What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom?

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. Cross-posted to the Langwitches Blog.
What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom?
I started to poke a little around to get a better handle on the popular notion of WHAT leadership was perceived as:
I found a definition on Google:
definition_leadership_-_Google_SearchI conducted a Google image search:
leadership_quotes_-_Google_SearchI got hundreds of quotes and points of view WHAT leadership is by searching for the #leadership hashtag on Twitter.
_leadership_-_Twitter_Search _leadership_-_Twitter_Search2 _leadership_-_Twitter_Search3
“Leadership is action, not a position” by Donald McGannon
I also looked at the results of an image search on Google and got visuals of how the concept of leadership might be represented. [ Oddly, the images below almost always portrait a leader who is somehow different (bigger size, different color, in a different position or pointing with a finger to something that has to be done]
leadership_-_Google_SearchTaking these popular notions, quotes, points of view and visuals into account: How does leadership look like in the classroom? What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom?
In the classroom, as a teacher, it boils down to a “Leadership Flow” for me, not one best way or another. That flow could be accomplished with the following four components:
  1. Model
  2. Experience
  3. Share
  4. Trust

A leader in the classroom models the type of behavior and learning they want to see and encourage in their students. They are transparent in their own learning process, they do not hide mistakes or failures, their make their thinking, learning and process visible for others to reconstruct and follow. Leaders model by example not by ” Do as I say”.

A leader in the classroom gives students the opportunities to experience the learning. Leaders in the classroom don’t skip steps because it is easier, less time consuming and possibly more convenient. By the same token, leaders are ready to experience and embrace new situations, new skills, new learning opportunities alongside their students. Leaders put themselves in the position of learners and don’t continue to only draw on experiences from another lifetime (when they were young or from a pre-technology world). Leaders encourage, value, support and celebrate “sticking your neck out” in order to experience new paths.

A leader celebrates, highlights and shares their classroom learning community’s accomplishments. The leader takes on the responsibility of documenting and strategically amplifying through a variety of venues. This can range from face to face in-school sharing opportunities to district, national or international conferences as well as online social network platforms (Ex. blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Diigo)

A leader in the classroom is always working on establishing and strengthening trust as an integral component of that leadership flow. Trust is the component that “lubricates” the movement of the flow. Leaders always seek and take advantage of opportunities to gain trust but also learn to trust their students.

An Update to the Upgraded KWL for the 21st Century

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

In 2011, I wrote a blog post, titled Upgrade your KWL Chart to the 21st Century. It described how I learned about a new version of the traditional KWL (What do I Know, What do I Want to know and what have I Learned) via Chic Foote as it snuck in an “H“(How will I find out). That “H” seemed to make the increased importance of the information literacy visible. I ended up on Maggie Hos-McGrane’s blog, which, according to John Barell’s book Why are School Buses always Yellow?, added yet two other abbreviations (“A“- What action will I take and “Q“-What further Questions do I have?) to make up a KWHLAQ acronym.

The blog post included the visual chart below, which seemed to have made it the most popular blog post searched for and shared on Langwitches of all times. That seemed to demand an update to the visual after 4 years. ūüôā KWHLAQ chart templateI have used the chart consistently over the last few years as a framework to upgrade FOR the 21st century in lesson planning, professional development workshops, coaching and working directly with students and teachers. An essential component of sharing, as a teacher, is the knowledge that one’s work has an impact on other teachers and students, who most likely one will never meet. It is even more gratifying reading of the excellent work others have done:

I have also used the KWHLAQ chart as one framework to promote Reflection as Part of the Learning Process, Not as an Add-on. In the following visual below I share ideas of how to embed the KWHLAQ framework in analog and digital activities.


I am continuing to be intrigued by John Barell’s original inquiry strategy, how to use to bring awareness and experience opportunities for modern learning skills and literacies. Since Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Routines have been playing an integral part of my continuous work of Documenting4Learning, is was an easy connection to bring in the routines as a strategy in the KWHLAQ flow.

The new visual below is intended to give teachers and students more choices of make their thinking and learning visible using the following platforms, activities, tools, Visible Thinking Routines as an option or starting off point. The suggestions include tools and platforms that are specifically suited to connect, collaborate, communicate and create, 21st century style, one’s process and make it easier to amplify and to document4learning. The framework is based on

  • REFLECTION being an integral part of the learning process
  • the understanding that through technology tools our access to INFORMATION has exponentially expanded as well
  • our ability to take ACTION beyond affecting people we are able to reach face to face
  • that technology tools allow us to express and communicate in OTHER FORMS of media beyond words and text


What do you think? What other platforms, tools and activities would you include and organize according to the KWHLAQ chart? Let’s crowdsource more resources for the use of KWHLAQ for the 21st Century!

Global Awareness via Snapchat Life Stories

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

I am fascinated how the social media platform Snapchat is bringing global awareness to its users! I noticed specific cities appearing for 24 hours on the app:

  • In small tidbits
  • in a collaborative manner (users at a specific geographic location are invited to submit a few seconds of their “perception” of what life in their city looks like)
  • raising interest to immediately watch it by¬† making it available for a limited time (reminded me of the Beanie Baby craze of introducing and retiring certain animals to make people run for the stores and increasing value)

Since then I have seen on Twitter


and on blogs,


people gearing up to showcase their city. What types of tidbits should be included? How to best shine the light on their favorite:

  • activities
  • food traditions
  • how to get around their city
  • landmarks and famous sites
  • language and colloquialism
  • wild life
  • leisure time
  • festivals/celbrations
  • traditions
  • street music
  • sports

The city to be showcased becomes an event on a certain day and allows people who have their geolocation enabled to submit their snapchats for inclusion in the city’s life story (For details: How to Post to Our Stories)

So far the cities, like¬† Manchester, UK, Barcelona, Spain, Nairobi, Kenya, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Los Angeles, USA among others have been officially “snapchatted” and curated. For a complete list of cities and events that have been showcased, take a look at What is on Snapchat Stories Today?

Today on June 5th, Brisbane, Australia was featured:

IMG_0414    IMG_0419 IMG_0421 IMG_0422 IMG_0425 IMG_0426

IMG_0424 IMG_0427 IMG_0433

Below are some reactions to the Brisbane Snapchat story of today (and a couple of other twitter reactions to Snapchat Life Event Stories ) in terms of global awareness. Also, remember that over 70% of their users are under the age of 25)


snapchatlife3 snapchatlife4 snapchatlife5 snapchatlife6 snapchatlife7 snapchatlife8 snapchatlife9 snapchatlife10  snapchatlife12 snapchatlife13

The idea of using the social media platform, where the under 25 crowd already hangs out (their turf) and finding a way to “feed them tidbits” of global awareness (“hey there is life outside your backyard” or thinking and discussing critically what stereotypes, misconceptions about a city/country are)¬† is note worthy. I am wondering how to bring this into the classroom. With older students you could directly go into Snapchat to look and react to the City Life Event. For youunger students, I am thinking of the possibilities of using an app like 1 Second Everyday¬† to capture short video clips to tell a story of awareness, learning and sharing.

I would love for Snapchat to give their users to create their OWN events and invite collaborators to contribute to these event stories. Think about the possibilities for field trips, exchange programs, collaborative units of inquiry (transportation, immigration, how do living things adapt to survive?, etc.). Can you imagine the global collaboration possibilities and the critical thinking and “NOW” literacies involved to make decisions of what, how and where to capture in order to tell and share “the story”?

How do you imagine using the concept of event/story feature on Snapchat with your students?

More interesting articles about Snapchat:

How to bring Social Media to a Conference focused on Learning… not Technology?

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

cross-posted to the Langwitches Blog

Social Media has given educators the opportunity for self-directed, collaborative and connected learning. Network literacy , according to Eric Hellweg, requires a basic understanding of network technology, intelligence, capabilities and the ability of crafting one’s own network identity.

So, how do you bring the benefits of social media to a conference without making the conference ABOUT social media or technology? How do you share the basics of connecting and learning collaboratively with attendees who are newbies?

The question is how do you bring social media to a conference (?) where:

  • most attendees and presenters might have heard of social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest
  • maybe 30 % have an account in one of the platforms
  • at best less than 5% or conference participants are active and fluent on these platforms

The BIG idea behind bringing social media to a(ny) conference is to bring awareness to social networking for (and as) professional development, opportunities to practice these skills & literacies and create a culture  of sharing best practices and collaboration! How do we make it visible to newbies that it is NOT about technology, but about learning, sharing and connecting that learning?

I have been wrestling with the issue “It is NOT about technology“/ It IS about Technology for a while ( Never Was About Technology?РTime to Focus on Learning?, Take the Technology out of the Equation) and of course, it is not about the technology (it is about learning), but I am observing more and more educators , who are not comfortable with nor technology literate, are being left out of/ behind LEARNING opportunities.

How do we bring these learning opportunities to more educators?

I have reflected about the use of social media at conferences frequently:

How can conference organizers prepare for a conference and to be able to give attendees the opportunity to PARTICIPATE and EXPERIENCE the power of collaborative learning. For crowdsourcing, collaborative note taking and documentation from a variety of perspectives and locations, you NEED, well, a variety of people to contribute. It is imperative to not turn the conference into a conference about technology and social media, but make sure that the focus and emphasis stays on learning as we are using technology as an amplification and redefinition tool.

I have brainstormed steps in order to facilitate a “Watch- Do- Learn” approach.

Pre-Conference: Bring awareness to social media as a learning tool, introduce conference attendees to social media and networking and make further resources to learn more about social media available

  • Organized Twitter Chat or webinar
  • Creation of a Twitter account upon conference registration
  • Social Media resources available
  • Presenters and keynote speakers briefed and prepared to embed Social Media reminders into sessions

During the Conference: Give attendees hands-on experience, reflection and sharing time

  • Help Desk
  • Breakout Session
  • Tidbit sessions
  • Built-in reflection time
  • Mixed Cohort/ Social Media Team (Students/Teachers)
  • Presenters embed Social Media awareness and practice time
  • Backchannel Display: Strategic Location

Post-Conference: Reflective, connected, collaborative and networked

  • Reflective blog posts contributed to a central blog hub
  • Debriefing organized via Twitter chat or conference hashtag
  • Local coaching to connect and amplify learning when conference participants return to their home schools


Social-Media-conference-tolisanoWhat are some of your approaches/ideas to bringing social media for/as learning to conferences without making the conference about social media and technology?

ASCD Connect 21 Camp- Here we come!

So…what is Connect 21 Camp? 


It is NOT about ¬†the technology.¬†¬† It is NOT about ¬†the hardware.¬†¬† It IS ABOUT the expansion of each educator’s command of the new literacies coupled with the design of deliberate curriculum integration possibilities for your setting.


Our focus:   INTEGRATING Digital Learning Directly into Curriculum and Teaching

Our focus:  CREATING a genuinely personalized three day learning pathway full of creative excitement and practical take-backs.


Bridge the gap between the hardware- the tablets, laptops, and smartboards AND teaching and learning!  

  • Connect with our children and young people who are clearly residents of the 21st century hungry for relevant and motivating projects and investigations!
  • Integrate the digital literacy and media savvy productions directly into your lesson plans!
  • Bring the world into your classroom and school through global partnerships and networks.
  • Develop a connected plan to engage your faculty in a long term plan to support a dynamic approach to the integration of the new literacies tailored to your setting.
  • Engage in a range of options from media production labs to digital workshops to film study to coaching sessions.

CHECK OUT the program and our experienced team in detail: http://www.connect.curriculum21.com

I have never been more enthused about a professional learning experience as ASCD’s upcoming Camp Connect 21 scheduled for August 6-8, 2015, at National Harbor, MD.




ASCD Connect21 Summer Camp

Join the Curriculum21 team at ASCD Connect 21 Summer Camp:

August 6-8, 2015

The first ASCD Connect 21 Summer Camp
Becoming a 21st Century Teacher, Leader and School

ASCD_Connect_21_CampYou will create a personalized professional learning experience!

August 6-8, 2015 at the Gaylord Conference Center -greater DC area

TAKE A LOOK: http://connect.curriculum21.com

Ephemeral, Aerogel, Plinth: 6th Grade Vocab on State Test

Cross-posted to ASCD EDGE.

Let us peruse a list of words  featured on the recent sixth grade New York state exam:     




ominous situation 







Perhaps each of us should commit to using ¬†these words today in our communications. ¬†Surely one result would likely be alienation from our recepients. ( “Hey, how’s your aerogel?“)

Arguably there is universal admiration for a command of vocabulary, but the thought of eleven and twelve year olds wrestling with these words in a timed pressure cooker suggests an “ominous situation“. ¬† ¬† ¬†What were these test makers thinking? ¬†Perhaps they yearn to design those ¬†SAT exams for seniors. ¬†The sobering fact that the results will have a direct impact on how a teacher is evaluated points to a profound disconnect. ¬† However, there is one phrase used in one of ¬†the test items that is telling:¬†“transitory moment of presence¬†in a distinct location”. ¬† Let us hope this is a transitory aberration. ¬†

The What? Why? How? of Documenting4Learning

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

My work in formalizing Documenting4Learning is moving forward. In good old fashion, regarding practicing what one preaches, I am documenting my journey:

My exploration got started with my own change and heightened layer of learning as a direct result of documenting. The continued action research, is fueled by my firm believe that sharing is a crucial component of our work as educators and the “learning revolution“

Sharing means amplification. Amplification means spreading good practices, reaching more people and connecting beyond our own limitations of zip codes and language barriers.
Interested in learning more about how to use documenting4learning as:
  • the glue that will connect your school’s professional development initiatives together
  • build capacity among your teachers to make their learning visible
  • communicate, collaborate and connect among professional educators
  • action steps to use data to inform teaching
  • supportive skills to implement and grow e-portfolios
  • re-think teacher observations in your school
  • creation of institutional memory



What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom?

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom?

The word “mistake” is a harsh word. It implies flaws, pointing fingers, errors in judgement, something wrong and possibly even a dead end. I would rather think or connect the word “mistake” to first steps, stepping stones, experimentation and exploration. With that being said, those “first steps” or that exploration cannot become a routine cemented in stone how technology is being used in the classroom. Stepping stones are meant to lead to something else. For the sake of the prompt given, here are my top 5 “Mistakes” (in no particular order) which I see, read and hear about as I travel the world to learn and work with schools, teachers and students:

  1. Technology being used to substitute an analog activity
  2. Technology use being seen as an add-on to allow students to use devices, the Internet, a program or an app as a reward, for entertainment, as a time filler for students who finish early
  3. Technology use as a separate subject area
  4. Technology as a $1000 pencil initiative
  5. Technology seen as the solution to motivate and engage students


Technology being used to substitute an analog activity

The philosophy behind Ruben Puentedura‘s SAMR model provides an explanation of teachers integrating technology that is used as a tool substitute without functional improvement of the task at hand. Instead of requiring their students to hand in a handwritten report, they allow students to type up their report and print it out to then be handed in. Teachers seem to stay “stuck” on that level. In their mind they are integrating technology, but in reality the technology is not being used as a tool to facilitate learning or amplify learning.

Technology use being seen as an add-on

Teachers allow students to use devices, the Internet, a program or an app as a reward, for entertainment or as a time filler for students who finish early. Technology is being used as an add-on if there is time and in addition to the “regular” school work. Students might be asked to create a multimedia poster on a topic after they have written a report.

Technology use as a separate subject area

Technology is not being used as a way through which we teach and learn, but is being seen as a separate computer class, “iPad time” or keyboarding practice. Students have to wait until they assigned rotation time in a computer lab until they are able to work on a digital project or wait until their teacher includes use of technology in their weekly schedule.

Technology as a $1000 pencil initiative

Alan November in the book Curriculum21 (p.189) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs says: “The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning”. November also talks about these “initiatives as ‚Äú$1,000 pencil‚ÄĚ programs“. Technology is meant to aid teachers in redefining and transforming teaching and learning. Good teaching will be amplified, while not so good teaching, even with technology, will be not be so good, expensive teaching. There might be visible technology in the classroom (tablets, interactive whiteboards, smartphones, 1:1 laptop programs), but does not guarantee the use of such as a technique or strategy to facilitate learning for our students.


Technology seen as the solution to motivate and engage students

It is a reality that more and more students seem unmotivated and disengaged in our schools. Assuming that the use of technology is the solution to this phenomenon is a mistake. While students might initially be motivated by the use of shiny devices, this quickly dissipates. Engagement does not equal learning when the use of technology is not supported by strong objectives and goals as the foundation of its use. Many students would be engaged by being allowed to use their smart phones in class. However, without a strategic pedagogical plan how to connect such use to learning goals, students might just go through the motions without ever making connections to these goals.



Tools that Facilitate Documentation

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
Document4LearningI am on a quest to make documenting FOR learning a topic to think about in all educational conversations. How do we document our own learning? How do we make learning visible to others, so we can share, collaborate and improving how we teach and learn? What role does documenting play in the process of learning?

Documenting is more than staying organized or writing down what will be or was taught. Documenting is part of the learning process!

Finding and sharing tools to help create these documentations and make it easier and more time efficient to do so is important too. This is the first post in a series to showcase such tools.

As part of the 5 day bootcamp with a cohort of teachers from the Goethe Schule, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, participants experienced the learning routine, LEARN-REFLECT-SHARE.

One of the first activities of the week together was to draw an illustration to make their view of themselves as teachers visible to others. Directly afterwards, I asked them to use Post it notes to reflect on their thinking as they were drawing their illustration. Throughout the 5 days the teachers had many different opportunities of experiencing the power of metacognition (thinking about their thinking) and to use different kinds of media to make that thinking visible in order to document it and share it.

postitnotesI chose for the first time to use the app Post-it Plus to document the activity.

postitI collected the sticky notes and scanned them in via the app.

Post-it Plus:

  • allowed me to annotate each note
  • organize all notes on a board
  • re-arrange the notes as I pleased
  • gave me various options to export the notes.

postit2 postit3 postit4 board-overviewIt was super easy and convenient to export the sticky notes as images and upload to the cohort blog to give participants the opportunity to download their written reflection as a file in order to use it on their blog and reflection of learning.

note01 note02 note03 note04 note05 note06 note07 note08 [Goethe] note09 note10 [Goethe] note11 [Goethe] note12 note13 [Goethe] note14 [Goethe] note15 note16 [Goethe]