Act 49 of 2017

Here is a quick presentation I put together for a regional governance conversation in southern Vermont on June 28, 2017. It contains information about “side by side” mergers and how Act 49 modified the side by side provisions of Act 156.

Some of the information in the presentation is specific to districts in the BRSU and BVSU, but other aspects are more general and describe to how Act 49 tweaked Act 46. Comments/suggestions are appreciated as always.

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Don’t Let Your LMS Take a Vacation this Summer

School is out for the summer. Although educators acknowledge learning happens outside the school house 24/7 and 365 days of the year, districts should intentionally plan to help extend and support student learning throughout the year even when the brick and mortar schools are not in session. Your learning management system or LMS is a great way to do this.

Start by thinking about all the different activities students engage in over the summer. Wouldn’t it be great to challenge them to come up with ways to document and share this learning? You could organize a summer learning course in your LMS and give students the ability to design and create the structure of how they will share their experiences. You might have to hire some staff to keep this organized, but I think it would be worth the investment. The LMS would not be used for staff to teach students, but rather for students to share their learning to learn from on another.

A key aspect of organizing this work is anticipating the use of micro-credentials or badges, and figuring out how student learning outside of school can be stored in student portfolios. Starting the new school year by having students share their learning badges earned over the summer is a great way to create an incentive for students to take ownership of their learning both in school and outside of school. Consider it a modernization of the old, “what did you do over the summer” activity.

An LMS is also an effective means to harness the “developer” capacity in your community. I borrow the term developer from the software industry where the open source development model has revolutionized that industry. In education, development refers to the creation of curricula and other learning resources. Development in education can be open sourced as well, and summer learning is great opportunity to harness the dynamism of open development in order to expand learning opportunities for students.

Consider inviting community members, parents, and local organizations to become developers for summer learning activities in your LMS. You will have to do this before school gets out and you might have to train them a bit, but I think many people in your community would be interested in learning how to use an LMS. Here are a few ideas:

  • Parents who go on family vacations could share their itineraries and places they found to be interesting and educational. These trips could be curated and shared in the LMS with other families to give them ideas for future trips, or to give teachers ideas for possible school field trips.
  • Retirees might be interested in creating pages on topics for which they have a particular expertise.
  • Local organizations could share their summer work and create learning activities in the LMS to augment their efforts. For example, a local library could use the LMS to structure its summer reading activities.
  • Sports teams could document their summer seasons in pictures and videos, and provide an opportunity for students to document their experiences through structured writing prompts on LMS discussion boards. For example, “Reflect on Saturday’s 2-14 loss. What did you learn most about yourself as a person and as an aspiring professional athlete?”
  • A 4-H student could document his or her experiences raising dairy goats in the beautiful Vermont summer landscape.

These “outside school” learning activities can be stored in the content library of the LMS and mashed up by teachers during the school year as part of school-based units of study. In order to do this, it would be important to establish an open license such as a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License for all content. I think it is a good idea to license all LMS content under an open license especially if your LMS was purchased with public funds.

Of course this development work would be a bit messy and need to be curated and organized, but that is the nature of open development. What a great way to expand learning all year, however, while at the same time creating stronger relationships between schools, families, and communities.

Don’t let your LMS take a vacation this summer when there are so many exciting learning activities to document and share!

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I look forward to presenting at conferences with open source themes. My experience with Linux and open source software has greatly influenced my thinking as an educational leader. In education, “Open” refers to the larger historical narrative pertaining to enabling all people to become educated as a human right. This narrative begins with the idea of schooling. Public schooling was an important innovation in schooling, and now technology is letting us re-design the structure of schooling once again on behalf of opening or expanding educational opportunity. It is an exciting time to be a student of educational leadership!

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Some Thoughts on Personalization vs. Customization

I draw the distinction between personalized learning which is a function of a student’s aspirations and customized learning which is an extension of differentiation, or finding ways to make a standards-based curriculum more digestible to the individual learner.

Personalization is more consistent with Progressive educational ideals which place the student at the center of the learning process. In school, the learning process is based on a relationship between the student, the teacher, and his or her parents. Personalization puts a renewed emphasis on the student-parent elements of this relationship by asking, “what are your hopes and dreams” and having this conversation inform the learning process and the purpose of education over time. In this relationship, the teacher represents accumulated knowledge (e.g. standards), the wisdom of the human experience, and society’s interest in seeing students develop a commitment to civic ethics.

For the first time in history we have the tools and technology to manage, and put more emphasis on, personal student learning aspirations as a design element of the schooling experience. In the US, however, we continue pursue education policies focused on customizing standardized learning experiences to meet narrow societal outcomes such as “college and career readiness.” Of course, we want all of our students to be successful. The point is they will most likely be successful if we help them reach their full potential through education which necessitates acknowledging who they are and who they want to be in the process of schooling itself.

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SMC Summer Institute 2016: Designing Open Education Systems

I am looking forward to the next phase of my career beginning on July 1, 2016 when I start work at Saint Michael’s College as the Coordinator of the School Leadership Program.  I have capacity in my schedule at the College to run some sort of summer institute.  I evaluated three options to determine how my leadership and the resources of the College might be of the greatest service to the education community:

  1. Superintendent Leadership Academy – Previously, the College’s summer institute had been focused on meeting the needs of new superintendents.  This is an ongoing need but duplicates to a certain extent a program run by the Vermont Superintendents Association.
  2. Act 46 Merger Support – There is a large need to provide support to districts seeking to navigate the merger requirements of Act 46.  Act 46 is the most significant education policy initiative we have seen in Vermont a while, but in the end I thought the scope of this initiative was too broad for the focus of a summer institute.
  3. The Future of Education – I have been interested in the impact of technology on education for some time, and from my perspective not enough is being done to understand and describe how technology will affect the structure of our educational organizations.  We have some great programs in Vermont focused on individual educators (e.g. Snelling, Tarrant, and Rowland) but not much is being done to consider how school districts as systems need to change.  Also, I think Act 46 presents a historic opportunity to enact some system changes, and it would be an opportunity missed if all we do under Act 46 is to create a more efficient educational delivery system that enhances the obsolescence of the current model and inhibits our ability to redesign teaching and learning systems so that student learning aspirations at the center of what we do.

So I have decided on option #3.  The title of the institute will be “Designing Open Education Systems.” The idea would be to bring together leadership teams to explore the opportunity under Act 46 to adapt our schooling systems to the technological context. I anticipate several themes: personalizing student learning, creating development ecosystems for educators, visualizing data, and leveraging Open Education Resources. Participants would work on creating systems innovation plans to move their organizations forward in these areas. Community engagement would be a focus of these innovation plans. An outcome of the insitute would be the creation of a network of districts doing parallel work that could be expanded over time. The College and institute would serve as a convener and catalyst for this work.

The institute will be held at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT from August 9th – 11th, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.  Two follow up sessions will be scheduled for later in the year.  The maximum capacity is 30 and preference will be given to teams.  Pricing and registration information will be out soon.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

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Designing An Open Education System, May 9, 2016

Here is a presentation I recently made to the Chittenden South Supervisory Union leadership team, a group of very talented educational leaders.  The presentation gave me the opportunity to think more deeply about incorporating Open Education as a design element for systems change in school districts.

One of the participants asked if Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) are a “what” or a “how”.  Great question.  I think the answer is both.  I know my experience with Open Source software has had a significant impact on my thinking about the “how” of organizational leadership and organizational systems design.  I think if school districts embrace OER, it will change how they work in terms of curriculum and professional development.  These development processes will become more organic to the school system, and districts will be better able to close the gap between design and implementation while at the same time offering a more expansive curriculum to students.

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Presentation at VSBIT Meeting, April 13, 2016

Here is the presentation I gave at a meeting for districts that recently voted to merge under Act 46. The title of the event was, “Your Community Voted Yes to Merger. Now What?”

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VT Fest 2015 Presentations

Here are the presentations I gave at VT Fest in November 2015. VT Fest is Vermont’s statewide educational technology conference. A central theme of both of my presentations was how to build capacity among educators and districts to work together in the areas of curriculum and professional development.

The first presentation, Building Innovation Networks was a three-hour, preconference session designed for educational leaders to explore how innovation can be used as a management strategy in order to personalize student learning. The second session, Using OER: An Introduction to Gooru Learning covered Gooru Learning as an example of an LTI tool which can be used to remix Open Education Resources (OER) to expand learning opportunities for students.



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BRSU Information Systems: Student Data Systems

This is the first in a series of presentations for school board members on various BRSU data systems. This presentation reviews the purpose and implementation of the district’s student information system Schoolmaster, and the district’s local data warehouse Tyler Pulse. This presentation was followed by live demonstrations of both systems using live data.

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