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Watertown Public Schools

Ann Koufman-Frederick, Ph. D.
Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
February 14, 2011


My piece of this topic is to share about providing, and paying for, professional
development for teachers to learn to integrate 21st century skills. I’m going to
introduce you to emerging models of professional development that are
underway in Watertown Public Schools. This is the very concrete perspective of
how to do 21st century learning. Watertown is one of the cases in the Rennie
Center Report that exemplifies what we mean by 21st century teaching and


I’ve focused my career on improving education through new technologies, which

opens the doors to success for all kinds of learners. Peter Reynolds of
Fablevision, illustrated this concept quite beautifully in the cover he created for a
book I helped write several years ago called Mission Possible: Reaching All
Learners with Technology, His most recent poster further shows the doors
technology can open for teaching and learning. These doors point directly to the
kinds of 21st century skills we’ve been talking about this morning.

1x1 ACCESS [slide2]

The first essential ingredient you need to nurture 21st century learning is 1x1
Access to digital tools and resources. This does not mean 1x1 computing or
one-laptop-per-child. It means access for all students at any time through any
kind of device such as a laptop, desktop, netbook, iPod, iPad, and even a
smartphone. What is important to remember is that it’s the Internet that the
invention, not the technology.

At the same time that you provide 1x1 access, you also need ongoing and
embedded professional learning. You have to both open those doors, and ensure
that your teachers and administrators can walk through them. In order to do this,
all teachers and administrators need their own laptop for their work.


It takes a variety of learning initiatives to make this possible. If I had more time, I
would explain more about all the ingredients that are necessary. Here is a list of


some of the categories of initiatives we have instituted in Watertown that we think

are essential. The Rennie Center research report also highlights many promising
practices of exemplary 21st learning in other Massachusetts schools that many of
you may recognize.

Suffice it to say, the two bookends that make 21st teaching and learning possible
are 1x1 Access and Professional Learning.


In Watertown we use at least six professional learning strategies that are ongoing
and interwoven and which provide us with robust, enriching, cost effective, and
worthwhile professional development for everyone – including teachers,
instructional assistants, administrators, and even school committee members.

As I describe each strategy I hope you notice a few themes. What is common
among them is that they are job-embedded and that they emphasize online and
in-person collaboration, model the kind of life-long learning we aim to instill in our
students, and embody the 4Cs of Creativity, Effective Communication,
Collaboration, and Critical Thinking.


Since we value teacher-to-teacher collaboration and teacher leadership very

seriously, we’ve organized all of our professional and curriculum development
through Task Forces and Leadership Councils. This year we have 13 of these
teams, covering a wide variety of curriculum areas. Each of the teams is co-
facilitated by a teacher-leader and an administrator. Each Task Force includes 8-
10 teachers, with representation from every school as well as Sped and ELL. To
be on a Task Force, there is an application process, which involves having
appropriate expertise in the topic, and interest to work in-person twice a month
and online (constantly) in between those meetings. This year almost half (130 of
290) of our teachers are on a Task Force or Leadership Council, and over the
past 5 years 67% of the faculty has participated in these professional learning

Each Task Force and Leadership Council maintains a website to make

appropriate resources and tools readily accessible to other teachers and
students. Task Force and Leadership Council members collaborate online about
their curriculum work in their own threaded discussion conference. For many
teachers coming into the profession in the past 10 years, this electronic
collaboration is a natural fit for them because they grew up with online social
networking as their way of life. In Watertown more than a third of our teachers
are millennials, which means they grew up as digital kids and they are 32 years


old or younger.


We are capitalizing on our teachers propensity to talk and think together online,
using electronic collaboration as an important medium for teacher professional
development. We use First Class conferencing, which is one of the premier
collaborative environments for K-12. This screen is a snapshot of my First Class
desktop, showing all the Task Force and Leadership Council conferences. This is
much more than email. It is a think-space for private threaded discussions and
sharing about teaching and learning. I know that many districts in Massachusetts
use this kind of an online learning space, but how you use it and how you support
teachers to have facilitated, meaningful, online discussions about teaching and
learning is what is most important.


Another professional development strategy that is making a huge difference for

changing classroom practice is our programming called Technology-In-Practice
or T-I-P. These are hybrid, or blended (meaning combined face-to-face and
online) professional development courses throughout the school year that cover
the use and integration of digital resources into the curriculum. T-I-Ps have both
face-to-face and online working sessions, and the goal is for each teacher to
design and use an innovative, project-based curriculum unit with their students.

In Watertown everyone either takes a T-I-P or teaches a T-I-P. All T-I-Ps are
planned and taught by our own teachers. This is in-house professional
development. We offer about 15 T-I-Ps each year. Each year everyone takes a
self-evaluation to determine if their level of expertise is emergent, proficient, or
advanced and innovative. Then everyone chooses an appropriate T-I-P from one
of those levels. The innovators are often our T-I-P instructors. Innovators can
also choose to design their own T-I-P, called an A+ T-I-P, to do with a partner or
small group.

One result of our T-I-P professional development is that every teacher has a
classroom website that they have designed and that they maintain. This is
significant because classroom sites make learning resources accessible to
students 24/7, and it is also an important medium for communicating and
collaborating with parents.



Many of our T-I-Ps result in wonderful classroom, curriculum and technology

integrated projects that explicitly incorporate 21st Century learning. We have held
T-I-P fairs so that teachers can learn about what other teachers are developing in
other T-I-P courses. Also, for example each week at our Middle School a “Geek
of the Week” is identified and celebrated. This year we also have begun to
design a Teaching Profiles website to showcase exemplary 21st Century learning
practices. The goal of this website is to have teachers learn from each other what
best practice looks like, and how to use new technologies to design and teach
with 21st century proficiency. Our T-I-Ps will be transforming into C4-I-Ps.


At each School Committee meeting we showcase exemplary teaching and

learning to the community. These are authentic performance assessments
because the students actually help their teachers show and explain the work they
are doing in their course or classroom. These Teaching & Learning Showcases
show the community the return on their technology investment.

The photo on the left is a second grade classroom that taught the School
Committee about their work with “The Leader in Me” program. The students in
this picture are skyping with a student in France. The photo on the right is from
our iREAD English Language Learner program where students are improving
their reading skills using iPod touches. Some of the third graders came to a
School Committee meeting with their iPod touches and showed how they use
freely available APPs for learning to read.

The Teaching & Learning showcases at School Committee meetings are explicit
about explaining how we are fusing the 3Rs with the 4Cs.


Everything I’ve shown you in this presentation, about what we are doing in
professional development, models what we want to happen with teaching and
learning, both in and outside of our classrooms. In Watertown, as administrators,
we are comfortable collaborating and thinking together online, and using a variety
of digital tools to get our work done, and accomplish our goals. As a
superintendent you too can do all this. Become fluent at collaborating effectively
online. Have your own interactive and engaging website. Refine your own 21st C
leadership skills by taking some sort of a Technology-In-Practice course for
leaders. Also, learn how to present with a Prezi, instead of an “old-fashioned”
powerpoint, like this one. More on Prezi in a minute, because I suspect you are
interested in knowing the whole story.


COST [slide11]

Finally, as administrators we always ask what does all this cost? In one sense
most of these practices are priceless, because we live, work, and breathe with
these technologies. However, they do have a cost. In Watertown the 1x1 Access
was made possible by a one-time $1million appropriation from the town of
Watertown over FY09 and FY10. This was for network infrastructure and
hardware alone. The $1 million was the result of a community campaign led by
the previous superintendent, Steve Hiersche. Essentially, he got the money and I
spent it. The ongoing cost to maintain this infrastructure takes an operating line
item of about $200,000 year.

We cover the direct costs of professional development primarily with Title II and
Title III funding. Each Task Force or Leadership Council costs about $7,000 to
10,000 a year. To cover both training and paying our T-I-P instructors, costs
about $10,000 a year.

I think that our challenge as educational leaders is to figure out how to bring
coherence to the quite incoherent array of tools already available in schools and
the world, and make them effective tools for teaching and learning; and to make
the case that this effort is necessary and economically feasible.

I invite you to understand more about this, in more depth, by visiting a Prezi
called “Literacy21: Learning in a Changing World” which is posted on my
Watertown Superintendent Site. If you are not yet familiar with what a Prezi is,
then please take the chance to experience it on my website. This morning’s short
introduction about professional learning going forward, is a section of that Prezi.
It’s easy to find, just go to the Watertown main page and click on the Super’s


I have a more indepth prezi presentation about brining 21st century learning to
Watertown Public Schools on my Watertown superintendent site. It’s called
Literacy21: Learning in a Changing World, and I invite you learn more about how
we’re learning and leading with our teachers and students.