Friday, August 31, 2012

2012-2013 Reboot

One of my favorite things about being an educator is having the opportunity to reboot at the beginning of each new school year.  Along with starting the academic year with a clean slate, I make a few resolutions regarding my professional practice, giving myself permission to think outside of the box and try new things in order to more effectively reach my students, support other teachers, enhance my skills set, and keep things interesting.

While these new beginnings are exciting and my commitment to a refreshed approach to my professional life is strong, I often find myself falling back into old habits.  In spite of my best intentions, the changes I implement don’t stick and I am left wondering, “Why is change so hard?”

The Heath brothers address this issue in their book entitled Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  After conducting research, they conclude that change is difficult because it is exhausting.  Breaking an old habit or creating a new one requires an inordinate amount of self control as we make efforts to avoid falling back into our old routines.  These efforts, in turn, tax our limited energy supply.  To view a short video that brings their thoughts to life, check out this link.  Thanks to these print and video resources, I now understand why sticking to my back to school resolutions has always been so difficult.  

In addition to sharing their enlightening work regarding the difficult nature of change, Chip and Dan Heath also posit several life changing suggestions in their book including the following:  
  1. Tweak the Environment:  When your circumstances change, your behavior naturally follows.  So adjust your environment to set yourself up for success.  
  2. Build Habits:  Habitual behaviors don't require energy, so find ways to encourage habit formation.  
  3. Rally the Herd:  Behavior is contagious, so surround yourself with others with similar goals and objectives.

Armed with this perspective on change and a few strategies for making change stick, I look forward to realizing successful change during the 2012-2013 rebooting process!

by: Courtney Cadwell, STEM Instructional Coach

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Myth of Summer Vacation

The school year has started and we’ve all had the chance to begin swapping summer adventure stories.  I had the chance to hear many stories first hand from teachers last Monday, during our first professional learning day of the year. Sure there were great stories that involved exoctic travels, new hobbies and time with loved ones, but I was definitely struck by the number of teachers referencing conferences attended, books read and units redesigned during their time off.  Upon further investigation, I discovered that over thirty percent of the LASD teaching staff was involved in some type of professional development directly related to a number of initiatives in our district.  The percent is probably even higher, since these are just the trainings and attendees that I am aware of.  Below are a few of the trainings that teachers were involved with this summer -

iLearn Summer Academy
iLearn Summer Academy was  facilitated by four LASD Teachers (Ellen Kraska, May Samari, Amy Shelley, Kami Thordarson) and focused on the integration of technology into the instructional program.  Two or three teachers from each site attended and will act as Lead Learners during the 2012-2013 school year to continue building capacity with instructional technology at each of our school sites.

k-12 Design Thinking Boot Camp, Stanford d. School
The offered a three day free K-12 Design Thinking Boot Camp  designed for teachers interested in bringing innovation into their classrooms or districts.

The Nueva Design Institute
Teachers learned about design thinking at Nueva's world-renowned Innovation Lab (I-Lab), created in partnership with IDEO and Stanford's to better understand how to incorporate this thinking process into the educational program.  This institute enabled teachers to efficiently create projects that will foster our students' Design Thinking skills, preparing them for the future.

Curriculum 21:  Common Core Standards Implementation
Transitional Kindergarten Training

Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, a national expert in 21st Century Instruction and author of Curriculum 21,  led this professional development that focused on the implementation of Common Core Standards through the lens of 21st Century Instruction.     

International Society of Technology in Education Conf
The theme of this year’s conference was “Expanding Horizons” and focused on technology integration into the educational program.  Not only did LASD teachers attend, but two presentations were given by LASD teachers and administrators.  One presentation was on blended learning and the other was on computer programming.  

This training focused on how to best incorporate transitional kindergarten into our instructional program.  Teachers learned how to effectively: create developmentally appropriate TK Curriculum with the Kindergarten Common Core State Standards, support individual students with their social emotional development and plan for English Learner strategies that support young learners.  

Judging by both the amount of learning that took place this summer and the energy on our first professional learning day, I know this will be an incredible year of learning for both students and teachers.

by: Alyssa Gallagher, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction

Friday, August 24, 2012


Welcome to the LASD iLearn blog site! Here in Los Altos, our district vision is to revolutionize student learning. One step towards that goal is establishing a team of instructional coaches who are available to support and aid staff as they look for new ways to use technology and innovate in their classrooms. Using the TPACK model, our coaching staff consists of a Technology Integration Coach, Ellen Kraska, a STEM Coach, Courtney Cadwell, and an Innovative Strategies Coach, Kami Thordarson. We are very excited to see what impact we can have on our district.

Our goal for this blog is to document our journey. We're hoping to share our thoughts, our breakthroughs, our struggles, and all of the amazing things that we anticipate happening in our classrooms. Join us as we strive to Innovate, Create, and Educate!