“All students possess the resiliency to learn despite inhibiting circumstances if the instruction is engaging and clear expectations are enforced.” – William Blake, USA

To the students at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School in Maryland, interacting with William Blake, their assistant principal, is anything but traditional. In fact, they can find him anywhere, anytime – usually when they first wake up and check Twitter. “I use Twitter as a tool to interact, monitor, and share pertinent information to students, parents, and the community,” says Blake. “Stakeholders of education must realize ‘traditional’ methods are no longer suitable for 21st century students,” he adds.

Blake’s unconventional take on student/administration interaction is getting attention.
More than half of the student body subscribes to his twitter feed (@pumasden).
And his work has been featured in the Washington Post and on local TV news in the
Washington, D.C. area.

“Educators must develop a ‘reform’ agenda that will allow them to transform education to high standards of excellence,” says Blake. “Technology must be available to every educator and student in order to keep pace with our ever-changing world.”

Blake took some time to create a video blog for us here at Daily Edventures, sharing
why Twitter is especially useful – not only engaging students in the learning process, but also for managing conflict and resolving differences.

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with William Blake.

What has changed as a result of your work – especially your use of Twitter?

My efforts in utilizing Twitter to capture students’ attention have impacted student achievement through the following trends:

  • Decreased suspension rate
  • Enhanced student pride
  • Student accountability of cyber use
  • Positive reinforcement of how to conduct proper behavior on social media sites

The staff and faculty at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School have noticed that the use of Twitter is a positive tool to relay information to students. The administrative staff accepts the use of Twitter because we are immediately notified of potential altercations. Using Twitter affords us the opportunity to provide mediation and prevent negative behavior.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

Other educators across the country could embrace the use of social media and 21st
century practices to capture students’ attention. Traditionally, adults can be timid and stay away from new technology to which our students are introduced at a young age. This new technology that captivates our students’ attention can be utilized to further educate and create an environment necessary for student achievement. Professional development courses are essential to educators becoming familiar with the use of social media and technology as a tool to enhance student achievement in multiple facets.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

I use technology as an assistant principal daily to support my work as an educator. I have established a Twitter feed (@PumasDen), a YouTube channel and a website that provide multiple avenues for me to communicate to all stakeholders of my school community.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Early in my teaching career I noticed that many of my students were reading and comprehending below their grade levels. Therefore, I created a plan of action that had to be immediately implemented to increase student achievement and allow my students to develop the ability to obtain a comprehensive literary background. Basic comprehension
and understanding of informational texts were essential tools that were embedded in the goals of my literacy plan. The literacy plan focused on all components of literacy instruction including vocabulary development, writing instruction, spelling, phonics, fluency, and comprehension of Standard English. My purpose and mission in developing this literacy plan was to ensure all high school students were proficient in all levels of basic comprehension and to equip them with comprehensive tools to increase achievement on the secondary level. The literacy plan permitted students in my classroom to meet the following goals and standards:

  • Receive reading instruction which reflects best teaching practices
  • Be assessed weekly to ensure their individual needs are being met
  • Read fluently on grade level upon graduation
  • Receive appropriate intervention and remediation services as needed
  • Learn strategies for reading academic text
  • Read 15 books (required) to assure development of reading fluency

When I implemented the literacy plan in my classroom, I noticed immediate changes. Throughout the school year, each student progressed from becoming an early-emergent reader to a blossomed-fluent reader. All students reached the level of becoming a fluent reader by the end of the school year and met standards for reading that were appropriate for their grade levels. The life-long lesson I learned from creating this literacy plan is that
all students possess the resiliency to learn despite inhibiting circumstances if the instruction is engaging and clear expectations are enforced.

What is your region doing well currently to support education?

Currently Prince George’s County Public School District (PGCPS), located in the suburbs
of Maryland, is doing great work to support education. For example, several middle schools in our district are classified as iPad one-to-one schools. Within these schools, every teacher and student has access to an iPad. This initiative allows educators to create avenues of digital learning for our students that will allow them to become proficient in the use of technology.

Also, the district believes in creating a culture of college and career readiness for
all students. PGCPS has established Secondary School Reform (SSR) to assist in this core vision. SSR prepares students for college and careers through several academies that are implemented in schools across the district. The academies are:

  • Academy of Architecture and Design
  • Academy of Business and Finance
  • Academy of Engineering and Science
  • Academy of Global Studies
  • Academy of Graphic Arts & Communication
  • Academy of Health & Biosciences
  • Academy of Consumer Services, Hospitality and Tourism
  • Academy of Law, Education and Public Service

These academies will allow students to obtain instruction in career fields during
their matriculation through high school. The goal is for every student to graduate college and be career-ready with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in a global society.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

The best opportunity for innovation begins in the classroom. Teachers must utilize all resources that are available to them via technology that will allow their students to be successful. Teachers posses the ability to transform student learning through multiple facets of digital learning – this is rapidly becoming a trend of 21st century instructional practice.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Advice I would like to give a new teacher comes from a quote by Thomas Friedman which
states that “Average is officially over.” I want everyone wanting to make a difference to know that we must teach our youth not to succumb to the status quo of his or her environment, but to work very hard to become above average. In order to be successful, all students must have a great role model in front of them to influence them to achieve more than average so they will have the ability to compete in a global society.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

The educational “trend” that is helping students is digital learning. Today’s students are born into a technology-driven world and digital learning captures their attention rather than chalkboard teaching.  The trend that is getting in the way of learning is the traditional teaching in which educators are fearful of releasing and accepting 21st century instructional practices.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

If I could give one educational tool to every child in the world it will be a tablet. This device is the best instructional tool for 21st century learning. Students can have instant access to e-books, educational apps, and digital learning practices that sparks student achievement. Tablets have the ability to transform education by creating educational networks through digital learning. Education is rapidly changing and the tools we’ve used in the past do not always meet the needs or interest of the students of the present and future. A tablet offers creativity and hands-on learning for students. Tablets are expanding the learning experience for students and teachers, and with their use, there is something for every learner.

About William Blake
Twitter handle: @pumasden

  •  Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
  • Current residence: Prince George’s County, Maryland
  • Education: Doctoral Student; University of Maryland Eastern Shore-Expected Graduation Date 2014.
  • Website I check every day: Twitter
  • Person who inspires me most: Carletta Marrow (Principal, Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School)
  • Favorite childhood memory: Winning the 4×100 State Championship Race in High School
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Las Vegas, Nevada
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? The first day of school, when students shared their summer stories of boredom.
  • Favorite book: Push Has Come To Shove, by Dr. Steve Perry
  • Favorite music: Hip-Hop
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “Be AMAZING.”
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5 Responses to “All students possess the resiliency to learn despite inhibiting circumstances if the instruction is engaging and clear expectations are enforced.” – William Blake, USA

  1. Robin McNair says:

    I work with Mr. Blake and his use of Twitter as an assistant principal has truly been a positive transformation in the role of assistant principal. Students feel connected, understood, and respected instead of feeling like administration is out of touch with their generation.
    Instead of blaming Twitter and other digital media for the decline in students’ desire to learn, Mr. Blake has found a way to counteract this belief.

    He is an example to follow.

  2. Iesha P says:

    Mr. Blake does not just inspire the students. He inspires both his peers in the education field and outside of the education field. The sky is truly the limit for this gentleman!

  3. Avery O. Leake says:

    This guy is Amazing.

  4. Avery O. Leake says:

    This guy is Amazing..

  5. Wanda A. Alderman says:

    Great article and excellent comments…truly positive

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