What’s this “Connected Teaching, Learning & Leadership” all about?

For the past 4 months, I’ve been working in a new role in my school district building capacity across 2500 teachers, 100 administrators and 13,000 students for connected teaching, learning & leadership. If you recall, I took a Leap of Faith from my lead learner position at Knapp Elementary back in October to pursue work to aligns directly with my passions in leveraging today’s social media tools to build relationships, develop collaborative spaces and meet stakeholders where they are using high & low tech, research-based strategies.

Yesterday I spent some time with Larry Jacobs of BlogTalkRadio and Chris Piehler of T.H.E. Journal as this month’s Ed-Innovator of the Month. Below is the 42 minute conversation we had on connected teaching, learning & leadership where I highlight more of what I do on a daily basis, as well as how our schools need to possess the same culture of selfless sharing that the Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) offer.

For more on this work, find the link to this month’s T.H.E. Journal article where I’ve highlighted 6 ideas for school leaders to consider in embedding connectivity into their learning organizations:Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.35.08 PM

  • Tools for transparency
  • Do as they do
  • Making connections
  • Casting a wider network
  • Passing the screen test
  • 3 tips on creating a connected learning environment



Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 1.29.39 PMFREE WORKSHOP –> Finally, I’ll be presenting Connected Teaching, Learning & Leadership during a free and open EdWeb webinar on Monday, April 28th at 4PM EDT. You can pre-register and set a reminder for yourself by following this link.


I’d be anxious to hear your own thoughts on the state of connected teaching, learning & leadership in your learning organization. Who is helping you and your colleagues develop these connected capacities? Please use the comment section below to share you thoughts and insights.

Why I’m Giving The Bammys A 2nd Chance & Why You Should Too


2013 Bammys – Washington, DC

Ever since last year’s event, I’ve been thinking about how I would approach this issue when it came up again. And with the nominee process now open, that time is now. Here are a few of my thoughts on last year’s event and my hopes for the future of the Bammys. Please think further with me in the comments section after you’re done reading.

Last year I attended the 2nd Annual “Bammy Awards” in Washington, DC as a finalist for Elementary Principal of the Year. I was humbled to be there in the presence of people I call friends and mentors. During the nominations process, I didn’t tweet or post anywhere asking people to vote for me, because that just seemed weird, desperate and not a core value of the ed-community on Twitter. When I did get notifications of nominations in my email, I was humbled that my peers thought I was making an impact in our field. That felt really good as I respect them a great deal.  There was, however an uneasy feeling knowing that without my presence on Twitter and other social media, I would never in a million years have had a chance to be considered by my peers around the country. You see, when you connect, you take yourself off admin/educator island. You take control of your own learning and slowly develop a network of people who support you and push your thinking when you need it the most. Being connected allowed me to share my ideas, my successes, my flops and reflect on how to be better in a transparent manner. Without being connected, only the people I work with in my own organization would know of my ideas, my strengths and my struggles, and depending on the culture of your organization, you may/may not feel supported, encouraged and inspired in that space – a major reason for all educators to develop their own Personal Learning Network (PLN). The use of social media has made the Bammys something that educators (connected an unconnected) have an opportunity to take part in.

With all this in mind, I rented a hotel room a tux, hopped on the 90 minute train down to DC and attended the event. It gave me a rare opportunity to connect face to face with some of these educators, parents, students leaders around the country who I call on daily and serve as an extension of my learning organization supporting our students. These relationships are real and help my learning online be sustainable.

As the event began on September 21, 2013, I began to wonder how it would be different from the year before. The BAM! Radio Network literally rolled out the red carpet for those in attendance  complete with on site “media” that looked like Hollywood paparazzi and limo rides from the hotel to the event. Organizer and former co-host of an Emmy Award winning program, Errol St. Clair tried to create an Emmy-like gala to celebrate the hardest vocation in the world – being an educator.

From what I remember on that rainy Saturday night, the event started by asking everyone in attendance to pull out their phones and tweet some about the event and include the hashtag #bammyawards. This was the first of a few moments where I felt uncomfortable during the two hour event. The reason was that for the few that were able to attendance due to capacity, this seemed like a marketing ploy and most of us in attendance had become accustomed to leveraging our social media in a very natural, collaborative, transparent and inquisitive way – not for any forced advertisement tactics. At a quick glance the number of followers held by those in attendance was over 500,000 signaling a quick method of trending the #bammyawards hashtag.

A few other awkward moments I tweeted about during the event included the use of sarcasm toward children, their parents and the educators in Finland. I know the intent was making those in the audience have a great time and laugh often, but those are three topics that educators, parents & students working their tails off daily to be the best they can be simply do not find funny. Finally, those receiving awards were positioned to sit in the first five rows of venue, so once you saw the pattern of who “won” the award, and saw where they were sitting, the suspense was over. I was sitting in an awards assembly that I, along with my colleagues and friend @ChrisWejr had had so many conversations about. I felt part of the “awards assembly” problem in our schools.

I sat there thinking. What the heck am I doing hereWhat’s happening is completely against my morals as an educator, a father, a husband and an advocate for kids. I was sitting next to @JoyceValenza, a former Pennslvania teacher-librarian and now professor I care for very much and who has inspired many over the years with her tireless work as a leader in developing 21st century libraries. I chose to stay because I knew that even though she was an educator just down the road from me, I rarely got a chance to talk with her, swap stories and just enjoy her company. There were so many “great people” there in attendance that allowed me to look past the things I didn’t necessarily agree with. Afterwards, many went out to have a late dinner and enjoy each other’s company before heading back to our respective states the following morning. Some after party highlights included learning of Tony Sinanis’ impressive dancing skills and Tom Murray’s love of a certain candy. It was the people (not the awards) gathered together that made the event worthwhile.

For weeks after, there was a thoughtfully honest blog by Pernille Ripp and quite a bit of Twitter conversation regarding the contents of the event from attendees and Errol. In all honesty, the back and forth really made me sad. I preach daily to educators, parents, leaders around the country what a pristine, safe, selfless and supportive environment the PLN is, and I felt like the thoughts being shared were dividing the community rather than pulling us together and moving the conversation forward. I decided not to make any decisions on how I would approach the next year’s event until some time passed. I wasn’t sure how I would feel after further reflection. For the time being, I decided to give my initial thoughts on event improvement to Eric Sheninger who is on the planning committee.

I shared with Eric, whom I consider a friend, mentor and colleague, the need to make the event more of an opportunity for folks to be recognized not as winners, but as pioneers, innovators, mavericks, thought-leaders on the greatest challenges in our field. One idea was to provide short video pieces and/or presentations sharing the impact of their work on things like student learning, family engagement, student voice, servant leadership and other areas. Folks in the audience and watching from home could learn a great deal from so many educators being nominated – not only from those we read about in books, but from whom we have yet to learn of their great talents, ideas and body of work. It was a shift, but we are educators, not TV and movie stars at the Emmy Awards. We have to remove “awards” and evolve the Bammys into both a celebration and a day of learning from each other while focusing on highlighting the work of as many people as possible.

With the introduction of a few new twist (i.e. 3iTalks) for the 2014 Bammys, I am excited about contributing to the nomination process this year. I’ve known Errol St. Clair for several years now, and I trust him to identify where last year went wrong based on the feedback by many, and work with his planning team to make this a fantastic experience for the entire education community. This work is truly about relationships with other educators, with our students and with our families and the community. It is about sharing with people how much they mean to you personally and professionally and taking a minute to recognize them. Taking a look at the data, we’re not smiling enough as educators. And that filters down to the kids.

According to a recent Metlife Survey, teacher morale is currently at it’s second lowest point in the history of our profession. Teacher satisfaction has declined 23 percentage points since 2008, from 62% to 39% very satisfied, including five percentage points since last year, to the lowest level in 25 years. Job satisfaction among principals has decreased nine percentage points in less than five years, to 59% very satisfied from 68% very satisfied in 2008. The survey is worth a read, especially Chapter Three where I pulled the visual below.

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership (2012).

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership (2012).


Last year I nominated over 30 educators, parents and students who I believe are doing an exceptional job working for kids each day. Some of the people I nominated are on Twitter and some were not. I nominated staff in my school district and others I had had the chance to work with virtually. I hope by my words that I made them smile, feel good about themselves even if for a few seconds. We have to remember that these folks may/may not hear from their local peers and leaders on the work that they are doing for kids. This is where YOU come in. There are 34 days left to nominate someone for this year’s Bammys. I will be taking a few minutes a day during my lunch to nominate someone for each of those remaining days. I hope you will let someone know how much their work means to you, too.

This work is hard. There is no summit where we get to the top of some mountain and rejoice or cross a finish line where we get to rest and relax. If you are doing it right and this truly is your vocation, you never let yourself stop thinking, creating, sharing, asking, wondering and working hard for kids. Nominate the caliber of person you would want working with your own children. It’s not about an award but about picking each other up and continuing to build a healthy, connected network in our field of education so that every educator has the capacity to leverage it to help all kids no matter where they live.

Let’s make September 27, 2014 truly a celebration of our field and spend the day recognizing as many great ideas, people, resources, projects and game changers as we possibly can. Together we are better.


#FCEconf14 + #opp4all = A can’t miss week for #ptchat resources/follows

#PTchat is turning three this summer. It’s been humbling to see the community grow and how people around the world leverage this tag to share ideas, questions, resources and engage transparent dialogue, even outside of the Wednesday night chat. This year, we partnered with the Institute for Educational Leadership (@IELconnects) in a continued effort to expose these invigorating conversations out to policymakers, researchers, faculty and those holding leadership positions in our field of education. The focus has been to provide an open space where your ideas, passions and collaboration matters regardless of your title or role in working for kids. It’s been the work of a strong and dedicated moderating team that has helped the #ptchat community flourish.

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Tomorrow night, April 8th, the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will co-moderate #ptchat during the National Family-Community Engagement Conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio. A special thank you to Cameron Brenchley at the DOE, who has been working behind the scenes to make all of this happen. You can see the eight questions we’ll be discussing on this special TUESDAY night edition of #ptchat here. A goal of the chat will not only be to help the Department of Education roll out the NEW National Framework for Family & Community Engagement (a guiding resource for teachers & leaders we have never had to work with), but also to expose this connected community to over 1,000 family engagement researchers, practitioners and FCE leaders from all over the country. Personally, I’ve set a goal of getting 100 new people on #ptchat by the end of the week. Here’s more of what you can expect to be shared this week from the national conference.

The conference is entitled Engaging Families & Expanding Opportunities: Partnership. Leadership. Inclusion. It will focus on four areas of quality practice:

  1. Early Learning and Literacy: High quality and integrated early childhood and family engagement practices support families and young children to make the most of early school and life experiences and enable educators and parents to ensure that children are reading on level by 3rd grade. To see conference highlights, click here.
  2. Parent-Teacher Partnership: High quality relationships where adults share perspectives, build cross cultural understanding and develop mutual goals are supportive to children’s academic achievement. Effective parent-teacher partnerships work to ensure that educators and families co-develop their capacity to scale up innovative practices. To see conference highlights, click here.
  3. Parent Leadership and Advocacy for School Improvement: Parent leadership enables families to take on a variety of roles for systems change from community organizing to advocacy to facilitating learning. As parent leadership is harnessed, families are able to enhance the quality of education in their community. To see conference highlights, click here.
  4. Families and Inclusion: Inclusive schools value family and child diversity and work towards educational equity. A climate of inclusiveness enhances opportunities for family partnership across all cultural groups and ensures access and opportunity for people with and without disabilities. To see conference highlights, click here.

Follow the Learning Now Matter Where You Are

Normally, #ptchat is where you’d find the most inspiring and applicable parent-teacher-leader sharing in terms of family and community engagement. Not this week. You can follow all conference learning by clicking the conference hashtag #FCEconf14 or if not yet on Twitter, visiting the Twubs conference page. #PTchat moderators Sherri Wilson (@ptaswilson), Andrea Lawful-Trainer (@lawfultrainer), Kwesi Rollins (@kwesibaby58), IEL (@IELconnects) and me (@joe_mazza) throughout the week.

Conference Website/Download Conference App

If you are attending #FCEconf14, download the conference app on iTunes here and/or browse sessions at the conference website here.

My Session:

Using Social Media to Provide a Menu of Communication Offerings

Location: Duke Convention Center Room 200

When: Wednesday, April 9, 2:15pm-3:30pm EDT

Description: Using technologies like e-mail and webpages to connect with families is quickly becoming “old news” with the introduction of social media tools—mobile school apps, Google+ Hangouts, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and blogs. Come learn how your organization can safely leverage these social media tools and how their use affects communication between schools and parents. Participants will leave with a “menu” of low and high tech communications to infuse into their own schools and organizations.

LIVE Unplugged #PTchat Session Component: One of the best parts about being connected is that you have daily access to great people and educators around the world. During my session I’ll hosting a LIVE Voxer conversation with connected educators who embrace social media to meet families where they are including Jimmy Casas (IA), Jeff Zoul (IL) , Tony Sinanis (NY), Joe Sanfelippo (WI), Ben Gilpin (MI), Tom Murray (PA), Tom Whitford (WI) and Aaron Becker (IA). Each of them has participate in the #ptchat community over the years and I as well as many others continue to count on them for support and daily inspiration. So I’m trying something new and will “Vox” them into out session for LIVE sharing!

Following #FCEconf14 (4/8-4/9), The National Community Schools Forum round out the rest of the week in Cincinnati. You can follow the Community Schools Forum later this week using the hashtag #opp4all or at Twubs here. The official Community Forum website can be found here.

Ed-Entrepreneurs: Teachers’ Day at #MilkenPennGSE Coming May 13, 2014


Forward-thinking teachers in the Philadelphia area have a pretty cool opportunity coming up. On Tuesday, May 13th the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education will again host the Milken-PennGSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) LIVE from Penn’s campus. This is a free event and you can indicate your interest in attending here.

The entire event spans two days (May 13 & 14) and is hosted at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. (Full event itinerary)

The Milken Family Foundation and Penn have partnered as a joint catalyst for innovation in education to help create a space for education entrepreneurs. This education business plan competition was constructed to offer anyone with an idea to change the world a stage to present their ideas.

One of the greatest challenges to innovation in education is bringing together – in the same room – practitioner teachers and leaders working in the daily trenches of our schools with those who are out there creating apps, sites and other solutions to support daily teaching, learning and leadership needs. Each of these important innovation sectors can learn a great deal with one another, and we should be creating more time and space for open sharing between them while include our students in the process.

This event lends itself to these challenges by bringing innovators together with practitioners in physical and virtual ways. Since the first event in 2010, categories including Innovation in Online Education, Open Educational Resources, Borderless (International) Education, Special Education and At-Risk Students have been the focus of successfully funded innovative ideas. This year’s entries were submitted during the months of December and January, and have since been put through a judging process which will reveal whose innovative ideas have made it to “finalist” status during the upcoming May event. I’m certainly looking forward to new possibilities for our students, teachers, parents, school leaders and community members at the event, and hope to connect with you there.

2013 #MilkenPennGSE Winning Entrepreneurs

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2013 #MilkenPennGSE Finalists (in no particular order)














Notable Resources leading up to #MilkenPennGSE 2014

  • Check out the winners from previous events here including those pictured above Raise, Autism Expressed, Persistence Plus, Biblionasium and more.

  • Learn more about EDSi, @PennGSE’s Education Design Studio, Inc. – a pipeline for education entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace.

  • Can’t make it to the event? Follow the hashtag #MilkenPennGSE on Twitter and if you’re not (yet) on Twitter, follow along at twubs.com/MilkenPennGSE.

 More on the @Milken Family Foundation

The Milken family – who are Penn graduates – embody the Franklin spirit and through Knowledge Universe have demonstrated successful educational entrepreneurship – from pre-K services through college education for working adults. And in their philanthropic activities, the Milken family have made education – particularly innovation in education – a cornerstone of their work. Visit www.mff.org for more information.


Introducing ParentCamp.org


My ParentCamp partner-in-crime and @KnappElementary H&S President Gwen Pescatore (@gpescatore25) and I have been been working on a “one stop shop” for educators, leaders and parents to have everything they need to host their own #ParentCamp event. The idea of “ParentCamp” became crystal clear after I attended EdCamp Philly and EdCamp Leadership a few years back, and all credit for the creation and success of ParentCamp should be attributed to the EdCamp Foundation and original planning team of trailblazers like Mary Beth Hertz, Kim Sivick, Kristen Swanson, Ann Leaness, Mike Ritzius, Hadley Ferguson, Kevin Jarrett, Dan Callahan, Christine Miles, Robert Rowe and the many other inspirers that have come after them as EdCamps occur weekly around the world. 
Imagining parent and staff implications back in our school community has been an evolution and a testament to identifying the current culture of our home-school partnership then adapting ParentCamp to best meet the needs of that already established culture . To date we’ve learned of 8 different “#parentcamp events” – defined as modeling the 4 core beliefs of home-school partnerships (Henderson & Mapp 2007).

Feel free to pass along PARENTCAMP.ORG to your edu-colleagues and parent leaders near and far and please call on us for support in making the case for, designing and implementing your own ParentCamp. Global collaboration opportunities are boundless. Use #parentcamp on both Twitter and Instagram to share your learning, pictures and resources.