Setting the stage for BYOD
Jun 11th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

In order to move to a 1:1 environment, I think Bring Your Own Device “BYOD” is critical because it allows you to leverage funds more effectively to get devices in the hands of ALL students.   Those that can provide, do; those who are unable, can use a device provided by the school.  To build capacity in my new school, we’ve presented this concept at parent “meet-and-greets,” student meetings, and school orientation.  To more widely distribute the information, I recently created a video with my colleagues.  We also created the following 1-pager.  We are well on our way to being the first school in our urban district that is 1:1.



Google Teacher Academy
May 13th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Google offers a teacher academy program across the country and the world.  I’ve applied for this round in Atlanta.  Part of the application required me to create a short (1 minute) video.  Here’s my submission:

Educational Inputs vs Outcomes
Sep 18th, 2013 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I was meeting with a medical doctor last week who asked me about my profession.  I expressed that I was an educator working on STEM programming with teachers and students across the state.  He asked the off-color question “Do you do that education stuff where you make kids feel good about themselves?”  I didn’t even hesitate to say no.

The programs I run focus on rigor and increasing achievement.  Thinking about it more, I think we work on engagement (a.k.a. “feel good”) as an outcome, NOT an input.  This really made me think more about the design of research.  When conducting studies you need an independent variable and a dependent variable.  To me, engagement is a dependent factor – what should happen with quality instruction.  I wonder if other educators consider it an input.  Kids thinking, working hard, problem solving, collaborating, asking and answering hard questions .  .. .  that’s the essence of good engagement.  Good instruction, success for students, meaningful and relevant assessments .. .  . that leads to success.

Managing Time
Apr 5th, 2013 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

One of the most important factors learned by students and reported to us time and time again is time management. I recently saw this presentation and it resonated well with me:

Read my post on ED WEEK!
Nov 29th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I wrote a guest blog post for Bob Slavin’s (Success for All) Blog – Sputnik.  Please check it out and if you are on Twitter, I would really appreciate a tweet from the site!


Here’s a brief excerpt:

The real question, ultimately, is, “Does technology help our students become better independent, self-directed learners?” That’s the game-changer. It’s not about the latest fancy device, hot off the shelf. That device is just a tool– it’s not knowledge and it’s not a skill. Just because we haphazardly give students technology tools doesn’t mean they are going to learn better–the evidence definitely supports that. Learners purposefully interacting with the tool and using it for production, facilitated by thoughtful, forward-thinking educators, is the way to get to a student-centered learning environment that improves engagement and achievement.

Deeper Learning
Oct 29th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

The National Academies Press is releasing a new book (report): Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century.  As I am sitting at the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education’s Principal Investigator’s Conference listening to a discussion, a concept, which came up in my dissertation work has come up.  I really like they way it is conceptualized.


Deeper learning is the process of LEARNING FOR TRANSFER.  Transferable knowledge includes both CONTENT and PROCEDURAL knowledge.

When I wrote my dissertation, one of my major codes was DEEP UNDERSTANDING.  This is how I defined it at that time in the appendix (p. 264):

Having a deep understanding. This understanding usually goes beyond scientific knowledge, which would be coded as ‘specialized understanding.’ This is more of a conceptual understanding with scientific, social, political, interpersonal, theoretical, and/or practical realizations. It is seeing ‘the big picture,’ beyond the scope of the scientific aspects of the project.

And isn’t this what we want for greater engagement?  Learning that goes beyond the four walls of the classroom . . . Learning that has value.

The Digital “Textbook”
Dec 22nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

from: cuesta.edu

David Wees’ Blog: 21st Century Educator had an interesting post on Nov 15, 2010 (OK – I’m behind the times . . .).  Here’s a (big) excerpt:

Here are the features I think every textbook should have.

  • The textbook should be 100% searchable. No more wondering where eukaryotic appears in the text. You’ll just be able to quickly type in a search term and find all of the places it appears.
  • Key words in the text should be linked to explanations of these key terms. Click on the word, find out what it means in this context and what other resources exist to understand it.
  • The readability of the text should be individually customizable. Want to challenge yourself and improve your vocabulary? There’s a setting for that. Feel like taking it easy on the reading? There’s a setting for that too.
  • Everything in the textbook should allow annotations which should appear as a user generated summary of the textbook itself in another location.
  • Users should be able to add bookmarks and tag parts of the textbook with terms so they can self-classify the information. These tags should optionally appear for other users of the same textbook.
  • You should be able to comment on any part of the textbook. This could be used to flag out-of-date content or just to ask questions. Each user of a textbook should optionally be able to see everyone else’s comments on various sections of the text. These comments should happen in real time so that users can chat in real time about what they are examining.
  • Videos and other multimedia should be included in the textbook where appropriate. Want to talk about MLK’s I have a dream speech? You can include the entire video of his speech as part of the book.
  • The textbook should be customizable. Users should be able to edit the content of the textbook and share the updated version of the textbook with other users. When a customization occurs, the original author(s) of the textbook could optionally be notified so they can either accept or reject the changes to the original work.
  • The textbook needs to be open source and free. No longer bound by restrictive and antiquated licenses, institutions can create their textbooks and share them with the world.
  • Textbooks need to be translatable if they are really going to be free to use for everyone. No longer would the language learners in your class be forced to struggle in your subject just because of a lack of knowledge of the language of instruction. Optionally you could have the textbook display in the language of instruction and have real-time translation services available for any section on demand.
  • For any section of the text, real time search of other resources or references needs to be available. Instead of relying on just the opinion of the author(s) of the text, now you can look at other (optionally screened) resources that could help understand some perspective on the subject of the textbook.
  • The textbook should be device agnostic and mobile-ready. It shouldn’t matter if the person is reading it on an ereader, a netbook, an iPad, or a cell phone, the textbook should be available anytime, anywhere to anyone.
  • The textbook should be built with multiple models of pedagogy in mind. Instead of flatly stating the “facts” for the student reading the textbook, there should be opportunities for experiments, simulations, 3rd virtual worlds, or whatever other alternate forms of representation are available. Inquiry should be built into these textbooks.
  • Students should be able to click anywhere in the book and ask the question, “where is this used in the real world?” No more students asking why they are learning this stuff, because the entire learning process would be transparent.
  • You should be able to ask an expert on the topic from your textbook. Need more help with the topic than the textbook is providing, or have some more questions? You can call someone for help and ask for advice right through your textbook.
  • Your textbook could be a centre of a community of people who are all learning the same material. Not all of you need to be in exactly the same class, but as you work through the textbook and make comments, the textbook learns from you about your learning habits, strengths, and weaknesses, and connects you to the people and resources that you need to understand.
  • Any practice or other tasks that need to be done through the textbook should be included, if appropriate, and immediately assessed. No more waiting for feedback.

Funny thing is, I don’t think this is a textbook, because it is not just a system of “delivering” knowledge – there’s so much more all based on engagement and interaction.  I think if we are truly reforming and changing education we really should consider the word textbook carefully.  We are evolving past that and digital learning resources are so much more.  Why hinder progress with antiquated vocabulary?

Learning Knowledge and Skills
Dec 12th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I was recently listening to a presentation by one of my students on the topic of implementing a 21st century skill-based instructional philosophy.  It was a very thought provoking presentation; one of the most interesting comments was that in order to achieve success, there needs to be “a corporate change of disposition.”  How poignant.  When we look at examples of 21st century skills we quickly realize that we’re not talking about technology skills – we are talking about job ready skills:

  • Information literacy
  • Communication (spoken and written)
  • Self-Directed and Collaborative Work Ethic
  • Problem Solving
  • Innovation/Creativity
  • Responsible Citizenship

How we teach and measure these skills is the essence of high quality education.  They don’t exist in isolation, and they can’t exist without foundational knowledge and skills in literacy (reading/writing) and numeracy (mathematics).  The 3 “R”s are the bedrock while 21st century skills are the authentic application of them.

New CT Comissioner of Education
Oct 7th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

From the Hartford Current:

New State Schools Chief Begins Today, Declaring ‘We Are Tired Of The Lack Of Progress’

Rick Green

4:57 PM EDT, October 6, 2011

The heralded and long-awaited arrival of Stefan Pryor as Connecticut’s new education commissioner — he begins work Friday — is a bitter reminder of how little progress we’ve made solving our most persistent failure.

We talk endlessly about our economic future, and yet tens of thousands of children in urban schools are still falling behind, not learning and dropping out. There are few, if any, larger obstacles holding Connecticut back.

What, I wanted to know when I met with the commissioner-to-be this week, could Pryor possibly do that governors, previous commissioners and hundreds of educators haven’t already done to tackle what is the nation’s greatest achievement gap?

“I think there is a recognition that this is a special moment,” Pryor responded, explaining that it his good fortune to be working for an impatient governor who has promised an education agenda during his second year in office.

“The sense I get from everybody — the education associations, the union leaders, the advocacy group leaders, the legislators, the state board members — is that we are tired of the lack of progress. We are ready for a shift forward.”

Though Pryor was cautious and guarded during our chat, it was still clear that education policy under the 39-year-old Yale graduate may shift seismically in coming months. This is a man, after all, who made an early name for himself as the founder of one of Connecticut’s most successful charter schools, the Amistad Academy in New Haven. More recently, Pryor was a top aide to Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Above all, Pryor was brought here to create change. Some important highlights emerged from our conversation:

•A streamlined state Department of Education, one that focuses more on the fundamental problems of struggling schools, will emerge. Shifting from a regulation-and-compliance bureaucracy focused on paperwork to a more nimble agency that exists to improve learning will be a top priority.

•School districts that succeed can expect new freedom. Schools, experimental or traditional, that show results will be held up as models — and replicated.

•Teachers who achieve will be rewarded. Whether students actually learn must become part of how educators are evaluated. In particular, getting the best teachers into the lowest-performing schools will become a top priority.

•Student achievement, measured by indicators like standardized tests, will continue to be a critical metric for evaluating schools.

“At the moment, when there are national dialogues about which states are moving in the right direction, you don’t hear Connecticut’s name,” Pryor said. “The unit that parents think about … is the school. We as a department need to think about the schools of our state and how to improve them.”

Two things Pryor spoke repeatedly about — giving more freedom to school districts that achieve, and promoting successful individual schools as examples for the state — are particularly noteworthy. Significantly, we have no shortage of high-achieving schools and districts in Connecticut.

It would be revolutionary if Connecticut’s state Department of Education became known for helping good ideas grow and for getting out of the way of districts that are already succeeding.

“What can the state department do for higher performing districts? Get out of the way,” Pryor said. The big idea, he told me, Is to “spend more time with this districts that need the help.”

Pryor warned me — repeatedly — that he was not arriving as an acolyte of the charter school movement, which is often pitted against traditional education and unions. Charters play a very small role in the education of children in Connecticut. Like other model schools, they can be an example, he said.

“Effective schools will play a large role in this new era,” Pryor said, whatever the design or governance structure. “My goal will be … to promote those schools, to expand those schools, to replicate those schools that show effectiveness.”

Teacher evaluation, a favorite topic of seat-of-the-pants school reformers, must improve, but by working with all sides, particularly the unions, Pryor said. Significantly, this must include a career path that rewards and promotes effective teachers.

“It is essential that student performance be an element of evaluation and companion in our system,” he said. “That is something that we are going to engage as a very healthy, very full conversation with all of the stakeholders.

“We need to ensure that the teaching profession provides for ways for outstanding faculty members to advance in their careers. And advancement includes increased compensation over time.”

Pryor, who has a reputation as a workhorse, said he plans to begin his job with a listening tour of schools, classrooms and towns around the state.

“I think it’s possible to map out an approach that people agree upon. Will there be conflict? You can count on it. The place to start from is what do we agree on what do we want to accomplish,” he said. “People are hungry for that.”

The more I examine and think about “CHANGE,” the more I realize it happens in the evolution of dated individual teaching and learning philosophies of education to constructivist thinking.

Principles of Adult Education (Andragony)
Sep 15th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

When we speak of instructional strategies, we often use the term pedagogy.  However adult learning is different and termed andragony.  I’ve been thinking about adragogical strategies and how to effectively apply them in my teaching of experienced teachers.  Below are some thoughts on the topic:


Noun: The method and practice of teaching, esp. as an academic subject or theoretical concept.


an· dra·go·gy/ änəˌgäjē /

Noun: the practice of teaching adults with emphasis on participation of students in the planning and evaluation

Adults have different expectations in learning than children do.  It is important to take into consideration the needs of the adult learner when engaging in professional development.  Androgogy is the term used to describe the methodology used in teaching adults.

Androgogy, the teaching of adults, contains the following important components and tenets.  Adult learning is voluntary and learner-oriented.  Education brings freedom to the learners as they assimilate learning with life experiences.  Androgogy encourages divergent thinking and active learning.  Often the roles of the learner and the teacher are blurred in the process.  Often there is an uncertainty about the outcome of learning, regardless of the curriculum content.

Research demonstrates that there is a difference in learning between novice professionals and expert professionals.  A professional developer should be aware of his audience’s expertise level and adjust instruction appropriately.  Three main aspects of performance change in novice to expert learners:

  • i.) the novice professional’s work paradigm focuses on abstract principles while the expert uses concrete past experiences;
  • ii.) the novice often views situations discretely where the expert sees situations as part of a whole;
  • iii.) the novice is often a detached observer where the expert is an involved performer (Daley, 1999).

A striking difference when considering novices and experts is that novices are often hindered by specifics of the job, where experts are often hindered by the system.  Novices prefer, and best learn formally, where experts learn best informally, often in conjunction with their peers.  Novice professionals prefer learning strategies like memory and therefore accumulate information, while the expert professional uses dialogue to create a knowledge base (Daley, 1999).

I think, most important to consider, are some practical aspects of facilitating adult learning.  According to Knowles, there are six assumptions related to motivation of adults:

  1. Adults need to know the reason for learning something (Need to Know)
  2. Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities (Foundation).
  3. Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education; involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept).
  4. Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives (Readiness).
  5. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Orientation).
  6. Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators (Motivation).

Daley, B.J. (1999). Novice to expert: an exploration of how professionals learn.  Adult Education Quarterly, 49, 4, 133-147.

Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From. (Revised Edition). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge

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