Feeling the love for my PLN

April 24, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Blogging, Collaboration | 8 Comments

I woke up this morning feeling full of love for my digital circle of friends, the ones I actually communicate with and the ones I lurk around who don’t even know I exist. This is due in part to an interesting reaction I had to an occurrence this week. Last week I blogged about a great 2-days at work where we had the time and opportunity to communicate with colleagues as part of a PD experience. I shared this post with my administrator, who I consider one of my closest “kindred spirit” colleagues, and she copied and emailed it to other admins and curriculum team members at our school- just to share one view of our successful PD event. My gut reaction was slight panic causing me to reread my post. Did I write anything considered too radical? Might I offend anyone? (I do filter what I write even though I think no one I work with reads it.) Well, none of those who were emailed my comments in the post commented back to me- this can mean that it wasn’t read, it was offensive or not meaningful either way. What was interesting regarding the lack of conversation about me sharing my thoughts was the revelation that what I wrote in that post was reinforced- that we don’t have time or are in the habit of having meaningful professional conversations in schools.

I started following bloggers and podcasters many years ago and connected with some people via email who are now friends. I also learned a great deal that I could apply in my own classroom. I’ve been a taker on the internet since the mid-90s but I’ve only been blogging a little over 2 years. I’m still trying to figure out why I want to do it, finding my blog voice, sometimes neglecting it for months at a time. The main reason I started was a blog comment challenge (started by Kim Cofino, Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano and Michele Martin)- I thought it was time I jump into the conversation. I started writing and reading and commenting. However, when I feel that disappointment from lack of response to my writing I realize it’s due in part to the amount of conversation I give when I read what others write and don’t comment. This is also why I keep writing and posting, I realize that just because I don’t get comments it doesn’t mean no one is reading (well, that is probably frequently true.) But disregarding all that, I mainly write to put my thoughts and ideas out there in an effort to connect and contribute because I gain so much from what others share.

So, as part of the 80% long tail of bloggers who write mainly for themselves, I will continue because I realize that we get what we give and sometimes we have to give a  lot before we strike a broader level of communication. Lastly, getting back to the beginning of this post, is it possible to find a means for opening and maintaining efforts at conversation in my actual professional environment? I will persevere in that regard, but if not, I always have my virtual colleagues and friends to collaborate with. I am also motivated to challenge myself to comment more again- to make that time and effort to communicate in that way as well.

I’m interested to know, if you are reading this, Why do you blog? or if you don’t why don’t you?


April 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Collaboration, Games-based learning, Links, Planning, Professional Development, Resources, Shift | 1 Comment

It’s been my feeling and thought for a long time that we need to change the way we do schooling. Back in the early 90s while visiting friends in West Hollywood and driving with these friends and my daughter in a convertible through the hills, I was day-dreaming about moving there and establishing my own school for the children of wealthy Hollywood artists (they have money and are progressive thinkers, right?) Regardless, Hollywood is a ripe place for encouraging daydreams. My school would have many elements of a Montessori school and also contain the most current technology, which was relatively limited compared to what I use and imagine these days. Yesterday I was reminded of that daydream  after two of the best days in recent years at work. I thought about and discussed with colleagues why the past two days were so inspiring and fulfilling and we concluded that it was because we had time to discuss and imagine how our already good school could grow and improve.

The problem is that it was an isolated event, and not just at this school, but rare in every school I have taught and worked in. It was successful because:

  • The “workshops” were led by our consultant from Rubicon Atlas, Stephane Keller. Stephane didn’t run through a planned presentation lock-step. He had a plan but was responsive to going off in directions that the group needed and did it with grace and style. Like a good teacher, he helped us see what we are doing well and where we want to go next, where our challenges are and how begin to meet those challenges.
  • The 2 days were set up to allow teams of teachers to come in during regular school days for hour blocks. It would have been better to have more time, but I also think that sometimes those days in school without students present are great for idea generation, but those ideas often stayed locked away in that day. Having these sessions occurring during our school day promoted keeping the students and reality of our school days present in mind.
  • The core curriculum team met each morning before the hour sessions began and at the end of the day. Being part of this team allowed me to have discussions with colleagues that I often don’t get time to talk with. It seems we need to plan the time and topics to allow these discussions to begin. As a tech facilitation specialist many people get caught on the word “technology” and can’t see my position as that of a learning specialist who can facilitate use of technology tools for student and professional learning and creativity.

The key to continue generating sparks and get a fire glowing will be preventing the ideas and conversations to stay locked in the past and to continue to facilitate those conversations, keep them alive.

Here are my favorite visions of the direction we need to go to recreate schools from:
Bob Sprankle and his BLC09 Presentation

Kim Cofino and ISB’s 21st Century Learning Wiki

Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis Flat Classroom Conference

Scotland’s exploration of games-based learning and Ollie Bray and Ewan McIntosh

Stephen Heppell

Apple’s Challenge Based Learning

Heidi Hayes Jacob’s Curriculum21

Silvia Tolisano’s blog Langwitches

In conclusion, one key element of my dream school is to build in time and place for the educators in a school to meet and share ideas and, most importantly, develop and realize those ideas.

John Couch / final thoughts

April 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Apple, Conference, Presentations, Professional Development, Shift, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stay in the question(s): Reflections from the Apple Leadership Conference2010 (Part 6/6) 

Apple’s VP of Education, John Couch closed the conference by discussing the challenges that we face in creating change and growth in education:

  • Our current mode in education is like a steam engine pulling horse carriages
  • Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. (Steve Jobs)
  • Technology as a tool v. technology as environment
  • Substitution v. transformation

Whenever I feel homesick and miss my family and lifelong friends, I remind myself of the opportunities that I have had since becoming an overseas educator. This conference was one of those opportunities. The participation of students, infusion of learning through the music/arts, brilliant presenters and the location in a beautiful, enchanting city and a school that has a vision for the future made it one of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had.

My questions to keep in mind:

  • How can I assist and challenge each student to learn and grow?
  • How can I assist in transforming schools?
  • How can I inspire and help other educators to learn and grow?

Itay Talgam- Conductors as Leaders

April 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Apple, Conference, Presentations, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Stay in the question(s): Reflections from the Apple Leadership Conference2010 (Part 5/6)

I have thought of teachers as conductors before, but have to admit I hadn’t given much thought to conductors and their styles of leadership.  Posted below is  Itay Talgam’s  TED Talk that demonstrates a portion of what he shared.

My notes:

  • People want to be tested to the extreme, engaged
  • You go on roller coasters, but only if they are sound and you feel you can trust that you can push and be tested but you will be safe
  • When you cross the line, you need to trust that someone will be there.
  • Above self-actualization is self-transcendence
  • Control of the environment, climate should be there but there should also exist flexibility, pliancy. It’s not a matter of pulling and releasing a rope.

After Itay spoke, a string quartet preformed and spoke with and interacted with Itay about performing as a group. Then ISP teacher/musicians performed improv jazz and also performed with the string quartet. Itay facilitated discussion and demonstration of performance leadership and improvisation. I was left with the question, What type of leader am I? In the classroom? With colleagues?

Apple Talks

April 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Apple, Conference, Games-based learning, Internet Safety, Presentations, Professional Development, Resources | Leave a comment

Stay in the question(s): Reflections from the Apple Leadership Conference2010 (Part 4/6)

The first half of Saturday consisted of  7 Apple Talks, along the lines of TED Talks. Two of those were from ISPrague staff members and listening to them left me more excited to be joining a school where I would have colleagues of this caliber.

Links and quotes:

  • ACOT Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow Today – moving from instruction to construction
  • SAMR, Ruben Puentedura, Technology use continuum, Transformation not substitution
  • Need to teach collaborative writing to prepare students for working in the future
  • Visit the Alamo in Second Life
  • Quest to Learn School in NYC – games based learning aligned to standards. Merging traditional and new illiteracies
  • Students learning empathy and financial skills through KIVA fundraising accounts management- giving students the opportunity to learn economics as well as experience empathy and make human connections
  • Student films- don’t always have to produce skilled filmmaking, but the story needs to be from the heart
  • Cyber Security- keep the conversation with students open and on-going, circulate relevant books to staff, parents, students to promote conversation
  • Full Sail University Online

Inspiration from Clay Shirky and ISP students

April 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Blogging, Conference, Global Collaboration, Presentations, Professional Development, Project-based Learning, Shift | Leave a comment

Stay in the question(s): Reflections from the Apple Leadership Conference2010 (Part 2/6)

I re-read Clay Shirky’s book, Here Comes Everybody, when I saw he would be appearing at the conference. During his presentation he shared that when trying to create change and growth, try many small things and if they fail, they are small failures. Then go with  the ones that succeed, build on those and don’t sweat small failures. Don’t try to enact a big plan that may fail big. He cited Ewan McIntosh’s efforts in East Lothian, Scotland as shown on the community site, edubuzz.org. To me, Ewan McIntosh has always been right up there with Marco Torres.

Clay also met with the students who presented on Friday evening and discussed with them their learning and thoughts on school, the classroom and learning. He then sat on stage with them our last day and held a panel discussion that we could listen to and participate in. Clay was able to elicit valuable, sometimes funny, responses from the students (grades 5-12).

Student thoughts:

  • Doing small projects on one big topic stick in your mind better
  • Teachers can show us rather than tell us everything, Let us do things to learn.
  • Prefer when work is connected to real life, teachers facilitate, freedom to choose tool to express ourselves and show our learning
  • We like ISPrague because of the tools available to us, not just tech but the teachers as tools also.  One student said, “I feel taken seriously here.”
  • In a group project we usually have to use more than one app, everyone has their specialty and we help each other.
  • Math- it would be better if there were many ways to learn, some absorb it and others need to learn differently. Split us up by how we learn and choose to learn. Connect the learning to real life more.
  • Allow situations where students can learn from one another, share what they know and what they learned from the subject, rather than the teacher always teaching- sometimes it’s easier to learn from another student.
  • Sometimes your teacher tells you to try one way, and you don’t want to try it because it sounds too easy or obvious, then you try it and it works and you get annoyed because they were right.

Inspiration from Marco Torres

April 10, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Conference, Presentations, Professional Development, Shift | 1 Comment

Stay in the question(s): Reflections from the Apple Leadership Conference2010 (Part 2/6)

Marco Torres, was another highlight of the conference. This was not a surprise as I attended 2 of his workshops at BLC09 last summer and soaked up his ideas and attitude. Marco is an educator with an open mind; when faced with roadblocks or reluctant students he stays in the question of what can be done to improve this situation, how can we allow this student to learn and grow?  Further, at BLC09 Marco brought along some of his students, who co-presented with him.

I can’t hide how brilliant I find Marco Torres. But it’s more than his ideas. He is still working with students, he’s not an “expert presenter” even though his presentations are 100% useful and inspiring and he shares anecdotes where solutions are found for students who are at a dead end and now flourishing due to simple, obvious solutions.

Here are a few of his statements that keep rolling around in my mind:

  • Stay in the question.
  • International used to be a sexy thing, now it’s mandatory.
  • Do you love what you do? You have to.
  • Question for teachers, Could I have looked up everything you told me in Google?
  • Nouns v. Verbs- schools need to be more about verbs
  • Never ask questions you can look up. (Einstein)
  • Traits of Innovators: see, associate, inquire, collaborate, take risks
  • What kind of learner are you? More important is what type of producer are you?
  • Include Who we love into our learning.
  • An educated person is someone who is resourceful and connected

Keep your Learners present and in mind

April 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Apple, Conference, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Stay in the question(s): Reflections from the Apple Leadership Conference2010    (Part 1/6) 

Next year I will be joining the staff at the International School of Prague and so I was invited to attend the recent Apple Leadership Conference hosted there.  I have read and heard that Apple Conferences are well organized and well worth attending so I was excited to be there and also meet many of my new colleagues.  The biggest thought that stuck to me was Marco Torres stating, “Stay in the question.”  I would like to share about the Apple Leadership Conference along that theme; the ideas and questions that arose from the presentations and events.

The first highlight of the Conference was listening to students from the International School of Prague present their classroom projects and learning on the first night of the conference and later sharing in a panel discussion with Clay Shirky at the end of the conference. This reminded me of my recent virtual attendance in the Flat Classroom mini-conference in which I worked with students and how much I gained from that experience. Another example, while a teacher in at Horne Street School in Dover, NH in 2006, I co-presented with a group of my grade 3 students in a district workshop where my students prepared and presented a guide they made on how to research using the IIM Research process . The audience was the entire K-12 district staff and the feedback after was that the student presentation was the highlight of the half-day auditorium workshop. I now think that educators should never hold a conference or workshop without students present.

So my first question is, Why do we so rarely consult the students and regard their responses as to how to best educate and facilitate learning in our classrooms and schools?

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