The first year.

Image via icanread

Image via icanread

This year marked the fifteenth (gak!) in my career in education, so it’s nice that I still have the opportunity to reflect upon firsts. As time passes, many of us transition into new and exciting roles, and the 13-14 school year was one of those for me.

I accepted the position of elementary instructional technology integrator for our district after my son was born last school year. I had no desire to attempt to balance the demands of new motherhood with the likely-more-insane-and-less-fun demands of being an elementary principal, so I resigned at the end of my maternity leave. (People often ask me if I miss administration. That is a terribly phrased question. I do not miss administration. Do I miss being the principal? Every now and then. I miss kid time and -some- decision-making authority.)

My current role is to support the teachers and students of three elementary schools in our district. I have a “base” in each of the three schools, and spend my work days each week traveling to the three buildings. I commute a decent distance so I will say one of the lows of this position is all of the driving that is involved. I dislike commuting immensely, so I need to devise a plan to make that time more worthwhile. Perhaps a Voxer podcast? :) I also end up schlepping around my belongings from place to place, thus my cart and I have become intimately acquainted this year. (And for the record, I really need one of these. Cords are pesky.)

To guide my reflections on this year, I’m using some questions shared by Elena Aguilar in her collection of coaching tools  (also check out her post, Reflecting on a Year of Learning for more great tips on the reflection process). I uploaded her Questions for reflecting on a year of learning document here in Google Drive for you to access. It’s available in Word in her post.

My reflections go a little something like this.

This Year

This year I crafted the role of the elementary tech integrator kind of from scratch, as it did not previously exist in our district, although my job description mirrored that of our secondary tech integrator. I spent time getting to know the teachers and students at each building. I made sure certain online accounts were up and running, such as those for Kidblog and Qwertytown. I devoted a good deal of time to curating and sharing resources. I used Google Forms for record keeping purposes, to easily track the grade levels, teachers, students and teams I worked with, as well as the different topics and tools that I coached/provided tutorials and/or direct instruction. My summary of responses indicated that I spent a lot of time working with grades 3-6 and less time in the primary grades. Reflecting on that, our Grades 4-6 students learn in a 1:1 setting and therefore have more opportunities for fluent tech use on a daily basis, where the primary classes typically share devices and/or utilize the computer labs for project work. Google Apps for Ed accounts begin in grade 3, and I completed numerous lessons and push-in support for students and teachers on GAFE topics this year. I worked 1:1 with a number of teachers, supporting their classroom endeavors, and also with specific grade levels supporting needs as requested. I had the opportunity to push into a grade five classroom during their Genius Hour project work time for a handful of hours, and the students really inspired me with their questions, thinking, and project work! Also this year I finalized the K-6 technology integration framework that is built on ISTE Standards for Students, and I worked with the secondary tech integrator, the mighty Tim, to write Spartan Digital Competencies for Teachers based on ISTE Standards for Teachers. This will be used in conjunction with our teacher evaluation system to provide teachers with the opportunity to set goals and make plans to integrate technology meaningfully into their practice and classroom activities. I worked through the Common Sense Media scope and sequence and instructed students in grades 3-6 on various lessons from that framework, and also met with our computer lab personnel to help them roll out these lessons in their settings as well. Throughout the year I developed and presented sessions during our elementary in-service days. We learned more about blogging with students, incorporating Google Drive into classroom activities, digital storytelling projects, and formative assessment with digital tools. Tim and I co-planned the end of year “Tech Day” for all K-12 staff, which was held on the last day of school. We received some really positive feedback about the structure of the day and the sessions offered! I also ended up assuming the role of overseeing some of the district’s social media channels.

I’d like to think I made a positive impact this first year. I noticed an increase in use of many of the digital tools our district offers, and I received some complimentary feedback on a personal level from a number of teachers. That being said, I didn’t reach as many people as I could have. I didn’t “push” enough and perhaps didn’t make myself as available as possible. My hope is that now that my position is well established, folks will think of me sooner than later next year, and eagerly ask for my input and help when needed. What I learned about adult learners is that they want relevant, timely resources. They want to be coached in a way that does not belittle them or make them feel as though the skills they already have are not important. Teachers will not plan to use technology/devices/tools that are unreliable. There is nothing more defeating than getting psyched up to take a risk and try something new in your classroom, and then have a huge fail: device fail, network fail, battery fail, whatever. What I learned about students is that they want to talk about their digital interactions and their lives using technology. Even our youngest learners are using technology in ways that can be powerful, yet many are subscribed to services and using apps and platforms that are collecting their data and using their personally identifiable information, and they’re doing so without a parent’s permission or without some adult in their life looking over their activities. That makes me nervous and further solidifies to me that we, as educators, need to model for our students what it means to be a critical, wise, healthy, and kind consumer and creator in the digital age.

As I spent a lot of time locating, curating, and sharing resources for my teachers and school community, I can share evidence such as my Elementary Tech Integrator blog, Tech Tidbits issues made on Smore, and family newsletters. I also created instructional materials to accompany the Common Sense Media digital citizenship lessons we taught in grades 3-6 and became a Common Sense Media Certified Educator this year. I presented with some of our district support staff at a Title 1 parent conference at our IU to share family-focused digital citizenship resources.

In the connected edusphere, I had the opportunity to write a chapter for an upcoming Learning Forward publication, presented at FETC, PETE & C, and several webinars for Simple K-12. I facilitated another successful Educational Leadership in the Digital Age course for PLP (hoping to run another section in the fall, if you’re interested!) and next year I am slated to attend and present at Edscape, the Learning Forward conference, and integratED PDX.

This Summer

Truthbomb: this summer I am going to spend a lot of time with my ridiculously handsome and personable toddler and family and a lot of time at the beach! My position is a teacher contracted position and thus I am no longer a 12-month employee. I am scheduled to work a handful of days in the summer months, which will include

  • Attending IU13′s e-Learning Revolution conference next week, presenting on digital age professional development on day 2 and the Bucks-Lehigh Edusummit in August to share about elem. tech integration
  • Providing a day of training for staff with our new district blogs through Edublogs/Campuspress!
  • Continuing to update the Elem Tech Integrator blog and sharing resources with staff
  • Working with our grades 1 and 6 teams who are transitioning to a hybrid instructional model next year
  • Reading Invent to Learn and putting some ideas together for an elementary makerspace
  • Continuing to moderate the Instructional Technology Integrators and Coaches Google+ community
  • Capturing family moments in thousands of photos and videos, using Day One to journal our special time together, and working on my Project Life 2014 album

No matter what your role this year, take some time to reflect. You’ll be surprised at how this process allows you to see how much you’ve learned, the ways in which you contributed to your learning community, and the things you need to do to improve and grow professionally to make an even more lasting impact in years to come. This post is certainly worthy of a TLDR tag, and I know I didn’t articulate all of the ways in which I served my district this year, but this reflective process is truly a powerful one.

In my next post, I’ll tackle the final two sections of Aguilar’s reflection guide: what I hope to accomplish come August/Fall and Next School Year. Stay tuned!

Questions about communication.

CC Licensed Photo Shared by Melvin Gaal

CC Licensed Photo Shared by Melvin Gaal

One of my district’s recent projects has been thinking through and seeking to transform the way we communicate via digital means. These are some questions that come to mind when I contemplate digital age learning and communication.

Dear Superintendent,

If I were a parent moving into your district, would I be able to access quality information about your schools online? Not just test scores and state report cards – but a real, true, authentic look into the classrooms and learning in your schools? Would I be able to Like your school’s Facebook page and follow your district on Twitter, and receive timely updates in my own social media streams or through a district app? Does information from your district come to me? Or do I have to go out and find it myself? Can I comment on and re-share district news?

Are there methods in place for informing me about issues in times of crisis? Is it clear where and how I should be locating that information and/or how the information comes to me? How can I easily find out about your district’s policies and procedures? Are directories readily available so I can contact who I need to, when I need to? How do you collect, store, and protect my child’s data? Who do you share it with and why? How can we access our child’s data at any time?

Are you proactive in publishing critical news and updates to community members or reactive after stories hit the local news?

Do your communications clearly share your vision for learning and the resources, concepts, programs, standards, and instructional techniques used to help students achieve? Do I know what your leadership team hopes to accomplish this year and beyond, in five years? Ten years?

Are all subgroups and populations equally represented in communications? Can I find as many stories about learning in the primary classrooms and emotional support classrooms as I can about high school sports achievements?

How do you accommodate for families who do not have Internet access available at home or Internet-enabled devices? Are your communications able to be easily translated for speakers of other languages? Are your district’s facilities opened up to the public to allow those without access to stay current and engage with your online spaces? Are paper communications used to reach all stakeholders in the absence of connectivity? What are you doing as a school leader to help local and government leaders get access for everyone in your community?

Do you have an online presence as a learner? How do you model for your staff and students that you continue growing and learning as a leader? Do you communicate efficiently, effectively, and consistently with your staff?

Am I a welcomed visitor on your campus? How will I feel that I am welcomed?

Dear Principal,

I want the best for my children, as I know you do. When I want to learn more about your school, can I go to your school’s blog or website and see learning taking place? Does your online presence demonstrate to the public why your school is a special place to learn? Why are your teachers special? Students? Staff? Community? Who are they? What do they believe in? Does your school’s vision and mission shine through in all of your communications? What events and activities are being shared to spark excitement and interest in your school community? How are your postings and your online presence modeling respectful and powerful online communications? Can I see photos of learning in action? Do you use Instagram or Flickr or similar to allow glimpses into daily school life?

Does your district respect the demands on my time as a busy, working parent, offering various structures (online and offline) and opportunities for learning and for parent involvement? Are there Twitter chats or Google Hangouts or live streams of events that I can attend virtually if I can’t attend in person? Are things archived for easy access after events? Are there regular opportunities for parents to provide input on various aspects of school life?

Can I find common forms on your website, things I can access quickly and easily? Schedules, handbooks, menus, bus information, directory information, policies, procedures? Do you report daily or weekly happenings in the form of school news or interactive bulletins? Do you offer the same benefits for your staff through consistently-maintained information processes?

Am I met with smiles when I enter your school’s doors?

Dear Teacher,

You spend countless moments day in and day out creating stimulating learning environments and designing learning experiences for our children. Do you communicate the ideas shared in class with your students’ families? Do your students’ families know what your class values and admires and works to achieve? If my child was in your class, would snapshots of the week’s learnings be available to me through your class blog or website, or your class’s Twitter feed or Facebook page? How can I communicate my questions and concerns with you? How do you involve my child in the communication process? How is my child expected to share his learning with you, with me, with his peers, and with an authentic global audience?

Do you share what you do with other teachers who are looking to bring the best they can to their students? Do you freely share resources, ideas, content, and time with your both your local and global colleagues, knowing that in the spirit of reciprocity you, too, will benefit from what others share? Do your students know you are a learner first?

Is my feedback welcomed and encouraged? Can you help me understand the difficult work that you do in a way that helps me best support my child?

Am I met with smiles when I’m welcomed at your classroom door?

Dear Parent,

Don’t settle when it comes to your child’s school’s communication methods. You deserve to understand the full breadth and depth of your child’s learning experiences and to be embraced as part of the learning community. Your voice deserves to be heard and acknowledged. You should expect not only to be involved with your child’s school, but to be engaged.

 

What else should we be asking ourselves about the way we communicate in school communities?

Stumbling.

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Jessica Hagy, Indexed

This.

Blogging is currently a chore I am having a hard time embracing. Like emptying the dishwasher and taking out the trash.

I have a few posts saved in draft form. Not sure why or how I started crafting them, but I did. Somewhere I read it’s beneficial to start a post even if you’re not certain you will ever finish it.

Write to write and keep on writing.

Lots of spring curriculum and professional development and planning work happening in my little corner of the universe right now, and it’s given me a great opportunity to work with my secondary level partner in crime who helps me think through a lot of things, and despite my inability to produce a coherent blog post, I continue to network behind the scenes, with my tweeps and PLNers and together, we think.

We think, a lot, and we also create, and we trash stuff and have ideas too big for ourselves and our districts and our universes and we complain and wonder and reflect and criticize and so sometimes we question, “What are we DOING? Is any of this worth it? Is anyone utilizing the ideas I share? Why aren’t more teachers using me as a resource? How can I be better? For me? For colleagues? For kids?”

So, I tie these ramblings to kids. How often are they permitted to stumble and fumble through the confetti in their heads, to try to relate new information to their experiences and work to create new understandings?

And teachers. How often do we trust our teachers to take learning into their own hands? Can we stop micromanaging for one second to allow them to explore topics of interest and collaborate and get meaningful work done on their terms?? Sometimes I think it’s such a simple thing, this professional development, and yet we manage to mangle it up by this need to put all of our hands in it.

Sometimes I think too much, sometimes not enough. Sometimes an idea sticks, sometimes I need to move on.

And this blog is the place where I share and I reflect.

This is a place where my thinking becomes visible.

What’s your process?

I’m interested in professional learning and how to best support individuals, teams, and schools in the never-ending quest to provide the best professional “development” possible, so the concept of Personal Knowledge Management is very intriguing to me.

While schools and companies work to ensure they provide ample learning opportunities for their staffs, it’s clear that in order to truly grow as professionals, we must personally invest our own time and efforts into our learning. 

Because You know who is in charge of your professional development? You.

After reading Harold Jarche’s work on PKM – see here and here for some of his most informative resources on the topic (and the chance to learn with Jarche here), I wanted to use his Seek-Sense-Share model to describe all that  influences my learning on a daily basis.

Before becoming a connected educator, I could count those sources of information and inspiration on one hand.

Today, because of the ease with which I can access, save, share, curate, publish, critique, create, remix, and request information, my personal learning process looks much different. As administrators, teachers, and leaders, we should be able to articulate to our school communities what our own process looks like, and why it’s important to be able to model this process for our students, who no doubt are navigating the same digital waters we are.

Here’s what my process currently looks like. Most of the time.

HiltSeekSenseShare

Direct link to the image

Seek – Go, Explore, Discover!

I seek information, and because of the conveniences afforded through digital technologies, information finds me. I read an awful lot of Tweets, Google+, and Facebook posts, many that contain direct links to resources. I subscribe to hundreds of blogs via RSS and use Feedly as my main aggregator (read mostly on the web and iPhone), pulling feeds of interest also into Flipboard. I read books mainly via my Kindle app on iPad and iPhone, but there is always a healthy stack of print books on my “to read” pile as well. Something I thought I’d never say – I eagerly await the arrival of certain emails to my inbox, and I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of the email newsletter- namely contributions from Audrey Watters, Stephen Downes, and Doug Belshaw.

Sense – Understand, Do, Create, Remix

Through reading, assimilating the new content with ideas I already have and experiences I’ve lived through, I reflect and I create. I create for myself, I create for my schools.  I write. I reflect in writing in a few spaces. This blog. Using Evernote and Postach.io. The elem. instructional tech blog I host for our district. I try to organize endless to-dos and must-dos using the Clear app. I still use Diigo to curate to lists and often share those lists with others. If I find a resource of interest that I know I want to read and share later, I send it to Pocket.

Share – Pay It Forward

I am a firm believer that one should not only lurk in social learning communities, but instead should give back to those who give so freely, and share, share, and share again. I share in many of my same sense-making spaces, and in addition I use services like Pinterest, Scribd, and Slideshare to make sharing easier. (Eek, I forgot YouTube on my graphic! I share many tutorials for our teachers there.) Twitter is the place I share most often. I use IFTTT to streamline some of my sharing processes. I compile resources in public Google docs and try to organize resources that accompany presentations on my wiki. I also use email, Skype, or Google Hangouts to provide further information to folks who’ve asked me to share resources and ideas.

Supporting the process? My PLN. 

I chose an image of some members of my Twitter PLN as the backdrop in my PKM graphic to stress that this process is supported day in and day out by the people that comprise my networks and learning communities. These inspiring, resourceful, thought-provoking professionals take the time to share and provide feedback on my work and others’ work on a daily basis. The people help make my PKM process so successful. The relationships with other educators, both online and in my local learning community, have opened my mind to so many possibilities and helped me grow as a professional. To those educators, I say thank you.

As with all learning processes, this is messy. Not everything fits in one category and most of these tools that I’ve shared support my work in a variety of areas. Many of my creative processes are eventually shared, but others aren’t. Through the sense-making process, I’m often introduced to new content and thereby find myself back at the Seek stage all over again. The pursuit to learn more, do more, share more, be more is persistent, although not always visible to followers or an audience.

What’s your process towards personal knowledge mastery?

“Busy is the default status.”

Photo from Flickr: Notahipster

Photo from Flickr: Notahipster

I’ve been busy, woe is me, my blog continues to go neglected.
But, as Dean says,

I declare a mortorium on the word busy. Everyone is busy, we get it. Busy is the default status. Let us know if that changes. — Dean Shareski

What’s been keeping me busy?

  • Keeping this updated, trying out Smore.
  • Playing with these.
  • Finishing my PKM diagram.
  • Planning a lesson schedule for these. Looking forward to teaching lots next month!
  • Reading this. (All parents should read. All educators should read. All people should read.) Want to discuss it? Join in here.
  • Writing this after I read this. (All school leaders should read!)
  • More reading: this and this and this.
  • Working on Project Life and journaling with Day One.
  • Seeking quality tech-infused projects for inclusion in our latest math curricula. Have any you’d like to share?
  • Learning from the fine folks who post, question, and share here daily.
  • Prepping for the Title 1 parent conference where I’ll share digital citizenship topics.
  • Dreaming of this.
  • Oh, and loving lots on Mr. Sneakypants. And remembering this is the most important thing I need to do right now. HT Dana!

How are you keeping busy?

A PKM challenge!

Harold Jarche

Harold Jarche

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to speak with groups of passionate educators at FETC and Pete & C, and based on feedback following my sessions, I’m convinced even more so that both administrators and teachers seek truly meaningful professional development opportunities for themselves and their staff.

We spoke of Edcamps and unconferences and Fed Ex Days and the like, but one of the ideas that has most inspired me in recent months is the concept of Personal Knowledge Management shared by Harold Jarche. After sharing PKM during my sessions I noticed that his ideas struck a cord with many folks.

Yes, as administrators and designers of professional development we have to keep the big picture in mind and plan to use our limited numbers of PD days in ways that address school and district goals, while simultaneously trying to skilfully differentiate to meet the needs of our individual teacher learners. Easier said than done, for sure.

But let’s face the facts. Admin/districts/schools/divisions can’t provide professional learning opportunities that exactly meet the needs of all of their teachers, all of whom are at various points in their careers, all of whom have different strengths, needs, wants, passions, interests.

The teacher, the admin, the coach – the individual – has to assume responsibility for his own learning. The individual path an educator takes to grow professionally must be built by the learner, for himself, in order to be effective. No two paths will look the same. And that’s a good thing.

Jarche  shares this definition of Personal Knowledge Management:

“PKM: A set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world and work more effectively.”

Personal knowledge management means taking control of your professional development, and staying connected in the digital workplace.

More than just a framework to help guide your personal learning efforts, PKM is a method through which the learner makes sense of the flood of information bombarding him on a daily basis and determines how that information should be used (or not used). Because for those of us who are “connected,” and choose willingly to engage in social learning networks, we know there is no shortage of information and resources coming our way. So how do we make sense of it all? How do we use it effectively?

Note this important phrase in the PKM definition: individually constructed. What works for one will not work for all. This is personal. This is about the individual. This is about empowerment and ownership. This supports learning done by you. And yet, we will see, it is also social in nature.

Jarche shares these essential elements of PKM. How can you embrace the Seek-Sense-Share model to support your learning?

pkm-connects-work-learning-520x373

Harold Jarche

Seek – We find information, we stay up to date. Information comes to us. We search for information ourselves. We rely on our networks to bring us curated resources.

Sense- After we seek, we must make sense of the information we find. We reflect on the things we read and experience. We put ideas into practice.

Share – We give back. We exchange resources with others. We collaborate with one another.

Check out Jarche’s PKM in 34 Pieces for additional explanations and support to understand the processes included in this model.

Many new to connected learning consider themselves “lurkers” to social spaces such as Twitter. They read, they consume, but at least initially, they do not contribute. I have my own opinions about whether lurking should be considered a legitimate form of peripheral participation, but I always encourage educators new to the connected realm to give back. You may lurk, initially, and get your feet wet, and learn about the community or network itself, but don’t remain a lurker. If all you do is take, take, take and don’t give back to the community, in my opinion, the community suffers. Here’s another post that thinks through lurking as a form of participation idea.

So using Jarche’s Seek-Sense-Share model, I’m going to attempt to map out the tools, services, and methods I use to navigate the digital waters I so often dive into. Where and how do I read? How do I organize what I read, when, and how? What publishing tools do I use? How do I save resources of interest? How do I choose what to share with others, and how do I share those resources? How do I reflect on what I’ve learned, both privately and publicly?

Back in December I read this post by Bryan Alexander in which he describes his “daily info-wrangling routine,” and his reflections inspired me to articulate my own process. (Yes, this post has been in draft form since December. Bah.) Back in September 2011 I wrote the post Effort In, Reward Out, to explain my own personal journey of becoming a connected educator. In the post I share some of the tools and services I used to support my learning. Many of those have since been replaced.

So, I offer you a challenge.

The purpose of this challenge is twofold. 1) I need to wrap my head around my own process. It has evolved over the years. Tools have come and gone, I approach seeking, sensing, and sharing differently than I have in the past. It’s quite a mess for me at the moment.

2: Others can learn from our processes! Newly connected administrators and teachers often share their feelings of being overwhelmed by the information, the different services and tools available, and feeling as though it’s too much to manage adn they can’t make sense of anything. By making our thinking and processes visible, others can borrow, steal, modify, remix, and repurpose our ideas. We can co-create and cooperate.

Ultimately I’d love to represent my PKM process in graphical form as Jane Hart has done here:

Screen-Shot-2013-11-30-at-10.50.04

As Jarche concludes in his post, Connecting learning and work and life,

A key part of PKM is connecting our networks, our communities, our work, and our lives together in order to make sense, be more productive, and open ourselves to serendipity. It’s a holistic approach, not one that compartmentalizes work and life, but something that helps us to make sense of the whole messy, complex world we live in. As such, it’s always a work in progress, but it starts by connecting to others.

Won’t you join me? Would love if you’d address this topic in an upcoming blog post. Create, share, and reflect in the comments here and/or tweet me your process. Looking forward to learning from you!

Skirt the rules.

Image via i can read

Image via i can read

I’m attempting to participate in #rhizo14 because Dave Cormier’s work on rhizomatic learning and communities really interests me. I had such a great experience last winter with #etmooc so I’m hoping to be able to keep up with this course, if only to read and view the content shared.

Week 1- Cheating as Learning

This week’s heading makes me uneasy. Cheating = bad. Listening to Dave explain what this week is all about, I get it, I do. But I don’t like it. I guess I don’t have to.

After watching Dave’s intro video, I thought immediately of my last year-ish in the principalship. Mandates were coming down from the state level hard and fast. More standardization. More rigid schedules. We adopted regimented programs with accompanying fidelity checks and the works. More consuming.

Less autonomy. Less freedom for teachers. Less creativity. Less thinking. Less creating.

Maybe it was because I didn’t agree with any of it. Maybe it was because I was pregnant and I really didn’t have the energy to be gangbusters about the straight and narrow path public education was taking. For whatever the reason, I decided to respect my teachers’ freedom and trust them as professionals. I was going to squeeze every ounce of wiggle room out of what I, the middle man, was expected to hand down to my teachers. Some went rogue and adjusted schedules or approaches. Others chose to stick to the plan. There was discourse and conflict and messiness and also some beautiful things that emerged during this time.

Cheating? Nah. Skirting the rules? Definitely.

There was something very instinctual about my decision not to wholeheartedly push the directives. I wasn’t trying to be defiant. I felt it was the right thing to do. The teachers needed me to. The kids needed me to.

I understand that not everyone has the authority to act in this way, or the desire to. Teachers are slaves to schedules and their supervisors and curriculum guides and standards and common assessments and often have to act in ways that defy their guts. Teaching shouldn’t be like that. Learning shouldn’t be like that. Can I ever go back to being a principal in a public ed system? I’m not sure. Not without a lot of autonomy and trust given to me from those above.

Dave shared that the reason we consider cheating to be cheating is because there is a defined set of answers or rules or structures in place by someone in “authority.” The teacher in the classroom, the superintendent, the state department of ed. We’ve all grown accustomed to this power structure and it’s become ingrained in the traditions of schooling.

When we decide to cheat, or skirt the rules, we have the opportunity to disrupt those power structures. For good. We can free ourselves from rigid thinking and one-size-fits-all and we can start imagining and creating in new ways.

There are are still teachers who still don’t allow kids to talk to one another during classwork. During “learning” exercises. They consider “talking to your neighbor” to be a form of cheating. “I don’t want to see your neighbor’s answer on your paper. I want to see your answer.”

What if the answer created by the student and his neighbor is far superior to the one that the individual could conjure on his own? And what if those partners then joined heads with the students across the room? (Yes, I’m suggesting that, perhaps, the kids should get out of their seats.)

Community emerges. Co-creation of content, of knowledge, and shared experiences.

It’s hard to relinquish control. It’s okay to want consistency and quality for all kids. That can happen while respecting the professional and the child. While respecting freedoms and passions and interests and needs and strengths.

It seems to me that for something considered to be so highly disrespectful, cheating as learning requires a great deal of respect for the teacher and student.

More Homework Meme

As if I don’t have enough trouble meeting writing deadlines or blogging consistently (which doesn’t stop me from setting up additional writing spaces, mind you) my favoritest middle school teacher in the world, Bill Ferriter, has tagged me in a very fun blogging challenge.

When I speak with teachers and administrators about the use of social media for professional learning, I always, as so many of you do, stress the importance of building relationships with those in your personal learning network. These relationships deepen the value of the connection and therefore strengthen the learning experience. These relationships can’t be built without a smidgen of personal transparency – who we are, what we feel, who we love, what we do outside of the classroom or school setting.

To begin, here are 11 random facts about me.

1. I am a paper crafter. I have been scrapbooking since 2003. Many people have a preconceived notion of what it means to “scrapbook” and they picture frumpy, middle-aged moms who sit around in their sweats and glue photos to paper. Paper crafting is actually the reason I first started using social media to connect with other people in communities of common interests. It was mind-blowing to me how I could have conversations, share my work, and develop friendships with other crafters who were located all over the country. My current fave for both product and community is Studio Calico. Check it out, it’s an inspiring place!

2. I cannot resist a milkshake. I seriously may have consumed 100 milkshakes while I was pregnant.

3. I am the oldest of five children. My youngest sister was born when I was 17 years old.

4. I did not fly in an airplane until my early twenties. My very first flight was flown by my now-husband, in a Cessna 152.

5. I didn’t see the ocean until I was in the fifth grade. We took a family vacation to LBI.

6. My family often converses entirely in memorized movie lines.

7. I have visited a handful of European countries and cities. London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, and Athens are among the highlights. We can’t wait to take our son to Europe!

8. I met President Bill Clinton in 1995, when I was a senior in high school. He was scheduled to speak at Kutztown University, which is located in my hometown. 98% of my classmates ditched school that day and waited outside the university auditorium and/or procured tickets to hear him speak. My mom said I had to go to school, which bummed me out. In government class that afternoon- there were maybe 5 or 6 of us in attendance – my teacher, Mr. Barry Adams (who is now retired and a tour guide of the Gettysburg battlefields), received a tip from a contact that President Clinton would be making a stop at a local craft/food store on the way out of town. We sprung into action. I made this huge sign on butcher paper which read President Clinton – Middle Class American – Talk to Me! And it had a cut out circle in the middle, and the plan was I’d stick my head through the opening while my classmates held the sign so that when they drove by, he’d be enticed o stop. What do you know? It worked! He came over to greet us. He said, “Who’s this middle class American?” and said hello and shook my hand. He also signed our banner, and the White House photographed us and sent us 5 official copies of the photo in the mail. The enclosure also said the photo was displayed in the White House! I’ve never been to the White House to confirm or deny this. Was a very special day. (And, it proves you should never ditch school.) :)

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9. I played collegiate field hockey and was all-conference my senior year.  I played defense and scored exactly one time, in a double-overtime game where we won 1-0. My teammates rushed the field after I scored and it’s one of the fondest memories of my life. I still have the ball.

10. I have to hold back tears every time I look at my son. He is perfect.

11. I know every line to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

 

Bill has provided us with eleven thought-provoking questions to ponder and answer. Here we go…

1. Grande Soy Green Tea Frappuccino with Extra Whip or House Blend Black?

This is silly. Coffee over tea any day.

2. If you were going to write a book, what would its title be?

One of the perks of my elementary principal’s gig was having freshly-baked (most of the time), cleverly decorated treats brought to my office to celebrate birthdays and holidays. This was one such treat:

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Thus the title of book, should I ever write it, will be There’s a Worm in My Cupcake. Todd Whitaker approves.

3. Rate graphic novels on a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing “useless” and 10 representing “simply amazing.”

When I taught sixth grade, we read amazing stories together. Holes and Red Fern and The View from Saturday. But there were still some students (boys, mostly) who were difficult to engage – they “hated reading.” Enter Avi’s City of Light, City of Dark. While I’m not going to say that every boy was turned onto reading because of that book, I know it was an “a-ha” moment for a lot of kids, to help them learn more about the different types of literature available and to learn to love to read. I don’t particularly love graphic novels myself (although I read Johnny Bunko in one sitting), but I think they’re a solid 8.

4. What member of your digital network has had the greatest impact on your professional growth?

Pass.

5. How do you feel about the holidays?

I love the holidays, but I hate how much money I spend trying to find the perfect gift for people, when a) I’m really terrible about finding good gifts and b) spending time with family is the best gift of all. I love decorating and cookie baking! And eating. And holiday cocktails. And wrapping gifts. And Christmas television shows. And Christmas music.

6. Rate the following movies in order from best to worst:  Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story (I’ve never seen A Christmas Story in its entirety!)

7. What is the best gift that you’ve ever gotten?

Cole, my son.

8. If you had an extra $100 to give away to charity, who would you give it to?

Animal rescue, specifically a group that helps with greyhound rescues.

9. What are you the proudest of?

My efforts to be the best mother I can be.

10. What was the worst trouble that you ever got into as a child?

I’m not entirely sure. But I do remember falling asleep in my fifth grade class while my peers were each reciting The Gettysburg Address. While I didn’t get in “trouble,” my fifth grade teacher found a Peanuts comic strip about Charlie Brown falling asleep in class, and he taped it to my desk the next morning.

11. What was the last blog entry that you left a comment on?  What motivated you to leave a comment on that entry?

Earlier this week, Todd Hoffman shared a blog post about his first experience as a Twitter chat moderator. I have only moderated chats a few times, but I was prompted to comment because I wanted to share that scheduling my moderator questions in advance made the whole experience a lot easier and allowed me to more actively engage in the chat.

Here are the 11 bloggers I am tagging for the next round. You’re welcome. :)

1. Josh Stumpenhorst

2. Tony Sinanis

3. Kristina Peters

4. Jeff Delp

5. Tony Baldasaro

6. Joe Mazza

7. Andy Marcinek

8. Amanda Dykes

9. Michelle Baldwin

10. Katie Hellerman

11. Nick Provenzano

 

And here are my 11 questions for those bloggers:

1. Do you have a middle name? If so, what is it? Anything special about it?

2.  What color are your eyes?

3. Where would you go in a time travel machine? Would you stay?

4. Who is the person you most trust in the world?

5. What high school activities did you participate in?

6. If Twitter ceased to exist tomorrow, what would you most miss about it?

7. Seriously, what do you think of the Miley Cyrus song, Wrecking Ball?

8. Do you cook or bake? What is your specialty?

9. What is the first concert you ever went to? (Excluding school concerts)

10. Have you ever been “starstruck?” Explain.

11.  How far away from your birthplace do you live now?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Professional development by you, for you.

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Let your ideas run wild.

In the past several weeks I’ve received a number of requests for the resources I used to host a Fed-Ex Day at our school. I thought it may be easiest to share them in one space here so others can access as needed.

Incidentally, I find it curious and humbling that folks are still inquiring about the day’s details. When I think back on that day, held in November 2010, it feels like an eternity ago. As the principal that year, I had a lot of autonomy in the way I designed and hosted professional development for my teachers.

And that, my friends, is the key to making something like this work. Building-level administrators have to be given the autonomy to plan, implement and facilitate learning for their teachers in a way that empowers their teachers as learners. Without that freedom, (unless it’s orchestrated by the folks at the top, and to be fair, in some places, it is), this type of day doesn’t happen. In the years that followed, our district moved towards a standardized-approach for inservice days. Each elementary building follows a common professional development schedule built around district initiatives. While certainly this protocol serves to help the three buildings become more aligned in their efforts and open the lines of communication among teachers and grade levels, it doesn’t exactly support initiatives that address the unique needs of a building (or a particular set of teachers, like the specialists). And we all know that every school and the teachers within have a special culture, learning needs, and personalities. Don’t unique individuals deserve individualized professional development?

The reason I find the requests for my resources curious is that I didn’t do anything mind-blowing or creative. I simply reflected upon the ideas shared by Daniel Pink in his book, Drive, and brought the day known as a Fed-Ex day to our little school.  Aside from an hour or so of preparation in terms of sharing background materials with my staff, I didn’t do much of anything. (Although in writing this post, I was reminded of Obvious to You, Amazing to Others. It’s a quick view and a great reminder of why we need to share!)

Let me also share that Chris Wejr began incorporating FedEx preps into his school in October of that year, and his work should be used as a reference as well! Chris is an invaluable resource when it comes to motivation and the work we do with teachers and students. More from Chris here.

I blogged about our day, and shared it. And Dan Pink retweeted the blog post.

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We engaged in an email conversation, which was pretty exciting for me, and I was so happy to share my staff’s successes with him as well as educators who might find the day as inspiring as we did. And I called Chris to talk about it. :)

Yes, I know Dan Pink isn’t an educator. I get it. There are plenty of skeptics out there when it comes to incorporating the ideas shared by Pink in Drive with the work we do in education. I don’t see any fault in finding inspiration from those outside of education and adapting the ideas to make them work for you, your teachers, and your students. The key is that you have identified your needs, you provide autonomy to your learners,  you support their learning along the way, and you assess the effectiveness of your efforts. The FedEx day certainly isn’t going to look the same in the school as it does in the business world. And why should it? We’re different beasts. Own it. Make it yours.

Here are the resources I shared with others. Please feel free to use/adapt to meet your needs:

  • On our school wiki I posted the resources introducing Drive and the background activities like What’s Your Sentence? and the RSA Animate video featuring Pink’s work on motivation that I asked teachers to review before attending our session. It also includes the Google form that teachers used to “deliver” their content/ideas at the conclusion of the day.
  • Here are our sentences. This, as other administrators have found, is one of the most inspiring parts of the day!
  • Here’s my original reflective post, Inspiration Delivers, on my former blog space and here it is on this space.
  • Here’s another reflective post sharing our Edcamp-style PD day later in the year.
  • And here’s a Google doc of resources sharing ideas for “innovative” professional development.

It is now three full years after our Fed-Ex day was held. Innovation Days and Genius Hours and 20% time and  EdCamp-model professional development days -and learning sessions for students- are being designed and shared with the educational community on a daily basis. Students and teachers are sharing how much they appreciate the freedom to learn in ways that best support their needs, and how excited they are to explore topics about which they are passionate.

always get this question when presenting these ideas to other administrators: “But what about the teachers who abuse this freedom? Who sit alone in their rooms and grade papers or work on things that don’t help them develop professionally?”

Then you deal with those folks on an individual basis. You don’t punish the 98% of teachers who want to do the right thing because of the 2% of knuckleheads who can’t seem to handle the autonomy. HT: Tom Murray

I’d encourage anyone who plans professional development to always keep the learners in mind. It doesn’t matter what you call it. “Inservice Day” will do. Use technology, or don’t. But respect your learners and their time.

Shameless plug: I’ll be presenting some ideas about professional development at FETC in January. My session is on Friday, Jan. 31 from 10-11 AM. Hope to see you there!

 

Photo Credit: billy verdin via Compfight cc

Tell me about it.

medium_3784049371How do you approach the process of investigating a new product, app, program, instructional strategy, device, software, hardware, curriculum, [insert new initiative here]?

From a purchasing standpoint, price point is important, I get it. But most affordable does not translate into most effective for kids, teachers, and learning.

What about purpose? What about total cost of ownership? What about value added? What about ease of use? What about technical support?

In my new role, I’m able to provide insight into the myriad of decisions that go into educational technology planning, purchasing, roll-out, professional development, and support processes.

Is my voice always heard? The voices of the teachers and principals? No. We still have to work to do strengthening the lines of technology + education communications. That will only come with the establishment of trust and mutual respect over time.

But when I’m considering a new app, a new program, a new strategy, what I really want to do, more than research the product online, more than listen to a sales pitch, more than look at the financial bottom line, is talk to someone. 

Oh, you’re using that product? Tell me about it.

How do you like it? How does it work? What are the glitches? How does it support student learning? How is it supported? What can you tell me that a vendor can’t tell me?

I use phone calls. I use email. I ask our blossoming Google+ instructional tech community. I inquire during our monthly IU13 tech integrators meetings. I tweet about it.

Being connected means that I have access to educators with experience, some very similar to my own, and some very different from mine. I have access to smart people who have implemented, assessed, questioned, purchased, developed, and shared their ideas with me.

I am lucky.

From an educational perspective, the input and voice of teachers, students, coaches and principals MUST be sought with every technology purchase consideration.

And helping to guide our research are the voices of educators from around the world who share their ideas and experiences with others.

Does your school/district/division have a plan for including educational voices in the technology integration decision-making process? I’d love to hear about your framework and strategies to ensure a) educational voices are heard and b) the results of those decisions are evaluated and assessed to ensure we’re always doing what’s best for kids.

P.S. I know “education” and “technology” should be synonymous. I get it. Using technology meaningfully should just be part of what we do. Right now, we and many other schools are still working to build that bridge, so…. tell me about your successes so we can learn from you.

photo credit: MyDigitalSLR via photopin cc