Champions of Change Blog

  • Creating a 1:1 Learning Environment

    S. Dallas Dance

    S. Dallas Dance is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

    A cartoon that I share in some of my presentations shows a class full of students. Each one of them is fully engaged in an activity – like passing notes, eating, drawing, yawning, whispering – but none of them, in many cases including the teacher, is fully engaged in teaching or learning. This is, of course, not a cartoon about Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), but it is a cartoon about the challenge before all educators to make learning relevant and effective for each student. The cartoon highlights that the old format of a teacher at a desk in the front of the room and students seated at rows of desks awaiting a lecture is disconnected from who our students are, how they learn, and what they need.

    When I arrived just last year to assume the superintendency of BCPS, I was fortunate to join an already strong school district with a legacy of high achievement. More than half of our high schools rank among the best in the nation; our arts and music programs are award-winning; and our graduation rate, among large districts, is second-highest in the nation, according to EdWeek.

    But being good on average is not the same as being effective for every student, and we have a moral and social imperative to ensure that every student graduates globally competitive. What I call my reasonable impatience about this has only grown more intense since I became a father. I want for every child the same as I want for my own son, and I realized, as I nurture his growth, that we have only one chance to get it right for our students.

    I have focused my BCPS administration on building the collective will to pursue deliberate excellence for our students and putting the physical and programmatic structure in place to facilitate achieving our goals. Through meetings, information sharing, and collaborative decision making, we are uniting the entire community into Team BCPS.

    This team helped us develop our theory of action and Blueprint 2.0, our five-year strategic plan, which calls for, among other initiatives,  an instructional digital conversion to a 1:1 learning environment and an expanded world languages program so that our students can graduate fluent in a second (or third) language.

    Learning via technology has multiple benefits: allowing students access to more accurate and timely information and to other teachers and learners around the globe; personalizing the pace of learning for each student; providing instant feedback and assessments for students and teachers; supporting inquiry-based learning and the development of 21st century skills like critical thinking, creativity and collaboration; and using the technology in which students are already immersed to better engage them in their school work.

    Moving to a 1:1 environment also levels the playing field – which is the role of public schools. All students need meaningful access to technology for 24/7 learning to occur.  Without a 1:1 environment in our schools, there is still a digital divide between those who have access to computers and the Internet and those who do not.  We plan to close the digital divide in our schools.

    The other major component of the BCPS theory of action is supporting students in becoming proficient in a second language. We know that this is another essential factor in being globally competitive, and research tells us that students who begin learning a second language before adolescence are more likely to become fluent speakers and to have higher overall academic achievement.

    By pairing expanded world languages instruction with 1:1 environments, we will create classrooms that will be the opposite of the cartoon I described earlier – 21st century classrooms where teachers guide students toward higher levels of academic rigor and success.

    S. Dallas Dance is the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, the nation’s 26th largest school system.

  • Gaining Global Perspective through Technology

    Jennie Magiera

    Jennie Magiera is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

    Classroom Technology is just window dressing; Twitter is for Bieber-loving teens; social networks have no place in schools. These are all opinions I firmly believed less than four years ago. However, in the fall of 2010, I found myself with 32 iPads in my classroom. I spent the first three months floundering to find effective strategies to use these devices. After some time, I realized that I couldn’t do this in a vacuum; I needed support from my colleagues. But as the only iPad teacher in the school, I couldn’t simply go next door and ask for help. I needed a way to reach beyond the walls of my classroom and my building, in order to connect with other iPad-using teachers from around the globe.

    This was the beginning of my rebirth as a Connected Educator. In the next few months, I began to subscribe to blogs, join listservs, and enter online communities of educators. In June, I even created a Twitter account. Perhaps a telling example of my shift in thinking, my first tweet, posted on June 7, 2011, was about connecting my students digitally: “Trying out back channel student discussions via twitter... so far so good! Kids are really engaged! And QUIET!!!”

    Suddenly my classroom wasn’t about closing the door, teaching a “good” lesson, and then testing my students to see if they “got it.” Instead, the world was my classroom and the globe was our community. This was huge for a fourth grade classroom in an inner-city Chicago school. Students who rarely travelled out of a 15-block radius were suddenly able to connect with nine-year-olds from Brazil. I was able to bring an archeologist into my room via Skype to weigh in on our rock cycle unit. We streamed footage of the Space Jump to explore the layers of the atmosphere. My students hopped on a Google Hangout with another Chicago class to discuss violence in their community.

    My students weren’t the only ones who benefitted from this new “connected” mindset. Thanks to those blogs, listservs, online communities and yes, Twitter, everyone on the web was my colleague or co-teacher. I got feedback from teachers in Seoul, Melbourne, and Montreal on my first Problem Based Learning unit. I joined various Google Hangouts to problem solve issues in my classroom. I worked with six teachers from three countries to share this experience by creating courses on iTunes U about teacher professional development strategies. And most recently, I was honored to work with an incredible group of educators to support and promote Connected Educator Month on Google+ and other online platforms.

    Beyond enriching my teaching practice and my students’ learning experiences, becoming a Connected Educator has helped me become less myopic about what teaching and learning can look like. I have gained a more global perspective on the classroom and realized that one way of doing things is not the only way to do them. I’ve also gained an international posse of friends, changemakers, and edu-avengers. These are people who want to improve education for our students and who make strides to take idea into practice every day. They keep me inspired, vet my ideas and push me to never settle. I’ve learned that our best isn’t good enough - we must always be improving, asking questions and making new connections - all to support our students’ growth into the best version of themselves.

    Jennie Magiera is the Digital Learning Coordinator for a network of 29 Chicago Public Schools, called the Academy for Urban School Leadership. She works to support teachers, students and school leaders to leverage digital tools in improving teaching and learning.

  • How Technology Levels the Playing Field

    Mark Coppin

    Mark Coppin is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

    One of the driving forces in my life and something that I am very passionate about is accessibility. To me, it means more than accessibility; it is accessing abilities. It is finding the tools that allow diverse learners the opportunity to access their education, their world, and their dreams. Today’s technologies are opening up a world of possibilities for students with diverse learning needs. Technology is leveling the playing field and providing students with opportunities that were difficult or impossible to provide only a few years ago. It allows us to look beyond the disability and focus on the ability. I am honored to be selected as a White House Champion of Change as it will provide me with a broader platform to spread the word on how providing equal opportunities for all learners can transform lives.

    I have been the Director of Assistive Technology at the Anne Carlsen Center for over 25 years. The Anne Carlsen Center is a private non-profit center located in North Dakota that serves persons of all abilities throughout the state and region. I started out as a teacher at the center, and early on I realized the power of assistive technologies in providing opportunities for students with special needs. Throughout my professional career, I have looked for various ways to provide opportunities for people to realize their full potential. I helped host a summer technology camp during which kids from across the state who wouldn’t typically be accepted into a traditional camp are provided with access to all types of assistive technologies. Once they are able to utilize the devices, we provide them with opportunities to explore music, art, photography, and videography. We also give them the chance to experience typical camping activities such as campfires, pontoon rides, and swimming in a lake.

    As an Apple Distinguished Educator of 2009, I speak to professionals throughout the world about the impact technology has to help people access their abilities, transform lives, and provide limitless opportunities. I believe that we can create meaningful change by educating people on inclusive design and working with software and hardware developers to include universal design features in their products. This will create an environment and culture that provides equal access for all learners. By creating learning environments where people of all abilities have equal access to tools, no matter what their ability, we can maximize learning and provide opportunities for students to realize their full potential. The motto at the Anne Carlsen Center is: “Nurturing Abilities and Changing Lives.” This is the approach that I take with everything I do.

    I believe that technology can help level the playing field and provide opportunities for all persons. When everyone is given the same opportunity this can change attitudes, perceptions, and culture. We are putting tools into the hands of our students and allowing them to become, not only productive participants in our future workforce, but also mentors, future leaders, and role models. They will be able to change attitudes and affect change. Every day I am inspired by individuals who have overcome barriers; today’s technologies allow them more opportunities to do so.

    Mark Coppin is the Director of Assistive Technology at the Anne Carlsen Center, a non-profit center serving persons with disabilities located in Jamestown, ND. He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator.

  • Librarians Sharing New Ideas Across the Globe

    Carolyn Foote

    Carolyn Foote is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

    Providing our students opportunities to be prepared for the future is crucial.  Across the nation, thousands of dedicated educators and librarians are leading the charge to help students investigate, create, collaborate and communicate effectively, and to reach beyond the walls of their own schools. 

    I am honored to represent a large community of connected librarians across the nation who play a uniquely significant role in assisting teachers as they become comfortable with new technologies, and who link teachers and students with the tools and resources that help them become “connected” learners.  While librarians have always been resource mavens and curriculum specialists, our roles have broadened to include the technology tools and strategies that prepare our students for an always connected future.   That can mean connecting our ASL students via Skype so they can teach a Canadian student sign language, hosting a robotics makerspace in the library, building a list of web resources for our Vietnam memorial project, or discovering new devices that will aid student research. 

    When tablets entered the commercial marketplace, for example, I was eager to pilot them in the library in order to determine their efficacy for our teachers and students.  As an early adopter, I began with just six tablets to gather information on their usefulness for student learning both within the library and the classroom.  Three years later, with the dedication of a tribe of people, we are now a one-to-one tablet district k-12 and are entering our third year hosting an annual conference for tablet users across the country.  

    As a librarian (in concert with technology staff),  I supported the initiative in many ways:  redesigning the library to include a tech “help desk”, building lists of appropriate apps, developing projects with students and teachers, and documenting our initiative on a campus blog.  I have networked with librarians around the country as they grapple with similar issues from e-books to library redesign; even when we redesigned our own library six years ago, many of the future-friendly features that make our library a vibrant hub were inspired by other colleagues online.

    As a librarian, I play a vital leadership role with my unique expertise about research and literacy.  But I and other librarians cannot develop our skills in a vacuum. Wired librarians across the globe have banded together to build resources for one another, like the Teacher Librarian Virtual café.  This program, led by volunteers, hosts monthly online programming and supports weekly Twitter chats.  I also engage with Texas librarians during the weekly Texas Library Twitter chat and network during national events like the Connected Educator month with Secretary Arne Duncan, and the free K12online Conference, which gave me the first thrilling taste of connecting with educators globally.

    These ongoing connections have imbued my own practice with the most empowering professional learning I have ever been a part of; I can wake up chatting with educators in Australia, connect with colleagues on campus during the day, and go to bed having chatted with colleagues on the West Coast.  Rather than work alone, librarians have grown wide networks of colleagues that both support and challenge us, and we, and our schools, are better for it.  For me, this incredible honor to be named as a Champion of Change is a recognition not only of my own work as a “technolibrarian”, but more importantly of all of my connected colleagues and their incredible dedication to better our profession.   We care fiercely about educating our students and about moving our schools forward.  And these connections make our work much richer.   Thank you for recognizing that “connecting works” and thank you for this honor.

    Carolyn Foote is the district and high school librarian at Westlake High School in Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas who is fascinated by the intersection of technology and libraries. 

  • Training Students to Use Technology Creates Real Potential

    Daphne Bradford

    Daphne Bradford is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

    On February 6, 1999 I had the pleasure of interviewing civil rights icon Rosa Parks for a Black History Month segment to be aired via Bailey Broadcasting Services nationally syndicated radio network.  During this “I can’t believe I’m talking to Rosa Parks” interview, I was amazed to hear about how she learnedto email in her 80’s.   Inspired by this conversation, I established the grassroots non-profit Mother Of Many (M.O.M.), on August 12, 1999.  America was on the brink of entering the 21st century and I had a dream of making history by bridging the digital divide between the civil rights generation, the hip-hop generation, and their children. 

    Developing Digital Media Geniuses became Mother Of Many’s inaugural technology program.  Designed to provide technology training to economically disadvantaged high school students, the program prepares students for 21st century college and career opportunities.  The curriculum was first implemented in Watts, CA at Locke High School where I was hired as a Professional Expert to train at-risk students to produce radio news shows.  Watching students who were failing math, science, and English re-engage in education by earning certifications in industry software programs Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro was awe-inspiring.  In recognition of this, work Apple selected me as a 2007 Apple Distinguished Educator upon securing Locke High School as the corporation’s first Authorized Training Center for Education within the Los Angeles Unified School District.  This was the same year a hopeful Senator named Barack Obama began his presidential campaign and the same year the iPhone began changing global communication. 

    I realized then that technology had a ubiquitous behavior that would become uncontrollable for educators if they did not connect with it and become friends. Providing Internet access space for all students, undocumented and citizens, was a necessity.  Looking into the eyes of a reformed student encumbered by a house arrest ankle bracelet while he’s telling me “Ms. B, you know you can help save me,” reinforced my goal to create a scalable model for schools across the nation.  This desire led me to partnerships with KABC-7 News and KNBC-Los Angeles digital news.  Some of my students earned internships at the Ogilvy and Mather Advertising agency.  Expanding my efforts, the Los Angeles Urban League contracted me to train Crenshaw High School students’ podcast engineering.  Using their new skills, these advanced students then published the book, Journey to the White House, and taught podcasting classes at the Cal State Dominguez Hills Osher Life Long Learning Institute.

    Always looking for new opportunities, I was searching around and discovered Microsoft’s Innovative Educator (MIE) program, which honors teachers for effectively using technology in their curriculum to increase student engagement and success.  Upon applying, Microsoft selected me as a 2011 Innovative Educator and 2012 MIE Trainer.   This opened the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) door for Mother Of Many students to learn coding and game design.  The Crenshaw Digital Media & Gaming Team became the first group of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students to publish a game, Going Banana’s for Health, in the Windows 8 App Store.  M.O.M. also partnered with Dorsey High School’s Math and Science Magnet Academy to expand student’s interest in STEM related careers. It’s an honor to be selected for Mother Of Many students and partner school principals as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.  Thank you.

    Daphne Bradford is the founder and president of Mother Of Many (M.O.M.), a grassroots organization dedicated to bridging the digital technology and STEM career divide with scalable models of success for schools across the United States.  

  • Teachers Learn from Technology Too

    Todd Nelsoney

    Todd Nesloney is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

    When I first received the email saying I had been selected as a White House Champion of Change for being a connected educator, I sat in pure disbelief.  To this day, I still can’t believe that this is a reality.  I am a teacher in a tiny town in Texas, who never dreamed I would ever set foot in the White House, much less be recognized for my work.  If you would have asked me a year and a half ago what a “connected educator” was, I am sure I would have told you that it was a teacher who knew how to plug in a computer!

    Now my world is completely different.  Ever since getting “connected” a year and a half ago, my sphere of influence and my depth of learning have increased dramatically.  I can still remember the day that my former Assistant Superintendent walked into my classroom and convinced me to give Twitter a try.  At first, I was completely against Twitter, but I soon realized it would change my perspective more than I could have imagined. 

    When I became a connected educator, I  learned from others all over the world and began to form real meaningful relationships with other educators.  This recognition is a reflection, not just of me, but the connections I’ve made and the relationships I’ve built.  I’ve always said that I am only good at what I do because I surround myself with the most incredible, inspirational, boundary pushing, and thought provoking educators out there.  Educators whose hearts are in it for the betterment of the kids.  Educators who on a daily basis challenge my thinking, listen to my rants, provide me with encouragement, and most of all, supply an endless amount of innovative ideas.

    So in writing this, I have to give an enormous amount of credit to my PLN (Personal Learning Network).  Without them I would never have experienced any of the opportunities that have been placed before me and would not be the teacher, or person, I am today.  More importantly, it is my students who benefit the most from the monumental amount of learning that I undertake every day because I chose to become a connected educator.  I challenge YOU, to step outside your comfort zone, take the leap, and begin to connect today!

    Todd is a fifth grade teacher at Fields Store Elementary in Waller, Texas.  In addition to teaching Todd is one of the National School Board Association’s “20 to Watch”, one of the Center for Digital Education’s “Top 40 Innovators in Education”, a Classroom Champions Educator, a Flipped Classroom Certification Instructor for, part of the Remind101 Teacher Advisory Board, co-founder of “The 3 Tech Ninjas”, co-author of the book “Flipping 2.0”, and author of the children’s book “Spruce & Lucy”.

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