Book Notes & Thoughts: The Making of Pro-Life Activists, by Ziad Munson


This book might seem out of my general topic area, but after hearing Hahrie Han speak at the Carnegie Summit last year (in which she mentioned this book) and reading her book about organizing social movements, I wanted to dig a little deeper into how social movements mobilize and sustain their work.

Bryk, Gomez, & Grunow’s 2011 paper Getting Ideas into Action is probably THE foundational piece of my graduate school inquiries (and likely the rest of my career). They describe improvement science in networked improvement communities as sustained, collective action. This is a phrase that I continue to circle and turn over. I like the pragmatic focus of understanding why people to do what they do, particularly things that have collective momentum and/or impact, but I also see how difficult this is. We have such a deeply held belief that “the more you know” will make change, but over and over again, we find that people have their own minds and act in unpredictable ways.

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Carnegie Summit, 2017: Pre-Conference

This is my favorite week of the year. For the third time, I’m excited to attend the Carnegie Summit. This is a place where people are talking about things the same way I want to. I’m inspired by the work people do and the amazing results they have improving the lives of their students and teachers.

For the first time I’ll be attending a pre-conference session on “Using Data for Improvement”. With our work this spring, I’ve found that the hardest thing is for teachers to use measurements! It’s been tough to find practical measures that teachers feel is a good enough responder to what they are trying to accomplish. For example, I suggested using the amount of time a student talks in response to a question. This was dismissed as misleading: students could be concise and clear or longwinded and obtuse, but the amount of time did not for sure reflect quality. I’m hoping to get lots of examples of what schools have used and perhaps some principles or logic about how to come up with them.

The keynotes this year are Tony Bryk, Becky Margiotta & Joe McCannon, Peter Senge, and Jeff Duncan-Andrade.

Other sessions I’m interested to attend:

  • How do we improve? A comparison between three approaches to improving quality
  • Building a science of improvement
  • Tracking networks through social network analysis
  • Developing ideas for change: Where do good ideas come from?
  • How improvement science advances outcomes and opportunity
  • Seeing the system from the user’s point of view through journey maps

Of course in the middle of all of this I am also midway through a first draft of my dissertation proposal. Hopefully this will be inspiration for some evening productivity!


Carnegie Summit 2016 Reflections: Improvement Science for Social Justice?

The first Carnegie paper I read was Getting Ideas into Action (2011). This led to reading on the Carnegie website, reading Organizing Schools for Improvement and Learning to Improve, eventually getting into Engelbart’s original address to Bootstrap, and attending the Carnegie Summit in 2015… which is all to say that I did not come at this from a social justice perspective. I thought the networks were cool and the results were compelling. But as I was sitting in the closing keynote by Marshall Ganz, surrounded by an audience of mostly white people concerned with practical measurements and driver diagrams, I thought to myself, “Why is a civil rights community organizer giving the closing keynote at this summit?”

Over the past year, I’ve taken two classes which have dramatically shifted my graduate school path: Legal Issues of School Choice with Julie Mead and Ideology and Curriculum with Michael Apple. Both have challenged me to ask questions about power, equity, justice, and race as it relates to the public educational system. Though my awareness of white privilege and race traces back to the Klingenstein Summer Institute and the Intercultural Competencies work as OES, a year ago I still saw it as something auxiliary to my core work. Now, while I may not convert to being a critical theorist, my view of the world has been challenged and perhaps reoriented to more complex understanding of the systems we live and act within.

This year, the theme of social justice was even stronger:

  • A quote from Kim Gomez (which I saw on Twitter): “It is a social justice issue to teach with curriculum that doesn’t give all students access.”
  • Keynote speaker, Hahrie Han: building the power for change is about engaging people that recognizes their humanity; instantiate networks that recognizes our humanity and keeps the child at the center; peace and justice are a struggle
  • Louis Gomez introduced the final keynote with the line, “The quest for equity takes many paths.”
  • Closing Keynote speaker, Bryan Stevenson: Get proximate with the people who are excluded, change the narratives that sustain the problems, stay hopeful, be willing to do uncomfortable things.

This has all led me to be skeptical of improvement science and its promises. Is it an interruption or perpetuation?


Carnegie Summit 2016: Pre-Conference


Here I am, my second year attending the Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education! I’m presenting a poster of my research: A Cross-Case Analysis of Three Networked Approaches to Educational Change.

Every time I attend a conference, I try to write out my goals for attending or questions I have. I try to do this before the conference, but this year it’s happening on day two.

My experience with the conference this year is a bit different because over the past year I’ve immersed myself in the work of Improvement Science and Networked Improvement Communities, Design-Based Implementation Research, and the Theory of Action of the Institute for Personalized Learning (see poster above).

My focus this year will be to look for strategies for starting a Networked Improvement Community. I’m also keeping my ears open for opportunities for my own research inquiry/dissertation. To do this, I’m looking for what people talk about, how people talk about it, what people don’t understand or struggle with, and contradictions in what people say. One of the most interesting threads is Improvement Science and NICs for social justice. I wonder how critical theorists might think about this work.

Sessions I’m interested in attending:

  • Launching a NIC
  • Crafting the narrative of your NIC
  • Building a measurement system for improvement
  • Network Development Evaluation (meta-analysis of the network)
  • Understanding the Problem you are trying to solve: Causal system analysis OR Leveraging content expertise to build change packages in networks


  • Tony Bryk – Narrative of the Pathways program
  • Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland – digital media and data scientist
  • Hahrie Han – how organizations “engage, mobilize, and organize activists and leaders”
  • Bryan Stevenson – Equal Justice Initiative, author of Just Mercy

Reflections on my first semester of graduate school

I finished my first semester of graduate school! Hooray! It has better than I could have ever imagined, even when I started planning this 4 years ago. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found my way to this place at this time.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Sometimes it feels like I don’t “do” anything all day. There is no immediate feedback from students or peers, no fires to put out, sometimes a meeting, usually a couple journal articles.
  2. Is it worth my time to do this? There are so many things to join, brown bags to attend, books to read, concepts to understand, MOOCs to take, blog posts to write. Should I?
  3. What will my question be? What will my research be? Is it edgy enough? Is it radical enough? Is it interesting enough? Will it get me a job? Will I like it? Will it be a profound change in the life of all people teaching in schools everywhere for ever and ever? Will I finish it?
  4. My questions change every day, if not every hour. After a lecture about the future of higher ed I debated jumping from K-12 focus to higher ed. Wait a minute. Do I want to read about it or devote my intellectual life to it? Is it interesting or fascinating?
  5. I want to stay here forever!
  6. I want to graduate at soon as possible to escape the cold weather and earn a salary.
  7. Will anyone be interested in my research? Do I even belong here? *Sigh*

This spring I’m taking four classes, one of which is public school law, which I’m super excited about. I’m not really sure why, but maybe because law school is one of those paths not taken, and this might be a glimpse in that direction. I’m also going to take an Interactive Museum Exhibit Design class, mostly because it sounds fun and I’ll get to make stuff. Onward!

As always, I am grateful for a supportive partner, who tucks the kid in at night when I’m at class and listens to me babble about things I’m thinking about. There is no way my ideas would be as good or my spirits as high or my life as full without him.

MIT’s App Inventor (or, What I’ve been up to)

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.58.34 PM

This weekend I learned how to programs apps for Android in order to do a computer science badge with the Girl Scouts. I had volunteered last fall to do an activity with them as a way to encourage girls towards computer careers.


  1. If finally makes sense to me why we teach Scratch. When I saw the blocks editor, I recognized the format immediately – and so did the 4th graders. They caught on pretty quickly, even if my explanations weren’t quite as practiced as would have been helpful.
  2. The girls had AMAZING ideas for apps. One where you bounce on a trampoline and try to break a glass ceiling. (As I was standing there teaching programming to girls, there was some meta awareness about them designing a game to break a glass ceiling.) One where you are animals and have to fight poachers. Another one where you get to go to a virtual school and experience what a day is like – wouldn’t that be an amazing tool for kids new a school from a very different background if they could walk through a day, kind of like an orientation? Sounds like this game from GLS.
  3. I love that I have a job where I get to learn new things with kids.
  4. In developing a pK-12 computer science curriculum, I think we need to decide which language we’re going to teach. I’m thinking right now it would make sense to begin with scratch and teach that up until midway through 6th grade, javascript from mid-6th grade through 8th grade, then java in upper school. Whichever we decide, I have more learning to do!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel

Today, I shared a short reflection of my experience at POCC with the middle school during our weekly chapel service. I usually shy away from this sort of thing, but if I want to be engage more with this, I need to speak up when I have the chance. So here goes:

I had the privilege of attending the People of Color Conference last December. There, I attended a session about how white children are (or usually are not) socialized to talk about race. It made me realized that when I was a child, my parents and teachers never talked to me directly about race or privilege, though that in no way is meant to blame them. Although I knew people were different, I didn’t develop the language or skills to talk about my experiences. And learning to talk about race and privilege is a skill that you can learn.

At the Conference, I questioned why, as someone who identifies as white, I would be allowed or even invited to attend. I came away understanding that my role, as a person of privilege, is to be an ally to those with fewer privileges. In order to do that, I need to develop my own racial identity.

One of the concrete goals that I made after leaving the conference is to talk to my son about race and privilege so that he will grow up with the awareness and skills for understanding his privileges in a world that treats people differently.

Goals and Resolutions

I just stumbled upon the “MS 2 Year Tech Plan” for 2012-2014 that I wrote two years ago. Apparently I internalized what I wrote down, because without looking at this for awhile, we’re making quite a bit of progress!

Major Goals:

1. Using the curriculum design, think through/evaluate new initiatives around programming & computational thinking and online/blended classroom environments – evaluating specifically amount of time expected for students, where resources are.

  • SimCity is well established in the 7th grade science curriculum
  • Minecraft is installed on all computers and kids have been using it in 6th humanities to sketch out their India buildings
  • Participation in Computer Science Education Week: I taught at least 45 minutes of coding to every single student and have carried on several lessons into 6th tech
  • Several teachers using flipped classroom models – mostly (to be honest) without any direct support from me

2. Parent partnership

  • Very well attended session on Instagram
  • Parent speed-geeking session that was well received
  • Upcoming session with a social media professional and another one on gaming

3. Personal

  • I’m continuing to blog and share – I was excited at how well my ICC Reflection was received by the committee
  • I’ve elaborated on the topics on my “Engaging Beyond” page
  • I updated my resume and wrote my personal statement
  • I’ve presented at two conferences and joined the executive committee for the ISTE Special Interest Group for Independent Schools
  • Supported teachers in fostering their own professional development, whether through encouraging presenting or developing their online presence through a portfolio or social media account
  • I took two MOOCs this fall, one on comic books and graphic novels and the other on video games and learning. I learned A LOT, shared a lot of the resources, and it fueled my energy for learning.

What we haven’t done:

  • Assessing what we already do through the lens of pre-production, production, post-production, publication
  • We still don’t have a curriculum design for technology pK-teachers
  • Students publishing online

Resolutions: What would I like to get done this spring?

  • Articulate the pK-teacher technology curriculum
  • More opportunities for teachers to see the value of Minecraft and integrate it into their curriculum
  • Curriculum opportunities for programming
  • Proposal for 8th grade rotation class in video game design, app design, social media, and 3D modeling

Would your students have been able to do your assignments 20 years ago?

Ruben R Puentedura’s model for enhancing technology integration.

I’ve been thinking about innovation in education recently. Actually, I pretty much always thinking and reading about it. Yet somehow the SAMR model for technology integration had never come across my screen. I was scrolling through Feedly and up popped this blog post by Jeff Utecht about using iPads to replace textbooks. His point was essentially, “Really? That’s the best we can think of?”

It got me to thinking about where my teachers are on the continuum of integrating technology. Are their “projects” innovative or just tied with the shiny bow of new technology? Continue reading

Fall is here, ring the bell

OES Bell Tower, Flikr photo credit to Day Tooley

Fall is here, hear the yell

This song by The White Stripes has become a tradition to sing at our first middle school gathering. I got a little choked up singing with everyone on Wednesday, counting my blessings to be part of this community. Although I’ve really been back at work for the last few weeks, it didn’t truly begin until this. Honestly, it feels more like a family reunion than going to work.

Our head of school began last Tuesday with an address to the entire faculty and staff. She referred back to her charge last June to be open to change and wove it into a story about Taliesin House, built by Frank Lloyd Wright. As she describes it, Taliesin is beautiful from a distance, with horizontal and vertical lines that nestle it into the hillside, yet as you get closer, you see that every space in the house is under constant redesign. This makes the building itself feel alive with change as the designers perpetually seek improvement. The metaphor was perfect, even if obvious, in capturing the essence of the constant growth that should take place in a school. While striving for vertical and horizontal coordination, we should all be fundamentally engaged in improving in our individual practice. Furthermore, this metaphor gives us the twofold direction she has chartered for this year: (1) coherent school identity, facilities, and program and (2) curriculum changes to align with PreK-12 curriculum and the Essential Competencies and support system upgrades. Continue reading