We’re Looking for a Wonderful Middle School Principal

Auburn Middle School

Are you looking to be the school leader of a terrific middle school, with a strong staff, who are working to implement innovative work around developmental responsiveness (see here and here), teaching and learning with technology, and customized learning? Would you like to be part of such a school that didn’t stand alone in its work, but was in a district doing strong innovative work in the same areas, and with strong, supportive leadership at the top? Do you know of another educator who would be interested in such a position?

Then please check out the Auburn Middle School Principal job posting on School Spring (use 809452 as the Job ID).

But move quickly. We are already reviewing applicants and hope to start interviewing soon.

Frankly, we’d love to find another team member, who is enthusiastic about driving and leading meaningful school change through shared leadership, might have some experience in one or more of our three innovation areas and could come up to speed on the others quickly (they aren’t trivial initiatives!), and is just plain fun to work with!

Did I mention that you’d get to work with an innovative district, making exciting progress on implementing innovative programs to help all children learn at their peak, a district that actively supports and empowers its educators in their professional learning, leadership, and educational entrepreneurship?

Learn more about Auburn Middle School or Auburn School Department. And don’t hesitate to contact me, if you have questions about the position, the school, our work, or the district.

Please share this post with your network and help us find a terrific principal for our innovative school!



Posted in Leadership, Middle Level Education, Technology for Learning | Tagged , | 1 Comment

10 Professional Learning Curriculum Buckets for Teaching and Learning with Tech

(Note: This is cross posted at the Distributed PD Project, where Auburn School Department, and friends, are rethinking how we can provide training and support to teachers.)

As we think about our teachers becoming highly skilled at teaching and learning with iPads, we could certainly generate a very long list of skills, approaches, tools, apps, strategies, and other competences we'd like them to get good at.

But if we consider how we might group that very long list into categories, I think we have 10 buckets that would make up our professional learning curriculum.

10 Curric Buckets

Three of those buckets focus on teachers' being able to use the technology themselves and create the conditions in the classroom for students to use the technology for learning.

  1. Personal Use: Can teachers use the device themselves as their own productivity and learning tool?
  2. Classroom Management for Tech: How can teachers insure that students are focused and on-task when using technology in the classroom?
  3. Managing the Tech: How do teachers organize the technology (or collaborate with students to organize the technology) so it works and is available to be used for learning in the classroom?

And 7 of those buckets are the pedagogical approaches that make up the 7 Powerful Uses of Technology (notice that they focus on educational goals, not technology tools):

  1. Tech for Foundational Knowledge: How can we help students learn the basics?
  2. Tech for Using Knowledge: How can we contextualize learning and make learning engaging and meaningful? How can students use their knowledge? What is the role for creating and creativity, and for project-based learning?
  3. Tech for Learning Progress Management: How do we keep track of student learning? Promote a transparent curriculum? Make learning progressions clear? Help students navigate their learning? Maintain evidence of mastery?
  4. Tech for Personalizing Learning: How does technology help us tailor the learning to the student?
  5. Tech for Supporting Independent Learning: How can technology help the student do more on their own and need the teacher less?
  6. Tech for Assessment: How can technology help us capture what students know and can do?
  7. Tech for Home/School Connection: How can technology help us stay better connected to parents?


Posted in Distributed PD Project, Doing 1to1 Right, Professional Development | Tagged ,

Is Research on Cursive and the Brain Enough?

Ok. There are clearly better ways to spend a Sunday morning…

But I came across this article about what research says learning cursive does to your brain.

As I am sure is happening in many districts, some parents, community members, and School Committee members have raised the issue of how much emphasis they believe we should be placing on handwriting, especially cursive.

Others will undoubtedly find this article, and it will certainly become part of our handwriting/cursive conversation.

I'm especially concerned because our handwriting conversations seem to have an undercurrent of, at best, iPads interfere with the teaching of handwriting, and, at worst, we shouldn't have primary grades iPads because they interfere with the teaching of handwriting, conclusions that I'm not sure are valid, even if iPads may draw attention to a larger issue.

The article points to improved “efficiency thinking” and “fine motor control” when teaching cursive, over print or keyboarding. The article does not make the argument that “therefore cursive should continue to be emphasized in school,” but this article is likely to be used to make that argument.

I want to be clear. I am not concerned about this article or the research-based conclusions it shares. I am concerned about the inappropriate ways others might try to use this article to further arguments/conclusions that cannot actually be drawn from this article (in fairness, I think it would happen from a place of naïveté, not duplicitiy).

So, although the research in this article seems valid and reliable and the conclusions it shares seem appropriate, I believe using the results from this article to further an argument that we should continue teaching cursive is invalid. There are significant issues with using the article in this way.

Fallacy 1: The Rubiks Cube Curriculum
The biggest issue is that the demonstrated benefits have nothing to do with the purpose of cursive or handwriting. There is nothing here about improving the quality or efficiency of (written) communication, just of certain kinds of thinking.

That is akin to suggesting we teach chess because it improves logical thinking. Even the argument that we should teach geometric proofs to build logical thinking has lost traction in favor of teaching logical thinking in authentic, not contrived (even if traditional and conventional) contexts. At other times, I have referred to this as the “Rubiks Cube Curriculum” – placing curricular focus and value on something of little practical value in order to garner some theoretical gain in some abstract cognitive ability, even though early psychological research shows there is little to no transfer of those abilities to real world application when taught that way (out of context).

The very next question that should arise from this research is, “Are there other, more authentic ways to efficiently develop efficiency thinking or fine motor control in students?” The question after that should be, “Is there a significant difference, in any practical way, not just statistically, in these two 'benefit areas' using cursive over print or keyboarding?”

Only if the answer is “no” to the first and “yes” to the second should we start having the conversation about if cursive should be the vehicle we use to develop those skills. The article does not raise these questions (And frankly, it may not be their responsibility to do so. But it is of anyone trying to use the article to say anything beyond what the article actually says.).

Fallacy 2: The Importance of Teaching Both Cursive and Print
The next problem with how some might try to leverage this article is to point to the “importance of teaching both print and cursive over keyboarding” (or even arguing we need to teach all three). Why not choose only one form of handwriting, print or cursive? It is true that schools traditionally teach print in the primary grades and then introduce cursive a couple years later. But other schools teach only cursive, starting in the primary grades. No research findings on this issue are presented in the article (again, recognizing that it is likely legitimately beyond the scope of this article).

Fallacy 3: The False Dichotomy
The third issue is that a misinterpretation of the conclusions in the article could be used to set up a false “dichotomy” (trichotomy?). The potential argument leveraging these results to say “cursive over keyboarding” (or even cursive over handwriting) assumes that we are only going to pick one. In truth, people in our society need to develop a practical level of proficiency in written communication, both “electronic” and “manual.” There is no research here about “blended” environments, learning both keyboarding and handwriting…

Fallacy 4: Handwriting Passes the Straight-Face Test on Return On Investment
The fourth issue is the assumption that schools have an infinite amount of instructional time and can teach everything anyone in the community (parents, businesses, community groups, seniors, other community members) believe students ought to learn (or even just believe “it would be good for them to know”)…

In truth, state curricular mandates have never been larger or more demanding (and cursive is not even part of the Common Core Curriculum for Language Arts!).

Schools have to examine every potential topic someone thinks we should teach from the perspective of return on investment, bang for the buck. So, requests for teaching content need to be weighed against how much time they take to teach well, and the practical value of developing such knowledge or skills in students, COMPARED TO ALL OTHER REQUESTS/DEMANDS. We have to be selective and deliberate in choosing where we put our energies. It is our responsibilty to be choosy and discriminating in what we choose to teach. (I feel the same way when businesses seem to be asking to shift their responsibility for job training onto public schools…)

I'm not even sure that advocates for an emphasis on teaching handwriting have looked at how much of modern written communication is hand written vs electronic. Clearly, the proportion of hand written to electronic written communication has shifted enormously, even since most of the parents of our current students were themselves students…

The real question should be, “How good do people today need to be at handwriting in order to do the amount of handwritten written communication needed today (and therefore, how much time and emphasis should schools put on it – what's 'good enough')?” The arguments about how nice it is to receive a handwritten (cursive) letter just have no real bearing when return-on-investment is considered (unless, perhaps, if we are discussing moving cursive to the Fine Arts curriculum).

I'm not sure that handwriting passes the straight face test on return on investment. Regardless, this article presents no such analysis (not the authors' job, but certainly the responsibility of anyone using the article to argue for the teaching of cursive).

Final Thoughts

And I won't get into questions around what are the best (not simply traditional) methods, approaches, and strategies for young people to develop proficiency in handwritten or electronic writing.

And I won't get into questions about why we are spending so much time debating the mechanical “drawing” of letters and words, rather than debating how to help young people use those words to express, inform, create, and persuade.

So, this article presents some interesting (research based) conclusions about the teaching of handwriting and cursive. But it is important to remember (and I'm sure the authors would echo this thought) that the only conclusions that can be drawn from this article are the specific conclusions this article shares.

In response to folks who share this article as evidence we should continue (or return to) our emphasis on teaching cursive, our questions should include the following:

  • If we believe schools are responsible for teaching efficiency thinking, what are the best evidence-based ways to do so?
  • What are the best evidence-based ways to develop fine motor control?
  • What is the research on the impact of learning handwriting on the development of effective communication skills?
  • What form of handwriting should we teach? What are the criteria for deciding?
  • To what level of proficiency should we develop handwriting? What's good enough?


Posted in Early Childhood Education, Food For Thought, Misc. | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Does Technology Improve Learning – No! A Keynote

I recently had the honor of keynoting at the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) conference.

My message was that technology alone will not improve learning; only teachers improve learning. But technology can be wonderful tool for teachers and for students under the guidance of teachers.

Watch the keynote here. And related resources are down below.


If we want to leverage technology well for learning, then these are the components we should attention to:

  • Focus on Learning
  • Deliberate, Shared Leadership
  • Community Engagement
  • How You REALLY Protect Stuff
  • Support the Heck Out of Folks





Community Engagement:

Supporting Educators (Professional Development):


Posted in Customized Learning, Doing 1to1 Right, Lead4Change, Learning as Desired Outcome, Professional Development, Shared Vision, Technology as Tool For Learning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

A Child Struggles in School: Where Does the Problem Lie?

In a conversation recently with a caring, conscientious teacher, she commented that she had success working with struggling learners and helping to make them feel smart.

But when they got to the next grade and perhaps had a teacher that wasn't as effective at reaching those children, or perhaps thought there was a pace for learning and students should stick to it, or perhaps simply saw the onus for learning as being on the student, the students really struggled again.

She worried that perhaps she had led those students to have an unrealistic view of themselves by not being more up front with them about being struggling learners. She wondered, despite her success helping those students to learn, to feel successful, and to feel smart, if she shouldn't be more direct with them about being struggling learners, to prepare them for possible pain and disappointment later.

And I caught myself wondering, is the problem that each child isn't where the school is in the curriculum?

Or is the problem that the school isn't where the child is in the curriculum?


Posted in Customized Learning, Food For Thought, Great Teachers, Inviting Schools, Learning as Desired Outcome | Tagged , , ,

We Must Invest in Our Early Learners

Throughout my career as an educator, most of the initiatives, opportunities, and concerns about public education seem to have focused on the upper grades, on high school.

And yet, if we want the biggest bang for our buck, the largest return on investment, it is the opposite end of the spectrum we should be focusing on. We need to be putting our education dollars behind pre-school and early childhood education.

And business owners know its true! Watch this video from the Maine Early Learning Investment Group (MELIG):

Three of the MELIG's key members are retired high ranking military officers: retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Earl Adams, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Ralph Leonard, and retired Army Brig. Gen. Robert Carmichael.

MELIG also commissioned UMaine Economics Professor Philip Trostel’s Independent Cost-Benefit Analysis of Early Childhood Investments in Maine. The summary of the independent analysis suggests that costs for early childhood education programs would be recovered by the time a student was 14, and over the life of the child and into adulthood would continue to offer a 7.5% return on investment.


Posted in Early Childhood Education, Food For Thought, Funding | Tagged

Valentines Day: Showing Love and Care of Others via Technology

The bad things kids (and adults, too) do with technology seem to get a ton of press. Kids “hacking” their school devices, playing games instead of doing learning activities, going to inappropriate sites, intentionally damaging equipment…

Platform for Good blog

So it was quite refreshing to find a post called “14 Ways People Showed Love Online This Year” (but, then again, what would you expect from a blog called A Platform For Good?!).

Besides, it's Valentines Day, and it's nice to remember that love isn't reserved for our partners and our families, but is also represented by how we show care for others.

So take a few minutes to explore this article.

And maybe think about:

  • How might we shift focus in the public from kids being bad (especially with technology), to how they can also be very, very good?
  • How do these examples give us ideas for our own classrooms?
  • How can we engage students in academic content, while they get to contribute to something they find to be of social significance?
  • How else might we leverage technology to show love and care for others?

Happy Valentines Day!


Posted in Engaging Tasks, Food For Thought, Learning By Doing, Motivation, Project-Based Learning, Technology for Learning, Uncategorized | Tagged