Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Post: Beyond the Walls of our Classroom

The following post is a guest post from Zion's fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Kara Cornejo. Her fifth grade class just completed an exciting Skype session with Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Les Hannah from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

My 5th grade class is studying Native Americans in Social Studies. I searched the internet for weeks looking for a Native American or Native American school/class that would be willing to skype with my class. After coming up empty handed I finally turned to Twitter and my PLN for some advice. Why I didn’t do this sooner I have no clue. After tweeting for help, @billgx, a fellow tweeter, passed on the email and skype name of someone who he thought might be able to help me.

I immediately sent out an email asking for some advice or help Dr. Hannah could offer me. After sending a couple emails back and forth and doing a little research myself I found out that Dr. Hannah is a professor and Fulbright Scholar of the Cherokee Language and Cherokee Studies Programs at NSU in Tahlequah, OK. Not only does he teach about the Cherokee heritage he is a Cherokee Indian. I knew I had hit the jackpot.

Dr. Hannah agreed to talk with my students over Skype about the Cherokee way of life, traditions, and their beliefs. We told him what we learned from our textbook and he would tell us if the Cherokee agree or disagree with it. We learned that most of what our textbook teaches us is not what Native Americans grow up believing about their heritage. He talked with us for about an hour and each one of my students had the opportunity to ask him a question. Not only did we get the privilege to meet Dr. Hannah, we also had the opportunity to meet two of his students who also talked with us, one of which who is a professional basket weaver in the Cherokee Nation. Dr. Hannah proceeded to tell us that she is very famous in the Cherokee Nation; it would be like meeting the president (but in the Cherokee Nation). We were amazed.

What a great opportunity my students had to not only learn about the Native American culture but to meet such amazing people and bring that culture into our classroom. Things we would have never had the opportunity to do if it wasn’t for Twitter and Skype.

Follow Kara on twitter

Friday, September 17, 2010

Enhance Student Learning

New Laptop

I wrote this for one of my masters classes on February 18, 2009. It was good to know that I felt then that technology should be used not just to use the tools but it to actually be used to enhance learning. (This was during my pre-twitter days too!)

The school that I am currently teaching at purchased 6 new SMART Boards last year. Every student in 3rd-8th grade has access to a SMART Board. This year's school auction will raise money to purchase even more SMART Boards to be installed at our school. I have had the opportunity to work with a SMART Board this year so I decided to research how technology is implemented into the classroom and some of the challenges facing teachers and administrators who are trying to include technology into lessons.

Is technology enhancing the learning of students? That was the biggest question that I found that needs to be answered regarding technology in the classroom. If the technology is being used to teach higher-ordered thinking and critical thinking skills, then it is more likely to enhance student learning. If it is being used more in completing routine tasks, then it will not be a benefit to students.

The supervisor as a technology instruction leader must value technology in the classroom, set the vision for technology in the classroom, and provide training opportunities as well as appropriate hardware, software, and materials. In addition to these things, the supervisor should model good use of technology and encourage constant evaluation of how student learning has been enhanced by technology.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Surround Yourself With The Best

It is imperative, that at the end of the day, the focus of the principal is on the success of each student. A typical day for a school principal is anything but routine. Schedule changes, surprises, an unforeseen crisis, unexpected discipline issues, and much more force an administrator to deal with many different situations each day. It is important, that in the end, the focus of the principal is on the success of each student. “Each day brings excitement, unplanned events, and meetings – opportunities to creatively make a difference in the lives of students and adults in the school house” (Robbins & Alvy, 2004, 151). However, ‘no man is an island’ and ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. In other words, the principal alone cannot ensure the success of all students. The principal needs an enthusiastic and qualified faculty and staff committed to the cause of success.

Frontier Classroom

I want students’ time at my school to be a time of growth so they are prepared for the next step in their life. A school needs to nurture a child in order that he or she may grow physically, emotionally, academically, and, socially. The teachers blaze the path to growth for students. The tools teachers need to foster maximum growth can be attained by attending conferences, conferring with co-workers, continuing education, and setting attainable goals.

A professional, proficient, and enthusiastic staff can make a difference in a school. “School principals can affect student success by helping teachers be the best they can be” (Robbins & Alvy, 2004, 89). A good teacher can be a very strong influence in a child’s life. A good teacher loves children, enjoys teaching, is enthusiastic, and is a good communicator with families. A good principal will encourage each teacher and will make every effort to provide all the opportunities necessary for a teacher to do a great job. A shared vision is also very important. The school climate will be very dynamic if the principal can model the vision, and the teachers can carry it out in their classrooms (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, 96).

A principal who strives to be an influential leader will also be a servant. A servant attitude will help to build strong and personal relationships with teachers, staff, students, and families. “When leaders accept that they are servants first, then they clearly know where they stand. And it’s not at the head of the line” (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, 16). It takes some humility to understand that the role of a leader also means that you will need to be a servant to other people. It allows you to stay on the same level as the people you work with and to see people eye to eye. “To be humble is to be down-to-earth, both feet planted firmly on the ground” (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, 156).

almost tall

A principal that can work toward constant growth, provide a proficient staff, and serve those around him will ensure the success of each student. All three of those areas, either directly or indirectly, have an effect on the students of the school. If the principal and the teachers grow, then the school grows. And if the school is growing then the students are growing. A proficient staff, who is enthusiastic and loves to teach, will have lasting effects on the students. The more a principal serves, the more he or she will understand how to better meet the needs of the students and all those involved with the school. If all this can be accomplished, students will be successful.

Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. (2006). A Leader’s Legacy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Robbins, P. and Alvy, H. (2004). The New Principal’s Fieldbook: Strategies For Success. Alexandria: ASCD

Monday, September 13, 2010

Divided Time

Railroad watch

I am currently an assistant principal, athletic director, co-technology coordinator, coach, and I teach one class everyday. How I spend my time is a question and a struggle for me every week. Some of us may have different titles that describe what hat we wear. We also know that even if you have one title, such as principal, there are many hats that you must wear within that job. I think there are 3 things that a principal needs to focus on. First, walk around the school to observe what is going on. Second, talk to people. Talk to teachers, students, janitors, secretaries, parents, pastors, etc. Third, sit at your desk and get some work done. I think of "desk work" as answering email and phone messages, writing memos, setting agendas, planning schedules, developing curriculum, etc. It is important to note that most days you will not accomplish all three things. A day for a principal is going to be full of schedule changes, unexpected problems, and strange surprises that you had no idea would come up (Robbins & Alvy, 2004, 151). How you respond to those surprises often determines how well your day will go.

Robbins, P., Alvy, H. (2004). The New Principal’ Fieldbook: Strategies for Success. Alexandria: ASCD.

Make Your School a Better Place

Vision comes from inside the leader. Your vision should spring forth from the beliefs and values that you hold in your heart. "Clarity of personal values matters greatly to our feeling motivated, creative, and committed to our workplaces" (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, 96). A leader will be effective in a school if they have a solid understanding of what they believe in. The leader must use that understanding to confidently work in making their school a better place than it was yesterday, last week, or last year.


A vision is crucial to leadership because it can help others to lead. In a school, that means the leader should work side by side with teachers, students, and the community to reach the vision together. "We know that in high-performing teams no one needs to tell anyone else what to do... Everyone's encouraged to do whatever it takes to make things happen" (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, 124). The resources and insights that are available from those involved in a school are VERY valuable. I have often found that in many situations in my life, the best idea... is to not my idea. It is the idea of those I work with.

Kouzes, M., & Posner, B. (2006). A Leader's Legacy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Launch Party



SMART Boards

SMART Notebook


Type to Learn








School Websites

Student Response Systems

Online Gradebooks

Online Student Collaboration



All of these technology tools and applications will be on display at the Zion Lutheran School Technology Launch Party on Friday, September 10, 2010. That evening, the teachers of Zion will host the parents of our students for a very special evening at the Stegton Banquet Hall. On display during this free event (yes, I said FREE) will be the technology that teachers are incorporating into their classrooms and instruction. For the past three years, we have been committed to increasing the use of technology in the classrooms by installing SMART Boards, creating a wireless network, and almost tripling the number of computers that we have available to our teachers and students. Throughout that process, our parents have been very supportive of increasing technology in the school. Their support can be seen as enrollment has grown and the number one reason for that increase is the positive things being said by parents to their friends, relatives, and neighbors. Their support can also be seen through countless hours of selfless volunteering dedicated toward fundraising efforts for our school.

Laptop Keyboard

The evening will begin with an open house format. Parents can browse the banquet hall, sipping on a beverage and enjoying an appetizer, while being greeted by teachers who are eager to share how they have used technology with their students. The main event of the evening will be a full group, main stage session where the new school website will be officially launched. The unveiling of the website will coincide with the launch of our new online gradebook. Following the website launch, parents will have the opportunity to attend a few breakout sessions that demonstrate the new online gradebook, a student response system, and online student collaboration. Multiple computers will also be available for parents to surf around the new school website.

The purpose of the evening is to connect families, showcase the technology used at Zion, and to unveil the new website. We are very excited to bring our families together to let them know about the benefits of technology in education. We hope the parents will leave with the same excitement toward technology and an understanding of how beneficial technology can be for their students.