Monday, November 25, 2013

Top 4 Reasons for Superintendents & Principals to Send Shout Out Tweets

Educators increasingly recognize the power of using Twitter for professional learning. Let’s not overlook how superintendents and principals can use Twitter to give digital shout outs.

1.     Shout Out tweets tell people that their work matters. Teachers work incredibly hard, but often are underappreciated. Use Twitter as another means of acknowledging and celebrating teachers’ work, letting them know that they are significant and appreciated.

2.     Shout Out tweets provide other teachers great ideas. Use Twitter to provide great ideas for projects or lessons to other teachers in your school or district. Highlighting projects and lessons that relate closely to the instructional vision of your school or district generates momentum as you collaborate to realize your shared instructional vision.

3.     Shout Out tweets provide inspiration. Use Twitter to send the message to teachers that they can implement similar lessons. The message is that a teacher down the hall or across town can implement a particular approach and they can too.

4.     Shout Out tweets help build a sense of shared vision. So often teachers within a district or even within the same school lack a sense of common purpose. Shout out tweets that relate to your school or district’s instructional vision help people make connections between their work and the work of others in their school or district.

My tweets often relate to our district’s vision for transformative learning. The tweets highlight students

·        making a difference locally, nationally, or globally as they learn the content and skills of the curriculum;

·        creating a product, performance or exhibition for an audience beyond their teacher;

·        collaborating with peers, parents, outside experts, and/or other adults in addition to the teacher; and

·        using technology to improve the quality and amplify the impact of their work.

Share slidedecks of tweets at School Board meetings, parent events, or faculty meetings in order to provide additional acknowledgement, celebration, and inspiration. As you share a slidedeck, comment on what you have observed and how it connects to the shared vision of the school or district.
Avoid featuring students in tweets who do not have a media release form on file authorizing the release of their photograph.

So, superintendents and principals, keep on using Twitter to connect with your personal learning network, but don’t underestimate the power of Twitter for giving digital shout outs.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

School Board Speaks Out on High Stakes Testing

An overreliance on standardized, high stakes testing can strangle our schools. Change the system to include more balanced assessment. That’s the message our School Board sent the General Assembly of Virginia via a resolution it passed unanimously earlier this week.

The resolution makes several key points:
·         there is little research verifying Virginia’s use of criterion-referenced test results as measures of the growth of student achievement or staff performance;

·         we value deep, meaningful learning, as opposed to the superficial level of learning that results from an over-emphasis on that which can be easily tested by standardized tests;

·         focusing only on test prep steals the joy of learning and teaching from students and educators; and

·         accountability is important, but an accountability system based primarily on high stakes, standardized testing will not prepare our students for the future.

While calling on the Virginia General Assembly to improve the accountability system, the School Board recognizes that we are not powerless. The Board emphasized that even in an era of high stakes testing, we need to stick with the instructional approaches that we know effectively promote student engagement and achievement. The Board called on staff members

to help students master the content and skills of the curriculum by continuing to promote the joy of teaching and learning with a focus on deep, meaningful, transformative learning, rather than an over-emphasis on just covering content that can be easily assessed by standardized tests.

It is hard work to focus on deep, meaningful learning that helps students master the content and skills of the curriculum, including that which is assessed by state exams. But at least it is a little easier when you work in a division with a School Board, other teachers, principals and a superintendent who do not expect you to focus exclusively on boring memorization of facts to enhance test performance.

Kudos to our School Board for sticking up for deep, meaningful learning.

Related Links:
The Joy of Teaching and Learning

The resolution adopted by the School Board was adapted from a template provided by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and echoes similar statements from other School Boards and professional associations in the United States.

Monday, July 8, 2013

3 Steps to Decreasing Teacher Dropouts

This was originally published as a guest post on Lisa Nielsen’s blog.
Ron Maggiano, an award-winning teacher in Virginia recently announced his retirement, stating, “I can no longer cooperate with a testing regime that
I believe is suffocating creativity and innovation in the classroom.” Maggiano is not alone. In an ongoing blog post, Lisa Neilsen uses text and video to tell the story of teacher dropouts. The stories of teacher dropouts share a common theme, a concern for the impact of high stakes testing.
Advocating for education reform is one way to decrease teacher dropouts. But don’t stop there educators.
Share stories of students doing meaningful work with value that extends far beyond preparation for success on standardized tests. Share these stories with your colleagues and others with whom you learn.
Your stories of students’ meaningful work provide much needed inspiration. In this era of high stakes testing, it is easy for educators to feel as if they lack control. The weight of the system seems to take away options for meaningful learning. Your stories of students doing meaningful work provide powerful affirmations of what we can accomplish in spite of high stakes testing. Your stories illustrate that educators retain a measure of control, even in difficult situations.
Your stories with pedagogical specifics also provide assistance to other teachers. How do you select learning objectives that are worthy of the sustained focus involved with deep learning? How do your students demonstrate their understanding? How do you assess their work? What dilemmas do you face and how are you considering overcoming these dilemmas?
In sharing stories of students’ meaningful work, focus both on your students and the students of other educators. Your storytelling constitutes an important celebration that reinforces the efforts of your colleagues.
Seek assistance from others to address the dilemmas you face in
designing and facilitating meaningful work. Share a specific dilemma. Perhaps you worry that the open-ended nature of a project you assigned resulted in students requiring more time than you’d like to devote to a particular project. How should you balance structure and student choice in the project design?
Administrators should also avoid learned helplessness. We cannot assume that we are powerless cogs in the testing regime. Do we take actions or establish policies and procedures that mistakenly reinforce a content coverage mentality, rather than a perspective that emphasizes meaningful learning? Do we organize school level pep rallies before testing without ever holding exhibitions or celebrations of meaningful student work? Do we dictate extensive, low-quality formative assessment that drives instruction with a focus on rote memorization?
Stories of teachers dropping out will continue to be told. High stakes testing constitutes a powerful antagonist. Let’s tell stories with compelling protagonists who promote meaningful work by students with value that extends far beyond preparation for success on standardized tests!
Related Links:
The Joy of Teaching and Learning                                            

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Obvious Facts About School Board Members

#obviousfact1: effective School Board members want to learn more about great teaching & learning
#obviousfact2: effective School Board members’ knowledge of great teaching & learning affects decision-making
Given these #obviousfacts, how should district-level leaders cultivate School Board members’ instructional understanding and vision?
Hold an off-camera, business-casual workshop for your School Board regarding the instructional vision of you district. Don’t serve your Board members a death-by-powerpoint lecture regarding instruction. Instead, provide opportunities to share their perspectives, collaboratively articulate important concepts, and make connections among big instructional ideas.
Our School Board members endorse the importance of engaging students in rigorous work, work that is challenging in the sense advocated by Ken Kay, Tony Wagner, Bill Daggett and others. They believe that learning must prepare students to make productive contributions in the world. Our Board members also know that we promote Transformative Learning as a means to engaging students in rigorous work that prepares them to make productive contributions.

And after last Monday’s workshop, our School Board members have constructed a better understanding of Transformative Learning as an instructional vision. It helps that instructional matters greatly interest our Board members and that they were willing to give up another evening as part of their Board commitment!
Here is an overview of our workshop, which was designed primarily by Ashley Ellis (@afellis) and Mike Lombardo (@mlombardo99) with input from Stephanie Guy (@Guy726) and me (@ewilliams65). Ashley Ellis and Mike Lombardo facilitated the workshop. Participants included the five School Board members, Stephanie Guy, and me.
  • We read a definition of Transformative Learning and shared phrases with a partner that they found particularly compelling.
  • We reviewed two examples of Transformative Learning in our district, and identified and discussed the defining characteristics in the examples. One example involved elementary students blogging. The other example involved middle school students creating and publishing safety videos regarding severe weather.
  • We reviewed two more examples of Transformative Learning in our district and articulated how we would respond to a teacher or a principal sharing the example in a Board meeting. (We have monthly presentations at Board meetings of exemplary lessons.) One example involved students creating a humorous, informative physics tutorial. The other example involved high school students and elementary students within our district Skyping with one another in order to teach each other about habitats.
  • We watched a humorous video illustrating the importance of problem-solving skills and discussed how transformative learning better prepares our students to handle the situation.
  • We watched a video regarding project-based learning and identified how the eight essential elements of project-based learning were reflected in the profiled lesson.
  • We watched a second video profiling another PBL lesson and made connections between project-based learning and transformative learning.
  • Each participant then shared a few final reflections regarding their insights from the workshop.

School Board members greatly appreciated the workshop. They have fuller understanding of and greater commitment to our instructional vision. Although it may be #obvious that effective Board members want to learn more about great teaching and learning, last week’s workshop reinforced the importance of further cultivating their instructional knowledge and vision.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Explosions Didn’t Stop Bill Iffrig from Finishing the Boston Marathon

Here is the text of my remarks at the 2013 graduation ceremonies of Bruton High, Grafton High, Tabb High, York High, and York River Academy.
Welcome graduating students; family, friends, and teachers of graduating students; and School Board members.
In deciding what to share with you today, I thought about contemporary heroes, people who inspire us. I wanted to identify someone heroic, not merely famous, to be the topic of my comments. Sometimes, chance events, weird talents, and public curiosity thrust people into the spotlight for 15 minutes or more of fame: Kim Cardashian; Abbie the crazy dance instructor from Dance Moms; and even Clint Eastwood’s chair. Famous, however, does not mean heroic.
Bill Iffrig is a good focus for my comments because he is an inspirational hero. On the morning of April 15, 78-year old Bill Iffrig set off to run the Boston Marathon. After running for almost four hours, Bill was close to the finish line when two bombs exploded. In watching videotape of the bombings, we see that Bill wobbled after the first explosion. To use his words, his legs felt like spaghetti. Then his left leg gave away, and he crumpled to the ground. Three police officers ran towards him. You’ve probably seen the photograph that was taken at that moment with the three police officers and Bill Iffrig. What you may not know is that Bill Iffrig did not stay down. This 78-year old man took the hand of a race official, stood up, and completed the remaining yards of the 26.2 mile race, his overall pace faster than nine minutes per mile.
Later, President Obama commented, “Like Bill Iffrig . . . we may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up.”  Journalist John

Brant recently wrote in the article I used as the primary reference for these comments, “You might recognize that Iffrig had been training for nearly 80 years for this moment, accruing courage and endurance in workaday deposits. It never occurred to the three cops in the photo not to rush toward the fallen runner, and it never occurred to Iffrig not to finish what he had started.”

          What was involved with his 80 years of preparation? Bill lives in Lake Stevens, Washington in a house he built 49 years ago. He worked forty years in the paper mills. As a young man, he would leave the paper mill at the end of his shift to work on building his home. He framed, plumbed and wired the house himself, working late into the night and then getting up at 5 a.m. to go back to work.
          Later, Bill enjoyed guiding backpacking trips for his son’s scout troop and eventually took up mountain climbing, summiting 65 of the highest peaks in Washington. At age 42, Bill began running in order to stay in shape for mountain climbing. Since then, Bill has run more than 46,000 miles, finished 45 marathons, and earned medals in three events at the World Masters Athletics Championships.
          While flying back from Boston after the bombings, Bill received a complimentary copy of Sports Illustrated with his photo on the cover, a free

meal and a glass of wine. His running buddy jokingly complained saying, “Bill, all you did was fall down.” Bill did a lot more than just fall down. He is now a symbol of persistence—of grit—in the face of tough challenges.

          Graduates, each of you will face challenges in your life, perhaps not as dramatic as the explosions in Boston, but significant challenges nonetheless. After all, we can minimize risks, but it is not within our control to avoid challenges. We do control, however, how we respond to challenges. How will we respond?  Our responses, like Bill’s response, will be affected by how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. To guide us, I want to boil down the story of this man to two phrases, four words, from which we can all take inspiration. Work hard. Show grit.
Congratulations, Class of 2013. I commend you for your accomplishments and wish you well in your future endeavors.
The primary source of information for these remarks was an article in the July 2013 edition of Runner’s World entitled “Back on His Feet,” by John Brant.

Friday, May 17, 2013

4 Steps to Leaders Modeling Effective Use of Technology

You are a superintendent or principal who wants to promote students leveraging technology to improve the quality and amplify the impact of their work. As a superintendent, you want principals to model using technology to improve their work. As a principal, you want assistant principals, department chairs, grade level chairs, and other teacher-leaders effectively modeling how to leverage technology as well.  How can superintendents and principals achieve this?
Step 1: Model and celebrate the behavior.
·         Meet with principals using videoconferencing technology, such as Blackboard Collaborate, to demonstrate using technology as a productivity tool.
·         During a workshop with leaders you supervise, model learning with outside experts by connecting with other educators via Skype.
·         Visit a classroom to watch students and teachers for using technology successfully. By spending time observing lessons that leverage technology, you communicate that those lessons are important.
·         Take digital photos and videos of students effectively using technology and share them at faculty meetings, principal meetings, and School Board meetings to celebrate and inspire.
·         Send kudos to teachers for successfully leveraging technology via Twitter. E-mail the tweet to the teacher if she doesn't use Twitter herself.
·         Share shout-outs regarding great lessons via blog posts.
·         Seek out examples of student and teacher blogs in your school or district and take just two minutes to publish a comment on their blog.

Don't have the time or expertise for all these actions? No problem, start with a few.

Often superintendents and principals who want to promote the effective use of technology stop after step one. They mistakenly think that by modeling and celebrating the behavior, that other leaders in their organization will adopt the same strategy. Our strategic thinking about growing leaders who model the effective use of technology needs to extend beyond our own modeling.
Step 2: Communicate your core expectations to leaders relating to modeling the behavior.
If you want your principals, assistant principals, department chairs, grade level chairs and other teacher-leaders modeling technology usage, tell them that. Don't stop at modeling and celebrating the behavior yourself. After you have taken steps in walking the walk yourself, share your expectations regarding modeling.
In York County, Virginia, Chief Academic Officer Stephanie Guy and I worked with Instructional team members to articulate core expectations relating to several instructional areas. We shared these expectations at our Leadership Academy in August. The document included expectations relating to modeling technology usage.
All administrators will model the use of video-conferencing and video conferencing roles with staff at least once and will encourage teacher use of videoconferencing to enhance instruction.
All administrators will model the use of Social Media/Web 2.0 Tools for professional learning with staff.
In November, Stephanie Guy and I described our core expectations to Ginger Blackmon, a principal in Alaska who serves as an instructional leadership coach through the Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Ginger asked a disruptive question: "Are you dictating the core expectations or are your leaders articulating them as shared expectations that they hold as a group for themselves?" This question led us to step 3. To take a more collaborative approach, skip step 2 or integrate steps 2 and 3.
Step 3: Ask leaders to articulate shared expectations relating to modeling the behavior.
Chief Academic Officer Stephanie Guy then asked principals to reflect on the core expectations relating to modeling and other instructional topics prior to a principals meeting. Is each expectation reasonable, appropriate, and attainable?
Prior to a principals meeting, Ashley Ellis, Coordinator of Professional Development, e-mailed a survey to our nineteen principals and six central office participants asking them to rate each core expectation via Survey Monkey, an online survey tool. During the meeting, the group results were displayed. When consensus was not obvious, the group discussed the expectation, making adjustments as necessary. For example, the group decided to delete the list of examples of Social Media/Web 2.0 Tools. Also, the group revised one of the other core expectations relating to technology which initially stated, "All secondary administrators will promote the appropriate usage of Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) to support student learning." Given our plans to expand our BYOT initiative to the elementary level, elementary principals stated that the word secondary should be deleted from this expectation so that it applies to them as well. After discussion and revision of each expectation, Stephanie Guy asking each principal to indicate their level of support for the shared expectation by holding up from one to five fingers, with the quantity of fingers raised indicating the level of support for the expectation. When this "fist of five" activity indicated broad support, an expectation became part of the shared expectations.
Step 4: Facilitate learning relating to the expectations.
If they are going to model using technology, leaders need time to play with it in a low risk setting. Recognizing the importance of play time, Kipp Rogers, our Director of Secondary Instruction, created Principals Digital Playground with the support of other members of his department. It eventually was renamed Digital Playground once other leaders began to attend as well. The Digital Playground is an optional event, held monthly, at which leaders focus on a specific topic, such as learning via Twitter, creating and editing movies using iMovie, or using Edmodo.
Promote a culture of reflective practice. We loosely structure some of our reflective conversations regarding using protocols adapted from free resources available from the National School Reform Faculty. Even when we are not officially using a protocol, our conversations benefit from skills learned by using the protocols, such as asking questions that effectively clarify a dilemma and articulating probing questions that prompt new insight.
Taking these four steps can increase the extent to which leaders in your organization effectively model how to leverage technology. Please join the conversation. What advice do you have relating to taking these steps? What other steps can be taken to encourage others to effectively model how to leverage technology?

Friday, April 5, 2013

5 Steps to Avoid Legacy Thinking regarding Virtual Learning

You are a member of the state legislature or state Board of Education. You believe in the anywhere, anytime, any pace learning potential of virtual courses and schools. Do your legislation and regulations fully support the transformative power of virtual learning or cling to legacy thinking?  

The rise of virtual learning reflects global trends described by futurist David Houle: the flow to global, the flow to the individual, and accelerated electronic connectivity.  He warns that
legacy thinking undercuts our ability to understand these trends. Legacy thinking, observes Houle in his latest book Entering the Shift Age, “is viewing the present and future through thoughts from the past.”

Avoid confining your view of virtual learning with a legacy perspective that clings to seat-time requirements, start-date regulations, and other input controls relating to topics such as library media resources and the timing of state assessments.

Last week, I shared five recommendations with the Virginia Board of Education as it reviews proposed regulations relating to public virtual schools.
1.       Replace seat time requirements with a focus on student mastery of content and skills. Virginia’s requirement for 140-clock hours of instruction for a one-credit course violates the notion of any pace learning. Tell school divisions that they can replace a seat-time approach to virtual learning with a competency-based learning approach without going through a waiver process.
2.       Use your bully pulpit to explicitly call on the state legislature to provide for local control of the start date of the school year.  The local control at a minimum should extend to school divisions with a virtual school or significant number of virtual courses. Current statutes restricting the ability of school divisions to start the school year before Labor Day violates the notion of anywhere, anytime, any pace learning.
3.       Don’t show favoritism to school divisions that use private providers of virtual courses. The Board’s proposed guidelines for pre-Labor day openings state that school divisions may warrant a waiver in the case of a full-time virtual school with courses from external providers that begin instruction prior to Labor Day. You have authorized our school division to provide virtual courses to students throughout the Commonwealth.  Don’t penalize us by refusing to consider our waiver requests while reviewing the request of divisions that rely on outside providers.
4.       Ask the state legislature to extend flexibility to school divisions in the timing of administering state assessments. With online learning greater flexibility exists in terms of pacing and the timing of completing a course. Students would benefit if they could take an end of course state exam immediately after completing a course rather than months later.
5.       Acknowledge that access to library resources can be provided in a variety of ways, including through digital resources and online resources.  Proposed regulations include a reference to student access in a public virtual school to appropriate library resources so an explicit statement relating to digital/online resources would avoid misinterpretation of this input regulation.
These five steps would help Virginia harness the anytime, anywhere, any pace learning potential of virtual schools and courses.

How can policy- and regulation-makers where you live help realize the potential of virtual learning? In what ways does legacy thinking confine the view of advocates of virtual learning?

Thanks to Reggie Fox (@rfox1210) for his assistance in developing these recommendations.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Educators Should Learn from the Harlem Shake

Kroc Preschool Harlem Shake Video
The Harlem Shake meme removes any last shred of doubt.  Many people, including young people, want to create, not just consume, video.  The Harlem Shake videos, each approximately thirty seconds long, feature an excerpt from the song of the same name.  A typical Harlem Shake video starts with one person, usually helmeted or masked, dancing alone in the middle of other people who are not focused on the dancer. Suddenly, the video cuts to the whole group doing a wild dance for the last half of the video.
High School Harlem Shake Video
Knowing that people love to consume YouTube videos, it is no surprise that there were 175 million views of the videos within weeks of the videos going viral. (Source: Wikipedia)
YouTube, however, is about creation, not just consumption. Recently, unique Harlem Shake videos were being uploaded at a rate of 4,000 per day!  Approximately 40,000 Harlem Shake videos were uploaded in the first two weeks of February.
Three- and four-year old children at Kroc preschool uploaded a Harlem Shake videoLawton-Bronson High School filmed one at an assembly. Young at heart seniors at Golden West Senior Living created a version as well. Steve Dembo (@Teach42), one of the most well-known proponents of digital storytelling in education, posted a version featuring workshop participants at the recent IntegratED 2013 conference in Portland.
Senior Citizens Harlem Shake Video
What led these four groups and 40,000 other groups of people to create a Harlem Shake video?
1.      Connectivity and widespread access to simple digital tools: It is incredibly easy for people to use their smart phone, iPad, laptop or other digital device to film, edit, and upload a video. The technical expertise involved with the Harlem Shake videos is minimal. As Wikipedia observes, “The Harlem Shake is technically very easy for fans to reproduce, as it consists of a single locked camera shot and one jump cut.”
2.      Opportunity for Creative Expression: Although the Harlem Shake videos have core elements, creators of the videos thrived on making unique versions.
3.      Opportunity to publish for a global audience: Harlem Shake videos have been uploaded and viewed around the world, including Western Europe, Eastern Europe, China, India, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Kroc preschool video, the Lawton-Bronson High School video, and the Golden West Senior Living video have received approximately 2000 hits, 33,000 hits, and 12,000 hits, respectively!
As reported by the New York Times, the viral popularity of Harlem Shake led Billboard magazine to change its ways. The last two years Billboard has considered including the number of YouTube plays as one of three factors that determine the ranking of the 100 hottest songs. The viral popularity of Harlem Shake ended this two-year discussion, with the 55-year old list now reflecting YouTube plays. Under the old system, the Harlem Shake song would have debuted in the top 15 of the list. With the new system, Harlem Shake debuted at the top spot.
What is the implication for educators?
IntegratED Harlem Shake Video
Let’s co-opt the power of creating digital stories for a global audience. As educators, let’s give students opportunities to create, not just consume, digital stories. Their engagement with digital storytelling will yield to deeper, longer-lasting learning.
Clearly the creation of a Harlem Shake video does not constitute a substantive intellectual exercise. But when students, turn their digital storytelling inclinations to other content, the learning potential is significant. For example, depending on the nature of digital storytelling, students will
·         write, revise, edit scripts;
·         research and analyze content related to the theme;
·         construct a persuasive argument; and
·         develop a unique voice based on a perspective that emerges after evaluation of content.

Some cynics may underestimate students in asserting that the enthusiasm they show for creating Harlem Shake videos will never be matched in more serious endeavors. These cynics are dead wrong. In the York County School Division in Virginia, we are partnering with Discovery Education to test a beta version of a platform that supports students as creators of digital content. To learn more, check out this post.

As much as the Harlem Shake videos have entertained millions, I know that our students’ videos will inform, persuade, inspire, and entertain us!
Related post:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moving from Students as Consumers to Creators of Digital Content

Storytellers can transform the world. They inform, persuade, entertain, and inspire us to take action. Digital storytellers use technology to improve the quality of their work and amplify its impact.
Digital storytellers include youth, although often they create digital stories independent of school. In school, most youth only consume digital stories and resources. We need to transition from consumption to creation of digital content, from students as consumers to students as creators of digital content. When students create digital content that they value, they are much more likely to be engaged. With greater engagement, they commit themselves more fully to learning so their learning is deeper and more enduring.
Over a year ago, my colleagues and I in the York County School Division in Virginia began looking for tools and platforms to help support students as creators of digital content.  Although our teachers and students extensively use Discovery Education resources, when we started our search we did not know that Discovery Education already planned additional steps to support students as creators of digital content.
Our participation in the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools led to a partnership between our school division and Discovery Education focused on students as creators of digital content. The League of Innovative Schools is a national coalition of 32 school districts committed to collaborating with top researchers, providers of breakthrough technologies (including Discovery Education), and one another in demonstrating, evaluating, and scaling up innovations that deliver better results for students.
After exchanging ideas with Discovery Education Vice President Andy Schaeffer (@AndySchaefferDE) at a Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools event, we submitted a request for collaboration to Discovery Education. Here is an excerpt from the request for collaboration:
We invite Discovery Education to collaborate with the York County School Division in the transformation of learning.  By supporting students as they create new content using the vast digital resources of Discovery Education, we can engage our students in rigorous work that allows them to transform the world.
We want to emphasize student use of digital resources, rather than teacher use.  We will move from students being consumers of digital resources to students being creators of digital resources.   
By relying on our bring-your-own technology initiative, our private cloud infrastructure, and our virtual learning opportunities, our students will take the use of DE resources to a whole new level.  Students will use their own smart phones, tablets, netbooks, and other devices at school and outside of school to create digital resources . . .  Students will access the resources of our private cloud anytime, anywhere, and from any device with internet connectivity in order to create and use videos.  Whether they are working in traditional brick-and-mortar settings, virtual courses, or blended environments, students will use digital resources to transform the world. 
 Our dream is that DE will be a digital hangout for our young people—a place where they play, learn, create, problem-solve, and inspire.  We wonder about the possibilities.
·                     Would it be possible for students to create video mashups and post them within DE?  The mashups could combine editable videos from the DE digital library as well as student-created videos.  The mashups could incorporate green screen technology. 
·                     Would it be possible to create channels within DE?  Perhaps students, schools, and school divisions could create their own DE channels through which they could publish videos for the global DE community.  The videos posted on a channel could address a variety of topics or they could be special-interest channels.  For example, our students might create a channel that features videos regarding local historical sites such as the Yorktown battlefields, the Jamestown settlement, or Colonial Williamsburg.
·                     Would it be possible to further attract students to DE as a digital hangout by allowing students to earn recognition from their peers in the DE community based on the quality of their postings?  For example, users could “like” postings by students and the number of likes could be prominently displayed next to the video link.  Students might also earn social media points within the community based on the number of their postings, the number of views of their work, and the number of times their work is liked.

Within weeks of receiving our request for collaboration, a team from Discovery Education, including Vice-President Alex Morrison (@AlexMorrisonDE), visited York County to discuss potential collaboration. We learned that Discovery Education developers had already outlined the conceptual parameters of a space within Discovery Education for students to post original digital content mashed up with editable Discovery Education resources.

Last June, our division won a grant from the Department of Defense Education Agency to support leveraging technology for student achievement. Using grant funds, we entered into a three-year contract with Discovery Education. Discovery Education committed to providing professional development relating to students as creators of digital content while also enhancing opportunities for students to post original content, including editable content, within the Discovery Education community. We committed to provide feedback to Discovery Education on its new platform while it was in Beta phase.

The Discovery Education development team moved quickly. Within months they created the core of the Beta version of the emerging platform. They assigned a temporary name (Board Builder) for the Beta version, noting that the official name would be announced later. Last month, they conducted a focus group with our teachers regarding the Beta version.

David Futch (@futchd), a Discovery Education professional development coach, rolled out the emerging Beta version earlier this month to forty of our teachers engaged in year-long professional learning with Discovery Education. David explained a three-step process.
1.      Students create and download video. They collect original video using flipcams, smart phones, tablets and other devices, including devices they bring to school through our BYOT initiative. Students select editable video or audio clips from the Discovery Education library. They download their content and the editable Discovery Education content.
2.      Students use software to construct a video mashup.
3.      Students create a board within Discovery Education and upload digital resources, including the video mashup, to the Board. Teachers then approve the board for viewing by a broader audience.

The Discovery Education-York County School Division partnership is yielding valuable information to Discovery Education during the beta phase of Board Builder. Shelley Santora-Jones, the manager of the Board Builder development team, explained, “We want to know whether the teachers are running into any challenges. We also want to know what features they find particularly valuable and what additional features they would find useful.”  For example, we told Discovery Education staff that because of our BYOT initiative, we particularly valued Board Builder’s ability to accept files in different video formats, such as .mov, .avi, .swf and .mp4.

The questions our teachers asked also provided insight to Santora-Jones regarding the perspective of users. For example, teachers asked “Can you embed a link to one Board to another Board?” and “Can you import a photo as a background for a Board?”

Teachers can engage students in creating and sharing original digital content without Discovery Education. However, by using Board Builder within Discovery Education, students will have access to thousands of editable video and audio clips within DE while creating video mashups. Students will also have access to a global audience of more than two million subscribers in the DE learning community.

In the proactive spirit of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, we are proud to play a small part in Discovery Education’s ongoing work to support the concept of students as creators of digital content. As we collaborate with Discovery Education, we continue to create our story of the power of collaboration afforded by the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. Given students’ passion for creating digital content, the story is likely to have a happy ending involving students’ deep, enduring mastery of the content and skills of our curriculum.