Creating Vibrant Learning Communities
January 2014
In This Issue
The CEI Survey
Innovative Leaders and Their Communities
International Work with Theatre
Mobile Technology in the Classroom
More Art!

Quick Links

Cascading Wishes for 2014 from the director of CEI:
Waking to snow on the ground with the wind howling in the background early this morning, I am reminded of the power of nature and the responsibility we have as guardians of this planet....

At the CEI Blog
read about Apps for School, the role on Engineering in Learning, and so much more!
 More About Us:
the Overview of CEI
Our Partner,
Operation Respect!


Have you read the results of the Common Core Survey conducted by NAESP?
More than 1,000 principals responded about implementation.
If you have not seen the outcome, please follow this link.

Food for discussion!

Let's talk!
Dear Educators,                        

Welcome to 2014.  Last month we shared information on "communication and school communities."  This month we are following up, with more information on integrating drama, the arts, and technology into schools.  However, our focus this month expands to target Wow! factors that will help keep students engaged while taking them through experiences to prepare them for the future.

Vibrant schools, vibrant communities .... "pulsating with life, vigor, or activity." Is a vibrant classroom more likely to lead to rigor, excellence, and high student achievement?  As school leaders, do you have a metric for measuring the vibrancy of your school and your school community?  Do you have tried and true measures for upping the amp for learning?
Innovative 21st Century School Leaders and Their Communities
by Christine Mason, Ph.D. 


 Do you have a vision of the 21st century classroom? The 21st century school? Consider 21st century classroom learning. How will schools be impacted within the next 3-4 years by:

CES. These are just a few of the award-winning innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show currently being held in Las Vegas. We at CEI are wowed! However, after a few deep breaths, when we return once again to planet earth, we have thoughtfully reflected on how schools fit into a futuristic scenario. Here are a few serious questions for educational leaders:

  • Are you talking about these technologies with your students? Do you imagine that your students might be wowed! by these gravity-defying devices?


  • Do you have access to any of them or do you have any funds in your school budgets for such innovative exploration?
  • What will be the impact on the digital divide?
  • How could you use these or other innovative technologies in your school?
  • Which teachers are doing more with this? What is the impact on their classes, the Common Core or other high academic standards curricula, and student achievement? What professional development are your teachers receiving in this area?
  • Do you and your students spend time researching these technologies, imagining what will come next, and discussing the science, technology, engineering, and math behind these?
  • Examining these technologies, can you, your teachers, and your students envision something else that would be useful for your school? Could websites like Kickstarter be used to develop projects and entrepreneurships in your school? 

Other expectations for 21st century leadership. Knowledge of technological innovations is only one of the factors that must be considered for 21st century leadership. We are interested in the impact of 21st century innovations on the Common Core and other high standards curricula, instructional leadership, teacher supervision and feedback, personalization of instruction, school communities, and student achievement. Realizing that in the days, months, and years to come, many fabulous innovations will be designed and used in a world that has many other needs, we envision that 21st century leaders will be globally competent, inspirational, and that they will meet and perhaps even exceed basic standards such as NAESP standards for elementary school principals , and more.  


Of course, continuous learning is key. An openness, an eagerness, an excitement to go beyond the mundane, to get past the daily grind, to find time to keep learning and integrating knowledge into the fabric of schools seem to be part of the profile. We invite your thoughts, your reflections. Our intent is that by the end of 2014 we will have collaborated with you in fleshing out  a fuller vision of the 21st century school leader.


Today CEI is starting a discussion of what it means to be a 21st century school leader. Over the next year, one article a month in Wow! Ed will be specifically devoted to this topic. Each one will include resources to aid you in your exploration of the topic.  

International Interconnected Communities of Caring (Cont. from December 2013 issue)
By Kristina Golmohammadi, Children's Theater Co., New York* and Lea Kuusilehto-Awale, Program Director at University of Jyväskylä, Finland

The economically, ecologically, environmentally, socially and culturally interconnected and interdependent world where our children and grandchildren live their lives not only locally but globally connected, demands that we deliver as early as today a multilevel and multidimensional education in terms of caring.  For communities to be caring communities in the future, we need to be more proactive in creating global communities for learners, teachers, and other educators.  We believe that education is one of the best routes to changing minds and hearts to be more considerate of others, others who are family and friends, and others who are miles away.


Ubuntu. The interconnected world of education offers opportunities for educators to find each other in ways unimaginable in the previous closed local and national world.  To give an example, we came to find the concept of heart centered leadership in 2012 in the ISER conference (International Symposium on Educational Reform) that took place in Lexington, Kentucky, and Washington D.C. Amongst those conference participants there were surprisingly many educators dedicated to these views (including CEI Director Dr. Mason), suddenly finding each other. We were and are promoting ubuntu (the all-African concept of "no-one to be left behind"), caring leadership, lawfulness of education, social justice, and heart centered leadership. In the summer of 2013 these people met again in the ISER, this time in Finland. There we had an opportunity to focus on heart centered with a keynote presentation by Dr. Mason, as well as ethical leadership. We also learned about globally good teachership, which has been conceptualized by Dr Kamran Namdar from Sweden, who was one of the keynote speakers.


CEI's 5 Cs - Challenge of global competence. Our encounters with other leaders are sensitizing us as we reflect on compassion, courage, confidence, caring, responsibility, justice, consciousness and community -- not only in our nearest context but in regard to humbly gaining a better understanding of the challenge of teachers and leaders becoming globally competent. Having had these opportunities to share with these international colleagues, we cannot see any other objective and means for education to successfully serve our learners but the one we are sharing.   


As educators we are faced with trying to satisfy the needs of changing curricula and an ever-evolving global society.


An example of community As parents or family-members, we would like our children to have the capacity to live a good life; to be loving, compassionate, courageous, and creative and to have the self-confidence they need to achieve their goals and dreams. These hopes and wishes, we believe any parent wants for their child, any teacher wants for their student and every community hopes to foster.  


We know that to help our children prepare for a just, heart centered future, we need to be good communicators, collaborators and problem-solvers. We need to be able to listen, take turns, verbalize thoughts and emotion, recognize those in others, reflect, be open and non-judgmental and to be able to look at things from another perspective than our own. Children also need to learn these skills over time. Schools offer a backdrop, a stage for this practice.


The "how." What methods can be successfully used? While much can be done in many day-to- day situations in classrooms, drama and theatre also offer some exciting ways to build communication and collaboraton skills. Drama and theatre share one of the most important aspects of arts in general: their ability to isolate a factor of human experience.  


Most common exercises used in drama and theatre work to develop collaboration, concentration, listening, creativity, cognitive and meta-cognitive abilities while usually having a lot of fun at the same time. One of the most effective activities in drama and theatre is roleplaying.


With roleplaying students experience stepping into somebody else's shoes.This is the foundation of empathy and compassion. In drama and theatre, participants can go into a depth of feeling in a specific event, to discover themselves. They discover how they would think and feel as a "real person" in a situation previously unknown to them.  


When working with our first year theatre students, we found that students who had difficulties with roleplaying, often had difficulties in communicating, collaborating and adapting. This, however, changed over time as they progressed in the curriculum.  


Roleplaying. The ability to roleplay, whether it is in improvised games, exercises or in work with a play, gives the student a possibility to explore actions, context and meaning. Research on how our brains collect, store and activate various types of action sequences shows that just by seeing someone do and act in a certain way, our brain stores this sequence as a possible course of action when faced with a similar circumstance in real life. If a child in a fictional context plays or acts as someone who stands up for him/herself or defends someone unjustly treated or accused, it becomes an even stronger and more likely pattern for him or her to use later on in life. When storing experiences between "practiced" behavior and real, the brain activity is the same.  


Building community through theater in Stockholm. At the performing arts school in Stockholm incorporating character development in a professional theater education allowed us to give our students skills and abilities they could use in their future careers and personal life. We noticed over the years that working with a curriculum focused on both personal and character development made our students more aware of the needs of others and the community at large. Through our Community Theatre Program, our students were given that chance to channel their talents and what they learned into a project serving others through theatre. Theatre became a means and not only an end.


Our first-year students worked with children's theater and first graders. They had to look at themselves as role models and what that demanded of them individually when interacting with children. They reflected and had to take into account, personal behavior, appropriate language, and what they remembered from their own childhood as being important.


Our second-year students worked with the elderly in retirement homes dramatizing memories and events from their lives. Here our students discussed and looked at respect as a main focus and how they could celebrate and honor ordinary events which became, after interviews with the elderly, moving turning points when viewed through the lens of each individual's life.  


Through our students' responses and reflections from, e.g., these two community projects, we could see that they understood how their talents and abilities could be used as instruments for the betterment of the society as a whole. As one student put it. "What I have learned and what I love doing has a bigger meaning now. What I do is just not for my own pleasure; some one else has benefited from my life!"  


So if we are serious about looking at character development as an intrinsic element in education in general, we can only encourage educational practitioners and administrators to seriously look at drama and theater as instruments for such development.


Read part I of this article in last month's newsletter.    

Mobile Technologies for Academic Support
by Dr. Kevin Green, President Akashka Learning


The report (Shuler, 2009), "Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning," conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, draws on interviews with a cross-section of research, policy and industry experts to illustrate how mobile technologies such as cell phones, iPod devices, and portable gaming platforms might be more widely used for learning. Two excerpts of the report (below), explain how some educator s have adopted mobile technology to improve reading.


Excerpt 1: Escondido Union School District's Project iRead

A group of pilot teachers in Escondido Union School District are exploring the use of iPod devices, GarageBand, and iTunes to improve student reading.
  • Using the iPod's voice memo and a Belkin recorder, students can record and then hear themselves reading, which improves motivation and helps them work on fluency and comprehension.
  • Teachers can also import student recordings into their iTunes library and create time-stamped digital portfolios (via playlists) that they can use to track progress over time.
Data collected from a small group of fourth-graders has found that using iPod devices to practice fluency resulted in more rapid improvement rates compared with a control classroom.

Excerpt 2: JUMP into Reading and Meaning

JUMP focuses on the development, delivery, and evaluation of a supplemental vocabulary instructional game for the Nintendo DS Lite. The curriculum targets low-performing fourth-grade students enrolled in supplemental educational services programs. The JUMP game is a hybrid vocabulary instructional program and role-playing adventure game designed to teach and assess word-learning strategies and to increase the student's vocabulary through an innovative mix of teaching methods, storytelling, and game play. The game involves exploring 10 diverse environments, overcoming robot challenges, completing engaging quests, and solving thought-provoking puzzles.  


Mobile Learning Aids for STEM Education

The list below highlights some of the many ways K-12 educators can leverage the power of the Internet in the classroom, programs that-with the urging of teachers-students can also use at home for supplemental instruction:

  • Rasberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools. This capable, tiny computer could be used to create a low-cost, sophisticated tablet that can then be used for presentations, word processing and video viewing. Most importantly, it can be used to teach students about computer hardware and computer programming.
  • Online, interactive simulations for math and science education from ExploreLearning are one of the novel ways of making STEM topics fun and easier to learn. The Texas Science Initiative conducted meta-analysis of more than 60 research studies that focused on identifying technology-related teaching strategies. Here are some of their key findings on the use of ExploreLearning's Gizmos:
    1. Manipulation strategies enable students to experience science by becoming active learners who participate in building their own understanding.
    2. Technology-enhanced instruction, including simulations, enables students to manipulate variables and quickly see the results
    3. Inquiry-based learning provides opportunities to analyze data and encourages deep understanding.
    4. Manipulation strategies, technology-enhanced instruction and inquiry-based learning were associated with an average gain of 18-24 percentile points in student achievement.
  • The National Science Foundation has numerous programs in STEM education, including some for K-12 students such as the ITEST Program that supports The Global Challenge Award ITEST Program. STEM programs have been implemented in some Arizona schools. It helps students develop higher cognitive skills for students, enabling them to inquire and learn techniques used by professionals in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math.
  • Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a leading provider of STEM education curricular programs to middle and high schools in the United States. The national non-profit organization has over 5,200 programs in more than 4,700 schools in all 50 states. Programs include a high school engineering curriculum called Pathway To Engineering, a high school biomedical sciences program and a middle school engineering and technology program called Gateway To Technology. PLTW provides the curriculum and the teacher.  

Professional development and ongoing support to create transformational programs in schools, districts and communities. PLTW programs have been endorsed by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as well as various state, national, and business leaders.

  • The Girl Game Company (GGC) is an online resource designed to increase the interest, capacity and motivation of middle-school girls to pursue courses and careers in information technology (IT). The long-term goal is to increase diversity in the STEM workforce, with a focus on girls and Latinas, and the short-term goals include increasing IT fluency, increasing the appeal of educational pathways to IT careers. The participants design and build computer games and publish and receive feedback in a virtual community. For example, the members of GGC have produced more than 200 games and the best ones have been posted in the virtual GGC clubhouse.
  • The MIND Research Institute is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to research on learning and the brain and the application of this research to the development of K-12 math education programs. MIND   has developed a visual online math instruction education process that taps into the way we are "wired" to learn. MIND's education programs teach all children-regardless of socio-economic or cultural background-how to think, reason and create mathematically.
  • Khan Academy's math videos on YouTube have become a very popular choice for K-12 students to mine for useful learning videos. The two sites could also be useful to teachers as relevant tools for remediation or supplemental instruction. Khan Academy has eclipsed MIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) in terms of videos viewed and subscribers.
  • provides a comprehensive list of math instruction websites.
  • For a superb list of 38 "Best Practice K-12 STEM Education" programs, visit the following website. To be included in Bayer Corporation's Compendium of Best Practice K-12 STEM Education Programs, STEM educational programs had to demonstrate challenging content/curriculum, an inquiry learning environment, defined outcomes/assessment, and sustained commitment/community support.


 With permission, from Dr. Kevin Green (January 2014), who submitted contribution to his father's book, which will be published by Scholastic in March 2014.  

Shuler, C. (2009). Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, 2009.
To Reach Every Student (Cont.)
by Victoria Zelvin

Victoria Zelvin began an article in last month's Wow! Ed this way: "We've got to find a way to reach all kids, every kid, no matter what," says John Ceschnini, the executive director of Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance. "And the arts do that. They give us ways to engage kids, to get them involved, to have them be part of what we want them to be part of, which is learning a curriculum."


This month we are including more from her investigation into the arts:


Many advocacy groups speak passionately about including these art programs that further academic learning in schools. But how?


Mississippi. Acknowledging budget constraints, those involved in Mississippi's WSI collaborated to write a request for a DOE grant to further support their arts initiative. Some have also suggested seeking philanthropic donations to fund these types of initiatives. But integrating the arts, even on a smaller level, can do wonders for students, their learning, and their confidence. 

Parents. Parents are strongly encouraged to get involved and open a dialogue with their schools, to inquire about arts integration in their children's schools. Parental organizations are also encouraged to speak with their schools and petition for this type of arts integration.

Washington, DC. There are also out-of-school options for extracurricular and after-school learning as an option in places where there might not be a focus on the arts within schools. In the DC area, the Arena Stage theater company runs a year-long Student Playwrights Project specifically geared toward middle school students. Their sample lesson plan outlines their ideas, the focus on storytelling, and also the focus on some character education ideals, cooperation and the importance of teamwork, as well as critical thinking skills. Another out-of-the-box example of simple arts integration is the use of puzzles in the classroom. NASA scientist and math educator Deepak Kulkarni, Ph.D., touts the value of these addictive recreational puzzles, like the popular Sudoku, for educational purposes, especially in introducing concepts like algebra and logical reasoning. 

Arts integration has been proven to help students in terms of test scores, and may have further reaching outcomes as well. Due to constraints of both time and money, some of these artistic learning endeavors have to take place outside of school, such as in the already popular science fairs or other themed activities. However, when examined from multiple perspectives, despite the time it takes for an arts program, it may well be worth providing opportunities that are integrated into the school day and infused into the curriculum. For schools that struggle to engage in extensive or intensive arts programs, here are a few suggestions:

  • Incorporate options for arts activities that are student-designed and student-driven as part of project based learning. (This minimizes teacher planning.)
  • On a weekly basis, include at least a couple of brief periods for art instruction. Volunteers from the community may be able to help lead these sessions, or older students with artistic talents may serve as tutors or co-instructors.
  • Ask for student volunteers (either from your class or from other classes in your school or district) to help design or conduct the program, perhaps finding local businesses that are willing to donate supplies. Older students may be able to receive service learning credits for their involvement.
  • Use rubrics and use the arts to further inclusion. This article, co-authored by CEI Executive Director, Christine Mason, on Arts Integration may provide other ideas, as well as a template for rubrics for integrating art into academic lessons.

Continue here for more ideas about integrating arts into the schools with technology in our January 2013 Wow!Ed newsletter.



Some of you saw our announcement -- thanks to the seed funding from NAESP and the NAESP Foundation, CEI has had the opportunity to expand our programs and services, and to learn from principals as we intentionally focus more on school leadership. Now CEI is moving forward and taking the next steps to pursue our own research agenda. We are excited and we are looking forward to 2o14, to helping you establish vibrant school communities. You can still find us at, CEI offices will continue to be co-located at NAESP headquarters, and CEI and NAESP will team together for specific activities and purposes. 


We invite your input and your collaboration during this important transition period.     



Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
This is the fine print text where you might tell your customers how the item will be shipped and, for example, if they are overseas that there will be additional shipping charges and must contact you.
Save 25% If you are using a special coupon or promo code, include it here. Or, indicate if the coupon must be printed and presented in person. Is the coupon transferable? If so, encourage recipients to share the offer with friends and family to maximize the viral effect of the coupon.
Offer Expires: Enter Expiration Date here