What it’s like to learn alongside you.

High-fives to Google Drawings session participant, Joann at the Garden State Summit ’17!

I love being a consultant. I know that to some educators, consultant is a dirty word. It need not be. As a teacher and principal, I, too, was skeptical of someone from “the outside” coming to our schools and classrooms to show & tell their way into our hearts and minds. In fact, I think I truly connected with and appreciated the work of maybe only a handful of consultants in my time as classroom teacher, coach, and principal. But most days, in this line of work, I leave with a smile on my face, feeling energized and privileged to work with the teachers and school leaders in my midst.

So what do I try to do differently? For one, in my role as Google for Education Certified Trainer, I have the privilege of working with many schools who have established relationships with Google for Education Partner Rich Kiker. This is an advantage for me as a trainer because people trust people, they don’t trust products, or brands, or technologies. They trust that the teachers and leaders sharing ideas and strategies are people who care. Who, down to the core, know that the teachers with whom they work are responsible for children and their learning experiences. I also get to serve schools whose staff members have seen my presentations at conferences, heard of my work through other educational leaders, attended previous professional development sessions I’ve facilitated, or who employed me. (Going “home” to Elanco next week and can’t wait!) My audience usually has an awareness of who I am, what I do, and what I believe in.

Sidenote: I want to share my two cents about people, about educators, and the roles they assume and the career paths they choose. No, I am not currently “in the trenches.” I am a consultant, an adjunct in a higher ed program, and I am a full-time mother to a 4 1/2-yr old son and 18 month old daughter. That is the choice I made, and I couldn’t be more privileged and thrilled to serve in that role. So while we are quick to judge others in the edusphere for the roles they assume or don’t assume, while we celebrate #momsasprincipals and #dadsasprincipals and #peopleasprincipals and #principalsasprincipals and the amount of time they and other groups spend connecting/blogging, there are always reasons why others come and go in these connected educator spaces. I’m sorry, Twitter, and my trusty old blog, but my commitment isn’t to you, not anymore.

Back to business. How can we help? When I start planning to work with a school or team, I generally follow these steps. (Wait, you train in G Suite for Edu. Can’t you just re-use the exact same Google Chrome or Google Drive or Google Classroom slide sets over and over again? No. I can’t. Well, I could. But that would be lousy instruction, now, wouldn’t it?)

  1. Get to know the people! School demographics, leadership, teacher experiences, student populations, grade levels served, community information…. I try to get to know as much as I can about the schools I serve. Another advantage I have as a consultant? I get to share the stories and experiences of other teachers, other districts, other schools with all of the groups I serve. I help connect those who might be existing solely within the walls of their classrooms or schools and who lack diverse and unique perspectives.
  2. What do they already know? What do they want to know? Even if I’m booked for a specific workshop or presentation, I typically like to find out the comfort levels, skillsets, and interests of the people sitting in front of me. Sometimes that happens with a pre-workshop Google Form, sometimes it happens with a quick survey at the start of the day.
  3. Using the info collected, I plan out the agenda for the day. What makes sense, pedagogically, given the needs of the group? How can I infuse as many hands-on and discovery learning opportunities in even the most technical of training sessions? How can I get people talking to one another, sharing ideas, connecting beyond the confines of the walls of the building? What’s great about an agenda, though, is how quickly it can change, how quickly it needs to change, once I’ve developed a better awareness of who is actually in the room. We’ve been known to abandon agendas completely if it becomes clear that it’s not meeting the needs of the participants.
  4. Resources, resources, resources. I share a lot of resources. Sometimes I need to do a better job making them more streamlined in nature, but I publish my session resources and CC license them, encourage teachers to share with their colleagues, and keep the links live for as long as forever. Because I want teachers to have the opportunity to go back and review, revisit, reinvent the things they’re doing in the classroom even after our sessions have ended. There is also a lot of differentiation that goes into my resource and activity planning. I put a lot of faith in the teachers to take ownership of the day. I’m reviewing the basics, but you already know this? Move along in the resource guide or the differentiated design lab I’ve created. Challenge yourself. Look ahead, tinker, build, create… don’t worry about not maintaining eye contact with the presenter, you need to do the work.
  5. I reflect on the effectiveness of my efforts. During the day, I’ll read faces and interpret body language. I’ve been known to call out participants if it seems as though they aren’t being challenged. Tough to do? Yes! But important, because it is very overwhelming to attempt to meet the individual needs of 20, 40, 60, or even 100 participants in the room. At the end of the day, I’ll often share a survey for workshop participants so I know how I can improve my sessions in the future. I won’t lie, sometimes the feedback is tough to read! Overall, though, it has been very encouraging and filled with constructive ideas for how to improve my craft.
  6. I get busy making it better.

I make a lot of mistakes. I am constantly thinking about what I can improve. I think about my ten years as a classroom teacher and cannot believe some of the pedagogies I employed and the strategies I used. It’s all I knew, at the time. I think about my tenure as principal and how now, knowing what I know, I would never approach a disciplinary or teacher evaluation situation in the manner I did. It’s what I knew, at the time. As an instructional coach, I could have done more for certain teachers and sought to work more collaboratively with departments and team members.

We use what we know at the time. And as a consultant, it’s my job to learn alongside you and help us both awaken to the possibilities, so that we can know and do more, in this time.

Shameless plug: Want to work with us? Check out Hilt Consultants and/or comment here and/or tweet me @lynhilt and/or email me anytime lynhilt@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

The Spaces Where I Learn and Work

This week’s #EdublogsClub prompt asks us to share insights about our learning spaces and processes, including tours of our classrooms, offices, and work spaces.

I smiled when I read it, because I planned to share a bit of news this week via my blog, and that news fortuitously intertwines with this week’s prompt.

I remember my first years of teaching…. “decorating” my classroom was one of my favorite school year preparation activities. I loved sharing inspirational posters, bright colors, inventive bulletin boards, and creating spaces where my students could post and share their own work. Desks were in groups or in pairs or we used tables, and my earliest years of teaching sixth and fifth grades are among my favorites in my career! My classrooms were beyond colorful, beyond cluttered, and if I had the chance to do it over today, I’m sure I’d make some changes.

My 2001 Classroom!

I inherited the principal’s office from my predecessor and it served as a functional workspace. In my second year I decided to move my office to a more central location in the intermediate hallway and this larger space afforded me the chance to personalize it and make it an enjoyable space for kids. The putting green, basketball net, bookshelves filled with kid lit, and beanbag chairs were put to good use! I loved being out of the “main office” area and in the heart of the school.

As an instructional technology coach, I used a desk/counter space/table in the hallway in each of the elementary buildings I served, and my classrooms were the teachers’ classrooms!

Well, the time has come where I no longer have an office in a school, or a classroom space that is my own. For the past year I’ve been on leave from my school district after the birth of our daughter, and last week I submitted my resignation.

While on leave I’ve had the great privilege of developing my skills as a consultant, most notably with Kiker Learning offering Google for Education trainings on a variety of instructional topics to a broad range of participant audiences. Professional development is truly my passion. I absolutely loved that aspect of the principalship: designing… facilitating… watching teachers learn and grow…. and before I moved into administration I enjoyed learning alongside my teaching colleagues.

As anyone who has raised two young children knows, these moments are fleeting. I can’t thank my husband enough for supporting my work in this way and affording me the opportunity to stay home with our babies. Serving as a consultant allows me the flexibility to do so while also continuing to learn and serve schools. It is truly an honor to work with so many dedicated teachers, administrators, students, and staff members across the Northeast. I’m thrilled about what’s next and can’t wait to see where future opportunities take me!

My home has now become a place that needs to support my creativity and productivity, whether it’s at my office desk, in the family room, or at the kitchen bar island. I can say that working from home is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced in my career! It’s even more incredible trying to find a home-work balance when your work is often done in your home!

I can’t wait to see the variety of different spaces where I’ll work and learn this year. Every school, classroom, teacher, principal, and student I have the chance to interact with strengthens Maybe it will be in your classroom, school, or district?! 🙂

To learn more about opportunities to learn with me, visit the Hilt Consultants, LLC website or the Work with Me page of my blog.

Thanks for reading!

Constructive conversations

7554741094I recently had the opportunity to use World Cafe for supporting conversation and action with a fine group of educators at the Bucks-Lehigh Edusummit. Ross Cooper was my co-host. Our goal? To discuss how to break from traditional professional development practices to more meaningfully engage teachers in their learning.

I know. We talk about PD and how it doesn’t meet teachers’ needs. We talk about it a lot.

But do we listen? Do we act?

A single conference session is not enough time to fully engage in the World Cafe method, but by modeling its use, we hoped administrators and teacher leaders would leave the session inspired to try the process in their own schools and better engage teacher voices in planning professional learning opportunities.

World Cafe was born in the United States through the work of Juanita Brown and David Isaacs in the early 1990s. From World Cafe’s About Us page:

The World Café (TWC)
Using seven design principles and a simple method, the World Café is a powerful social technology for engaging people in conversations that matter, offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.”

The essential elements hosts should include in a World Cafe experience include:

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Image via www.theworldcafe.com

After a brief introduction to World Cafe, it was time to identify a question. Defining a “question that matters” is an essential element of World Cafe. A good question has no right or wrong response, evokes emotion, invites inquiry, opens up new possibilities, and perhaps even makes people feel a bit uncomfortable.

Our question for the day:

How do we break from traditional methods of professional development to engage teachers in more passion-based, purposeful professional learning?

We divided into three groups. Each table identified a “table host” who would remain at the table throughout all rotations and inform the next set of participants what the previous group discussed. Timer went up, and the conversations started.

Documentation of learning is important in World Cafe. In our abbreviated version we used digital means to document. One table started a set of Google Slides to share their reflections and others contributed to a shared Google Doc. Given more time in a more formal World Cafe, I would cover the tables in chart or drawing paper and provide markers and other types of artistic media for those who wished to document their learning through doodling or other creative means. Each table’s documentation is then shared out at the end of the cafe in a process known as the Harvest.

Conversations emerged quickly and passionately. Ideas emerge organically from community voices using World Cafe. World Cafe hosts do not facilitate or provide protocols for discussions. World Cafe operates under “recognition of conversation as a core meaning-making process”. I noticed nearly every participant in the room sharing openly in their table groups. It took some longer than others to open up and be comfortable with the format. As I introduced World Cafe, I definitely got a few incredulous looks from teachers who showed up to the session and were perhaps annoyed I wasn’t going to be providing any concrete materials or ideas.

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Some of the conversations included stories about negative experiences with PD, and while I would have preferred things were framed in a more constructive light, I think when we ask people to share their experiences and speak from the heart, they aren’t going to censor out the difficult experiences they’ve had. From one such conversation, a teacher expressed her frustration with being asked to implement initiatives that were hastily rolled out, without teacher input or consideration of whether the new initiatives were really worth teachers’ and students’ time. During the Harvest, she very passionately stated that traditional methods of professional development “do not allow teachers to be creative risk-takers”, and yet that is a quality we seek to instill in our students every day.

Tony Sinanis, my friend and the conference’s keynote, addressed the group as we wrapped and said that he heard everyone discussing the importance of involving teachers in the professional learning process, and in his school, he actually involved students and parents in the process too. Could you imagine if more schools asked children what types of learning experiences they should design for their teachers?

Overall I felt this was a successful session thanks to the willingness of participants to contribute. We received positive feedback from many participants. A middle school principal said he was looking forward to using the technique in his school and another participant said it was the best session she attended thus far. Sometimes our teachers need more than “150 tech tips and tricks” to help them think constructively and innovatively about teaching and learning.

“Talk is cheap”? Perhaps, but if you truly listen to what your constituents need and then you devise a plan of action to address it, that combination of acknowledgment of needs and a willingness to act will help organizations grow.

Resources shared with session participants can be found here.

If you plan professional development opportunities for your organization, consider involving more voices in the process using World Cafe. Have you used World Cafe? Would love for you to share your experiences in the comments!

Blogs and Smores and Texts, Oh My!

This summer I worked on solidifying the ways in which I communicate with my staff to support their learning. As an instructional technology coach who works in three elementary schools with 100+ staff, digital communication is essential. I can’t be in every school every day, and I certainly don’t have the luxury of face time with all of my teachers on a consistent basis. Now in my third year of coaching, I feel like I have established a communication plan that is going to work well for us. I will keep tweaking and evaluating the effectiveness of what I share, but here are some ways I’ve going to reach out and stay connected with my staff this year:

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Elementary Instructional Technology Blog – This Edublogs site (our district uses Edublogs K-12) is my main hub for communication. A place where I share resources weekly, house content provider and device tutorials and must-knows for teachers, and link to other important spaces and places like our @elancoelem Twitter and Pinterest feeds. Whenever I receive an email question re: “How do I do this?” or “What are the login credentials for that?”, the answer is almost always found in this space. I encourage teachers to subscribe by email, and although I don’t email blast every post I write, I do, on occasion, email the elementary staff en mass with a link to a blog post that I feel is beneficial to everyone.

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The Google – This summer I published a 2015-16 Elementary Tech Updates Google doc, shared internally via GAFE. I utilized Google Doc’s Table of Contents feature to allow teachers to jump to topics of interest and it helped better organize the updates. Did every staff member read it? I’m not sure, but there’s pertinent information there that they’ll definitely need to know before starting the year. If I receive a question that’s answered on the doc, I’ll reference it and make sure teachers know how to access it and to read it as soon as possible. I’ve used Google Drive shared folders to share unit or lesson resources easily with teams, teachers, and administrators, and I’ll use Google Classroom with staff to support some asynchronous professional learning opportunities this year. In addition, since our elementary schools run on a common schedule, we’re going to to utilize Google Hangouts during common planning times so I can meet virtually with two schools while I’m physically meeting with the third, allowing a PD session to expand to all three buildings and not limit the learning to where I am physically stationed. We’re hoping this platform inspires our teachers to reach out to one another across building lines more often! The secondary tech coach and I also use Google Forms to ask teachers to self-evaluate on the Spartan Digital Competencies we’ve developed, and to set goals for the year in instructional tech integration. This allows us to better focus our coaching efforts.
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Smore – I fell in love with Smore’s easy to use interface and designs for creating interactive flyers a few years ago, and I’ve been using them to create Tech Tidbits to share on the elem tech blog and through social media channels. I plan to continue using Smore to share resources I find while browsing online. Its ability to easily incorporate text, photos, videos, and links, as well as share via link or embed code, makes it a no-brainer choice for me to spice up my communications!

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Remind – My first experience with Remind (then Remind 101) was about five years ago when I was elementary principal, and we signed up for the service to announce weather-related closings and delays to staff, eliminating the need for a clunky phone chain. (No one wants to answer the phone at 5 AM on a potential snow day!) I loved that it was opt-in, that there was no exchange of phone numbers or email addresses, and that it was dead simple to communicate quickly with a large number of people. I didn’t consider using it to support professional learning until Kyle Pace shared his strategy of connecting with conference participants to continue sharing resources with his Kyle’s GAFE Tips & Resources class. What a great idea! I love receiving Kyle’s updates via text. I read a lot on my mobile device, and it’s simple to access his shared links, be inspired, and save them to spaces where I can access later.

This year I’ll use the Mrs. Hilt’s Tech Tidbits class to share resources, tips and tricks via Remind. Join us! Here are the instructions to join my class:

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 9.05.18 AMHere’s the full set of directions if you’d prefer to subscribe via email. I plan to start sending updates once the school year begins later this month, and I promise not to bombard the system!

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Wired Wednesdays – This year I’m offering after-school, hour-long professional learning sessions on a variety of tech topics. Since the elementary has a limited amount of common planning time devoted to instructional tech PD, I’m hoping teachers will take advantage of these sessions and join me for some fun Wednesday afternoons!

Along with face-to-face team meetings and check-ins with teachers, I’m hoping these digital communication strategies will help inspire my teachers and provide them with the resources they need to successfully use technology to support student learning!

How will you communicate with staff and your school community this year?

About a community.

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Last week at IntegratED in Portland (a conference filled with crazy-inspiring people, blog post on that coming soon), I had the chance to facilitate a session about developing digital learning communities using Google+.

We explored driving questions such as, What are the essential ingredients of a strong learning community? Of a digital learning community? Are they one and the same? Can they be? Should they be? Participants shared their thoughts on communities here, and together we summarized the responses into five essential components of a powerful learning community:

  1. Active participation
  2. Trusting culture
  3. Openness to new ideas and new learnings/willingness to learn by participants/risk taking
  4. Purposeful, goal-driven
  5. Connecting out to a wider community -outreach

So, how can a digital learning space like a Google+ community help support these ideals? The goals of the participants were varied. Some wanted to join pre-established Google+ communities to grow professionally. Others wanted to set up their own communities to promote sharing among their local colleagues and beyond. We then considered some key questions when both searching for communities to join and creating new spaces.

“Is it a place you want to spend your time?”

Two years ago I started the Instructional Technology Integrators and Coaches community, with the intent of finding support among other educators in the technology specialist/coaching roles as I transitioned to a new position in my district. Full disclosure: I created this community out of pure selfishness. I wanted to surround myself with people that were smarter and more resourceful than me to support my work in schools.

Now, with over 3,500 members (and yes, I realize they’re not all contributing members), the community has blossomed into an active space where educators can pose questions, share resources, provide feedback, and search through archived conversations on topics ranging from collaborative learning activities to account management to digital citizenship to best practices in a 1:1 classroom.

It is a place I like to be. I enjoy reading each and every post and the responses that follow. Moderating duties do not exhaust or irritate me. (Although as more members joined, I did seek help moderating- thankful for Doug and Susan who also devote their time to this community!) Which brings me to more questions to consider.

“Do you believe in the community’s purpose? Is it moderated by people who care? How can you tell?”

From the beginning, I did not want this community to become a place where people simply linked to their blog posts or shared their edu-events or plugged their stuff without engaging other members of the community. Do people occasionally do this? Yes, they do. I miss the boat sometimes and maybe should remove more promotional posts than I do. But if a post is flagged as spam, even from a reputable educator, it’s usually because the post was shared out among several communities. And, if there was no other content added to the post aside from the link, I typically choose not to post it in our community. All members have to be approved before they can post. I look at the profile of each member who requests to join, searching for some sign of an educational affiliation. I don’t approve requests from companies or vendors, even those with an edtech focus. I block people who take advantage of their memberships, and remind people of our community’s purpose via comments on their posts and in posts I write.

In a digital learning community, just as in a real time, face-to-face community, purpose matters. Intent matters. Etiquette matters. Respect matters. Members in our community freely give their time, ideas, and feedback to others. They deserve to learn in a space that honors what they give as professionals.

To make the most of your experience in a Google+ community, find (or create) a community that has a clear purpose, is well organized, has moderators that help make the learning experience streamlined and meaningful, promotes opportunities for discussions, has a variety of resources shared around the common purpose, displays evidence of respectful participation and engagement among a diverse membership, and openly accepts and encourages members’  critical questions, thoughts, and ideas.

Google+ communities as well as Hangouts and other community tools can help create spaces for “intellectual collisions” that can promote sharing and innovation in your organization. But the success of this type of community has little to do with the technological aspects of the shared space and much more so with the people involved. While Google announced earlier this week that Google+ was undergoing some changes, I don’t believe Communities will be leaving us anytime soon. But, even if they do, I know there are a band of people who will come along with me to whatever space we inhabit next.

Find yourself some good people. I am thankful each and every day for the voices that contribute to our community.

Here are my slides from the session and here’s the link to the page where participants accessed resources.

How are you using Google+ communities in your teaching, learning, and professional growth?

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

Principal Evaluation: A book review

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No stranger to the work of James H. Stronge (our district used The Teacher Quality Index to design our teacher selection/hiring process), I was pleased to review a copy of Principal Evaluation: Standards, Rubrics, and Tools for Effective Performance to learn more about Stronge’s frameworks for principal evaluation.

I’ve written on the topic of professional development for principals and administrators and principal evaluation in the past, and, like teacher evaluation, the process of principal evaluation is tricky business. The job of the principal is multifaceted and complicated. Developing a framework to fairly evaluate the effectiveness of a principal’s areas of influence has to be a near impossible task. Every principal’s role is different due to the unique compositions of our schools and communities. To standardize it is laughable.

However, are there certain characteristics all strong principals possess? Most agree there are. So what are those characteristics, and how can we measure the extent to which a principal possesses them? (Because, as we all know, in public education, if we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.) Ahem.

Stronge’s book is organized into three parts:

  • How to Build an Evaluation System That Works – provides a conceptual framework for designing a principal evaluation system and how to build a system using a solid foundation of research-based performance standards
  • Comprehensive Set of Principal Performance Standards, Indicators, and Rubrics – presents seven performance standards and indicators with corresponding rubrics.
  • Principal Evaluation Steps, Guidelines, and Resources – a practical set of tools that districts can use to implement a system in their schools

So why is a principal evaluation model needed? Stronge states that meaningful principal evaluation is important “because quality principals matter, and because principal evaluation matters.” He presents the reader with a wealth of evidence about the value of the principal in effective schools, including their impact on teaching and learning and establishing a positive climate for their schools. Stronge emphasizes that people matter when it comes to improving school effectiveness, and that we need quality evaluation systems in place in order to discern if our principals are effective. Without these systems, we can’t hope to improve principals in order to increase school effectiveness.

Stronge’s standards are comprehensive and include:

  1. Instructional Leadership – Creating a Vision, Sharing Leadership, Leading a Learning Community, Monitoring Curriculum & Instruction
  2. School Climate – The Principal’s Role, The Stakeholder’s Role, Trust, Shared Leadership
  3. Human Resources Leadership – Selection, Induction & Support, Evaluation, Retention
  4. Organizational Management – Safety, Daily Operations, & Maintenance, Fiscal Resources, Technology Resources
  5. Communication & Community Relations – Effective Communication, Communicating with Families, Communicating with the Larger Community
  6. Professionalism – Professional Standards, Ethical Behavior, Professional Development
  7. Student Progress Indirect Influence, Focus on Student Goals

Standards 1-6 are performance standards that represent what the principal should know and be able to do. Standard 7 represents the need to evaluate principals based on the results of their work. These standards are aligned to the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards. 

Stronge makes the point that

principals exert both direct and indirect influences on schools and the people who work and learn there. Thus, the framework of principal effectiveness should not only contain standards related to the processes of leadership, but also to the outcomes.

The model is outlined in the next section of the book. The framework includes performance standards with accompanying performance indicators and a performance appraisal rubric for each. Here’s an example (p. 66):

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Stronge identifies the standards, performance indicators, and appraisal rubrics as the “basic building blocks” for principal evaluation in his system. The remainder of the text details how to document principal performance, rate performance, and use principal evaluation for professional growth and improvement. Recommended data sources include self-evaluation, informal visits and observations, document log (principal’s blog, anyone? Perhaps used in conjunction with the self-evaluation process for reflection? portfolio building?), climate surveys, goal setting.  The rating section of the book details how to calculate scores based on the evidence collected and accompanying rubrics using a four-level rating scale. I glazed over that chapter.  The last section of the book includes information for districts wishing to implement the system.

I jumped to the “Professionalism” section of the rubrics so I could see what was included in terms of personal professional development recommendations for administrators. Forming a PLN and sharing with connected networks are important venues through which an administrator can grow. I’ve lived it. This could be included in performance indicator 6.9: Assumes responsibility for own professional development by contributing to and supporting the development of the profession through service as an instructor, mentor, coach, presenter, and/or researcher. Stronge highlights research from various sources that indicates the need for principals to serve as “lifelong learners” and to participate in development networks with other principals. There are few references to technology use in the framework. One is in the description of the Organizational Management standard, where it is expected that principals support implementation, include technology use in their school’s vision, and support scheduling and use of equipment. There’s nothing specific in terms of technology in the performance indicators, and no compelling argument is made in terms of ensuring principals themselves stay current and/or model the use of technologies themselves. To be fair, the framework states performance indicators “include but are not limited to,” so districts and schools could easily craft their own to meet the standards based upon individual needs.

In summary, Stronge’s model is very comprehensive. With so many performance indicators (there are 13 alone under the Instructional Leadership standard), it is definitely no small undertaking to attempt to implement and use this system with all principals in a school district. I shudder at the thought of the paperwork that accompanies this framework (like all similar frameworks). I’d hope for districts to consider putting the emphasis on self-directed learning using these standards as a guide. The principal could determine where he/she needs support and improvement, develop a personal growth plan, and work with their colleagues and expanded networks to achieve their goals. I think the many important qualities of administrators such as trust-building capacities, climate shaping, and instructional leadership are covered thoroughly.

What are your thoughts on Stronge’s model? What essential elements has he included? What’s missing? Can this model be used realistically in our schools today? What positive experiences with principal evaluation models have you had?

For districts interested in utilizing Stronge’s work to craft their administrative evaluation models, ASCD offers a study guide on the work here.

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!