Tech & - ISTE Preview Guide - June 2022

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JUNE 2022


ISTE PREVIEW GUIDE Make the Most of ISTELive 22


Making the Most of ISTELive 2022

36 The Superintendent Shuffle

5 Edtech Trends to Watch

40 Changing the Language to Build a Culture to Support Transformational Leadership

By Carl Hooker


By Erik Ofgang


The Metaverse: 5 Things Educators Should Know By Erik Ofgang

20 4 Tips for Hosting School Webinars


By Dr. Kecia Ray

By By Eileen Belastock

44 Public Satisfaction With Schools is High Despite What Teachers May Feel By Erik Ofgang

By Erik Ofgang

26 ‘Grow Your Own’ Teacher Programs: What To Know

48 How to Get Students to Read for Fun By Erik Ofgang


By Ray Bendici


4 Group Publisher Christine Weiser

Production Manager Heather Tatrow


Managing Design Director Nicole Cobban

Managing Editor Ray Bendici

Senior Staff Writer Erik Ofgang Event Development Director Marquita Amoah VISIT US

Senior Design Director Cliff Newman

MANAGEMENT Senior Vice President, B2B Rick Stamberger Head of Production US & UK Mark Constance Head of Design Rodney Dive

ADVERTISING SALES Sales Manager Allison Knapp, Sales Associate Anne Gregoire, FOLLOW US

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MAKING THE MOST OF ISTELIVE 2022 Your guide to getting the most out of your in-person ISTE experience By Carl Hooker


n June 26, 2019, ISTE closed its doors on another successful in-person conference in Philadelphia. Little did we know that it would be three years until the nation’s largest edtech event would reconvene in the Big Easy. Three years of zoom meetings, remote learning, pandemic management, and increased stress on the teaching profession leads up to this year’s epic event. With all that pent-up stress getting released in NOLA, ISTELive22 promises to be a spectacle not to be missed both during the day and the after-hours events at night. This “manifesto” of sorts features my recommendations on getting the most out of your ISTE experience. As a veteran conference presenter and attendee, I still get overwhelmed when looking over the schedule. These tips are designed to help you (and me) maximize both your learning and networking experience during the event.


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Students enjoy some hands-on learning at ISTE 2019. The ISTE conference hall during its last live event in 2019.


Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about mindset. I live by the belief that you get more out of a conference when you put more into it. In other words, be present and participate in sessions or walk out and find something else. Learning is an active sport, not a passive one. Also, if you have a team, group, crew, posse, etc. who attends with you, consider dividing and conquering by going to multiple sessions at the same time, and then sharing afterward. Making learning an active team sport can make your experience more engaging and rewarding when you reflect on the event after it ends.


As we’ll get into in the next section, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of sessions taking place every hour. There may be a moment where you make a great connection with someone but then feel pressured to leave because you are trying to make a session. One of the best bits of advice I ever got around this topic was from EduEngagement Expert Dan Ryder. He told me if you have to decide between a great lunch conversation with someone or a session, choose the lunch. Professional learning takes place both in and out of the session rooms.


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This year, ISTE brings a hybrid experience to its selection of sessions with some taking place in-person and some virtually. With the all-access pass, adding the online options to your schedule could help you access sessions that you might have otherwise missed. Also, since many of the virtual sessions are recorded, you could watch those sessions virtually following the event. If you are planning to attend the in-person sessions, you’ll want to have at least two back-ups as oftentimes popular sessions get overbooked and are closed when these hit capacity. The app and website make it easy for you to log-in and “star” those sessions that might be of interest. Having some back-up options (including the online sessions) will help ease frustration if

ISTELIVE22 PREVIEW GUIDE More fun with tech from ISTE 2019.

you miss your preferred session. If there is a session you can’t miss, be sure to get there at least 20 minutes beforehand so have a definite spot. As I mentioned before this tip, If you are attending with a team or PLN, you can have someone get there early to save a couple of seats, but know that doesn’t guarantee a one.


Sometimes I’ll attend a session based on content, but other times I’ll attend a session based on the speaker. Some of speakers I’m interested in checking out this year (in alphabetical order): Sheryl Abshire Michael Cohen Diane Doersch Leslie Fisher Jeni Long & Sallee Clark (Jenalee) Scott McLeod Shannon Miller Tom Murray Tim Needles Adam Phyall Sabba Quidwai Adina Sullivan-Marlow Jorge Valenzuela I’m also doing four sessions this year and some live-podcasting if you want to stop by and say hello. I might even have some beads for you!




Every year, I make a point of finding a “dead zone” in my schedule when there aren’t many sessions or speakers that interest me and head to the exhibit hall. Rather than try and traverse the entire vendor floor at once, break it up into chunks. The exhibit hall map is split into numbered rows that go

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• • • • • • • • •

from 100 all the way to 3600. This year, likely due to Covid, the exhibit floor has a fair amount of empty booths so visiting each booth for some vendor swag or making a good connection seems more doable. Of course, it’s also a good idea to visit booths of companies you use or those that have a platform or service that you are interested in. My list of must visits include: Book Creator #2124 BrainPop #1540 bulb Digital Portfolios #3043 Classlink #1037 Edmentum #923 Linewize #1548 Nearpod/Renaissance #1654 Swivl #2142 zSpace, Inc. #536


One of my first thoughts when I heard ISTE would be in New Orleans was that the after events are going to be “off the hook.” I’m personally hosting two myself (Ed Tech Poetry Slam on June 27 & a Trivia Social on the 28) and hope to attend many more. Make sure you have some comfortable walking shoes and any events happening in the French Quarter will be about a mile from the convention center (also a short Uber or cab ride away) and as always, stay hydrated!


As part of my prep for ISTE this year, my wife and I visited New Orleans in March to get a feel for how far different places were from the convention center. Many of the hotels are in between the convention center and the French Quarter. There is no shortage of places to eat and find a tasty beverage. ISTE Board member and New Orleans local Nikole Blanchard has shared a great 2-page list of recommendations including restaurants on a budget.

REFLECTION IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE LEARNING PROCESS Whenever I attend a session, I try to pick at least one take away and make sure to journal it in some format. Some people take notes in a

If you feel comfortable doing so, share these reflections on the social media platform of choice so that those that couldn’t attend can learn from your experiences. Which brings me to my final tip.


notebook, some sketchnote, and others might even blog about it. At any rate, when you are faced with hundreds of session choices and you find yourself running from place to place, be sure to give yourself some time to reflect. You might feel a little bit of FOMO, but honestly, for your own selfcare, it’s nice to find a quiet place somewhere in the convention center or in your hotel room to reflect on the day.


One of the best parts of in-person events is the networking. As I’ve mentioned in the tips above, whenever you find an opportunity to connect with someone, take advantage of it. Oftentimes, I attend conferences that require you to download an app with their own proprietary social network. While they are well-intended, these apps can clog off your phone and most times, you’ll just delete it after a few weeks go by. This year, I am part of a group that launched a new educationbased social platform to connect, share and keep the conversation going after the conference ends. There is an ISTE22 group on the platform already and I happen to know there will be some fun little scavenger hunt items posted in the group for those attending. You can also share takeaways on Twitter using the hashtag #ISTELive and handle @iste. I’m looking forward to seeing friends old and new at ISTE this year. In keeping with the language of the land, I’m embracing a new French phrase for this summer: “Laisse les bons moments apprendre!” which roughly translates into “Let the good times learn.”


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5 EDTECH TRENDS TO WATCH ISTE’s CEO and chief learning officer share their observations about edtech today. By Erik Ofgang

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op current trends in edtech include an increased focus on digital pedagogy, post-pandemic learning acceleration, and interoperability, say Richard E. Culatta and Joseph South. Culatta is CEO and South is the chief learning officer at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), which will host ISTE Live June 26-29 in New Orleans. The event will have a streaming component, but this year marks its return to primarily in-person programming. South and Culatta say the following trends will be among those discussed and explored during the event.



Much of the focus in edtech right now is on providing tools to help educators and their students emerge from the challenges of the past two years. “We’re realizing there’s a lot of needs that students have,” Culatta says. “So you’re seeing tools and approaches using technology that are trying to help identify where there are gaps in learning and trying to help accelerate learning in areas where students may have particular weaknesses.”


Tutoring is a focus, and more attention is also being paid to student wellness. “How are we making sure students are feeling engaged and healthy?” Culatta says. “A lot of people felt really isolated these last couple of years, and I think we’re still trying to look at ways to make up for that.” One example of the way technology can help is through telehealth counseling sessions. Though rare prior to the pandemic, online counseling sessions have become common for students in districts across the country and have expanded access to mental health services.





Technology use increased over the last two years while schools were in full-scale crisis mode. Now that the dust has settled somewhat, educators are starting to focus more on using technology in intentional ways, South says. One example is learning to use phones and other devices actively rather than passively. “A lot of teachers who haven’t had training and preparation take a computer that has more computing power than it took us to get to the moon, and they’re basically using it as a television set,” he says. “It becomes a content delivery system, where a student passively watches and listens. And maybe that’s better than not having the technology, but it doesn’t even compare to using that technology

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in a way that’s active for the learner.” Active use of devices includes having students interact with experts and mentors, and solving problems and communicating their ideas through videos or podcasts, South says.



Kids are spending much more time in a digital world, often in good ways. “They’re engaging with learning, with families, with peers far more than they had ever done before,” Culatta says. Even so, students need to learn how to effectively navigate these spaces to safely and critically engage with digital technology. While schools do a decent job with online safety training, Culatta says, “Digital citizenship is way more than online safety, and unfortunately, we’ve reduced it to online safety, and that’s starting to bite us a bit.” He adds, “We really need to be rethinking, as we outlined in the ISTE Standards, about how we teach digital citizenship as a broader set of skills, not just how to be safe.” While being safe online is important, safety training should be merely the starting point of the digital citizenship curriculum, not the sum total of it, Culatta says.




Having access to student data across edtech apps is increasingly important, post-COVID. “In the pre-COVID days, you could get away with having a tool that didn’t really play well in the sandbox with other tools,” Culatta says. “Maybe a school was using one or two apps or one or two systems and it was a little annoying that the data didn’t go across that, but not that big of a deal.” In the post-COVID world that is no longer the case. “A given district may be using more than 500 edtech products at any one time, and they tend, generally, to silo their data,” Culatta says. “That means 400 data [sets] that you’ve got to somehow make sense of. ISTE really believes that an integrated data dashboard, where you can look at the whole picture of a child, is helpful for a teacher. If they know how students are doing in math and in ELA, then they can have more insight. But if the teacher has to log in to 5 or 12 systems to get that information, they’re never going to have that cohesive picture.” ISTE is working with other organizations, including Project Unicorn, to push for more interoperability in the edtech world.



The recent changes in the education sphere have also shown that schools need more data and information to make edtech purchasing decisions. ISTE is supporting this with a relaunched EdSurge Product Index. “In the past, there have been attempts to create directories or indexes

of edtech products, but the attempt has always been to have one group or one organization try to do these reviews, and in a world that’s changing as quickly as ours, it’s just impossible to keep up with it,” Culatta says. No one group necessarily has the expertise to fully analyze a tool. To overcome this challenge, ISTE’s new index instead pools resources so that different groups with expertise in different areas of education can provide insight. “We’re pulling data on apps and app performance, and tools from any organization that is part of our coalition or group,” Culatta says.


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THE METAVERSE: 5 THINGS EDUCATORS SHOULD KNOW As the metaverse draws increasing attention, a team of leading researchers has put together an evidence-based guide for educators


By Erik Ofgang



group of leading virtual and extended reality (XR) educators have authored a report on the metaverse – a network of interconnected 3D virtual worlds that may be the next evolution of social communication and collaboration – and its potential in education. “After considering many conversations we have had with both educators and technology creators, we felt there was a real need to provide an introductory guide about XR, based on our expertise and grounded in the research to date on learning and immersive technology,” says Eileen McGivney, a PhD candidate and researcher at Harvard

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University, who adds that the report’s research team originally considered conducting a systematic review of research into extended reality or conducting new research looking at the technology in learning. Ultimately, she says, “We wanted to help the education community understand the technology, and the technology community to understand education.” Their evidence-based report, “An Introduction to Learning In the Metaverse,” was published by Meridian Treehouse. McGivney and other coauthors shared some highlights from the report.






“When talking about the metaverse, we mean a whole ecosystem of interconnected virtual spaces distributed across various technologies,” says Géraldine Fauville, an assistant professor of Education Communication and Learning at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. However, these interconnected virtual spaces or worlds are still in development. “This ideal of the metaverse doesn’t yet exist but the main technologies creating the foundation for its future do,” says Wesley Della Volla, founder of Meridian Treehouse. Despite the media coverage the concept has received, the metaverse still requires improvements in technology to become a reality, says Daniel Pimental, assistant professor of Immersive Media Psychology at the University of Oregon. “For example, advancements in artificial intelligence – computer vision – blockchain technology, and increased bandwidth with 5G connectivity, will form the foundation for the scalable, immersive learning ecosystem we envision,” he says.



In the future, if used correctly, the metaverse may have the

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potential to open new learning experiences to users. “For too long, learning has been thought of as transmitting information devoid of context, but when designed well, the metaverse can provide rich contexts for people to learn more than just content knowledge,” McGivney says. Fauville is interested in the ways in which students’ and teachers’ increasingly complex avatars in the metaverse will impact education. “The virtual bodies we inhabit have profound short- and long-term effects on how we think, feel, and behave,” she says. “Giving learners autonomy over their self-presentation will undoubtedly influence their learning experience, from driving engagement to increasing the self-relevance of the subject matter.”



The authors of this report agree there is enormous educational potential for metaverse, however, educators should temper expectations. “Let’s make sure we do not overestimate the potential of the metaverse for education,” Fauville says. The metaverse is not a silver bullet, Volla says. “It is part of the future of learning but cannot exist in a vacuum. Learning doesn’t stop once you take off the headset or turn off the AR filter.” The key will be finding creative ways to use the metaverse to supplement

THE METAVERSE traditional learning experiences. “I would caution educators from trying to replicate classroom structures within XR, and rather take their time to play and explore the technology to consider new learning opportunities that they can’t usually provide,” McGivney says. “This includes giving students lots of agency and allowing them to create their own metaverse technologies and experiences.”




“The hardware that is currently used to access metaverse experiences, like VR headsets, are not affordable and are difficult to wear for many people from groups who are underrepresented in the technology industry,” McGivney says. “Many of these technologies are also designed in a commercial environment that prioritizes profit over things like data privacy and effective educational design. Further, there are issues we point to in the report about XR experiences themselves, which are not designed in a way that is beneficial or accessible for all populations.” The report points out, for example, that someone with limited mobility in their hands might struggle to use controllers. Others might have difficulty if they wear glasses, and most current headsets can’t be worn over head coverings and many hair styles. “The most pressing question is how to make use of the metaverse in learning in a judicious, inclusive, and effective way,” Fauville says. “Also when and how should learning activities in the metaverse be embedded into existing learning practices.”


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It’s important to remember that we are at the genesis of the metaverse in education and that many stakeholders should be involved in the evolution of its use going forward. “Taking a rigorous, evidence-based approach to building a blueprint for the future of learning is critical to success,” says Erika Woolsey, PhD, a visiting scholar at Stanford University. “We need as many people as possible collaborating on open-access research to answer questions ranging from big picture ones like, ‘Is utilizing new technology even beneficial to learning?’ to more tactical ones like, ‘What forms of interactivity influence a learner’s sense of agency?’” Woolsey adds: “Right now we have a lot more questions than answers, and we think that’s the best place to start.”




Webinars should be as interactive as possible and allow for hands-on practice, says Laurie Guyan, who has hosted more than 400 webinars for her Board of Cooperative Educational Services By Erik Ofgang

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ebinars have become more common and better attended since March 2020. Even as class activities have returned to normal, the online workshops remain a great way to teach school staff new skills and to connect with students and their families. Laurie Guyon, coordinator for Model Schools at WashingtonSaratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES, has hosted more than 400 webinars since the pandemic began. For these and other educational efforts over the last two-plus years, she was recently awarded Best Overall Implementation of Technology during Tech & Learning’s Innovative Leadership Awards at Tech & Learning’s Boston Leadership Summit.

HOSTING WEBINARS Here are Guyon’s top tips for hosting webinars.



Whether you’re conducting an in-person workshop or webinar, you always want to interact with your audience, Guyon says. Online, that interaction may look different but it’s no less vital. “It’s a little less conversational at times, especially if you have a large group, but you still want to make sure you’re gathering feedback as often as you can,” Guyon says. “I prefer to use a platform like a Nearpod, where every couple of slides I can do a check-in type of activity to get the audience to participate and give me feedback about how much they’re understanding, what questions they have, where we need to go next.” This model has been far more successful for Guyon than having attendees passively listen to her for an hour or two. “It’s much better to have that interaction that happens on a regular basis,” she says. Guyon likes to start each webinar by asking participants what they know about a topic and questions they have, and then regularly provides time for formative assessments going forward.



In addition to interacting with participants through questions and answers, Guyon says it is also key to give them a chance to practice the skills discussed in the webinar. “If you’re teaching training, let’s say on how to use a tech tool, you want them to actually get some hands-on



Webinars are one way to connect with staff and parents online, however, remember these are not the only tool in your toolkit. In addition to webinars, Guyan has created more than a dozen self-paced training courses for staff. “We found that webinars are great, but they’re not always convenient as far as time goes,” Guyan says. While teachers might watch a recording later, that isn’t ideal. “If they’re watching afterward, they’re a passive watcher. You’re consuming versus creating. And we want that creation piece for them to be engaged,” Guyan says. To create these courses, consider using tools such as Google Slides or your school’s LMS, she says. As with the webinars, it is important to make sure these self-paced trainings provide hands-on practice. “The final product for them to showcase that they actually went through the course is usually to create something they can use in their classroom,” Guyan says.



Prior to 2020, Guyon would host occasional webinars but there were often technical hurdles for participants. “You’d spend so much time helping the participants understand how to use Google Meet or Zoom,” she says. “Now people are pretty comfortable no matter what the platform is.” The convenience of not having to leave the house to participate is also appealing for many. Even when she uses a supporting app during a webinar to solicit feedback, many participants are comfortable with that specific app or that type of technology. This means webinars are an increasingly valuable way for Guyan to teach educators about new tech tools and connect with parents as well. One recent webinar she hosted was aimed at parents and was about keeping students learning all summer. “We’re starting to see that parents are more engaged online, in this webinar world, as well,” she says.



experience using it, not just watching you use the tech tool,” Guyon says. This means incorporating pauses in the planning of the webinar, using apps to help participants show their work, and incorporating as many active learning strategies as possible. After giving participants some time to create something using a new tool, Guyon will ask them to share what they’ve done. “I find that model to work pretty well,” she says.

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‘GROW YOUR OWN’ TEACHER PROGRAMS: WHAT TO KNOW School districts are increasingly developing teachers from within their own student ranks By Ray Bendici


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s school districts around the country continue to struggle with teacher shortages, an increasing number of education leaders are developing their future educators from within their own classrooms. Such a “grow your own” teacher approach can help build diversity and shape an instructional staff that reflects a district’s demographics. “We know that approximately 60% of teachers work within 20 miles of where they graduated high school,” says Joshua P. Starr, chief executive officer of PDK International, which runs Educators Rising, a teacher education organization and program. “But all too often the demographics of the workforce don’t reflect the demographics of the student population. We need to have a much more diverse teaching force, we need to inspire a new generation, and we need to fit into a busy high school schedule.” “What we’ve got to do is reimagine, rebrand, and reprofessionalize the teaching profession,” says Shuana Tucker, Chief Talent Officer for the Connecticut State Department of Education, which has implemented Educators Rising at districts across the state, along with other efforts focused on cultivating homegrown teachers. “For me, being an educator is one of the most noble professions out there. In my role as chief talent officer,


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I’m constantly looking for ways to recruit and retain teachers as well as to expand and diversify the talent pool.” For districts interested in grow your own teacher programs, there are a few things to consider. Grow Your Own Teachers: ‘Make the Road By Walking’ While school districts typically provide traditional career pathways such as engineering, auto technology, or computer science, teaching often is not encouraged in the same way. “We need to re-frame the career path so kids see it as one step in a lifelong journey of service,” says Starr. For example, Educators Rising offers schools and districts a CTE pathway program, with a full curriculum. The organization works with school leaders to adopt its program and forge partnerships with higher education institutions to help build pipelines of future educators. It offers multiple education career entry points for students, such chapter afterschool programs and teaching fundamentals programs. Starr encourages school leaders to start organically with conversations with local teacher organizations, nearby higher education institutions, and teacher prep schools about developing teacher pathways. “Make the road by walking,” he says.


Many students never consider a career in teaching simply because they’re never asked or presented with the opportunity, says Starr. “It’s amazing what happens when kids are asked to serve,” he says. “They’re more likely than not to step up. But when they’re not asked, they’re not going to raise their hand. If an adult who they respect taps them on the shoulder and gives them the opportunity, they’ll step up. They like to serve and be part of the solution, and oftentimes, adults just don’t ask.” Starr suggests encouraging students who are already serving in a teaching, leadership, or mentor role, such as one who is working as a camp counselor, teaching Sunday school, or tutoring younger kids. Athletes who are team captains also may be open to a career in education. “Principals and coaches may say, ‘Hey, you’re a coach or a leader on your team, have you considered teaching?’” he says. Another way districts who have grow your own pathways encourage students to return as teachers is to present a letter to graduates of the program guaranteeing a job within the district upon completion of their higher ed degree.



In addition to an overall educator shortage, there is a particular dearth of male teachers of color. As students are more likely to be engaged when there is an educator who looks like them at the front of the classroom, encouraging young men of color to consider a career in teaching is critical. More than 50 percent of the Educators Rising program includes students of color. “We’re very intentional about that, as are the schools,” says Starr. “And from the research that’s emerged over the past few years, representation makes a difference.” Connecticut’s teacher development efforts have focused on recruiting males, says Tucker, adding that they’re piloting a program to specifically attract men of color. “We also want to expand to ELL students,” she says. The department recently held an in-person symposium on increasing education diversity that attracted more than 150 students from around the state.


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Tucker and her team have also sought out diverse organizations, such as an African American male fraternity, the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS), and the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE). “Having those partners at the table to understand the work that you’re doing and support the work that you’re doing is very critical,” says Tucker.


Not only are partnerships essential in cultivating diversity and representation, but such alliances are necessary for grow your own teacher programs that span the education spectrum, from middle schools to postsecondary institutions. “The key to success is having people work with you who are passionate about this work,” says Tucker. “That makes all the difference in the world. Your work will go further with what it is that you’re trying to do. I can only carry my message so far, and I only have a certain amount of bandwidth.” Nineteen schools in Connecticut have adopted the Educators Rising program, including clubs and the curriculum being utilized at the high school level, says Tucker. The state has also partnered with higher ed institutions to offer dual credit education courses and advise high school juniors and seniors, who can take up to 6 or 9 credit hours that are then transferable into their four-year college education program. In addition,


TEACHER PROGRAMS the Connecticut state college and university system will be offering the same statewide curriculum by Fall 2023 to ensure those credits are transferable across community colleges and traditional four-year universities. “You have to make this a communityled initiative,” says Starr, noting that having a detailed adoption framework, such as Educators Rising has, is key. “It only works if the local stakeholders embrace the idea because there are so many different pieces you have to pull together. Hiring, certification, funding, courses – a range of folks have to be involved.” Finding an inspiring teacher who the kids like and respect is also critical, as their influence can help a student consider education, says Starr. For example, in the New Britain Public Schools, the Educators Rising advisor is a Latina female teacher, while in East Hartford Public School, the advisor is the athletic director, who has been encouraging the athletes he works with to consider the profession, says Tucker.


Another approach to recruiting students is having them understand that teaching for five or ten years at the start of their working career can be very valuable in building desirable skills and experience, says Starr. As with military service, it can lead to other opportunities and professions. “STEM and finance and medicine are all great, but we don’t talk enough about the value of service academies or of community service, whether it’s as an educator or something else,” says Starr. “And quite frankly, we need to do more of that.’


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For instance, after classroom teaching, they can go into edtech, policy, school and district leadership, or educational consulting. Or move into another field altogether. Ultimately, once kids get into a grow your own program, administrators, partners, and other stakeholders have to make sure that they work together to retain students while building school culture and climate, says Starr. “This is just one piece,” he says. “If a pipeline leads into a leaky bucket, there’s going to be a problem. I want people to understand that this needs to be a comprehensive strategy.”


THE SUPERINTENDENT SHUFFLE Finding a qualified school superintendent is a major challenge for school districts, now more than ever By Dr. Kecia Ray


ou would have to be paying no attention to education news to miss the shuffle of school superintendents across the U.S. For instance, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Alberto Carhvahlo, is now the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified. Houston Independent School District was led by an interim superintendent for three years until the board unanimously voted in Millard House II into the position, pulling him from Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools in Tennessee. Fairfax County recently nabbed Michelle Reid, the 2021 AASA National Superintendent of the Year, yielding questions from NAACP about the qualifications of the candidate to lead a significantly larger district than her Northshore School District that serves 22,000 predominately white students. These superintendents moved far distances from their previous districts to take on new leadership challenges, yet 50% of superintendents in the U.S. are unsure about how long they plan to even remain a superintendent. A recent study of the nation’s 500 largest school districts reveals that 37% of experienced leadership turned over during the pandemic. In a time when equity and diversity is the focus, 70% of the newly appointed superintendents are men and 39 of these were replacing female superintendents. Of the 13,728 superintendents in the U.S., only 1,984 are women. That number is even more astonishing when considering women represent 72% of all K-12 educators.


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Here is some even more incredible research regarding the top education position: • 28.5% of all school superintendents are women, while 71.5% are men • The average age of an employed superintendent is 46 years old • The most common ethnicity of superintendents is White (68.6%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (14.0%), and Black or African American (10.2%) • The majority of superintendents are located in New York, N.Y., and San Bernardino, CA • Superintendents are paid an average annual salary of $115,019 • Superintendents’ average starting salary is $79,000 • In 2021, women earned 93% of what men earned • The top 10% of highest-paid superintendents earn as much as $167,000 • 15% of all superintendents identify as LGBTQ


Leading during a crisis is one of the most challenging tasks a leader can take on and the crisis of health and welfare of children during a pandemic, mixed with the varying ways that states managed accountability during this time, makes it doubly stressful. Another major stressor for superintendents has been finding classroom educators, with at least 60% reporting teacher and substitute shortages. (See Tech & Learning’s April Playbook for Teachers). All this stress is amplified even further when there is a divided school board. The politics that have played out in school board chambers in recent years have been dramatic and represent a lapse in the belief of public education. As a result, school board elections in near months are polarizing in almost every state, with governors in South Carolina and Tennessee passing education funding legislation focused on weighted formulas for students, which may or may not be in a district’s favor. To help solve the numerous superintendent shifts we’re seeing in education, we must begin with the school boards and city councils that are

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responsible for overseeing the governance of school districts. The fundamental role of a school board is to select a highly qualified superintendent who can meet the needs of the community and its schools. Finding that person today may feel like finding a needle in the haystack, but great superintendents do exist and they are worth every penny. Superintendents should be the last person standing in a school district and that type of leader is the one school boards should seek. If a school board is unsure about how to go about finding a great superintendent, here are some places to start: • American Association of School Administrators • Characteristics of Effective Superintendents - National School Public Relations Association • Effective Superintendents, Effective Boards - Wallace Foundation School board chairs should also reach out to their state school board association for assistance with searches. And, if you want to be inspired to hire a woman for the role, check out the Tech & Learning’s Honor Role podcast, hosted by two former assistant superintendents, Dr. Kecia Ray and Dr. Frances Gipson.

CHANGING THE LANGUAGE TO BUILD A CULTURE TO SUPPORT TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP To master the new language of leadership, leaders must pivot their thinking from focusing on individuals to concentrating on interactions between individuals.


By Eileen Belastock



s defined in Simply Psychology, “Transformational leadership inspires positive changes in those led and invests in the success of every member involved in the process.” Nowhere is this more critical than in the post-pandemic educational environment. With a focus on student-centered learning and personalized professional growth, educational leaders must reevaluate

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their leadership systems to inspire, support, and collaborate to transform learning and innovation. Quintin Shepherd, Superintendent at Victoria ISD in Texas, and Sarah Williamson’s recently released book, The Secret to Transformational Leadership, recognizes the ‘lone wolf ’ leader as a thing of the past. Instead, leadership is an influence relationship between leaders and followers who

LEADERSHIP intend fundamental changes that reflect their mutual purpose. Therefore, educational leaders need to have a growth mindset and follow another path of leadership skills that results in high achievement and academic success in schools.


Competencies are a person’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents that allow them to complete the responsibilities of a specific job successfully. However, simply communicating competency may not be enough to inspire success. “Competency-based language of leadership is like a suit that doesn’t quite fit right anymore,” writes Shepherd. “It works and gets the job done, but you know it is not as good as it could be. Leaders want to tackle the critical and challenging topics facing them every day, but competent language gets in the way of having the conversations that matter.” According to Shepherd and Williamson, following another path of skills requires leaders to move away from competency language to the more collaborative language of compassion. This mindset shift will result in better performance and visibility into what the school community expects of its leaders. Choosing to use compassionate language prompts leaders to think differently about how they evaluate their efforts. Compassionate leadership’s transparent and shared purpose or vision includes positively valuing differences, frequent face-to-face contact, continuous commitment to equality and inclusion, clear roles, and a strong team. It embraces the digital world we live in, the generational difference in the school community, and the need to accomplish organizational goals and bring people together around ideas. This new language inspires and empowers at the same time. It can unite the school community regarding complex issues that impact students and staff. “It focuses equally on great questions over satisfactory answers, embraces the unknown, and wrestles it into manageable,” writes Shepherd.



To master the new language of leadership, leaders must pivot their thinking from focusing on individuals to concentrating on interactions between individuals. This pivot requires constructive de-polarization that brings people together around purposes and relationships and does not divide based on ideas or ideology. The relationships between leaders and active followers should be based on influence and, therefore, multi-directional with more than one follower and typically more than one leader. Leaders and followers purposely desire specific changes, and these changes must be substantive and transforming. Through non-coercive influence relationships, compassionate leaders and the school community can develop objectives that reflect their ideals and mutual intentions.



Shepherd and Williamson identify a four-part communication framework of why, who, how, and what embedded in the shift to compassionate language and transformational leadership. Communicating the “why” is mission-critical for the work’s success, as the words of a leader will fall flat without meaning, and

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the innovation’s success will be in jeopardy. Communicating the “who” of the work builds unconditional faith and an ability to connect with the emotions of others. Investing in training resources and processes is non-negotiable, so leaders must have the compassion to treat others as professionals in their work. Shepherd says that if leaders intend to embrace compassionate leadership to the fullest, they must immerse themselves fully in the work and dreams of others. Communicating the “how” means enthusiastically embracing innovative ideas. By doing so, districts reduce the cost of failure while increasing the value of innovation, resulting in a powerful paradigm shift in the school culture. Communicating the “what” is key as improvement cannot exist in a vacuum. Compassionate transformational leaders share the “what” of the work with deep compassion.


Shepherd highlights that leaders need to understand their thought processes and disrupt any competency-based language that falls into the “good” or “bad” continuum. His advice to leaders traveling down the path of transformational leadership is to embrace compassionate language by connecting more deeply with their current climate and community. Immersing in the crowd-sourcing of decisions and optimizing digital strategies will create shared spaces for everyone to have their voices heard.


PUBLIC SATISFACTION WITH SCHOOLS IS HIGH DESPITE WHAT TEACHERS MAY FEEL Polling to measure public satisfaction with schools throughout the pandemic has shown a majority of Americans support the job their local schools are doing. By Erik Ofgang


espite a very vocal minority, the vast majority of the U.S. believes that teachers have done a great job during the pandemic, says Justin Reich, director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab. “There are all kinds of institutions in society that people have gotten frustrated with or lost faith with during the pandemic, but according to national polling, local schools are not one of those institutions,” Reich says.


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This is seen in poll after poll measuring public satisfaction with schools regardless of who is conducting the survey. An NPR poll recently found that “by wide margins – and regardless of their political affiliation – parents express satisfaction with their children’s schools and what is being taught in them.” The survey found that 88% of respondents agree “my child’s teacher(s) have done the best they could, given the circumstances around the pandemic.” And 82% agree “my child’s school has handled the pandemic well.”



There is even often majority agreement on topics such as required masking in schools or other COVID mitigation efforts. A National Parents Union survey conducted in January asked parents how they felt their school had handled the Omicron surge and more than 70% of respondents said they had handled it well. “We’ve asked questions in a bunch of different ways,” Reich says. “Like how satisfied are you with your school, with particular features of instruction, with your school’s approach to managing COVID. And generally speaking, no matter how we ask the question, we find that supermajorities of Americans are satisfied or very satisfied with their local public school and their teachers.” However, surveys conducted at MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab indicate the vocal criticisms teachers experience are drowning out the larger support. “We have some reports out there that are based on interviews with 100 teachers in various places at various times, and they absolutely feel criticized and attacked,” Reich says, adding that teachers frequently don’t realize that despite this, the majority of their community is behind them. “They’re only aware of these really vigorous attacks.”



Despite this clear support for teachers and schools in polls, if you scroll through Twitter or consume right- or left-wing leaning media, you might come away believing that faith in schools is at an all-time low. This inaccurate impression likely arises for a couple of reasons, Reich says. First off, there’s a disconnect between the way many people view the

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work their local public school is doing and education as a whole. “It has been the case for decades that Americans rate their local schools much more highly than they rate schools across the country in general,” Reich says. “The other thing I think driving this is having a Republican party that has latched on to some disaffection with school, certainly some of it legitimate and some of it total fabrication.” This helps create an imbalance in which those critical of schools are far louder than the supporters. “The people who are satisfied with schools, most of them aren’t passionate about it, say like a Red Sox fan or something like that,” Reich says. “They like schools in the way that they like the post office. The people who don’t like schools are rabid in their frustration.”


Reich believes more can be done to let teachers know that their communities are behind them. He frequently tweets about these pro-teacher polling numbers and thinks educators should be made more aware. “I think that it’s worth school communities celebrating the widespread support that they have among the public,” Reich says. He also believes the public can do more to show its support. You do not need to have a child in the district to volunteer at your school or show up at a Board of Education meeting to voice your support for what schools are doing, he says. “I think educators have done an extraordinary job over the last couple of years, and that more of us can take more time to show our appreciation,” Reich says.

HOW TO GET STUDENTS TO READ FOR FUN Parents and teachers can get students to read for fun by encouraging them to choose what they read or listen to and by helping them build other positive reading habits By Erik Ofgang


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aniel T. Willingham ends every email he sends with two lines describing both what he is currently reading and his thoughts on the book he last read. These brief details are part of his signature and one of many ways the psychology professor at the University of Virginia, and author of Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do, promotes leisure reading to his students and others. Encouraging leisure reading by students, both over the summer and all year-round, is something Willingham and other literacy experts are passionate about.

leisure reading and academic reading,” Willingham says. “This is something I think gets complicated in kids’ heads.” The reading kids do in early elementary school naturally follows good leisure reading practices. “No one really cares what the content is. If you don’t like a book, the teacher’s fine with it if you just drop it,” Willingham says. “As kids move through school, choice goes out the window, and they’re told what they’re supposed to read, and they start being asked to do more and more challenging things with texts.” Reminding them that reading can and should be fun can help them build lifelong reading habits.



Kids tend to like reading early on in their school lives but sometimes start disliking it around the time they get to middle school. This might be because they grow to associate reading entirely with school and assignments. “Make sure that your child understands the difference between

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“Kids don’t like to be told what to do,” says Melissa Jacobs, director of The New York City Department of Education School Library System. “They like to have choice in what their activity is. And so forcing a list of titles on them and saying, ‘You must read this, by this date,’ I think, is going to have the exact opposite effect on our kids that we want.”


Instead of being told what to read over the summer, kids should be able to explore and decide for themselves about content and whether they want to read graphic novels, comics, magazines, or books. The key is providing exposure to reading materials that engage their individual identities. Parents and teachers may have to fight their instincts to try and steer their children’s readings, says Virginia Clinton-Lisell, a professor in educational psychology at the University of North Dakota who specializes in language and reading comprehension. “My older daughter loves graphic novels,” she says. “This is my area of expertise and I know that reading is reading and graphic novels are actually much more complex and rich than people give them a credit for, but there’s still a part of me that’s like, ‘But she shouldn’t be reading books with pictures at this age.’” In addition to letting kids choose what they read, it’s also good to remind them that it is okay to stop reading something they don’t enjoy, Willingham says.




A common mistake kids make is thinking that they need a long swath of time to read. “They’ll be told, ‘You should read 30 minutes a night,’” Willingham says. “And you can see why they would think that means 30 consecutive minutes. But people who read a lot read in little bits of found time, such as when they’re online waiting at a bank or something.” Finding those little pockets for reading opportunities seems to be habit-forming. This is part of the Matthew Effect in reading, which is based upon a bible quote talking about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. “The more you read, the better you read, the better you read, the more you read. So you see a compounding effect,” says Clinton-Lisell. Research has also found correlations between households with lots of books

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on shelves and children’s interest in reading, but only when parents also regularly read these books.


In addition to choosing what they read, kids should be able to choose to read via the medium that works for them – whether that’s print, ebooks, or even listening to audiobooks. Willingham advises parents to encourage kids to download Kindle or another reading app on their phone. “Over 90 percent of middle school, and high school kids have phones now. So why shouldn’t you have a book with you all the time,” Willingham says. Clinton-Lisell’s research has found readers were more efficient when reading from printed materials. However, she still advocates for children reading via the method they prefer. “Despite my own research showing a benefit of paper, I honestly think that it’s more important to read a lot, whether that’s paper or screens,” she says. “Go with what works for you.” In New York City, Jacobs has seen interest in ebooks and audiobooks increase over the past two years among students, so making these formats available to all students can help build inclusivity and equity around reading access.




The same principles for instilling a love of reading hold true for audiobooks, which Willingham says are “a great way for parents to try and get an on-ramp onto reading for a child who hasn’t been interested in reading.” Clinton-Lisell recently conducted a large analysis that found comprehension was similar when people listen to a book versus if they read one. “Those kids who struggle with the decoding or are finding it frustrating are maybe kids who have a hard time just sitting still and reading,” she says. “Playing an audiobook is a great option. Play audiobooks when you’re driving, or maybe have an audiobook playing while your child is doing Legos or whatever else.” Listening to audiobooks or listening along with text may also help readers who are second language learners. In general, listening to an audiobook offers many of the same benefits as traditional reading and promotes comprehension skills and vocabulary.



A potential drawback of screen reading is the possibility of a child, or any reader, being distracted by non-book activities on their device, from texts to social media. And, unfortunately for many, reading still isn’t as enticing as digital pursuits. “Leisure reading is watermelon and pretty much

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any screen-based entertainment is a chocolate bar, even among kids who really like reading,” Willingham says. One way Willingham says parents might overcome this is by asking children to think about whether they actually enjoy checking social media as frequently as they do. “This is a distinction between wanting something and enjoying something,” Willingham says. “I think a lot of times we want to get on social media, but then once we’re on social media, we don’t enjoy it that much.” By helping kids recognize this, it could encourage them to use their phone to read more.


Providing all children with choice in the type of reading they explore and the way they consume it is vital, and libraries play a key role in providing this access. “Reach out to the school library and reach out to your public librarian before summer kicks off,” Jacobs says. “Make sure that students leave school with a library card because that library card really can open up the doors – whether physical doors or virtual doors – to a wealth of literature.” She adds, “It doesn’t matter what type of community you live in. There are public libraries all over the world, and they’re there for community and they’re there for learning. And it really is equity and access that turns kids into readers.”


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