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Denver Workshop at NAIS: Analyzing NAIS Schools with Jim Collins Good to Great eyes and the Collaboration Hypothesis

BLOCK 3 Workshop on Thursday March 1, 2007 (1:33-2:33)

The theme of our workshop involves taking a "Jim Collins approach" to best practices with technology in our schools and exploring the top ten "best practices" that correlate with successful technology programs in NAIS schools. What I have been calling for 10 years the collaboration hypothesis is my belief that "when a key technology leader meets regularly and collaborates with a key administrative non-tech person, this correlates with a high degree of certainty with significant G2G technology progress. In contrast, my observations, travels and data suggest that the money hypothesis is not valid, i.e. there is no correlation between schools that spend significant money and G2G successful technology programs. The collaboration hypothesis fits in well with the Lexus and olive tree metaphor since in the best scenario, the model example of collaboration is between a key tech person ("the Lexus") and a key administrator ("the olive tree").

Steve Bergen ( CIO, The Chapin School and co-director of The Summercore Teaching Company
John Neiers: Director of Technology, The Dalton School, NYC and MJ Quigley: Asst Head, The Chapin School, NYC

Ten Best Practices from NYC

1The collaboration hypothesis occurs when a key Tech leader works closely with an administrator on planning and phasing of tech initiatives. See examples #1, #2, #3, #4, #6, #7, #8.
2Creating the spirit of piloting and pioneering. Via the use of pilot programs in introducing new projects, the program can be evaluated and shaped based on initial experiences. The goal is to create a culture of innovation. See examples #1, #5, #6.
3There needs to be a level of accountability ("data driven") for each tech initiative: When hardware/software is distributed to faculty, there needs to be some type of accountability for the receiving and usage of hardware/software. Linking new hardware with professional development: training should always be tied to receiving hardware and software.
4Providing hardware via a thoughtful systematic practice. Tech initiatives should be staged and should be linked with your strategic plan in terms of time and resource priorities.
5 Publicizing your tech initiatives is crucial. See examples #1,#4, #5.
6Thinking differently about faculty paradigms: faculty meeting presentations should focus on "sharing not presenting" and teachers should create conversation starters not proposals regarding technology. See example #8.
7Creating a balance between tech committees, mandates, and small groups in the decision procedures for "moving forward." See example #7.
8Key administrators need to be well versed in tech vocabulary and need to be the cheerleaders, e.g. tech workshop for the Admin Team by tech department or administrators becoming even becoming more savvy about the number and types of databases. See example #8.
9The key tech person needs to be on the Admin team and needs to be on educational side of the pendulum as well as the kind of person who folks would want as part of all discussions. See examples #1. #2, #6.
10The Inch by inch, one step at a time paradigm is crucial (wind sprints in what is going to be a marathon).


Example 1: I spoke with Dolly Ryan (Director of Technology, Belmont Day School, a Pre-K to 8 school) in Belmont, MA) ... she spoke to me about the key relationship with her head of school and the fact that they both agreed on the central idea that technology needed to be modeled by the key administrators at the school if there was going to be teacher buy-in ... together in collaborative fashion, they decided they needed to effect a plan to do in-house training ... Dolly is a member of the Administrative team there which like most schools meets weekly on an a variety of issues. Topics such as Internet usage and 1 to 1 computing get discussed in collaborative fashion by these key administrators. As a result of this collaborative synergy, Dolly created a professional development program called the Pioneer Program after doing several workshops with Lynne Schalman, Tom Snyder, and a host of others. Since its inception she has been sharing the success of Belmont Day School with other schools (namely BB&N lower school and Shady Hill) on how the process has worked and how it has made them successful with incorporating tech into the curriculum while engaging our teachers. Dolly is presently waiting to hear from ISTE about presenting this topic on a panel at their summer of 2007 conference.
Example 2: I spoke with Mark Crotty (curriculum director, Greenhill School, Dallas TX) ... he shared how a new collaborative synergy is helping with technology at their school. By virtue of the ongoing relationship between Mark (curriculum director) and Chris Bigenho (Dir of Educational Technology), they are now re-thinking "information literacy" .. as Mark writes: "we did some restructuring of our tech department heading into this year, and it has led to a much more collaborative relationship between myself as academic leader and our director of educational technology. We've already seen the payoff in terms of making things happen in the classroom."
Example 3: I spoke with Elizabeth Cohen (Director of Technology, 6-12 Atlanta Girls' School) where they have a Mac laptop program for all their students. Interestingly, the entire Admin team and the 2 tech people had read and discussed pertinent chapters of "Good to Great" and the monograph, "Good to Great and the Social Sectors" at the start of the school year. Elizabeth writes "we are a fairly new school, 7 years old, with a prime mission to educate young women. We emphasize math, science and technology. We are a 1:1 school. The administrative team meets once a week and each member of the team has an individual meeting with the Head of School weekly. We keep to this schedule, even if it means some inventive scheduling to make it happen. Because we are at the beginning of our growth, the money hypothesis is not even a choice for us. In order to accomplish anything, it must be through collaboration. At this point in time, our initial investment in laptops for teachers needs an upgrade. Because I meet with her regularly, our Head, although a non-tech administrator, has become very knowledgeable in the technology needs of the faculty. Through our meetings, we were able to write a grant that has funded us at 50% of what we need to bring new laptops to all of our faculty and staff next year. Collaboration throughout the administrative team is the key. If we are going to continue to grow and succeed as a new, independent school, we must work as a team, partnering with each other and foster relationships. I will be presenting a workshop describing how we use technology to teach to the special strengths of girls at the Lausanne Laptop Institute in Memphis TN this summer." By the way, what I also gleaned from Elizabeth in our phone call is that they handle financial aid regarding their laptop program at the same percentage as for tuition and that that they image the laptops with a software base selling to families and working with a consortium. They do not require insurance since they have found that these processes take forever to resolve.
Example 4: From Stewart Crais, Director of Technology at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, TN ... "No school in this area does nearly what we do with technology and it is because of our staff structure as well as the fact that I am part of the administrative team of the school. The level of support from the key administrators here has been the essential factor in creating both our 1 to 1 program in 2001 and our Laptop Institute in 2002. Many years ago, I was on my own at first and not connected with computer teachers who now report to me. The level of teamwork and collaboration here has changed and I now oversee Media Services which is part of the library." After speaking with Stewart on the phone, it was clear to me that the collaboration hypothesis applies to his situation. After speaking with Stewart, I started reading the 2004 book that he co-authored with Pat Bassett titled Looking Ahead: Independent School Issues & Answers. Intere =\ppppppppppstingly, Craig and Pat have a paragraph that is in effect about the collaboration hypothesis: "Leadership style is an extremely important component of a successful technology program at any school. From the examples above, one can see that decisions should not be made without input and direction from the various stakeholders. Teamwork is strongly encouraged among the Technology and Media Services staff, allowing for understanding of each member's various duties and responsibilities. Large projects, such as the yearly laptop rollout, enjoy the support of the entire department, not just the Systems Administrator. These policies foster a "whatever it takes" attitude among all members."
Example 5: I had a fascinating conversation with Jeff Ritter (Director of Technology, K-12) from St. John's School in Houston TX. Jeff had written me that he had read my "COLLABORATION HYPOTHESIS and did not attribute his move from "Good to Great" to the fact that he meets with the Headmaster on a regular basis, but did believe they at St. John's School have gone from a good to great school for other reasons." What I learned on the phone was that there were several "best practices" that Jeff had put into place in the years since 2001 when he arrived. Now, one could argue (especially if one were a stubborn Red Sox fan) that all of these "best practices" came BECAUSE of the synergy, collaboration and trust between Jeff, the Head of School and Business Manager. Jeff and I remarked that we know of very few schools that have bought into the "humanware" theme ... we too, at Chapin in NYC have a dedicated computer faculty trainer who works non-stop with faculty 1 on 1 in all 3 divisions but we do NOT have an Integration Institute ... now that truly is brilliant, especially since we all know that resistance in upper grades from experience, established teachers who have "been doing things right for 10-20 years" and achieving quality AP scores and test results always makes technology integration complicated!


Example 6: I spoke with Larry Kahn (Director of Academic and Information Technology, The Kinkaid School) ... he has been a a member of the Administrative Team at Kinkaid since summer of 2005. He writes "many exciting things are happening since I started at Kinkaid 21 months ago. We are moving to a centralized system. We have empowered teachers with laptops, Interactive Whiteboards, and mounted projectors. We are Moodlers. We are podcasting in all divisions." Many of these items, Larry emphasized, were tech initiatives that have been bubbling for years. However, he felt that by having a "voice at the table" at the level of the Admin Team since summer of 2005, this made all the difference. That phrase of "voice at the table" was echoed and repeated by Larry in different ways as he gave me examples of those weekly conversations between him and Admin Team members that have resulted in the Kinkaid G2G transformations.

Larry talked about how each division at Kinkaid has its own tech character with different tech initiatives taking hold in each division. Larry talked about how his teachers are now providing technology Professional Development for other teachers. I shared with Larry how the NAIS task force had felt strongly earlier in our work that the school's senior administrative team includes the key IT leader, and the team models the routine and effective use" of technology ... click here for the current PGPs in technology, recently revised in 2012.


Example 7: This comes from MJ Quigley (Asst Head at Chapin School in NYC) the person I have been collaborating with weekly since we both started our new jobs in July 2002. Steve

In regards to the Collaboration Hypothesis and providing a balance between how schools plan and implement initiatives.....sometimes the best way to move a school foward is by committee, sometimes the best way is by mandate, sometimes the best way is through small group work.....and sometimes the best way is a combination of all of these systems. Last Fall at Chapin, we had a positive experience working with a small group of Class Nine teachers on how best to integrate technology into the 9th grade curriculum. Although the process of meeting took several months and included alot of out of the box thinking, we actually ended with several viable initiatives that the faculty had ownership in because they had been part of the decisions. We used a different model to focus on tech training for our faculty and building in accountability with student/teacher laptop use and smartboard use. We made a decision to hire a part-time tech integrator, who would be available to our faculty several days per week. Having the ability to support our faculty with individual training sessions, as we launched a laptop initiative, was critical to the initiative's success. This was an administrative decision that was accomplished quickly, and resembled more of a mandate than group decision. In both examples, it was the right decision for what we wanted to achieve as an institution.


Example 8: This comes from John Neiers (Director of Technology at Dalton School in NYC)

Administrative workshop In August of 2006, the Head of School and the rest of the administrative team set aside 2 full days for an administrative technology workshop. The workshop was both philosophical as well as practical, covering such topics as the one-to-one laptop program, the school's databases, Web 2.0 concepts, content management systems, etc..--the important issues for the year. The workshop was scheduled to occur the week before the administrative team went on their annual retreat. This workshop had open conversations and hands-on activities that forwarded our progress this year in exponential ways as everyone who participated gained a better understanding of the direction we are headed. Now, during administrative meetings, decision-making is much easier as everyone is more familiar with the issues.

Professional Development We have found that the use of our vocabulary sets the tone for the style of professional development that we have. For our teacher training, we used proposals but changed them to conversation starters. We wanted to foster collaboration. Rather then have teacher spend hours trying to write the perfect proposal, we wanted them to write a few paragraphs that described things they enjoyed teaching but were difficult--and technology might be able to assist in teaching. We then had our technology coordinators, curriculum directors and teachers meet to brainstorm and make the proposal a stronger one, and one aligned with our strategic goals.

We also wanted faculty to share their success and experiences with other faculty. When faculty "presented" to others, the tone was much more formal and stressful. However, when the faculty "shared" their experiences, they were more relaxed and excited. Faculty share their experiences in faculty meetings and other venues.


Example 9: I spoke with Karen Douse (Director of Library and Information Services at Harpeth Hall in Nashville TN where they have been doing wonderful things with technology including a 1:1 Laptop program (this year this year their new students and 7th graders purchased tablets). Karen is part of the school's Administrative team which meets monthly. Karen spoke about how the head of school had come from Garrison Forest in MD where they had been talking about a laptop program. Karen said that the 1:1 laptop program was definitely related to administrative support and her head's initiative. In her words, "the more I have been thinking, the more I think you are right on about collaboration . It is not really about time but seeing what the other party is thinking about in terms of concerns. Listening to my head of school and her listening to me is essential for progress. This happens with budget and with lots of other things. This collaborative mindset is essential. It is not the time but the attitude."

Karen writes: "We have had a Good-to-Great initiative at Harpeth Hall for several years now; our Board Members and many members of the administration and faculty have read the book and we currently have a faculty committee working on a number of ideas related to it.

We have had a joint library/technology department (Department of Library and Information Services) since 1996, and hired a technology integrationist that year also. The Library/Tech Director has been a member of the administrative team since I started at Harpeth Hall in 1992. I took on the job of coordinating the start of our 1:1 program in 1999 when I was Middle School Librarian, and was appointed Director in 2000 when our then Director semi-retired. We are also an academic department. Although the network administrator and tech support are not technically part of the academic department, we all work together as a tech team.

Our administration has always been very supportive of our department and the goals we have set. We really couldn't ask for more. We have a three-year technology strategic plan in place that was developed through a collaborative process with teachers, staff, admin, parents, students, and members of our department. I meet with the Head of School every other week, and that has gone a long way to helping her to understand my vision, and me to understand hers. I also meet regularly with the Director of Finance, when planning budgets and just to check in from time to time so she can also understand our needs.

We embraced Smartboards several year ago, and that made a big difference to so many of our teachers. Our latest initiative include tablets with wireless projectors. Teachers love the NEC wireless projectors; they are set so that teachers and students can log into the projector. The teacher can see thumbnails of all the students' screens and can choose which student's screen is to be on the projector. Consequently, Smartboards are diminishing in usage for some teachers. Podcasting is growing; you can find a number of our podcasts on iTunes. Our librarians are among our most faithful podcasters.

All of these tech initiatives are definitely the result of a good deal of collaboration that starts with my relationship with my head of school and permeates throughout our community."