Kindergartners, Twitter and Common Core: The power of connected learning!

Kindergartners, Twitter and Common Core: The power of connected learning!

A must share proposal from @BMcClelland24

Last Monday (June 24) I had facilitated a full day workshop titled, Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age, for about 40 teachers in my district (Farmingdale Schools, NY). The entire day focused on coming to grips with the new context for learning.   We advocated for the need to accelerate our learning and sharing of ideas with each other and with the world through virtual communities of practice (VCOPs).  We advanced the notion that schools – organizations who need to be more efficient at adapting to change – should dissolve Technology Committees and move towards fluid like sharing within and outside the organization.  It was an amazing day of professional learning.  And, to help tell this story, I was honored to have Tony Sinanis (@Cantiague_Lead) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ)

Here are some tweets about the power of Twitter from our connected educators at Farmigndale Schools.


During a short break, @BmMcClelland24 stopped me to share her ideas on how she would use Twitter in her Kindergarten classroom.  Bonnie’s enthusiasm and the ideas/research to support this work was incredible I thought others should see what she’s working on.

FDaleTwitter The following was composed by @BMcClelland24.   (I’ve simply highlighted some key points).

Getting ready to begin my second year in kindergarten (after spending ten years in second and third), I continue to become amazed at all the potential this year can bring. The students are so young and fresh, and each day come in with a clean slate ready to be filled with oodles of learning. Most of all, they’re excited! They’re excited about every new book, math problem, and new alphabet letter that they encounter. Now, with so many new ideas that were presented at the technology course, I feel just like my kindergarteners not able to contain my excitement! I want to introduce my new class to Twitter. Disappointing enough, my classroom does not have a Smartboard. With so many technological advances in education, I feel useless to not being able to utilize this resource. Hopefully, with your help, I can obtain an iPad so that I can pilot my ideas and witness the potentials of connecting this eager group of learners and their parents with technology.

The opportunities are enormous…

  • First off, from an edtech standpoint, it’s a way for me to model along with my students and their parents the value of being connected and sharing with others
  • At an early age, my students will develop an awareness of audience
  • They will begin to understand the how-to of using social media in a responsible, respectable, and safe way.
  • They will experience the excitement of getting feedback from others who make the connections with what we’re sharing.
  • Evidence of learning. After a reading/writing workshop we can compose an “I can” statement to tweet
  • Retell practice. One of the skills in the common core is retell and being able to summarize a story. Students will be able to compose a short summary about our reading via a tweet.
  • Parent connections. Anxious and/or curious parents wanting to see what goes on in our classroom can “check-in” our posted pics of the students in action on Twitter
  • Shared writing lessons. At the beginning, we will work on our tweets together, writing them on chart paper before actually sending them. Kindergarteners need to see the print and engage in the some of the spelling before learning to write on their own.
  • Math lessons. Composing and discussing word problems.
  • Instant publishing. Taking a picture of written work and tweeting equal online publishing!
  • Engaging the students. What better way to get young children eager to do their best work than knowing that they will be able to share with a much bigger audience than our little classroom.
  • The ability to connect with other kindergarten teachers around the country [Bonnie has already made international connections] via Twitter to share and compare ideas
  • In addition, I’ve recently discovered such amazing ideas such as the Global Read Aloud and Kidblog that will completely enhance my students learning.

I feel the possibilities are endless. I’m looking forward to introducing my kindergarten class to the world of technology and learning along with them.

I’m interested in hearing your ideas as well. Let’s talk further. Thank you for your consideration!

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Accelerate Intelligence, Best Practices in Education, Capacity Building, Elementary School, Farmingdale, innovation, Inspired, mindsets | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Intelligence: Can we accelerate it?

                   Re-thinking Intelligence in an Age of Networked Intelligence

I’m 35 years old and have 3 kids (Liam is 4, Lila is 2 and Lucas is 6 weeks old).  My wife (also 35) stays home with the kids and started a pretty awesome blog called RaisingNaturalKids.  Her Facebook page has over 33,000 fans.  I’m blown away by my ability and my wife’s ability to learn with people from all over the world.  Over the years, I’ve spent much time building networks for others, and building my own learning network.  As a connected educator, I’ve been fortunate to reap the benefits of learning with some of the smartest people in the world.  

Who cares, right?  Well, I remember (and I’m sure my wife can) going to school at a time when there was much talk about “intelligence.” In fact, I’m sure most of us felt, and even worse, may have believed as if we were either a high, medium or low IQ (My assumptions here are largely influenced by personal experience, as taking tests wasn’t quite my thing).

Fast-forward now to 2013 and what’s changed?  Well, we’ve since entered into a new age!  As we complete the transition from a Digital Age or Information Era, into an Age of Networked Intelligence, I’m inspired by a quote on intelligence from Stephen Hawkings.


Interestingly, while much has “changed” around us, our institutions of learning have hardly seen much change. We really (I mean REALLY) grapple with that crazy “c” word – CHANGE.  The truth is, I don’t believe that people in general fear change, as much as they fear being changed.

I’m working on my book now, which will illuminate findings from a National study of principals, virtual learning and leading organizational change.  I’ll also be talking about these findings in my keynote presentation at the Inaugural Global School Leadership Conference on March 28, 2013.  As such, one of my wonderings lately is  – Can individuals and organizations accelerate intelligence?

Although I know the answer to this question is YES, I’m looking for deeper meaning as I work on my first few chapters of my book.  To that end, I posed this question, and received a great response worth sharing, from Bryan Setser, now a colleague of mine on LinkedIn.

Of course they can – but they must amplify themselves and their org via an intentional talent/resources on demand strategy. If they set norms daily around social networks and how the organizations use them […] they’ll get there. If they continue to think their internal capacity has all the answers – they’ll continue to squeeze juice out of the lemon.

If you are an educator (teacher, principal, superintendent, parent, board member, other), have you thought about what it means to be living in an Age of Networked Intelligence?  Have you thought about the fact that our systems of accountability, are no different then what my wife and I went through two decades ago?

Using the tools available today, both students and educators have ability to learn from anyone, anywhere and at anytime.  I think we have to start to reflect a bit more about the notion of intelligence and what it means in the above context.  In light of Bryan’s feedback, the above quote, and my musings…

1. How might you define or conceptualize either personal or organizational intelligence?

2. Can you accelerate your intelligence?

3. Can you create learning environments for your students, to allow them the opportunity to see infinite possibilities for learning?

4. Superintendents and principals, what strategies are you using to accelerate organizational intelligence?

5- Students, what do you make of this?

NOTE: You won’t be graded and you are not penalized for collaborating with others in your PLN to answer the questions. In fact, extra credit would be awarded if this was to be graded 🙂


Posted in Accelerate Intelligence, Capacity Building, Conferences, Fordham, innovation, Intelligence, knowledge management, Leadership, Organizational Capacity, Organizational Structures, research | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Death of the Technology Committee

The Death of the Technology Committee,
the Birth of Something Much Better

Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s the purpose of a school-wide or district-wide technology committee?”

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been doing that.  And, the more I ponder this question, the more I wonder, “Why would I want a technology committee? And, “Are technology committees just outdated organizational structure?” Then, the real curiosity kicks in when I start dreaming about what should take its place!

I must begin by sharing two quotes that resonated with me years ago and still serve as a guiding light for my work.

 “It’s not technology unless you were born before it existed.” (Chen, 2004)

“Technology is like Oxygen to our students.  It’s the air they breathe.”  (Richardson, 2007)

Hopefully, you are still reading by now, and saying to yourself, “Gee, that’s powerful.”  Hopefully, you are wondering,

“In the context of the above quotes, what should meaningful learning look like for our students and educators? (note I’m not using the word technology)”

If “technology” represents the foundation of everything students do, what sense does it make for schools to create some “separate” organizational structure to make decisions and share best practices around tech use?  Keeping Will’s and Milton’s comments in mind,

“How might schools move from one room of decision makers to fluid-like sharing of best ideas and practices.”

I submit, it’s time to END the traditional Technology Committee and start moving towards innovations in learning by better harnessing our own human, social and professional capital.  Truthfully, this isn’t easy work!  Furthermore, this isn’t something that should be referred to as a “task”, because in fact, it’s not something we just do and then move on.

As the external accountability continues to mount from both Federal and State agencies, what are you doing to build new norms for teaching and learning?

Have you broken down those walls yet? What are you doing that is special?  Please do share…

About William Brennan, Ed.D.
Read more about Bill here – About Me Page

Posted in innovation, knowledge management, Leadership, mindsets, schoolleadership20, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Becoming a Connected Educator: Overcoming Implementation Dips

Considerations for Becoming a Connected Educator

As human beings we always experience implementation dips. I’ve lived in that world now for a few years and am getting ready for it again with our third child.  I vividly remember each of my child’s milestones. Whether it be crawling, walking or riding their bike, each one has fallen down, but gotten back up and tried it again. And if you are a parent you know how it goes, eventually there is an epiphany and you never look back!

Like our kids, adults often experience implementation dips.  In fact, so do organizations.  As many educators call into question the value of social media for professional growth, I only ask that you don’t give up on your first implementation dip.  Check out some of these stories from some of the most connected and innovative leaders I know.

Feel free to share your epiphany in the comments section.

Amateurs vs Professionals

What really separates the amateurs from the professionals is the professionals tend to work through the implementation dips They realize the power of practice that influences mindset and so the principals that give up during the implementation dip, they don’t really get to see the power of the tool or what’s working.

A Game Changer:

For me, I found this niche of passion educators that I never knew existed.  I was very intrigued because they were talking about things that I had no clue about.  I quickly realized I was living [meaning my own learning] on an island and that that my school was stagnant.  As the principal, I started to learn so many incredible lesson ideas and projects, which I could bring to my teachers.  The ideas were coming in from all over the world and I was maintaining these global connections. It was then that I started to take control of my own learning.  I soon started to wonder, how I could get this sort of excitement for learning to flow throughout my entire school building.

From Traditional PD to Twitter:

When I first signed up for Twitter I didn’t know what to do.  So, I started connecting with other principals and swapping ideas.  The next thing I know I got hooked up with a couple of more principals from all around the country and it just kind of took off from there.  We started sharing ideas, and it really opened up the door for me.  I never could have imagined how powerful this could be for my own learning.  And now, I can’t imagine being without it.

Getting Outside My Comfort Zone

I got the Scholastic Administrator magazine that showcased this small group of principals on Twitter.  It was such great timing because, just that week, I felt as if I had reached a point where I was feeling very stagnant in my own learning.  I actually felt like I had “checked out” a little bit in terms of my own learning.  Although my school was in the top one % of achievement in our region, it was starting to bother me.  Using the magazine as a source of inspiration, I decided to join Twitter.  At first my plan was to just follow other principals and watch what was going on.  The first two people that I connected with were @nmhsprincipal and @toddwhitaker – who I love, and whose books I had read and who was really a big part of shaping my educational leadership philosophy.

At first I didn’t really feel connected to people.  That was tough because when you are a principal, that’s all you do is connect to people, whether it’s your kids or your teachers, so that piece was kind of missing.  But a few months later, following some watching, I attended ASCD.  There was a “tweet-up” that night which is where I met @nmhsprincipal and then @toddwhitaker in person, among many others who I’d been following.  When I got a chance to meet Todd and he knew who I was, this changed everything for me.

A Story of a New Principal and the Support from Colleagues Around the Globe

I was a first-year principal in a new state and the entire administrative team was also new. So, I felt like I had nobody to share ideas with for the entire year.  I had nobody to turn to for anything.  I would call on administrators that I worked with in my old position; however, this was a completely different setting or school population.  My first year was so hard.

Then, I somehow had been listening to the podcast called the “Practical Principals” and in this one episode the presenter was talking about Twitter as a tool for professional learning.  I continued to listen to probably three months worth of podcasts until I finally gave Twitter a try.  I started by creating an account and connecting with five principals.  Truthfully, that alone, just following the conversations on Twitter and slowly participating in some conversations is what saved me.  The principals I connected with were experiencing the same problems as I and I soon realized I could do this job.  I no longer needed to run and hide.

Would love to hear your epiphany as a connected educator!  Comments welcomed!

Posted in A Thought, Conferences, Fordham, highereducation, knowledge management, Leadership, mindsets, research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Learners vs. The Learned: Which one are you?

This past summer I had the very fortunate opportunity (with my good friend and colleague @triciainter) to spend two days with the fine people of Miles College talking about Leadership and Learning in an Age of Networked Intelligence.  It was a wonderful Screen shot 2013-01-02 at 8.23.00 PMtrip for me, especially since I got the chance to learn with the faculty at Miles College and even spent some quality time in the city of Birmingham with Dr. Emmanual Checkwa, Dean of Academic Affairs.

Following my opening address on day one, we were welcomed by Miles College President, Dr. George T. French, Jr. who provided an incredibly thought provoking back-to-school address.  Dr. French, an incredibly energetic and inspirational speaker, spread the importance of  being constantly engaged in learning.  He so clearly articulated the need to be “open” to using technologies in new ways with their students, while highlighting the urgency to do so.

One of Dr. French’s statements resonated with me that day, and it resurfaced a few months ago while I was writing an essay about Principals’ Participation in Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoP) and Organizational Performance.  As he got to the end of his talk, Dr. French argued there are two types of people in this world.  He so passionately stated, there are “The Learners” and then there are “The Learned.”  He paused for a few seconds, and you could hear a pin drop in that room.

I stumbled upon this today and it reminded me of the words of Dr. George T. French, Jr, President of Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama.

I stumbled upon this today and it reminded me of the words of Dr. George T. French, Jr, President of Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama.

One of the reasons this resonated with me for so long, was not just that he understood what was needed to thrive as an institution of learning, but he provided numerous examples of how he and the rest of his administration would support faculty in their own journeys of learning and experimentation in the classroom.

As I continued to think about this, I found myself wondering, what happens to “the learned” individual or “the learned” organization?

In my research this summer, and in a recent blog post, I referenced two metaphors (The Peleton and Rip Current) to capture the essence of learning in VCoPs and the impact of being “the learned.”  In a blog post titled, “Social Media: The Peleton of Learning,” I argued the significant advantages participation in VCoPs has on one’s learning and the learning of the organization.  To enhance the readers’ understanding of my interpretation of what happens to “the learned,” I reference the commonly known and dangerous condition in the ocean called a Rip Current.

I've spend many years on the beaches of Long Island, which is how I arrived at this metaphor to illuminate the impact of being "the learned."

I’ve spent many years on the beaches of Long Island, which is how I arrived at this metaphor to illuminate the impact of being “the learned.”

I offer the metaphor of a rip current to make a distinct connection between how individuals and/or organizations react to this mode of learning and the outcomes of those that do not.

One often hears about these currents on warm summer days when the surf has been kicked up by an approaching storm. Unless someone is an extremely strong swimmer, the recommendation is those individuals in a rip current should not fight it, but instead remain calm, maintain awareness of your surroundings, and attempt to swim parallel to the shoreline.

This reference came to mind after scrutinizing my research data and identifying where the principals often described the powerful learning taking place in these spaces.  In fact, the rip current of resistance can easily drag those who fight the new technology out to sea.

I believe a rip current is an extraordinary metaphor for how individuals and organizations perceive and react to this new age of networked intelligence.  While many have successfully pulled away from this undercurrent of resistance and came out strong on the other side, some individuals and organizations struggle in the current, floating around, and possibly even drowning.

I’m encouraged by the words of Dr. French and also by the stories shared by many of the principal’s with whom I interviewed this summer for my research. I can’t think of anytime in history where it’s not only been so important to a learner, but also the amazing opportunities that learning via “the network” presents.  As we start a new calendar year, I know I’ll be focused on spreading this powerful message. I hope you will do the same!


Posted in A Thought, Books, highereducation, innovation, knowledge management, Leadership, research, schoolleadership20 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Social Media: The “Peloton” of Learning

Making Sense of SOCIAL MEDIA and its Impact on Learning

Metaphorically Speaking

“The Peloton of Learning”

Start of Bike 1/2 Ironman 2003Ten years and thirty pounds ago, I was a pretty serious cyclist. In fact I had competed in over 50 triathlons, and spent many long weekends riding the North Shore of Long Island. As a result of my participation in triathlons, I developed an admiration for cycling, and fell in love with watching the Tour de France.   You know how the story goes…I got hitched with a beautiful bride, picked up the sport of golf, had two children (another coming in a few weeks), did my doctorate at Fordham University, and now occasionally look at my bike hanging in the shed.

Let’s focus on the research part!  This past semester I completed my doctoral dissertation at Fordham University and through my research (School Principals and Virtual Learning: A Catalyst to Personal and Organizational Learning) I discovered bit of a “link” to the sport and learning. In fact, one could extrapolate this idea to not just individual learning, but to enhancing organizational learning, leading organizational change, building innovative capacity and improved knowledge management.

Drafting as Learning…

In order to illuminate the concept of drafting I employed two metaphors in my research, which are unrelated to education or technology.   The first is cycling.  Contrary to popular thought, PELOTON-1-533x421cycling is a team sport.  This is especially the case in an event like the Tour de France.  Similar to a COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS in a Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP), the peloton, is the main group of riders in a bicycle road race.  Riding in this group, each rider saves considerable energy by riding close  (particularly behind) to other riders.  Some argue the reduction in drag in the middle of a well-developed group can be as much as 40 percent.  Similarly, in the sport of open water swimming, with which I have personal experience, if one has enough speed and stamina to keep up with the person in front or the group at large, one will have less work to do, as one can draft off this individual or group.  The funny thing is, this is all part of strategy.  It’s not considered cheating (although it is not allowed in triathlons).

In September 2012 I had the chance to have lunch and chat with John Seely Brown.  We discussed learning in an age of networked intelligence.  JSB has been a major inspiration for my work.

In September 2012 I had the chance to have lunch and chat with John Seely Brown. We discussed learning in an age of networked intelligence. JSB has been a major inspiration for my work.

Following the analysis of my study, I also reflected on my thoughts as a learner.  I recalled the opportunity of learning in VCOPs and the “drafting” I did throughout the time in social networking spaces and its advantage to me as a learner.  The truth is, these networks allowed me to tap the brains of some of the smartest people on the planet.  And in some cases, I was even fortunate to meet some of them or have phone or Skype calls.

As one participant described it in my study:

Not only is [drafting] a skill, but as your online reputation builds, your connection to important people who possess the freshest ideas builds, which has potential to accelerate individuals learning. Imagine if we were to extrapolate this throughout an organization where just 50 percent of the individuals were connecting to their own various VCOPs and bringing these ideas into the core of the organization.

As one participant put it,

Life is just so busy these days; I couldn’t imagine being at this point in my learning without following others in the manner I do.

As shown in my research, an important takeaway from these examples is that we have the tools available today to draft off other peoples’ learning.  In fact, one of the more significant themes to emerge in my study were the barriers to using these tools in education.

As we continue to try to understand this new age of networked intelligence, it is essential to equip both individuals and organizations with the most efficient ways to scale their learning.  Social technologies are in fact one the most powerful ways we have to access and attract knowledge.

In conclusion, this echoes with what Hagel and Brown (2010) state about learning,

Individuals have got to be supported by a broad array of complementary individuals and resources from which they can pull what’s needed to raise your rate of performance improvement.  Arguably, this is a new dynamic in terms of learning for school leaders and an evolving field of knowledge management for institutions of learning.

What’s Next?

The next entry discusses blended ideas, shaped by my experiences with the participants of this study.  It is about the risk of both individuals and organizations as they contemplate their participation in the networked infrastructure.  As I learned from the participants, many individuals and organizations wrestle with this.  I demonstrate that some organizations do not reap the benefits of the “pull,” but in fact get “pulled-out” of the picture themselves.

About William Brennan, Ed.D.
Read more about Bill here – About Me Page

Peloton Photo Credit:
UCI Road World Championships, Men’s Road Race: The peloton nears the circuit in Geelong.

Hagel III, J., Brown, J. S., & Davison, L. (2010). Power of pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. New York: Basic Books.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, innovation, knowledge management, Leadership, research, schoolleadership20 | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Keep Your Eye on the “Prize”

Since September 2009, I have been immersed (I mean really IMMERSED) in my studies at Fordham University’s Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy program. If you have been in a doctoral program, surely you have heard the statement – “Keep Your Eye on the Prize.” And, you probably know that “The Prize” comes in the form of that new glorious title – Ph.D. or Ed.D.

In what will be a very short blog post (I’m warming up), I want to reflect on this notion of “The Prize” and what I believe to be one of the single most important issues in education. It’s only been two weeks and so many have congratulated me and said things like…

Doesn’t it feel great to be done?

Doesn’t it feel great that you never have to take another class again?

What are you going to do with all of your free time?

Why did you even put yourself through that?

The truth is, I have great difficulty in answering these questions, simply because I don’t want to offend anyone. But, I find myself asking the question,

How can anyone be “done?”

Is there a point at which we arrive and there is no need to grow as a learner?

As I reflect again on this notion of “The Prize” I submit that we (higher ed and doctoral students) have had it wrong for so long! The prize happens to be the awesome JOURNEY, not the final destination.

That’s just one of the many reasons I love my personal learning network, because it creates a constant flow of new knowledge for me. In this way, every new discovery through my vast network makes me smarter, and when activity in these networks is sustained, and one is connected to smart people, you’re guaranteed to get a bit smarter.  As I approached my study, I realized that were a few unanswered questions out there.

What happens when a school principal takes charge of their learning using social media?

What is the essence of this experience for them as a learner?

And, through their leadership, how are principals transforming organizations?

My dissertation sought to tell a new compelling story of how social media is changing our world. As I reference in my study, this change is slow (I will need to dedicate at least 5 new blog posts to this slowness), but thanks to the few outstanding principals who are taking charge, we are ready to tell this new story.

I’ve been on a hiatus with my social media use, as I’ve been so buried in papers, formatting, scholarly journals and other readings. I was recently re-inspired by a conversation with George Couros (Principals of Change) last Friday and am committing my free time (that’s a joke) to my next chapter of learning, and sharing this learning as I embark on yet a new journey (after all, my wife is showing me up with her blog –

Therefore, I’ve decided to re-launch what was a pathetic attempt at a blog in 2007-2008 to share my “new” reflections. A good starting point for me, and perhaps my audience, is to slowly introduce the rather exciting findings from my study in hopes to communicate a this new and compelling story about how building principals are using social media to create the next generation learning organization.

The study’s findings were awesome! With this, I introduce the concept of “Accelerate Intelligence,” (AI) a term I coined in my fifth and final chapter of the dissertation to capture the essence of this research experience. A special thanks to George and the wonderful principals who are leading this movement.

To be continued…

Posted in A Thought, Inspired | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment