#CollegeApp Help: Got a College App Question? Tune In Tonight (Nov. 16, 8pm PST)

Many high school seniors are completing college applications this month. The California State University and University of California college applications are due Nov. 30.

Join the ForwarDirections team online TONIGHT, November 16, between 8 and 9 P.M. (PST) and ask any college-related question for free!


Any student or parent interested in asking questions about applying to college are welcome to join. Have a quick question about a college application? Want ideas about which colleges to apply to? Qualified college counselors will be available to answer your questions regarding applying to college. See you online: 8-9 P.M., Monday, November 16.

For information about how to participate:   http://www.forwardirections.org/archives/293

California CTC Updating Ca Standards for the Teaching Profession #caedchat

It was a pleasure to testify as part of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing online for the draft of the updated California Standards for the Teaching Profession and the Teacher Performance Expectations. There was a group of people physically in the room and 25 people and groups who joined the meeting online from a distance. Here is what it looked like from my computer.


With several colleagues in California, we emphasized the importance of the difference between designing a technology rich environment and integrating technology (e.g. blended and online learning) into the classroom on a daily basis. Some of the comments I shared were the following:

In the 20th century it was fine to design and implement technology-rich environments.

But in the 21st century, teachers should be integrating technology on a daily basis with their students. No longer should technology be confined to a once a week visit to the computer lab to do something that does not directly align with what is being taught in the classroom. Our students deserve more than that.

I would encourage you to consider these documents as you update the California Standards for the Teaching Profession:

  1. CUE’s Leading Edge Certification Standards
  2. The iNACOL Teaching Standards for Blended and Online learning
  3. The ISTE NETs Standards
  4. The Christensen Institute work in Blended Learning

Teachers throughout California want to be prepared to meet the needs of what is being termed “Generation Z” who are people who are today ages 0-20. We want to make sure the teachers of Generation Z are truly prepared with the digital tools and pedagogy to adequately meet their needs.

CSTP #4 addresses “Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for All Students”. In conversation with the committee members, we examined #7 principle that states: “Using content pedagogy, subject matter, and educational technology knowledge, teach students how to use digital tools to learn, create new content, and demonstrate their learning.”

I believe that educational technology, blended and online learning should be specifically addressed with a #8 with wording such as:

#8: Teachers effective integration of technology is achieved when teachers and students utilize it on a daily basis for teaching and learning which includes knowing which technology to use when, when to utilize blended and online learning tools, when to use other technologies such as hand-held devices or phones, and how to present and interact with online technology tools.

Be #FutureReady Now! #CEM15 Webinar October 29

The term “future ready” has become an important concept among school districts through the US over the past year since the Future Ready Summit was held in Washington DC in May 2014. In case you missed it, you can read more here.

  • What does “future ready” really mean to a school or school district?
  • What does a school or school district really look like if it is “future ready?”

You now get the chance to hear from four experts who will talk about how to build the culture in a school or school district to be “future ready” now! Educational practitioners from Lindsay Unified in California, Lowell School in Illinois, Portola Valley School District in California and Natomas Charter School in California will share how their institutions are future ready now.

Join the CUE Organization in partnership with Connected Educator Month for:
Future Ready: What Does This Really Mean?
Date: October 29 at 6:30 Eastern / 3:30 Pacific.


Church, History, Education: What’s the relationship? #ISTE2015

I arrived in Philadelphia for the annual #iste2015 educational conference to facilitate a blended learning workshop. Having taught history earlier in my career, I always enjoy taking in the local history. On Sunday morning, I decided to attend church at Christ Church, known as the “the Nation’s Church” since it was built in 1744, seven of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried in the nearby burial grounds and it was the church attended by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Betsy Ross among others. The 9:00am Episcopalian service was attended by about 100 people and was officiated by the Rev. Susan Richardson.


The Rev. Richardson began her sermon with “It’s been a hell of a week!” First, she talked about the tragic killing of 9 people at the Charleston Emanuel African American Methodist Episcopal church and the inspirational eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and singing of “Amazing Grace” by President Barack Obama. Next she discussed the senseless terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France. Then she discussed the decisions of the Supreme Court this past week. First, on Thursday, the decision of the court to “keep the Affordable Care Act on the table”so that millions of Americans would not suddenly lose their health care. Then, the historic decision on Friday that struck down state bans on same sex marriage. And then, in the Episcopal Church, they elect a “presiding Bishop” every nine years. Bishop Michael Curry was the first African American Bishop elected in the Episcopal Church and he is following the first female Bishop elected by an Anglican church.

She then turned our attention to the Bible reading of the day, which was the story of a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and touched the cloak of Jesus Christ and was then healed (Mark 5:21-43).  The Rev. Richardson then asked rhetorically, “so what is the connection between the events of the past week and this reading?” She went on to explain that we are all human and that we seek connectedness and relationships with others.

As an educator, Catholic, father and as a gay man, I could not have agreed with her message more. Life really is about being human, connecting to others and relationships. Good educational leaders know that relationships built with colleagues causes others to think and transform in new ways – especially in the field of educational technology, blended learning and online learning. Good teachers also know that the best way to impact student learning is by building relationships with each individual student, learning about the interests and abilities of each individual student and then challenging them where they are at.

The message of Rev. Susan Richardson in Christ Church in Philadelphia almost 250 years after its founding validates the progress that has been made in America. It also illustrates the importance of valuing each person and respecting their opinion, while at the same time valuing the discourse. It took many years before the Declaration of Independence was shared for the first time on July 4, 1774. The Declaration was written and debated and developed for many years before it was officially proclaimed. In order for that to happen, there was much compromise, connectedness and relationship building.

Even more important today, for American society, churches and schools to remain viable, our relationships with one another, how we are each human, our ability to connect with one another as well as respect one another for who we are and where we are each at – are important qualities that lead to a successful nation, successful churches and successful schools.

How can there be school districts in Ca that cannot access the Internet? #ccss #caedchat

I just find it hard to believe in this day and age that in California, there are school districts that do not have access to the Internet. Will all of the brain power and innovation and universities, surely a simple solution can be figured out. And, from another perspective, how is it that these school districts have not figured out how to make this happen for their students long before now?  And, wow, if this is one byproduct of Common Core testing – that all students in California have access to the Internet at school – then that is a nice unintentional consequence.

According to this article, some key quotes:

  • But upgrading the remaining 47 school sites – six to nine of which have no Internet at all – has proven problematic.
  • “The 47 school sites that remain are some of the most difficult to connect, often because of geographical barriers or just not having businesses with an interest in connecting those areas,” CDE spokeswoman Monique Ramos told committee members. “We are working on trying to find solution for those districts.”

Announcing a New Direction: ForwarDirections #collegeadmissions #nomoredropouts

My doctoral research five years ago was all about why students drop out of high school. I was surprised to learn that historically 70% of students complete high school with a diploma, and that statistic is less for African American and Latino males (50%). The decision to drop out of school is complex but it is a factor of being engaged in school (involved in clubs or sports or performing arts), how classes are taught, support systems in place, peer relationships, and the discipline policies in place. (My dissertation and research can be found here).

Many students make one mistake in high school and then end up expelled from school. The research shows that one of the many factors that can help students to be successful through their high school years is the presence of a caring adult. Now this adult can be a parent or teacher or counselor or church leader or scout leader. In much of the research, mentoring programs – those that pair at-risk students with adult mentors – are also successful in helping students to complete high school. The problem is that mentoring programs take time, money and human resources to be effective and are often difficult to become part of the ongoing funding and culture of the regular school program. For the students involved in school academics, clubs, sports or performing arts, they generally find that other caring adult in addition to their parents. But for the students who are not involved in these types of school activities, they are less likely to have access to those types of caring adults.

I have been wrestling with these thoughts over the past five years and wondering what type of system could better support all students. The first phase of providing a system towards this direction is the ForwarDirections College Career and Coaching Team. My colleague Carole Smoot and I have established ForwarDirections as a non-profit in California to develop a support network to guide students in the process of applying to college from their freshman year of high school through their freshman year of college.

FD-Logo_FinalOur first phase is a fee-based college and career system for students who choose to join us. We hope in the future to secure funding so that a number of students may be part of a scholarship program so we can serve a wider network of students. We also know that applying to college is largely a state-by-state process because of how high schools in different states interact with colleges and how each state has their own set of colleges. So, we are starting with our service to students in California, but hope we can expand our ideas into other states in the future. We have also been involved in securing a certificate in college admissions counseling so we can better understand the overall process, read the research and learn how to best support students in the complex process of career and college decision making.

We have spent the last year working with our first students and learned a lot about the support systems needed to support a small group of students from a distance using a variety of online tools. We believe the 21st century model of college and career counseling is one that is directed by student interests, guided by adult career coaches and provides a safe online environment where students can share ideas with one another.  Future posts will provide some of the research that has informed our direction.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in receiving our monthly newsletter, feel free to sign up and join us. And feel free to “Like” our Facebook page. We are both excited about this next part of our journey in supporting students.

Building a digital learning mindset, the moon belongs to everyone #dlday

The yearly celebration of Digital Learning Day causes all of us to think about what it really means to be a digital educator. I have written about the continuum from textbook enhanced to online teaching and learning, how blended learning intersects with the SAMR model and what blended learning is and is not. The real challenge is how does one change a mindset?

At first I thought it was about changing the culture. But after thinking more about this, it really comes down to changing a person’s mindset. Many of us who have worked in education have witnessed the purchase of large quantities of digital projectors or computers in our schools … only to see them collect dust in a closet or corner. So, to change a person’s mindset takes more than a bunch of devices in a classroom.

Many school districts have provided ongoing professional development (a better term is now “professional learning”) about how to integrate technology in the classroom. And then you walk into those classrooms and teachers have students using textbooks or paper based resources as part of their teaching and learning.

As I think about what changes a person’s mindset, I came across this recent interview with Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and the first African American in that position during the Bush administration. He was being interviewed about 50 Years since the Selma march, but at the end of the interview, he was asked about the email issues being encountered by Hillary Clinton. He did not respond to that question, but he did share something that helps to change people’s mindsets about the use of technology. He said, “In order to change the culture, to change the brainware, as I call it, I started using it [email] in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st century institution and not a 19th century…” 

The museum world is also struggling with the use of technology and I found this blogpost also speaks to how to change a mindset. Entitled “The moon belongs to everyone: embracing a digital mindset in museums“, Mike Murawski shared several important thoughts. If you simply replace the word “museum” with “school” or “education” it is all the same:

  • “As we focus more and more on digital and online experiences, are we sacrificing any of the human-centered elements that have been at the core of museum education for more than a century? If your museum lost power, how would that affect the learning experiences in the galleries and across programming?”
  • “this challenge is absolutely not about technology, which we are often guilty of fetishising as a solution to problems. It is first and foremost about audience and the ways in which digital technologies are changing their behaviours: at work, at home, on the move, learning, playing, questioning, socialising, sharing, communicating. Forever. – Jane Finnis”
  • “Technology should not govern the museums’ work. But in order to learn and understand how we can use new technologies and benefit from the opportunities they open up for us, we must explore and incorporate not just technologies themselves, but also changes in behaviour and expectations they prompt in users. We must think like users. – Jane Finnis”
  • “If museums are to remain relevant, vital and meaningful, then they must adapt to a changing society, which means not only recognizing and incorporating new digital tools for communication, but more importantly, recognizing the changing needs and aspirations of society as reflected in their communities of physical and virtual visitors” – Susana Smith Bautista, Museums in the Digital Age 

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