Archive for the ‘Professional Development’ Category

ICYMI: Teaching Social Media at LHS

After our presentation at Techspo ’17, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators was kind enough to ask my colleague Dr. Andrew Zuckerman and I to contribute a piece to their monthly newsletter for school superintendents on the Intro to Social Media course that has run at Lawrence (NJ) High School since 2015.  The article below is cross-posted from NJASA’s April/May 2017 edition of their On Target newsletter; check the original here.


Students today have unprecedented access to social media but may not have structured opportunities in which to think critically about how and why they use it, and why doing so is important. It was with this thought in mind that the Business Department at Lawrence High School, Mercer County, designed and implemented a course entitled Introduction to Social Media.

Lawrence Township Public Schools is a technologically progressive district that has embraced the use of social media for professional learning, culture building, and public relations. When a flurry of simultaneous retirements brought some unanticipated changes in terms of the district’s ability to staff existing courses, we turned problem into opportunity by shifting a staffing position to another department and hiring an additional Business teacher. Introduction to Social Media came about as a result of needing additional curricular offerings to replace the ones that could no longer be taught, given the role of social media in our society and how the district embraces the use of it to communicate with the local and global community, it was an addition that made sense.

The course is run as an elective out of our Business Department and open to all students in grades 10-12. The scope and sequence (with approximate timelines, on a 60-minute block/drop schedule) is:

  • Digital Identity/Footprint – 2 weeks
  • Historical Perspectives – 6 weeks
  • Legal Considerations – 2 weeks
  • Ethical Considerations – 4 weeks
  • Peer Presentations – 3 weeks
  • Media Analysis – 3 weeks
  • Language/The Online Voice – 7 weeks
  • Business Applications & Engagement – 9 weeks

After learning about the safety, legal and ethical aspects of social media, students work with their peers to develop a presentation to educate their peers about digital responsibility. During the current school year, social media students conducted presentations on digital responsibility to other high school students. During the upcoming school year, the presentations will also be conducted at the middle school.

While Lawrence Township runs this course out of the Business Department with an emphasis on marketing in the latter half of the year, with some revision of focus, this course lends itself just as well to being run as an English, Social Studies, or Technology elective, at the middle or high school level.  So much of what the course can and does deal with has students grappling with big-picture questions of digital identity, ethics, societal movements, and the disparities between the evolution of technology and the evolution of the law that it would be right at home in any of those departments.  Additionally, social media plays a role in so many current events that teachers will never want for fresh discussion topics or opportunities to expand the curriculum.

The next steps for the course is to connect the social media classes with departments and/or clubs within the district that are looking to develop a social media presence. The students will be required to meet with the group to determine what they are looking to accomplish and identify the appropriate social media platform to support them in accomplishing their goals. In future years, we will look to connect the students with community businesses and organizations to help them develop an online presence to promote their businesses.

Interested in learning more about this curriculum or modeling a similar class in your district? Visit http://bit.ly/LTPS-SM to see our complete curriculum documents or contact:

Andrew Zuckerman, Ed.D., Director of Instructional Services at azuckerman@ltps.org

Damian Bariexca, Ed.D., Instructional Supervisor at dbariexca@ltps.org

#SAVMP 2016-2017

Moving ever onward out of my comfort zone in the name of professional growth, I signed up to participate in SAVMP for the 2016-2017 school year. SAVMP is the School Administrator Virtual Mentoring Program, and I volunteered to serve as a mentor to aspiring and novice administrators.

I know I’m only just beginning my third year, but in my experience, being in a position such as mentor or student teacher supervisor has helped me to clarify and codify my own thinking on any number of topics, situations, or challenges.  I’ve spent the last two years learning by the side of some excellent mentors in my own district, and while I’ve also tried to pay it forward to my admin colleagues who joined the district after me, I’d like to think I also have something to offer a fledgling administrator elsewhere in the Twittersphere.

Back in the heady days of 2007-2009, edu-Twitter seemed to me to be more about connecting with and learning from one another (it’s felt more like a self-promotion engine/mutual admiration society to me for the last few years, but that’s another post for another day).  The teachers we interviewed for The End of Isolation called out the networking and professional collaboration aspect of Twitter specifically as a primary benefit of the service.  Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s something else, but when I heard about the call for mentors, I thought this would be some small positive step I could take to help someone out as I’ve been helped as I transitioned to this new professional role.

An additional benefit (for me) is that apparently there will be blogging prompts.  I look forward to those, as I’ve been lacking for structure and focus for blogging of late.  I anticipate this will be a mutually beneficial project for both my mentee and me.

If you’re interested in seeing what this is all about, check out the hashtag #SAVMP on Twitter.

Self-Care

If blogging for the last 8+ years has taught me anything, it’s that writer’s block is usually temporary, and that sometimes all I need to knock the cobwebs off is to push out a quickie post like this one, almost as a statement of purpose or resolve or something – even as a pseudo-cognitive-behavioral approach to getting back into the writing groove. I don’t know why it works, just that it usually does. So here’s hoping this is sufficient to get me going again.

Heh. Well.

In the 2+ months since I wrote those prophetic words, I’ve been doing pretty much everything BUT blogging:

  • Grad school: I did a Rodney Dangerfield and went back to school to take two additional graduate courses in curriculum development this year.  Exhausting but beneficial… glad I did it but glad it’s over.
  • Dissertation reviews: I’ve started a nice little side gig reviewing doctoral dissertations for APA format for my doc program alma mater.  Profitable, and it’s taken a serious chunk out of my student loan balance… but since I do it in the evenings and weekends, also very tiring and time-consuming.
  • Work: Now that I’m past the first year of “what the hell am I doing” in my position, I’ve gotten down to the nitty-gritty work of program evaluation and development.  I’m excited about the work my staff and I have been doing this year and into next, which includes expanding course offerings at the high school in the Music, Family & Consumer Science, and Business departments.

It’s really the grad school and dissertation review work that has taken the wind out of my blogging sails, so now that the grad work is over and there is going to be a lull in dissertation work until probably mid to late summer, I finally have some time to breathe.   Never one to look a gift pause in the mouth, I finally have a chance to focus on the near future; namely, my plans for the summer.

At the risk of beating the “lifelong learner” trope to death, I’m excited to be able to set aside some time for my own learning this summer.  I’m not sure if/how they will make me better at my job, or a better husband/dad/person, but I don’t see a damn thing wrong with learning for learning’s sake.

  • Guitar: I got my first bass guitar 25 years ago for 8th grade graduation, and I picked up guitar about two years later.  While I was an avid performer in my younger days and coordinated (and performed in) rock shows with my students as a teacher, my Tele has taken a backseat in recent years to caring for infants/toddlers and two rounds of grad school in 12 years.  Life circumstances prevent me from committing to guitar lessons (my first preference), but I am committing to getting my gear in good shape and woodshedding with the help of YouTube tutorials and Android apps.  I’m trying to spend at least 30 minutes a day with guitar in hand for the remainder of the school year, hopefully more once summer hits.
  • Programming: This goal is not particularly well-defined yet, but with the anticipated addition of programming courses at our high school over the next two years, I want to get a better understanding of coding principles and some experience in Java and/or Python. My Comp Sci-major floormate Lee taught me some basic HTML my freshman year of college in 1995 so I have the most basic of understandings on which to build, but that’s about it. I haven’t explored this in any depth yet, but I hear good things about Codecademy.

If you have any suggestions to help me with either goal, I’m all ears; please leave me your thoughts in the comments.

October #Edcamp: Teacher LeaderCamp @WilmU

I’m thrilled to announce a very special Edcamp event for educators in the vicinity of the state of Delaware: Teacher LeaderCamp @WilmU.

While most Edcamps cover a vast array of edu-themes, the overarching focus of Teacher LeaderCamp is teacher leadership.  Our host and sponsor, Wilmington University, indicated an interest in holding this event in order to foster teacher leadership in Delaware, and since teacher leadership constituted a huge part of my dissertation research, of course I was interested in helping organize the event.

Teacher LeaderCamp will be held on Saturday, October 25th from 9am-3pm.  The event will be held at two sites simultaneously in order to maximize the number of Delaware-area educators we can bring into the conversation: the campuses of Wilmington University at Dover and Wilson Graduate Center in New Castle.

As is the case with all Edcamps, the specific schedule of events will be set on the morning of the event, by the participants.  If there’s a topic you want to discuss, pick a time, pick a room, and put it on the master board – that’s all there is to it!

Of course, registration is FREE, but we do need you to register in advance – click here to reserve your free tickets for Dover; click here to reserve tickets for the Wilson Graduate Center in New Castle.  After you get your tickets, don’t forget to Like us on Facebook for updates and info as we get closer to the event.

Wilmington University has generously offered us all the essentials for an Edcamp: meeting space, bandwidth, and plenty of food – all that’s missing is you!  Hope to see you and your colleagues on October 25th.

Edcamp Leadership 2014

This post originally appeared on the Edcamp Leadership blog on 21 July 2014:

Monday, August 4th will see the third annual appearance of Edcamp Leadership, the unconference targeted specifically to educational leaders.  Having been a part of the organizing teams for the first two Edcamp Leadership events, this particular Edcamp series holds a special place in my heart.  It’s even more special to me this year since this is the first year I will be attending while employed in an official leadership position.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about what session I would like to facilitate this year.  After a very well-received session on flipping the faculty meeting in 2012, I had to leave the 2013 event early and so didn’t run one.  Since I can’t imagine I’ll be the only rookie in the house this time, I’m thinking of holding a New Leaders Roundtable, specifically for people in the first few years of their leadership positions.

I will obviously have more questions than answers, given that I haven’t even started the job yet, but my hope is that we can get a group of folks in their first three or four years of their leadership role to sit down and share experiences, problems, solutions, and just contribute whatever else we think is crucial to the general body of knowledge in the room.

My preference is for these discussions to be truly organic and participant-driven, but as the facilitator I do feel it’s my responsibility to come in with some general overarching questions.  Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started?
  • What have been your best- (or worst!) received efforts in supporting teachers?
  • How do you balance managerial responsibilities with those of an instructional leader?
  • What are your best strategies for remaining connected to the needs and concerns of the student body as you moved away from your teaching position?
  • How have you built trust and relationships among and with your staff?

In the spirit of collaboration, I’m asking you, dear reader, to add to this list with any suggestions you have, either as a newbie administrator or as a vet who knows better questions to ask.  Tweet them to me at @damian613 and tag them #edcampldr and I’ll be sure to include them in the conversation on August 4.  Of course, while the session will likely be of interest to mostly new/emerging leaders, anyone is welcome to attend and contribute to the aggregate wisdom in the room.

If you’re coming, I hope you’ll consider facilitating a session, especially if it’s your first time at an Edcamp.  As I demonstrated above, you don’t have to walk in with an hour-long Powerpoint (in fact, we don’t want that).  All you need is a topic, some questions, and the willingness to ask, listen, and learn.

Even if you can’t attend the day in person, we hope you’ll follow the proceedings on Twitter via the hashtag #edcampldr.