Digital Learning & Leading Journey Synthesis

It’s a little crazy to think about how much can change in just 18 months.  18 months ago, I was in my third year of teaching as an Early Childhood/Middle School photography teacher.  I was brand new and excited to be teaching.  While I was still somewhat new to the school and to teaching, I knew that I wanted to be more than a teacher.

I wanted to be a leader.

Now, 18 months later, I’m wrapping up the last course of my graduate studies through Lamar University and getting ready to walk across the stage at graduation!  In this short amount of time, I’ve made some great connections with other educators across the country and have learned so much about what it means to be a great educator, however, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without the help and encouragement of my school administration.  It was through a discussion on personal and professional goals with my Headmaster and Head of EC/Lower School, that I mentioned that I was thinking about going back to school.  I received some great feedback and suggestions from both of them, and had they not pointed me in the right direction, I don’t think I would have gone to grad school as soon as I did, and I’m not entirely sure I would have discovered Lamar University and/or the DLL program.  It’s funny how life plays out.

Throughout the 18 month long journey of the Digital Learning and Leading program, I’ve had some pretty great learning experiences.  While the non traditional COVA approach to learning took a little bit of an adjustment for me, I realize that this is also what empowered me as a learner and educator.  Sure, in the beginning that was a little bit of frustration because I wanted my assignments to have yes or no answers.  Either I got it right or wrong, but there wasn’t any of that.  While teaching and learning based on the COVA model is hard, it’s really an adjustment that needs to be made.  I can see where many schools are not yet ready to embrace COVA- it’s too risky, giving up the control.

We just need to continue to find ways to be facilitators of learning and not dictators.

When I stop and think of the accomplishments I’ve made in the program, I realize that the results are too great.  What this program has done for me goes further than the accomplishments.  Aside from the amounts of work and late hours, I’ve gained even more confidence in myself as an educator and as a leader.  The assignments have definitely been worthwhile and have helped push me into more of a leadership role in my school.  My innovation plan, which has taken up most of my focus during this program hasn’t gone unnoticed by my administration- in fact, they want to see and hear more and have given me opportunities to show what I have learned and try it with my students.  That in itself is a big accomplishment for me.  I know that it’s not that easy for many in this country, and that for many teachers, their voices and proposals go unheard or are given very little thought.  For many in the public school system, there are countless hoops to go through to initiate change.  I realize how difficult it can be, and I’m grateful to be at a school that listens to it’s teachers and allows them to try new approaches and ideas.

Another “tangible” accomplishment that I am proud is this ePortfolio.  Looking back at a year and half’s worth of work all housed in my ePortfolio is pretty amazing to reflect back on.  I had fun giving my ePortfolio a little bit of personality and making it my own, and I also love being able to refer my site to colleagues and other administrators in my organization.  The work speaks for itself.

Take a moment and Sway with me.  Check out the visual presentation below to see what this experience has been like for me.  If you want to further your professional teaching career and are thinking about entering into an online Masters program, look into Lamar University.  This program has taken me to places that weren’t even on my radar 18 months ago.



Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Kshatri, J. (2016, February 28). Crucial conversations [Blog post]. Retrieved from Pulse website: crucial-conversations-jay-kshatri

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial Conversations- Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High (2nd ed.) [nookbook].


Leads, Lags, WIGs and a Whirlwind- The 4DX Model

I’m one week away from completing my 5th graduate course in Digital Learning and Leading, and over the course of the last 7 months, I’ve learned SO much about what it means to be a Digital Leader in the classroom, in an organization, and even in a district.  At the completion of my current course, I will have spent the entire 5 weeks reviewing different change implementation strategies to apply to my innovation plan.  It’s quite interesting to look back at my implementation outline and see how it has evolved and changed.

The information I’ve been soaking in the past couple of weeks stems from a book written by Sean Covey, Jim Huling and Chris McChesney entitled, The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals.  In a nutshell, what the authors have laid out for us are a precise set of rules that can put any plan into action.  I think what I love most about this is that the authors understand that people have great ideas- whether they be personal or work related goals, people really do want to change for the better, and when they can’t reach those goals, it isn’t because their dumb or lazy.  It’s because their busy.  When I first read this, I felt like the skies opened up and the heavens were singing praise.  In my mind, I was like, “Yessss!  Someone finally understands that I didn’t just quit, or forget about it!”.  What the authors are referring to when they say this, is that people get caught up in their day to day operations- whether it be lesson planning, meetings, parent conversations, or dealing with child behavioral issues- and often times, this urgency hinders their ability to really put a plan into action.  This is called a whirlwind.  We all have one, and sometimes, we just need a little help executing our goals in the midst of our whirlwind.

This is exactly what the 4 Disciplines of Execution were created to do.  There are rules to follow to get us to where we want to go, but the hard part is that these rules must be followed in order for us to succeed.  If you think back to the Influencer strategy I discussed, you could ask yourself, “Wasn’t that a plan for successful execution as well”?  Yes, but the difference between the Influencer strategy and 4DX is that the Influencer model focuses more on the psychological aspect of implementing change, and 4DX is all about the logistics.  I have taken a liking to both strategies, and understand now, how they can complement each other.  For me, it is not one or the other.  Personal, social, and structural influence is just as important as the following necessary steps.

The Stages of Change

Stage 1- Getting Clear:  I’ve gone over my innovation plan countless times to make sure I am as thorough as possible.  I’ve crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s, and I’ve developed a clear and concise WIG (Wildly Important Goal) that you will see below.  I acknowledge that I need to be as transparent as possible with my team and I will need to make myself readily available for assistance.

Stage 2- Lauch:  I am preparing for the lauch stage, as I type this blog post.  I am 10 days away from the first day of school, and as that date approaches I am meeting with my Director of Fine Arts and my fellow technology leaders to ensure that I am set to pilot this new program at our school.  I feel as if this stage is super important for me, because as I begin this year long pilot in my class, I will need to make sure I keep my administrators and middle school colleagues in the loop of the progress I will be making throughout the year.

Stage 3- Adoption:  I am anticipating some resistance to my plan, not from my administrators, but from some colleagues.  I expect that resistance to begin to fade away during this pilot year, once they can clearly see and understand how the following disciplines will lead to the successful execution of the WIG.  This, coupled with the student excitement of creating something that is personalized to their liking and that has the benefits of getting them into the schools they want to go to, is sure to get all teachers on board with the plan.

Stage 4- Optimization:  In this stage, I will expect teachers to be more purposeful in their own classrooms and to be active leaders.  As they begin to produce successful results in their classrooms, they will begin to look for ways in which we can improve our plan.  How can we continue to make it better?

Stage 5- Habits:  Until we have reached this stage, when the the 4 Disciplines of Execution have become second nature to us, can we call ourselves winners.  I believe once we meet our goal, others will be more open to the idea of risk taking.

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important Goal

I talked earlier of the whirlwind and how it can cause us to loose sight of our goals.  Another important point I’ve taken away from 4DX, is that we should only have 1-2 set goals that we want to achieve.  I found this statistic, taken from the embedded video at the bottom of this post, to be very interesting.

goalsvisualThe more big goals you have on your plate, the harder it is to achieve any of those, so it it important to focus on 1-2 goals so that the chances of success are higher.  My Wildly Important Goal (WIG) is to have all middle school Presbyterian teachers designing and planning appropriate lessons that will enable student work to be uploaded onto an ePortfolio platform by May 2018.

This needs to continue to be the top priority, and results will be measured in a variety of ways.  It is also important to share successes and exemplars in all-faculty and/or division meetings to serve as recognition and inspiration on the usages of the ePortfolio in the classroom.

Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures

Lag and Lead Measures are two terms that the authors introduce to us in the 4DX book.  The terms are new to me, but the concept make total sense.  Simply put, the lag measure measures the goal and the lead measures are the important steps that need to be taken that can get us to the goal.  My lag measure is to have all middle school students graduate from the 8th grade with a solid ePortfolio.  The success of the lag measure rides on the execution of the following lead measures:

  1. Teacher Modeling- Teachers must model continuous use of the ePortfolio in each of their subjects by utilizing their own sites in classroom instruction and lessons.
  2. Collaboration and Accountability- Teachers must regularly partner with technology teachers and leaders for effective ePortfolio project designs.
  3. Evaluation and Grading- Incorporate technology integration grading criteria by evaluating student work in ePortfolios each quarter.

Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

The importance of creating a compelling scoreboard is vital.  We want to our teachers to feel like they have a chance to win, and an effective way to do that is to create a visual for them.  It’s important to keep in mind that the scoreboard needs to be simple, and not overwhelming with a bunch of statistics, and we want to make sure we have it placed in a location that is visible and/or can be accessed by everyone.  I’ve created the following example of a scoreboard that I would like to use for our ePortfolio implementation, and you’ll notice that I’ve included what the scoreboard might look like once all middle school teachers are involved.   There will be 4 different scoreboards for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and each grade level’s scoreboard will have the number of assignments submitted and the teachers for each subject.  I plan on creating a tangible scoreboard that will be placed in the middle school hallway in between the two displays of framed student work.  I will be placing it in this specific location so that it is in view where everyone, even students could see it. That way, even though the students aren’t the ones being measured, they, too, will begin rooting for their teachers.


 Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability

We will need to make sure we are intentional about scheduling regular meetings with all parties involved that will be helping make this initiative happen.  During this pilot year, I will need to meet briefly with my Director of Fine Arts, Academic Dean, and leaders of the Covenant team on a weekly basis to touch base and talk about ways we can improve the “standings” on the scoreboard.  We will specifically reflect on last week’s measures, review the scoreboard to see if our lead and lag measures are making progress, and finally, we will need to make commitments for the upcoming week.  These will take place during PLC Mondays, to ensure that it meets everyone’s schedules, and will only be about 15-20 minutes long.


As I conclude this post, I hope it is evident how the 4DX strategy can help us all execute our goals in the midst of our everyday whirlwind.  I’m including the video below to help with your understanding of  how the 4DX strategy works.

Click here to access a full interactive view of my TACKK board.


Covey, F. (2012). Executive Overview of the 4 Disciplines of Execution [Video file]. Retrieved from

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your 
Wildly Important Goals. London: Simon & Schuster.


The Influencer Strategy-Desired Results, Vital Behaviors & The Six Sources of Influence

The benefits of the student ePortfolio have been widely reviewed and according to Ross Miller and Wende Morgaine, “A well-executed e-portfolio program is an incredible tool for higher education” (Miller, Moraine 2009).  Presbyterian School understands the valuable role technology has in education, and we strive to stay current on advances and trends that will benefit our students in the classroom.  For the past 6 years, our learners have benefited greatly and have gained valuable learning experiences in digital citizenship through our 1:1 iPad initiative, and  it’s now time to take things a step further.

When it comes to bringing about change in an organization, I’ve learned that spewing out statistics and information is simply not enough.  I’ve learned that in addition to influencing the mind, we’ve got to also influence the heart.  And even then, once we have fully had an influence on people of an organization, there are still a multitude of steps and strategies that come into play in order to get change initiatives off the floor.  I’ve gotten a lot of valuable information from the book, Influencer, in terms of what the next steps are for me in this ePortfolio program.  Desired results and how they will be measured need to be made clear, those involved in the change effort need to be identified, and important vital behaviors must take place in order for the desired results to be achieved.  All of this information must be clearly outlined so that effective change can begin to take place.

Beginning in the Fall of 2016, I will begin piloting a student ePortfolio program at Presbyterian School for all learners enrolled in Digital Photography.  What I’d like to see happen with this pilot program is to eventually have all middle school students create their own ePortfolio to use throughout their years as PS, so that once they are ready to apply to High School and colleges/universities, they have a strong educational resumé to provide these higher education institutions.  In order for our students to get to that point, there needs to be considerable change among ourselves, the teachers, first.  With this in mind, my desired result is to have all middle school Presbyterian teachers designing and planning appropriate lessons that will allow student work to be uploaded onto an ePortfolio platform by May 2018.

Results will be measured by tracking how often teachers are having students upload new work and personal reflections onto their ePortfolios.  There should be no fewer then 2 projects per semester per subject.  At the end of each quarter, students will be asked to  complete a course evaluation to obtain feedback on the ePortfolio implementation process so that teachers can continually  and effectively improve our digital lessons and projects. In addition, successes and exemplars will be shared in all-faculty and/or division meetings to serve as recognition and inspiration on the usages of the ePortfolio in the classroom.

There are many people that will be involved in helping make this implementation possible.  This, by all means, isn’t a little project, and in order for us to be able to do this successfully, it involves the help of our Academic Dean, Janet Fox,  Head of Middle School, Charles Gramatges, Director of Communications, Andrea Lawless, The Covenant Team, and every single one of our middle school teachers.

Taking into account all of this information, the following 4 key strategies have helped me identify the vital behaviors I wish to change in order to achieve the desired results.

Notice the Obvious

Presbyterian School has been a 1:1 iPad school for students in 4-8th grades for the past 6 years.  In addition, all middle school classrooms are equipped with Apple TVs for projection and sharing purposes.  The addition of the iPads have eliminated unnecessary paperwork and worksheets, and with the help of eBackpack, time spent on grading and assessment by teachers has reduced substantially, however, there are other facets in which the iPads and Apple TVs can be used.  With the ePortfolio program beginning in August of 2016, teachers will need to be educated on the purposes of the ePortfolio and what it entails.  We have the necessary tool (iPads) to create and build the site, we just need to be sure that they are continuously being used to upload new content regularly to further our initiative.

Look for Crucial Moments

I can envision the students’ excitement at the opportunity to create a personalized ePortfolio website, however, I am also expecting that excitement to taper off after a few weeks.  For the same reasons that researchers wonder why people do not continue to use their ePortfolios after the class or school requires them to, I believe that it’s important to model the use of the ePortfolios from the instructor’s standpoint.  Students will “forget about it” and let laziness set in, if not actively encouraged to utilize the online portfolios.  In an effort to avoid this, I feel it is necessary to hold all teachers accountable for modeling the uses and advantages of the ePortfolio by integrating their own site as a go-to for examples, advice and reflections throughout the course.

Learn from Positive Deviants

It will be important for all teachers to regularly partner up with others in their department or grade level, and with technology teachers to carefully design and plan lessons that will be embedded in the ePortfolios.  We are lucky to have so many knowledgable individuals  in one place that can help us successfully move our initiative forwards.  Remember, to never hesitate to ask someone for their input in your idea.  In addition to our other PLC topics offered on designated Mondays, there will be a PLC devoted to ePortfolios that teachers can sign up for to get ideas or advice from others.

Spot Culture Busters

As this is a new initiative, and will likely take some time to get used to, I realize that I need eliminate the mindset that a project this big is something that can only be done on a computer or laptop.  Some teachers, and even students, may think that the iPad isn’t a tool they can use to maintain their ePortfolios, but in reality, we have access to such a versatile tool and we need to make sure they are being utilized to their full potential.  Teachers need to be held accountable for incorporating technology integration grading criteria for all learners during each quarter, so we don’t fall short of our desired result.


The Six Sources of Influence



Created using  Click here for a full interactive view of the above TACKK board.



BSJOBERG. (2015). Six Sources of Influence. [JPEG]. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from

Granny, J., Mayfield, D., McMillan, R., Patterson, K., & Switzler, A. (2007). Influencer. McGraw-Hill Education

Miller, R. & Morgaine, W. (2009). The Benefits of E-portfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words. peer Review, 11(1), n.d.