Practicing what I preach!


My job as a technology integration specialist is to push teachers and students to change. I try to “preach” that this change is necessary and good for all involved: teachers, students, parents, heck, society as a whole. Change comes easy for some, for others….ummmm…yeah, not so much! I do think that is it imperative that I practice what I preach when it comes to innovation. George Couros has challenged us this week with this question.

“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.” How are you embracing change to spur innovation in your own context?

The district leadership team came up with a list of seven principles that will help guide our six schools as we implement innovative teaching practices. These seven principles have been dubbed 709 Above the Line. Above the line referring to the upper rungs of the SAMR model  that we have used to help guide guide teachers as they implemented 1:1 iPads into their classrooms. This phrase will hopefully permeate the district as a whole as we move forward. We have started using #709abovetheline when we post to Twitter or Facebook.

  • Student Engagement:  Students are engaged when they have an active commitment to challenge themselves by demonstrating ownership of their learning.  
  • Collaboration:  Collaboration is a dynamic process whereby members (students) can have a respectful and authentic analysis of ideas toward a shared educational goal, which involves critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Innovation:  Innovation occurs when a teacher gives students the freedom to use their intellectual creativity to solve a problem, answer a question or determine a NEW WAY to accomplish something.
  • Quality of Creation:  Quality of creation is evident when the product demonstrates higher level thinking skills were used to show mastery of a skill or concept.
  • Meaningful Outcomes:  A product should show a student’s creativity or ingenuity while also displaying a depth of understanding of the content.   
  • Problem-Solving:  Problem-solving should show complex, creative, logical thought by students to solve a new, authentic problem.
  • Higher-Order Questioning:  Higher-order questioning should require a complex response requiring students to analyze, apply, predict or synthesize information in such a way that it prompts additional conversation by the class.

I have been tasked with developing multiple professional development opportunities for each of the seven, giving me an outlet to practice what I preach. Feeling strongly that most professional development that has been offered to teachers has not been effective because it was given in sit and get sessions with the whole district in one place at the same time, my goal is to offer opportunities that teachers can pick and choose based upon their comfort level, and most importantly, their interest level. While a challenging task, developing these PD options has provided me a way to do what I am asking classrooms teacher to do…innovate! I am currently in the process of creating panel discussions with volunteer teachers to share what/why/how they are providing “above the line” experiences in their classrooms. These discussions will be provided through Google Hangouts On-Air (now YouTube Live)**. This allows for teachers to watch the event live, or because it is automatically posted to Youtube, whenever they can find the time. The hope is that teachers in our district will have more interest in hearing about the innovative practices their colleagues are using in the classroom than they might from an “outsider.” I have gotten a great response from teachers who are willing to share their classrooms with others…my job is to connect them with teachers who are willing to listen and hopefully take a chance on trying something new and innovative with their students.

**- This is a resource that you need to try! I did it a few times before IMMOOC, but I am loving seeing other ways of using it!

Don Sturm


14 thoughts on “Practicing what I preach!

  1. You might not like the comment…but why student “engagement”? Check out the other principles…they go WAY beyond engagement to “empowerment”. What would the difference be in the learning for students if we focused on empowerment over engagement? If students had ownership over their learning? Just something I want you to think about as we go through this process.

    I think on your topic of professional learning, I think that we really have to look at how we create spaces that facilitate the conversations in between the face-to-face time. How can people go deeper? How can they create things from what they have learned? How do they bridge their own connections?

    If you look at the above two paragraphs, they focus on the same thing; empowering learners. Just something to think about.

    Thank you for sharing!


  2. I think what you are doing is engaging teachers in being excited about change. No one really likes to be pushed , but I don’t think that is what you are doing. All of us need encouragement no matter how fast we are to embrace change. Every small bit of encouragement allows us to grow, When we focus on the strengths of others we see that they are most willing to change one step at a time. Keep up the fabulous PD.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I especially like that suggestion if the wording was empowerment. I hope that this set of principles is something that can/will change overtime. I will be sure to keep this one in mind! Thanks!


  3. Thank you for sharing! This sounds like a big undertaking and I have no doubts that you can accomplish success. I’ve very interested to see how you create your professional learning. Especially in regards to collaboration and innovation. What will that look like? Are you in secondary or elementary? I’d love to see how your plan develops. Can you tie teacher collaboration to teacher innovation to student empowerment? And beyond teacher panels sharing ideas, have you thought about filming classrooms showing teachers facilitating learning and students solving problems on your campus(es) or in your district? Would that insight more creative and empowering energy? I hope you keep blogging about this. I’m excited for your journey!


    • My responsibility is EC-12 grade. The plan at this point is to use Google Classroom as the vehicle to provide PD. I have many ideas of what types of PD to provide. The ideas I have for PD is:
      – options produced by our district
      – series of videos like TedTalks that tie to our 7 principles
      – PD that is put together by others but collated by us- ex. PD in PJs for SeeSaw
      – Recording teachers either sharing their classroom lessons or roundtable discussions
      My brain has been whirling since I was assigned this task!


      • Ahh…google classroom, such a great tool. And brilliant idea of using TedTalks to tie in your principals. Also love the cute PD in PJs title. All of these are great ideas…your whirling brain is producing successful ideas for you!


  4. Don,
    So much of what you are writing about resonates with me as I lead teacher PD as well. I think what sticks out to me is the fact that we have to model all of the elements you have listed for our teachers (as our students). I am always asking myself,
    “Have I built in enough time for the teachers to collaborate?”
    “Did they have time to create something meaningful and useful they can use in their classrooms right away?”
    “Have I asked enough questions to really spark some honest-to-goodness curiosity that will translate into continued learning on their own?”

    The last one is the hardest one to answer, and the more we move through this book study, I hope I can learn from others and gain better insight on how to be innovative in my teacher PD!

    Thanks for sharing!


    • You and I think a lot alike! I am always asking whether I have done enough or too much. The big issue right now is how much spoon feeding is too much spoon feeding. Thanks for the comments.


  5. Don, please keep sharing about this. I too am interested in how your PD goes, how it is received and how you follow up with teachers. It sounds like you are off to a great start. I’m excited for you and your district. Thanks for sharing!


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