Category Archives: Teachers

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?

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!

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.

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

Community.

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Years ago, when I heard the word community, I thought of my childhood home and the town in which we lived, a rural town where I was free to walk to the playground, the park, the pool, and my friends’ houses. Community made me think of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street.

Now I know community to be so much more.

Even our social studies curriculum today asks our kindergartners, How do people in a community cooperate? and discussions focus around jobs and services and firefighters and post mail deliverers and teachers and police officers and store clerks.

But now we know that community can extend far beyond the physical space. That relationships are forged, ideas exchanged, and services rendered without ever having to leave the comfort of our familiar spaces.

Something fun I’ve learned about virtual communities - they exist because we want them to exist. We create them. They emerge out of a need, out of shared passions. Members don’t have to share physical space in order for the community to thrive. These spaces just need our time and attention, and they’re strengthened by the members’ desires to come together for a shared purpose.

I’m embarking on a new role as technology integrator, and I know I need support. I created the Instructional Technology Integrators/Coaches community on Google+ because selfishly I was hoping there were others out there who would share their ideas and resources with me. Just yesterday after only a few months of existence, our community reached over 400 members. I’m so grateful to the teachers, administrators and coaches who have taken the time to post ideas, ask questions, ignite conversations, and share resources with the group. Please consider joining us if you have not done so already!

It’s just one of many communities I have embraced as part of my learning network. First there was Connected Principals. Then PLP. EdcampsETMOOC. The #edchat crew and now the #edtechchat team. There are countless ways for educators to become members of dynamic, nurturing, knowledgeable communities.

It takes time and a willingness to contribute. The payoffs are huge.

When do our students need to know this? Upon entering kindergarten, are children already cognizant of their role in the global community? Why should we limit their view of what a community is and can be by simply discussing jobs and services within the city limits? Certainly I want our young children to know how the fine folks who serve them support a community in need. But, there’s a whole wide world and a global community waiting for them. A textbook definition of community just doesn’t cut it anymore. There are a multitude of ways we can help children become contributing citizens in their global learning community. Through Global Read-Alouds and Skype in the Classroom and Kiva and quadblogging and the experiences shared in Connected Learners and sophisticated service projects and collaborative work as students progress through their school years.

And most importantly, by sharing with students that you, too, are a member of communities that extend beyond the school’s walls.

 

This post is dedicated to @Joe_Mazza who reminded me that I used to blog a lot more often.

 

Photo Credit: greekadman via Compfight cc

The care effect

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There was an article in the most recent issue of Wired magazine that sparked my thinking. It didn’t detail the latest gadgets or technological innovations, or deal with the field of education, yet it immediately made me consider this question in regards to our roles as school leaders and educators:

Do we show them we care?

Dr. Feelgood, written by Nathanael Johnson, explores the beneficial effects of alternative medicine. Despite the fact that science is often unable to prove its ability to be effective in curing patients, the same scientific studies show that patients treated by alternative measures often end up feeling better.

Huh?

Johnson reminds us of the placebo effect: when sick people are given a treatment, even if it’s just a placebo, their condition often improves. But not always. So further studies commenced, and researchers discovered that when patients are treated by doctors and care providers who approach treatment with kindness and care, they report marked reduction in symptoms. Researcher Ted Kaptchuk from Harvard Medical School concluded ”the empathetic exchange between practitioner and patient” made the difference. This approach to healing has been coined the care effect:

“the idea that the opportunity for patients to feel heard and are for can improve their health.”

Johnson describes other studies in the field of nursing that support the healing power in the relationship between practitioner and patient. While “nurturing is no replacement for science,” the author stresses that mainstream medicine has a lot to learn from alternative medicine, where practitioners tend to show empathy and involve patients in conversations about care, rather than just dole out treatments.

Two weeks ago our school community lost a bright and shining soul, a young girl in first grade whom we all loved deeply. She valiantly battled cancer day in and day out, but you wouldn’t know it when you interacted with her. She always greeted us with a smile, a funny comment, and compliments, blended together with a perfectly charming amount of six-year-old sass. At the end of my pregnancy, she asked me if she could kiss my baby, and she wrapped her arms around my middle and placed a perfectly sweet kiss on my belly. She showed us she cared, and she made everyone around her feel special. Her care effect was unwavering.

As school leaders, when problems arise, do we just TREAT the issue? Or do we examine the patients and what they need? Do we consider the feelings of staff? Of students? Of community? Do we approach difficult conversations with care and concern? As classroom teachers, do we consider the individual needs of the children sitting in front of us? Do we recognize that one-size-fits-all is a ridiculous notion? Can we learn from the people, especially the sweet children around us, who always manage to approach life’s toughest situations with concern and dignity?

As Johnson concludes, “We need to stop thinking of care as just another word for treatment and instead accept it as a separate, legitimate part of medicine to be studied and delivered.”

It’s a difficult task, to lead and manage a learning organization. It’s stressful, it’s overwhelming, and at times we struggle through and think we’ll never again see the light. Remember this is why we do what we do. When challenges arise, focus on the care

Photo Credit: recompose via Compfight cc

Reactions.

Last week I received a direct message tweet from a former administrative colleague, asking me if I had seen the “gangnam style”  video that was dubbed “the worst video on the entire internet.”  He told me he saw it when the link was tweeted by someone with over 25,000 followers… so I figured it was going to be viewed by a handful of people.

But why did he send the link to me?

I was out and about with a newborn singing melodiously in his carseat and didn’t have a chance to view the video at that time, but when I glanced at the video’s thumbnail, I recognized three of my administrative colleagues from our district’s high school:

Reaction #1: These three are dedicated professionals and do have a great sense of humor, but why in the world would they create a gangnam style parody video and post it on YouTube?

When I got home I was able to view the video in its entirety and realized it was a student-created video. At the time, it had around 45,000 views. (As I write this post, it has over 1 million).

And then, I began reading the comments.

Hateful, hurtful, horrid comments. Many of which were written by children. (Yes, high school students, you are children. Embrace it.)

“The worst video on the entire internet?” Hardly. Could it have used some polishing? Sure. But it clearly was a video that the students put a lot of thought into, and its production was supported by the school community at large. The student incorporated the school’s “Spartan Way” ideals and the messages shared were positive ones.

Reaction #2: Please, God, don’t let the student who made this video take these comments personally.

(Kind of impossible, right?)

As the video went viral, it found its way to various media sources, including the Huffington Post, MSN, and even Tosh.0′s Facebook page, which, if you know anything about Tosh.0, you know he doesn’t feature the world’s most dazzling internet video footage. The local news reported on the story, and the comments shared on this article were positive overall and supported the student and school for their creative efforts, which was nice to see.

Reaction #3: This, too, shall pass. But at what cost?

Like any internet meme, the meteoric rise to attention can be overwhelming and, in the case of a meme swarmed with negative attention, alarming for those at the center of the hullabaloo. When we create, publish, and share, we open ourselves up to a world of other people’s reactions: praise, criticisms, attention. Sometimes the feedback is unwarranted. It can be constructive. It can be destructive.

Reaction #4: We need to do better.

Now a myriad of questions are swimming through my sleep-deprived brain. How do we continue ensuring our students develop into respectable digital citizens? Can we help students understand the impact a hurtful comment can have, as well as the power of constructive criticism? When we talk of cyberbullying, particularly with today’s high school students, does it just go in one ear and out the other? When posting children’s work online (whether school-related projects or not), how do we help creators understand and use the types of feedback they may receive? Are we helping children develop into respectful, caring, empathetic human beings who can resist the urge to use profanity and hateful speech when remarking on the work of others?  (I wondered how many of the commenters, particularly those who attend the same school, would consider sharing their comments in a face-to-face conversation with the video creator. Is it easier to be disrespectful online?) How are we addressing these issues with our youngest students? With our pre-school children? How are we educating parents and communities about the types of online engagement and conversations that their children will be involved in, and how are we modeling the importance of respectful online dialogue? Are the teachers and administrators who helped promote the completion of the project now second-guessing allowing students to take risks and the ways in which technology is integrated into the curriculum?

There are many more questions to ask and attempt to answer when it comes to children and digital citizenship. As school leaders, we need to have a heightened awareness of how to help our school communities thrive in an increasingly public world.

Join us at PLP Live!

PLP Live is fast approaching… if you’re looking for a day of learning facilitated by passionate speakers and educators, this is the day for you. I have no doubt you will leave feeling inspired!

When? Friday, September 28, 2012

Where? PA Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA

Who?  John Seely Brown, Suzie Boss, Darren Cambridge, Bruce Dixon, Will Richardson, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Jackie Gerstein, Jane Krauss, Renee Moore, and more!

What? Inspire – Collaborate – Shift! Inspirational keynotes, collaborative opportunities with educators and educational leaders, “lunch ‘n’ learn” with the speakers, and more. The day’s agenda can be found here.

I’m really excited to be facilitating a “collaborate” session with Lisa Neale, Alan Fletcher, and Bonnie Birdsall.

Are you ready for the shift? Join us!

For all of the great details and to register, click here!