fluent in literacy.  We would also love to hear what you have done in your school to build that same culture.

At our school we know it is ok to spend time reading in the classroom.  Actually, it is not only ok, it is a core belief of ours.  Is this tricky in a middle school?  Certainly.  It took some time to convince teachers I was happy to walk into a classroom and see the kids actually reading.  I have written a series of posts on this blog with a more detailed look at the process.  It takes a long time to build a culture of reading at a middle school and it is difficult to maintain that same culture.   But we know how critical this is – perhaps the most critical thing we can do as educators.

Have you been over to the Nerdy Book Club?


If you are not familiar with the site you need to check it out.  You can easily sign up for the emailed version of the daily pots written by a sampling of some of the finest educators out there.

There are a variety of posts on this community blog.  There are book reviews, classroom advice, general information about literacy, stories about author visits and so much more.   The latest post today from the Nerdy Book Club was sent to me by one of our teachers who has played a key role in creating our culture of literacy.  You can read it here.

This post highlights why so many teachers and schools are afraid to spend classroom time reading.  When a school evaluates teachers and reading in the classroom automatically knocks down their score, why would they read in class? The humorous part is I can see some teachers who know the true value of reading and still sneak in some quality reading in the classroom time. I am so happy this is not they way we run our school.  If we want our kids to become better readers (and thus better thinkers, problem solvers, etc…) then they need time to read.  If a school does not show how much it values reading, then how will kids embrace the value of reading?

Fellow principals and school leaders, I challenge you to confront this practice if it takes place in your school.  What have you and your school done to create a culture or reading in your school?  I would love to hear how you have worked to impact this change in thinking.

Nov 24

Hour of Code Event

Did you know the number of high paying, lucrative jobs in the computer science industry far exceed the number of qualified applicants?

Did you know computer science is the highest paying degreed job?

Did you know jobs in the computer programming field are growing at 2 times the national average?

Did you know that only 2.4% of college degrees are in computer programming?

Did you know nationally that 9 out of 10 schools do not teach one course in computer programming?

Did you know that only 18% of college graduates are women in technology?

Did you know that more than 70% of the new jobs in our country will deal with computing?

Did you know that jobs in computing and healthcare are the two most highly demanded jobs in SC?

Did you even realize that if you go in for a “routine” surgery that a robot could more than likely operate on you?

So, why ask all of these questions? Sullivan Middle school has a computer science/coding academy that is preparing our students to engage in their futures.

National Computer Science week is from December 9 – 15th, 2013. Sullivan’s computer science academy will host our very first “Hour of Code”. During this time, every student in the entire building will code for one hour! The hours will be staggered for each grade level, and during the time of code, computer science academy students will be present in the classroom to offer assistance.

Tentative Date : December 9th, 2013
Time : Staggered time period per grade level
Participants: ALL SMS students

How it will work: During the designated hour, each student will code on Hopscotch. Hopscotch is a free app that all students need to have downloaded on their iPads prior to Thanksgiving break. On the day of the event, two Jr. Computer Scientist (academy students) will be in each classroom while you code, to assist students and answer questions.

They will talk briefly about the code and how awesome coding is. Each student will code for an hour on their iPad’s, while the Jr. Computer Scientist will float around your room assisting.

More information will be released at the date approaches!

Oct 05

Our Chinese Experience

Are we preparing our students to be global citizens?  What can public schools do to ensure our students learn about and appreciate other cultures that may be distinctly different than theirs?  I had always wanted to start a Chinese language program at our school, where I am fortunate to be the principal.  I knew if our students were exposed to another culture they would be more globally minded.  We teach Spanish and French and those languages certainly have their merits.  However, adding Chinese would bring a vastly different culture to our students.  We felt it would be a perfect complement to our now robust language program. 

China is by far the most populated country and it would make sense for our students to begin to learn the most widely spoken language.  Our students live in a global economy and will be competing and working with people from all over the world.  Do we want to provide our students with a strong foundation to succeed in this kind of world?  My answer has always been yes.  We can fear the unknown or embrace it and prepare our students for success. 

The first challenge was finding a way to make this type of program a reality at our school.  After much research and after forging several connections, we were fortunate to find a great organization called the Chinese Cultural Center. This has developed into a strong relationship that has provided many opportunities for our school and school district.  They assisted us in securing a teacher from China to teach Chinese.  It is tough to find Chinese teachers already here in the U.S. and we wanted a native speaker to start our program.  We were also able to secure two additional teachers from China to begin Chinese language programs at two other district schools.  We started the language programs at the three schools this past school year!

In addition to starting the language programs, teachers from our district have had the opportunity to teach in China the past two summers.  Over the course of two years we have sent approximately 60 teachers to China for one month.  While there they either taught Chinese high school students or Chinese teachers.  This has created great experiences and memories for our teachers.  While they are sharing their expertise in China, I believe they are becoming stronger teachers themselves.  It is such a powerful cultural experience and makes you a more well-rounded individual.  This leads to even more powerful teaching back in the United States.

We have also had the wonderful opportunity to host students from China in our district.  Last year 10 students from China spent a week at our school.  This was an amazing experience for our students who were able to learn a little more about Chinese culture.  Many families in our district opened their homes and were rewarded with a great cultural experience.  I am sure we will continue to host students from China in the future.

I hope our next step in this journey is to send students from our school to live in China for two weeks.  Many of our new partner schools in China have been doing this for some time and have extended an open invitation to our students.  This can be a once in a life time opportunity for our students.  There is nothing like learning a new culture by total immersion!  I think it is critical that our students have the opportunity to travel abroad and learn about the world around them.  As an International Baccalaureate school, I cannot think of a more powerful experience for our students. 

I have been fortunate to meet with Chinese principals and education officials in the U.S. and now in China.  They are very interested in our style of teaching and how our education system works.  I think one of the great myths in the general public today is how “bad” our schools are performing.  However, when you look at International tests, the U.S. is performing higher than ever.  While we still have room to improve, we have moved leaps and bounds since international testing began.  Did you know in the U.S., we have more students in college than ever before and the highest graduation rate in 40 years?  Those are the facts, but they are often ignored and overlooked.  I often wonder why this is the perception?

Through all the visits and meetings with Chinese educators, one thing is clear.  They want to learn about how we teach, how we educate and how we run schools.  They are looking to us to improve their educational systems.  We should be proud and celebrate our schools.  People are looking to learn from us.


Sep 28

1-1 with iPads – 5 Weeks In

5 Weeks In

We have been in school for almost 5 weeks now. If you have been following this blog you know we are implementing 1-1 technology with iPads this year at our school.  It has been an interesting journey!  It actually started a few years ago when we were just thinking about what it could mean for our district. Thus, the title of this post is misleading.  We are actually about 2 years in.  However this will focus on the time since the devices have been in kids hands.  Fast forward through the past couple of years and here we are actually teaching in a 1-1 environment.

One thing we made clear (or tried) to our teachers is we do not expect them to use iPads every single day, all class long.  That would be the same expectation with any teaching tool – you would not lecture all day everyday, you would not use a textbook all day every day and so on…. However, I think while we were saying that many teachers were not feeling it.  We recently had a “late-start” day where the kids come to school 2 hours later than normal.  This gives us valuable professional learning time.  My Instructional Coach and I purposely planned a session void of technology. We wanted to show our teachers what we have been saying about not using the tool all day every day.

With that being said we are expecting our teachers to use the device as a tool in their tool belt.  And they have not let us down.  Now, we have been on this road for a while.  One entire team was in a 1-1 environment last year.  We also had an iPad cart that was checked out almost daily last year.  So, its not like we said, “oh yeah, all your kids will have iPads next year” and left them to it.  We have been planning and offering PD on this for a while.  Here are some of the great ways I have seen them being used as instructional tools so far:

Common Assessments: Formative Style

I think one of the most powerful features about the devices (or any devices) is the capability to TRANSFORM formative assessment.  Our teachers have been using edmodo and socrative (and probably others) to give formative assessments.  The power is in the instant results.  No more waiting a day or two to grade the quizzes, etc… Now we have the results in an instant.  This also makes data meetings much more productive as it can take place much earlier than before.  I am excited as I am looking forward to two data meetings this week where I will be working with two data teams to analyze as assessment the just gave.  As of now, I would have to say this is the most powerful part of our digital conversion.


Many of our teachers are very comfortable with edmodo. They are using it for a variety of reasons as well.  It is a great place that allows kids to collaborate around an instructional topic.  It is a place where teachers can post presentations, notes and anything else a student might miss when they miss school.  I remember when I taught I had an old folder at the front of the room with all the make up work.  That was great – when he child made it back to school.  Now, there is no waiting for the child to return.  They are able to keep up with the class.

Any type of production app

There are so many to list.  Educreations is one of the favorites.  Simple but effective.  Even simpler is using the camera or video capturing capabilities of the device.  This has been a huge help as our arts classes create developmental notebooks to track students progress throughout the years.  Content creation is a major skill our kids must learn.  This is certainly assisting in that endeavor!

But its not an app

As you can see it is not about an app.  If it were I think we would be doing it wrong.  What I see int he classrooms is content creation.  Sure an app might be helpful in that, but it is about conent creation.  An app might help with instantaneous feedback, but its about the instant feedback, not the app.  Anything we do needs to be about the main thing – whether is creating, feedback, organization, collaboration.

What’s Next

I look forward to continuing down his road with our teachers.  Make no mistake – it has been a very hectic year.  1-1 implementation is not for the faint of heart.  However, I have seen many teachers step up in ways that I did not expect.  I have seen teachers working hard to integrate tech where just a year or two ago they were tech holdouts.  This has been one of the best parts of the transformation.  Our students are loving it as well.  I think this will pay big dividends.  I look forward to the year – it will be tough but we will learn so much.  And when this happens,. it benefits the kids which of course if always the goal.

Sep 22

New Look to Edleaderweb

I hope you are enjoying the new look of edleaderweb.  I had not updated the word press version in about 6 years so it was an interesting conversion.  It was so old I was not able to directly upload everything from the old blog to the new blog.  However, I did save everything so I went back and added most of the posts.  You can see all the posts from 2007 and 2008 by accessing them from the top menu bar.  I just got tired of uploading them individually!

I think this look is cleaner and much more modern than the previous one I was using.  See you soon!

Sep 21

Peace Day at SMS


Peace Day at SMS

Sullivan has spent the last several weeks learning about peace and what it means to our students. We want to learn about not only peace on a large scale, but what it means to each of us individually. International Peace Day is an annual event celebrated around the world. As an I.B. school this fits with our mission as we want our students to be “internationally minded”. Not only were we able to learn about conflict around the world, we were able to learn about peace here at home.

The idea of learning about peace directly relates to several of our I.B. Learner Qualities. As you know the Learner Qualities are described as the, “I.B. mission in action. They are the character traits we want to see in all of our students. We want our kids to be caring (one of the IB Learner Qualities) and talking about peace certainly encourages kids to reflect on what it means to be caring. Reflecting on peace encourages us to become more open-minded. We want our kids to know just because someone may appear different than you, it does not mean they are better or worse than you. In the world we live in, it is critical our students are able to understand this.

Our students did a wonderful job throughout this project. They responded to questions about what peace means to them on a school edmodo poll. They talked about the concept of peace in class and during the morning announcements. They discussed the concept amongst themselves. They were engaged throughout the process

and we were impressed with their thoughts and insight.



I hope you enjoy some of the pictures and stories from our local media. You can find the links below.

Sullivan Middle Facebook Page
Click Here

Check out the herald – article, pictures and time lapse video
Click Here

Check out CN2
Click Here

Check out WRHI
Click Here

Sep 08

Is this Correct? (Focus on Literacy)

About 3 1/2 years ago (Dec 2009) I wrote a series of posts on literacy.  It talked about some of my beliefs and what was going on related to literacy in our school.  I thought it might be nice to reflect on what has been going on in our “literacy world” since then.  I wonder how much has changed in the past 42 months?

As far as our beliefs, nothing.  We were in the beginning stages of rampping up our literacy efforts back then.  We were making sure it was at the center of our conversations.  We had to start with conversations before we really got stated.  However, this was a CRUCIAL first step.  We need to make sure our secondary teachers are comfortable with literacy and realize it is all teachers jobs, not just the ELA teachers.  We had to talk at length about how it is OK to have kids reading in your class.  As a former high school teacher I can relate to those who think kids should read at home and that is that.  However, we know many of our kids are not reading at home.  There are so many reasons why they are not – that could be a book or at least a series of blog posts.  So, we can control the time they are in school so we need to get them reading.

I talked in my previous posts that the books The Book Whisperer and Readicide were fundamental game changers for me.  I was looking for a quick fix – these two authors taught me there is no such thing.  It is about reading books, reading books, and reading anything else that can be read.  We needed to get books in the hands of our kids.  We needed to turn kids into readers by showing them we are all readers – some of us have just not found what types of books we like yet.  I talked about some of the things we did in those previous posts so I will not rehash them here.

We have a school wide literacy plan.  This will be our third year of the plan.  Before the plan was born, we created a literacy leadership team.  This consisted mostly of teachers and our admin. staff.  We did not want to direct the group, but we needed to make sure they knew we thought it was important.  The group met and did great work.  We decided to focus our professional development efforts on literacy the next year.  These sessions were led by our great teachers.  We grew a lot that year.  We also started our school wide literacy plan.  Here are the basic tenets as they stand now (it has morphed over the three years):

All students read at least 20 minutes daily – they read from a self selected novel.  They get to choose, totally up to them.  The point is we need to give them time to read what they want.  Who onlyt wants to read what you are assigned in school?  Not me and not many struggling readers out there!

Students read a content based article in each class at least once every two weeks.   Every class – math, electives, everything.  We value reading so why would we not read in every class? We continue to talk about reading all the time.  In hallways, book trailers on our news program,all the time.

We try to publish great student writing on our student showcase.  We need to work harder on being more consistent with this.

We started year 1 of the plan with a school wide strategy.  We really did this to ensure fidelity of implementation.  It was a great way to start but we no longer have a school wide strategy.  Most, if not all, of our teachers are comfortable doing this on their own.  I would also be remiss to mention our instructional coach at this point.  She worked so long and hard that summer finding articles that went with the standards of each and every subject area.  Trust her, it is not easy to find articles on the potato famine or a multitude of other obscure topics!

As I said, the plan has been modified over the years but these are the basic tenets of the plan.

We have also made a concerted effort to increase the size of our classroom libraries.  I am proud to say we have made leaps in this area.  I wish we would have kept track of all the books we have purchased over the last 3-4 years.  As a school we decided literacy is our focus and we directed as many resources as possible to these efforts.  This summer we gave away almost 1,000 copies of Wonder by R.J. Palacio to all of our students.  Most of this was funded with grant money (our great IC also gets credit for a lot of this $$)! We have given 30 kids 12 books each over the past two summers.  We started 30 more this year.  We are doing action research on summer learning slide.   We will get our first set of results back this fall.

We do so much more with literacy.  We had two solid years of PD on literacy strategies.  We have a school wide plan firmly in place.  We talk about reading with our kids all the time.  We started a class called the Literacy Club.  Our media specialist does a million and a half things to promote reading.  We do a 25 book challenge with our faculty/staff each year where they post how many books they have read.  Last year we created mini posters (really a piece of printer paper) of what we were currently and put it on our doors – all of us – teachers, clerical, admin, etc…!

We hear comments from our kids and our teachers about how they can see a difference in how much our kids read.  A teacher new to our school put it best last year – he said in my other school if we did silent reading it was like crowd control.  Here, however, the kids are reading and hate it when it is time to stop.

More so than test scores, building readers should be the focus of school.  If we can get kids hooked on reading, wow!  When we started down this road several years ago I was looking for a qucik fix. I quickly learned to drop that idea.  It is about building a culture of reading.  It takes hard work and time.  It takes letting others take the lead in certain areas.  It is about sticking to a vision.  Do we still have room to grow?  Of course times 3!!! However, I am very, very proud of all that we have accomplished in regards to literacy at our school.

Sep 01

iPads Up Part 3


The ipads are almost out to all of our students!  We have currently deployed about 600 of the 850 devices.  The rest will be distributed Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  It has been an exciting process and we learn something after each distribution session.  I am most thankful to have a great team as this is a TEAM effort.  If you go down this road, do not think 1 person can do it alone.  We have been working hard and putting our heads together.  Next year we will be experts :)

Grade level deployment assembly

Before a student can receive their iPad they attend a grade level assembly.  During this assembly we talk to them about cyber safety, caring for the device, posting online and the general rules.  We have really harped on the importance of not using their ipads anywhere near a restroom or the locker room.  That is one of the focal points of the assembly.  We also talk about only posting positive things and things that are helpful and not potentially hurtful.  We also spent time going over the fact you can not publish someones picture online with their specific permission.  Social media is a ubiquitous part of their lives and we hope to educate them to use it in a positive manner.


For some reason the word deployment has been used over distribution.  I am not sure of the intent, if there was an intent, but it does sound much cooler than distribution.  So, we are sticking with deployment.   After the grade level assembly, two classes are coming to the media center reference room at the same time.  There we have a team of adults, led by our media specialist and an AP, working to help the students set up their iPad.  The district has set certain restrictions and the adults help and guide the students through the process.  We set restrictions on things like music, movies, etc….I am referring to the content of the music, movies.  Since we are a middle school we are setting it at the PG level.  Students at our school have two basic choices at this point.  If they are taking the device home (and paid the insurance fee) they get to create their own Apple ID and gmail address (see previous post of how we did this since most are 13 or under).  If they are only using our device at home, they use a generic Apple ID by team.  We set them by team so management would be easier.  For example if a teacher wanted all the team iPads to have Educreations, they simply would load it to one team device.  We also left facetime and iMessage on.

Facetime, iMessage, Apple IDs oh my!

That was our first lesson – don’t use a generic team ID and leave those two items on.  We had many kids come up and say, “I don’t know what to do, I have like 100 facetime requests.  Same thing with iMessage.  You see, if all the devices are tied to one Apple ID, the requests go to everyone!  So, we had to tun them off for the generic team ID.  That took a lot of time and teachers stepping up and assisting with it.  Luckily that was only about 200 students.   We have furthered learned that the generic ID were not what we should have been doing anyway.  So, we are now allowing every child to create their own Apple ID.  In all honesty, that is what our school wanted to do from day 1 but we advised against it.  So, we tried it and saw it was not working.  We are not trying to get everyone their own Apple ID.  One of the main points of this initiative is customized learning and their own Apple ID moves them much closer to customization.

The teachers are also entering the restriction codes so the students will not be able to change the restrictions back.  I wish we did not have to do this, but we are in a middle school.  I think it is important we protect them as much as we can while we still give them some freedom.  It is critical we talk about digital citizenship all year long.  We know the vast majority will make great choices, but we also know some will make poor choices.  They already do that now – no technology needed.  It is critical we don’t throw our hands up and blame everything on the devices.  Kids have been writing negative things on notes and bathroom stalls since cuneiform I suppose.  Same thing with technology.  We are sure that a few  kids will do negative things – technology will not change that.  We jut need to continue to guide them as the develop into digital citizens.

Summary as of Now

This initiative has been in the works for at least a couple of years.  It is exciting that it is finally here.  In just a few days every single one of our 840 students will have an iPad daily in class.  When I think of the wok put into this, it is amazing it is becoming reality.   I also think of how everything we have done might have been the easy part (trust me, easy is ALL relative).  This is not to downplay all of th etime put into the effort so far.  It really is mind-boggling to think of it all – visioning, fundraising, convincing, number crunching, teacher training, parent training, student education and training, all the paper work and so much more.  However,it is all coming down to this present moment.  The devices are nearly deployed.

How will we use this to leverage an improved education for each and every child?

How will we use it to transform learning at our school?

How will we use it to level the playing field?

How will we use it to impact the lives of our students?

We are all learning so much.    With every grade level deployment we have had to make changes.  That is tiresome but exciting at the same time.  I think it is cool that the kids see us learning as well.  That is what a school is all about anyway.  Everyone learning and growing, including the adults. As the principal I have seen a variety of people step us and display leadership.  I expected it from some but have seen it in others that I was not expecting to see it from.  That is exciting.