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.

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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?

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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:

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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.

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

Connect to win.

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A little birdie told me it’s Connected Educator Month. If you’re reading this, and if you’re new to “connecting,” you might be curious about a day in the life of a “connected” educator. About how we find the time. About the tools we use to connect. About the time we spend communicating with others. About how we manage to do anything other than tweet, blog, and Hangout. You may be apprehensive about connecting and sharing digitally.

Let me start this post by saying I truly believe there’s no right or wrong way to connect. Many folks are skilled collaborators within their local schools and districts. That’s important. One of our teachers started a writing club this year to discuss and explore best practices with teachers in our elementary schools. They meet face-to-face each month.

Those teachers are connected educators.

I’m going to make an appearance at one of their sessions and discuss blogging, its benefits, and how it can amplify the shared ideas of teachers and students alike. I’m going to push those locally connected educators to stretch a little further. Expand their reach. Encourage them to share their wisdom with others. But without the initial face-to-face connections this group has established, the opportunity to share about blogging would not have as easily presented itself.

Connected educators are vulnerable. They make their learning transparent and therefore are open to critique and criticism. They ask questions, they challenge assumptions, they create things and ideas, they get messy, they remix, and they support one another and their kids. It’s hard to put yourself out there. The good news is, you’re not alone.

A connected educator is never alone!

In our school district, have teachers who tweet. We have far fewer administrators who tweet. We have one former administrator who tweets a lot. We have kids who blog, parents who comment on blogs, schools that post news to blogs, and a superintendent who’s looking to expand our district’s use of social media to share the wonderful experiences and learning of our students and school community.

Fact: You can be a connected educator without using Twitter and without reading or writing a blog.

But the tools are available. Many are free. Most are easy to use. They bring ideas your way. They help you forge relationships with exceptional educators. They help you add nodes to your networks.

And they will broaden the scope of your influence.

On a typical day, I wake up early. After some quick mommy math, I calculate I’ll have approximately one hour of uninterrupted time before waking-up-baby needs snuggling.

What’s a connected educator to do?

Coffee. iPhone alerts. Facebook friends, tweets, and emails. Respond to a teacher’s concern about not being able to print a document. Mobile connectivity is key for me.

Twitter. Use Tweetdeck to check the #cpchat stream for articles and posts I can pin to the Connected Leadership board.

Feedly. Take the time to do something I don’t do enough: comment on a blog post. This one from Pernille Ripp, questioning, Where are all the connected female educators? 

LOL reading John Spencer’s post, How many teachers  does it take to change a lightbulb? Share to Facebook, because sometimes my teacher friends are really down on themselves about the state of our profession and they need a good chuckle.

More Feedly. This looks interesting. Save to Pocket. Share out later after reading.

Collaborate with a district and county colleague via Twitter, devise a new hashtag to organize what we share with our tech integrators group.

Baby awake. Family time. Get ready for work.

Long commute. Sirius XM, talk radio, and time with my thoughts.

Help teachers get set up using a math website with students, reference the tutorials on our Elementary Instructional Technology blog. Discuss administrivia with a colleague. Set up a new Twitter account for the district. Check out the latest being shared in our Instructional Technology Integrators and Coaches Google+ community and approve membership requests. Jump into a CEM event led by Scott McLeod for a few minutes. Work with third graders and help them sign into Google Apps for the first time.  Collaborate on a document together. Best practices in design. Google presentations. Communication with a connected colleague, Rachel (whom I met through our Ed Leadership in the Digital Age eCourse through PLP) about a Skype-in session later in the week. Kidblog tasks. Problem solving. Brainstorming. Comment on student work shared with me through GAFE. Create a tutorial to help out a teacher. Eat food. Check out the tweets being shared from #masscue2013. Think about the app a neighboring district created and how useful it is and how we want one. Contact the district for more info. Read the school app resources Eric Sheninger shared with me yesterday via Twitter. Share cyberbullying lesson resources from iSafe and Common Sense Media with district guidance counselors. Finalize elementary technology curriculum drafts. Start working on the new district Facebook page. Consult Diigo for my bookmarks on digital storytelling to share with a teacher looking for more information. Smile at as many kids as possible.

Long commute home.

Family time.

Evening now, baby asleep, finishing this blog post. Going to try to engage with #cpchat tonight which has been a source of inspiration throughout #ce13.

I could read some more feeds. I could tweet. I could check work email. I could pin tasty-looking recipes, get lost in a bunch of nonsensical Facebook posts.  I could install Mavericks.

Instead, I think I’ll play Dots. It’s pretty addicting. And it’s very simple.

Connect the dots.

Stronger, wiser, more numerous connections yield better outcomes.

Connect to win.

A bit about blogging.

Photo by Kathy Cassidy

Photo by Kathy Cassidy

I’ve been a blogger since 2009, but I’ve been a writer for always.

When I was principal, I wanted our students to have safe spaces where they could share their writing with the world and learn to proficiently use digital tools to make their voices heard. I wanted for them to be able to share their ideas with families and friends. I wanted others to be able to comment on the creativity and ideas expressed. I wanted our kids to connect globally with other classrooms and students. I wanted them to refine and enhance the ways in which they communicate with others.

I wanted.

Why?

Because I think it matters. Communication matters.

In my years as principal we introduced blogging to classrooms of students, beginning first with teachers who were eager to embrace blogging as a venue through which students could communicate their ideas and share their learning. Many teachers found natural uses of blogging in a variety of subject areas, from free writes to summarizing key learning to creative storytelling.

We used Kidblog in the beginning, and we still do. One of my first tasks in my new role as elementary tech integrator was to create Kidblog spaces for all students and teachers grades 2-6, district-wide. One of the things I disliked about how we used Kidblog in past years is that we had to “start fresh” with a new class each year, and our teachers were managing all of their own accounts. Now I have the ability to manage all of the accounts and simply move students into their new class next school year, which will maintain the work and writing they’ve done this year in the same space.

I have some continued wishes for blogging in our schools:

We need to “move beyond pockets of excellence in blogging“. I’d like to see more kids start blogging, and I’d like to support their teachers through this process. The spaces are set up, but there’s no mandate in place that says students must blog. How will that happen? With support, guidance, modeling, showcasing the great work that’s already being done, and time. And a little nagging :) As Silvia Tolisano states in her post about pockets of blogging excellence, we can see the positive effects of blogging in a classroom where students are blogging, but

What we CAN’T do with pockets of excellence is to track and identify LONG TERM gains in blogging as a LEARNING PLATFORM.

Check out Tolisano’s blogging framework to support the practice in the elementary grades.

I’d like to see our use of Kidblog morph into digital student portfolios, spaces for students to showcase and share their work (and not just the “finished product,” but allow glimpses into the learning process as it unfolds).

I’d love for more of our teachers and administrators to embrace blogging, not just as a form of home-school communication (although that’s a great start), but to creatively express themselves and share their ideas with families and other educators. These are the blogging resources I share with staff via our elem. tech blog.

We need to better involve parents and families. When we first started blogging, my genius grade 2 team developed and hosted a Family Blog Night, where they invited parents and students to learn more about blogging, Kidblog, and commenting. After the teachers shared their info, parents and students logged into the student accounts for the first time to compose the first blog post together! Read more about this event here.

I’m eager to work with more classrooms to help students learn about quality commenting and engaging in respectful discourse. I rarely, if ever, read the comments sections of online news sites, which more often than not are riddled with vulgarity, ignorance, a wealth of conventional errors, and disrespect. I seriously want our students to understand that they are capable of communicating their unique ideas in ways that do not disrespect others or cause harm.

I want students to understand that blogging is about writing and reading. I want to connect them with great blogs to read, help them learn how to organize feeds, support their efforts to make sense of the information they find online, and help them discover how to apply it to their own learning. I’ll continue using the #comments4kids community to help student voices shine.

Do I think all students will love blogging? No. Do I think they need to be skilled communicators? Yes. So I’m not in favor of mandating x number of posts are required x number of days per week, or dictating every type of post we ask kids to write. Student ownership and product/process choice is still key. But while a post like this from one of our fifth graders breaks my heart just a little, I’m glad that this quiet young man once again has a medium through which he can share with the world:

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This image from Stephen Davis came through my Instagram feed and its caption really struck a chord with me:

We write to show the world we think.

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Image by Stephen Davis

 

 

When our kids write, they think. If they blog and publish and share, they think aloud and think visibly.

How are you supporting your students in the quest to help them become authentic writers and visible thinkers?

Technology tidbits.

3502028224_d19df4870e“So, how do you like your new job?”

In the two weeks since I’ve been “officially” back to work, I have been asked that question over a dozen times by colleagues. Teachers, principals, central office staff, parents.

Well, truth be told. I kind of love it.

The first week of the school year was dizzying. In a good way. I’ve already learned some lessons about the role of the instructional coach and the ways in which we use technology to support learning. Here are a few tidbits that have been on my mind.

1. The more devices the merrier? Not quite.  Our grades 4-6 are 1:1 this year and our primary students have access to a ton of devices. Lucky us! However, with more devices come more headaches. Java incompatibility/updates/whatever. Desktop shortcuts pointing to the wrong URL for a site-based program. Upgrades to a new early learning system caused teachers to be unsure how to manage it. Newly enrolled students without access to key accounts. Entire labs freezing up when attempting to get online (via Internet Explorer, so.) These things will happen, and do happen, in schools everywhere. My takeaway here is that our technicians look like they have been run over by a bus during the last few weeks of summer and the first few weeks of school. If you’re going to increase the number of devices and services on your campus, you’d better be prepared to increase the amount of support personnel. Otherwise, you will frustrate the teachers, students, and administrators who expect to work with functioning devices and services.

2.  Email is the devil. In my opinion, it’s just not a great way to communicate. Threaded email is even worse. I sent a few mass emails during the first two weeks of school to communicate some issues common to all three schools, and it was like my emails self-destructed a second after they were opened by recipients. The administrators and I continued to get a multitude of emails asking questions that were answered in my proactive attempts at communication. I continue to send my teachers to our elementary instructional tech blog (a work in progress), in the hopes it will serve as the central hub for our teaching and learning efforts this year, thus eliminating the need for 50 emails about how so-and-so can’t access what’s-it-called. And let’s just all take a moment to remember that writing something in all-caps and/or boldface doesn’t make me pay more attention to your message. It hurts my ears. And feelings.

3. There’s probably a reason why your tech department is asking you to submit a work order. When I was a building principal, and I had a tech issue, I emailed the tech supervisor. I didn’t stop to consider that there were probably 100 other people doing that as well. (See #2.) I did it because I wanted an immediate response and action to be taken. I know everyone who has a tech issue feels that exact same way. This year I’m in a role where I’m not a member of the technology department, but I can help teachers with technical issues that arise. While my instinct is still to email technicians my questions so I can quickly get an answer in order to most efficiently help staff, I’ve come to realize that it’s important for us to submit formal work orders. The help desk system is designed to track, monitor, and assign work tasks to technicians. If we skip around that step, the system begins to break down. So as much as it’s a pain to log onto yet another portal to access yet another site and fill out yet another form, it’s necessary. Would I rather have access to the technicians on Google chat 100% of the workday? Yes.

4. Plan, plan, plan.  Then, backup plan. Due to an issue on Pearson’s end (so we’ve been told- we’re still waiting for our Successnet issues to be remedied -anyone from Pearson technical support reading this?), our teacher and student access to the online literacy program portal is not yet up and running. Heading into our third week of school, teachers had already planned to access the portal and use a number of the resources there. Now unavailable, teachers have to resort to plan B. Perfectionists all, it’s difficult to plan for the use of technology, have it fail you, and then buck up and try again when things have been remedied. You lose a little faith each time that happens.

5. Those who take initiative reap rewards. Since the first day of school, I’ve worked in the classrooms of about ten different teachers across the district. Some eagerly invited me in to teach a lesson about quality blog commenting and others asked for modeling the use of Google docs and helping their kids get acclimated to the tools. They asked for my help without hesitation, and I could tell they spent a lot of time over the summer or at the start of the year prepping their students and preparing themselves to include technology in the daily business of the classroom. They were brave in the face of challenges and accepted what they did not know. These teachers will serve as the leaders for their colleagues moving forward and will no doubt allow their students to make the most out of their learning experiences supported by tech. I’ve had initial conversations with teachers who want to integrate technology in more meaningful ways this year, but they feel absolutely swamped at this point. My role will be to support them where they are, all the while gently nudging…

6. Relationships rule. I still haven’t met face-to-face all of the new teachers I’ll be working with this year, but when I’m in the buildings I try to say hello and as unobtrusively as possible, let people know I’m here for them!

7. There is still a lot of fear. It must be difficult to relinquish control. We have a classroom management/monitoring program to assist in the computer labs and the classrooms with laptop carts. I think for some teachers, the most exciting aspect of this is that they can blank the students’ screens and/or “control” what they’re doing at certain times to ensure they’re giving their fullest attention where it is due. Where is the attention due? Shouldn’t our attention be given to them? Here’s an idea. Plan well and engage your kids. Deal individually with the students who having difficulty using the technology to support their learning. Don’t focus on “locking down” an entire class as an attempt to have its undivided attention. I appreciate that we have tools to help monitor students’ use in order to keep them safe. I just don’t think we need to be all Big Brother-y about it.

8. Kids are the best. Kids are so great. I really missed my students. It’s been so fantastic seeing their faces. They are so much taller than they were when I went out on leave! I am also enjoying meeting some new kiddos at the other two schools where I now work. I love watching kids in the computer labs. Did you ever watch a kindergarten student try to work a mouse? It’s clear who has a mouse on their computer at home, and who uses Mom’s iPad/iPhone/tablet/trackpad/swipey device. Did you ever watch a six-year-old attempt to login to a computer with some ridiculous username like Gard3485 and an even more ludicrous password of GSKDG7485? Did you ever hear kids laugh out loud or sing along to a game while they’re wearing their headphones, oblivious to what’s going on around them? Adorbs.

9. I don’t miss administrative meetings.

10. I have a lot to learn. There’s so much I want to learn this year. I’m excited about our county technology integrators meeting coming up next week, held monthly throughout the year. (Thanks for organizing, Ken!) I really want to dive into some of the coaching academy courses from ISTE.  I continue reading some great posts and conversations in the instructional technology integrators/coaches Google+ community. I’ll keep tweeting and perusing chats and reading blogs. Hopefully I’ll get to some conferences like Edscape and Educon to connect with some smart folks. I started some lessons in Codecademy. I have a pile of books to read and blog about.

What have you learned with the start of your new school year? 

Photo Credit: Tiger Pixel via Compfight cc

Teaching is learning!

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When you’re an administrator, you’re forced to take a step back from the majesty that is teaching and those daily, engaging interactions with students. Yes, some admin teach a course or class or small reading group or two, but, let’s face it- it’s not the same.

Last week I had the privilege of teaching my first (and hopefully not my last) educational leadership graduate course for Cabrini College. #edg646 (yes, we have a hashtag now), Technology & Communications for Administrators. I wondered about my students and their backgrounds. How long had they been teaching? Why were they pursuing a principal’s certification and a career in administration?  Would they engage in our discussions? Would I overwhelm them with too much technology, too fast, in our compacted 5-day week together (5-7 hours per day!)

Would I lose my mind being away from baby for those long hours, five days in a row?! (I almost did.)

I can say, without a doubt, that my students- and the whole experience- far exceeded my expectations about how the week would go. On our first night together I encouraged them to approach our course with an “open mind.” That I would be sharing ideas, tools, strategies, and skill sets that may seem “out there,” or undoable in this time of highly standardized education.

Before the course began I read some of the other syllabi that adjunct instructors were using with this course. There was no talk of connected learning and leading.

My approach would be different.

I asked my students to Be Curious. Learn. Connect. Share. Reflect.

Our first night together we participated as a class in #edtechchat. I was the guest moderator. In order to do so, I worked at the last minute with the hosting school’s IT director, school principal, neighboring district IT director, and a school board member (it helps to know people) to have Twitter unblocked.

It was that night I realized that it doesn’t matter if you have one device or five hundred available to you and the students. BYOD, BYOT, 1:1, whatever, who cares, if you can’t connect, your learning is limited.

Access matters.

#edtechchat moves quickly. A few watched the conversations unfold using Twubs or Tweetdeck. I was almost certain they’d develop a distaste for Twitter, because I did little in terms of introducing the tool to them. We just jumped right in. It was a little scary. But also a tad bit exhilarating.

They embraced it! They also developed as reflective writers. I included a handful of blogging assignments in the week’s to-dos. Some were initially hesitant to share, but when I asked if anyone objected to me tweeting out their posts, everyone said they were okay with it. They located other educators’ blogs, commented, reflected, and engaged one another in discussion. I’d love for you to read their work and comment if you get the chance. I hope they continue using their blogs to reflect upon their work moving forward. Many have shared that they’re eager to do so. Here they are on Feedly. And here are the individual links:

Chris
Deana
Stephanie
Mike
Josh
Jordan
Ron
Sue

Their final projects made me smile. I was purposely ambiguous in designing the task:

Your project for this course is to share what you have learned about yourself as a leader and the role technology will play in your educational leadership endeavors, as well as how you will continue to explore and learn moving forward in this area.

The students’ creativity really shone through with their submissions. They spoke passionately about what they learned, and most utilized new tools in their publication process. I was almost moved to tears when reading their final course reflections in their last required blog post. I also was humbled to read the kind feedback shared on the course evaluation form I asked them to complete. I was so proud that they embraced the ideals of connected leadership and learning!

I learned a lot last week, and I know I can do better the next time around. I hosted the resources and course outline on a wiki here, if you’re interested in viewing what we discussed. I’m so proud of everything my students accomplished.

Without my network, this course would have been far less meaningful. I appreciate the feedback I received from Jon Becker when I reached out and told him I was teaching this course, and did he have any advice? My students found the experiences shared by our guest speakers, Tom Murray and Joe Mazza, to be a highlight of our week together. I can’t even name all of the blogs, Twitter handles, articles, videos, images, books and other resources shared with my class that I amassed via my interactions with my wonderful PLN. To you I am grateful.

I think, by the end of the week, my students understood the importance of networking as a means by which we develop the relationships that can make our work in schools so powerful.

So, yes. I was “instructor”. I was “facilitator”. I used technology to streamline the process of communicating and publishing information and resources for my class. I served as a “guide on the side.”

But I was also the teacher. And I loved every minute of it.

 

Photo Credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc