Summer Reading: TICAL Cadre recommendations

Posted by Michael Simkins on July 1, 2018

Book open on beach with stones holding down pagesIt’s not easy for school administrators to find time to read a book, but if it’s ever going to happen, it’s during July. Here are fourteen recommendations from members of the TICAL Cadre!

Leading Minds: An anatomy of leadership by Howard Gardner

This book dissects the leadership approaches and skill sets of 11 amazing leaders such as Martin Luther King, Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt, and J. Robert Oppenheimer. I have not finished the book yet but so far so good as I jump around, focusing on the leaders who interest me the most. The minds of leaders and the people who follow them…a great read for outstanding leadership!

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner

From a prominent educator, author, and founder of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group comes a provocative look at why innovation is today’s most essential real-world skill and what young people need from parents, teachers, and employers to become the innovators of America’s future.

Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems by Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn

Coherence is a book that demands action – it moves from the narrative of fixing one teacher at a time, to asking about the coherence of the system (be it school, national, or world issues). Fullan and Quinn create an important narrative about direction, working together, deepening learning, and securing accountability. The book sparkles with examples of coherence in action, it makes no excuses for employing the wrong levers of change.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesizes them into a fascinating, readable narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways.

Learner-Centered Innovation: Spark Curiosity, Ignite Passion, and Unleash Genius by Katie Martin

A mix of research and personal anecdotes that is compelling and actionable. Appropriate for any educator, but particularly relevant for innovative leaders. “When we tell kids to complete an assignment, we get compliance. When we empower kids to explore and learn how to make an impact on the world, we inspire problem solvers and innovators.”

Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James Doty, M.D.

This book is a fast easy read. The author makes the connection between the physiological body and the practice of meditation. The author also had a very traumatic childhood and his story reminds us of the power of the mind to overcome obstacles.

Notice & Note: Strategies for close reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst

Need to nuture your inner teacher this summer? Notice and Note introduces 6 “signposts” that alert readers to significant moments in a work of literature and encourages them to read closely. This helps create attentive readers who look closely at a text, interpret it responsibly and rigorously, and reflect on what it means to them.

Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being by Shawn Achor

This book covers the recent research about how relationships and social connections are more important and influential to achieve happiness and well-being for you and those around you.

The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World by Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen

Do you ever worry about they myriad ways we use technology without really thinking about what we’re doing and why—particularly when we’re using mobile devices? That’s what this book is about: thoughtful use.

Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman

Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts. You will never look at the world the same way again after you read this book: how you understand the news, the work you do, the education your kids need, the investments your employer has to make, and the moral and geopolitical choices our country has to navigate will all be refashioned by Friedman’s original analysis.

Greater Than Yourself: The ultimate lesson of true leadership by Steven Farber

Greater Than Yourself is a powerful and inspiring story that shows how the goal of a leader is to lift others higher than themselves. A great leader will encourage teammates, employees, and colleagues to become more capable, confident and accomplished than they are themselves.

Bobby Kennedy: A raging spirit by Chris Matthews

A revealing new portrait of Robert F. Kennedy that gets closer to the man than any book before. “A good read for folks about a time when courage, compassion and ideas is what we looked for in our leaders.”

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney

This is a great read to help focus a team on common goals toward a common vision. What I like best is the simplistic recommendations about how to keep the important work at the forefront. I started using it this year to help hone work in large department meetings. This is our common read for next year.

Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else) by Ken Auletta

“The Mad Men days are gone forever, replaced in large part by “quants” and algorithms. The challenge is how to sell products on mobile devices without harassing consumers, how to reach a younger generation accustomed to dodging ads, how to capture consumer attention in an age where choices proliferate and a mass audience is rare.” See any parallels to the challenges we have in education?”

Thank you to the following cadre members for sharing their personal recommendations:

Aaron Palm
Butch Owens
Devin Vodicka
Jack Jarvis
Janice Delagrammatikas
Jason Borgen
Lisa Marie Gonzales
Stephen Vaughn
Susan Brooks Young
Susan Gilley
Tim Landeck

View this TICAL Summer Reading List on Amazon.



Leading Change for the First Year Superintendent

Posted by Charles Young on July 27, 2015

People meeting around table.My mother was fond of sayings. This was most likely her way of having a ready response to the countless interactions and sometimes chaotic doings in a house of six kids, five of them boys, and a myriad array of pets, most of which were poorly behaved, but loving dogs. Being the youngest child, I had a front row seat to the exciting events produced by my mischievous brothers and eye-rolling sister.

The two sayings I remember Mother using the most were (and at first glance they appear entirely contradictory):

“Don’t worry, it may never happen.”

“There is nothing as constant as change.”

As I move through the early days of my new role as a superintendent of the Benicia Unified School District, my mother’s sayings come back to me as I contemplate, most specifically, the first 100 days.

The research on change is long and deep. The names that come to mind include Kurt Lewin (often referred to as the father of organizational change theory), Peter Senge, Michael Fullan and Wayne Dyer. While it would be presumptuous of me to assume that I can add much of anything that is new,  I can point out a few ideas that are jumping out at me as I process what I have read over the years in terms of my new role and context, and how I might apply what I’ve learned— complemented, of course, by a bit of my mother’s wisdom!

Balance Being with Doing

While change is inevitable, and the desire to enact change as a superintendent is a strong force, the importance of being fully present—being—and truly learning about the organization’s norms and culturedoing—are critical to long term success. Time must be spent learning deeply about the new system, its successes, goals, challenges and opportunities for growth. Being centers on building relationships and cultivating the trust that will enable the doing of new things and the fulfillment of new goals.

Go Slow to Go Fast

Change efforts, small or large, can be complicated and necessitate careful consideration. While we worry about variables that may or may not happen, allowing ourselves to slow down, build capacity, establish clarity and develop a clearly articulated action plan will ensure greater levels of success. The go-slow part of this effort can include an important element for a new superintendent, and that is gaining early wins, even if small ones. These early wins can build enthusiasm, energy and confidence in your ability to lead in general, and specifically, in relation to change efforts.

Transitional vs. Transformational Change

Knowing the difference between these two major change categories helps shape the inevitability of change and assuage our sense of fear of the unknown. Transitional change includes modifying important parts of the system that need  improvement but won’t disrupt the organizaiton or move it in dramatically different directions. These change efforts are usually small in scale but important to growth and improvement and might include a change in meeting times and structures or defining and implementing different types of decision-making structures.

Transformational change efforts are larger in scale and influence greater numbers of people. Exaples might include the full implementation of professional learning communities, restructuring the student day, redesigning learning environments, or utilizing technology to truly differentiate the learning experience and challenge students to experience 21st Century skills on a deeper level.

While just twelve days into the job, my mother’s flashing light insights return to me. She reminds me that while change is inevitable, grounding myself in sound theory will help me navigate successful change efforts and manage the natural inclination to worry about elements that may seem outside our control.


Blips not to overlook

Posted by Butch Owens on January 31, 2013

Radar screenAs we venture forth into 2013, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at some items that should be on every administrator’s radar.  We all need to be developing a plan on how we will incorporate each into our schools.

Learning Management Systems

A learning management system (LMS) is a software application or Web-based technology used to plan, implement, and assess a specific learning process. Typically, a learning management system provides an instructor with a way to create and deliver content, monitor student participation, and assess student performance. A learning management system may also provide students with the ability to use interactive features such as threaded discussions, video conferencing, and discussion forums.  Read more.

Flipped Classrooms

Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher-created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom, and reverse teaching.  Read more.


Bring your own device (also referred to as Bring your own technology (BYOT), Bring your own phone (BYOP), and Bring your own PC (BYOPC)) is a term that is frequently used to describe the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) to their place of work and use those devices to access privileged company information and applications.[1] The term is also used to describe the same practice applied to students using personally owned devices in education settings.  Read more.


A massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational resources. Examples include Khan Academy and free offerings from Stanford and MIT.  Read more.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a free web-based office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. It also was a storage service but has since been replaced by the before-mentioned Google Drive. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. Google Docs combines the features of Writely and Spreadsheets with a presentation program incorporating technology designed by Tonic Systems.  Learn more.

California Student Bill of Rights Initiative

The California Student Bill of Rights Initiative did not make the ballot last November, but had it qualified for the ballot and been approved by the state’s voters, it would have:

  • Authorized school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to claim average daily attendance funding for student participation in approved online courses.
  • Authorized school districts to contract with public and private providers to deliver online courses taught by credentialed teachers.
  • Allowed students to take online courses offered by any school district, regardless of student’s residence.
  • Provided students access to courses required for admission to state universities.
  • Established the “California Diploma”, which would have demonstrated completion of courses required for University of California and California State University admission.

If students need flexibility in their schedule or a teacher in another district has a great online course, students will definitely seek out that option if available—and the ADA would follow the student for that course. Students will no longer be held hostage to what their local district, school or individual teacher of a course is offering.

Huffington article on California online bill of rights
Click image above to read this Huffington post article.

Personal Learning Networks

A personal learning network (PLN) is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment. In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.  Read more.

Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Educational Paradigms

This is a great 11 minute video by Sir Ken Robinson to open up the dialog about the need to change and adapt our schools to meet the needs of students today and into the future. Pay particular attention to the section on divergent thinking. As Sir Ken points out this is one of the most important traits students will need to be successful in our changing world.  Learn more.

A Question

Let me finish by posing a question. If students truly have a choice about what courses they take and where they take them, will they choose to stay enrolled in a course that is textbook-driven and without access to technology or any expectation to use technology to produce evidence of their learning? Or would they choose a hybrid or blended course with online,24/7, access to highly interactive threaded discussions, media rich resources, and the ability to schedule the class around other commitments and activities?

Take for example this brief blog post.  It starts with a brief description and includes links to other resources for those looking to explore a topic in depth.  Compare this to a one page article with definitions of each trend. Which would provide a better understanding of the topic? Which would lead to a deeper understanding? Which is more engaging?

If you are looking to continue this conversation you should consider attending the Leadership 3.0 Symposium sponsored by TICAL, ACSA and CUE.  It takes place April 11–13, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency, Irvine, California.  Learn more.



What Technology Do Students Want?

Posted by Sandra Miller on May 2, 2011

Boy with smart phoneResults from the latest Project Tomorrow Speak Up Survey suggest today’s  students are looking at a different paradigm in their learning experiences.

Students today are inseparable from their mobile technologies; instant messaging and texting is a way of life.  And they want to use their technology at school.

It’s tempting to dismiss that idea out of hand, but actually,  I’m impressed with the answers kids give when asked, “How would you use your mobile technologies for help with your school work?”  Older students—those in 9th–12th grades— would use them in ways we would describe as traditional.

  • 74% would check grades.
  • 59% would take notes in class.
  • 50% would use the calendar.
  • 44% would access online textbooks.

Younger students—those in 6th–8th grades—want to leverage emerging technologies in different ways to help with their schoolwork.

  • 68% would do Internet research, anytime, anywhere.
  • 53% would collaborate with peers and teachers.
  • 37% would create and share documents.
  • 35% would record lectures/labs to review again later.

While their teachers may cite lack of preparation, antiquated equipment or slow networks as impeding the use of technology in the classroom, 53%t of middle and high school students say the largest obstacle they face in using technology in their school today is their inability to use their own devices!

While many teachers and administrators have begun to approach new ways of using technology in classrooms, this latest Speak Up research says there is more than a gap between what many schools offer and students want—there’s a chasm!  When administrators were asked, “How likely are you to let students use their cell phones?” only 22% said likely; 63% said NOT likely.

By contrast, 67% of parents said they would buy a cell phone for their student to use at school, and 54% would also buy a data plan to support their student’s work.  And we’re not talking only affluent parents.  The Speak Up Survey results did not find significant differences among parents responses for any of the demographics that were tracked.

In fact, parents’ pressure on schools may just be the next trend in moving technology forward in our schools.  Today’s parents use technology daily in their work as well as in their social lives.  The Speak Up survey showed 57% of parents today consider instructional technology to be “extremely important” for their child’s success.  Only 37% of teachers see technology as that important.  Indeed, for leaders wanting to integrate technology in their schools, this is a challenge!

Students definitely have a clear vision of the potential of mobile learning to enable, engage, and empower them as 21st century learners.  Their parents see technology’s value.  As educational leaders we must spread this vision to our teachers and help them acquire the skills and technology needed to teach in more meaningful ways that match the tech-intensive lives of today’s students.


Redesigning How the Job Gets Done

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on November 8, 2010

It’s hitting us all like a ton of bricks.  Our state is in a financial mess.  The 2010 Budget is put together with smoke and mirrors.  The technology in our districts is aging yet no funds are in sight for replacement. NCLB accountability is getting more challenging as the required proficiency levels increase.  Predictions indicate a staggering number of superintendents and principals will retire in 2011.  We have already eliminated as many positions as we can.  Those of us who remain must adapt to the new normal and, at the same time, somehow promote a culture of innovation that will help us survive with limited resources.

Clearly, we can’t continue to do our work the same way we we’ve done it in the past.  We need some new ideas!  Here are some concepts I’ve come across that hold a lot of promise as we struggle to redesign the future of work, work processes, and learn to manage our resources differently through the greatest era of change in our lifetime.

  • Content, Process, and Relationship.  Content is what you want to achieve.  Process is how and why you do the work or achieve your goal. Relationship is about the networking and the people skills for getting the work done.  Most people usually know the what, but struggle with the how and why.  Success depends on getting all three right.
  • Adaptive Leadership.  Clearly defined problems with known solutions can be tackled through the current structures and systems in an organization.  However when challenges arise that require a new mindset and new ways of thinking and working, an organization needs adaptive leadership that mobilizes people and units that frequently have different needs, priorities and perspectives toward new ways of working and ways of thinking.
  • Culture of Change and Innovation.  No lesser an institution than the U.S. Army is talking “adapt or die.”  We will do well to consider these very intense but great lessons regarding process versus product: “Process is important, but excessive focus on process versus product significantly impedes innovation.”
  • Student-Centric Education.  Clay Christensen, in his book Disrupting Class, challenges our thinking for how technology, learning, and assessment will change how schools are organized and how student-centric education will be the future.
  • Twenty Percent Time.   Google allows its employee to use one day a week to innovate and create their own projects or applications related to Google’s overall mission.  Many of Google’s new products have come from employees experimenting during this twenty percent time.  What if we were to allow our students and teachers to use one day a week to be innovative and creative within the desired curriculum.  What would learning in a classroom look like?
  • Creativity is Extraordinary.  Dewitt Jones defines creativity as “the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary.”  Finding the first right answer is just doing your job; looking for the extraordinary redefines your purpose and mission through creativity.
  • Knowledge Sharing, Social Networking and Collaboration.  The maxim, “To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research,” has been attributed to Wilson Mizner.  You can’t be an expert on everything,  so set up a network to share and exchange ideas.  Post a problem and you’ll be surprised how quickly your colleagues provide ideas and solutions.  ACSA Region XV Human Resources Council uses AirSet for collaboration. Admin 2.0 is designed by TICAL especially for administrators.   Social bookmarking sites such as Diigo and Delicious are also great tools for sharing and for researching topics previously reviewed using specific research terms.
  • Cloud Computing.  Get away from your hard drive and desktop and venture into mobile computing by living in the clouds.  Cloud computing allows you to access your files, process data, and use applications from anywhere, anytime, anyplace.  This will be the next generation of instructional technology that will be driven by its cost effectiveness and minimal IT support.
  • Print on Demand.   Are you still printing a stack of documents and keeping them in a file? Print on demand allows you to lower your cost by printing what you need when you need it.  By the way, do you really need to print it?  Save or scan your documents as pdf’s, then bookmark them in a web folder for access anywhere by anyone to whom you give permission.

Now’s your chance!  What would you add to the list?  We all learn from each other, so we want to hear your ideas and solutions.