Passion and Wants vs. Needs

May 23, 2010 at 11:12 am | Posted in Collaboration, Learning is Messy, Links, Planning, Professional Development, Shift | 5 Comments

Here’s a scenario you may be able to relate to: you read an article or book or just observe a daily event and then you get a great idea that addresses something in your life or work you want to change or resolve. Well I sit with the idea for a little bit and then I want to share it! Sometimes I share and the person gets it right away and wants to join me to develop the idea further. More often, the reaction is not negative but there are questions, What do you mean about this aspect? How does it look in action? and so on. Here is where the generator of the passionate idea can do one of two things. She can be discouraged because she feels the recipient didn’t understand or they don’t like the idea, if they had they would be equally excited. Or, she can take those questions and continue to work on the idea so it can become more fully developed and realistic and also better communicated.

As an elementary teacher, I have “taught” Wants vs. Needs as part of the social studies curriculum (although there are informal lessons on that every day.) As a technology integration specialist the last 3 years, I have needed to develop my adult communication and presentation skills because I currently work with teachers more than students. My apologies in advance, but children are more fun, flexible-minded and enthusiastic than adults. As a result of this experience, I’m going to be a stronger teacher next year, but I will also be a better colleague.

Teachers tend to do their own thing and each teacher becomes known according to her/his own passions and strengths, but this is unfair to the student population because it creates an environment of inequality. Ideally, teachers share their talents, strengths and special views to strengthen the whole school so all children benefit. I’m not faulting teachers, there is usually no time for sharing and there are other built-in school practices that discourage collaboration.

Strafford School Foreign Language committee (most of us)

Many of my proudest contributions as a teacher in realizing initiatives that benefited all students and that are still in effect at the school, have resulted from working with a group of like-minded teachers, administrators and parents. But that group is not often easily or naturally created. If you don’t have a group form naturally around an idea, you are left to drop the idea or keep it to yourself within the four walls of your classroom. But there’s a third alternative, it’s not easy and involves risk and possibly putting yourself out on a ledge.

Last week I read a post by Peggy George on her blog My Web2.0 Adventures.  It was a tipping point for me. Peggy lays out steps to develop an idea before pushing it out. (If it’a been a snake, it’a bit me.) How many times could I have been more effective if only I had sat with my ideas a bit longer, worked longer with the pros and cons to further develop and then communicate an idea better? Marco Torres says that we need to “stay with the questions” and that also means stay with the solutions to get it right.

Also, while I haven’t read it yet, I have listened to Seth Godin share ideas from his new book, Linchpin. From listening to Godin, I began to explore the idea of going above and beyond the initial ideas (what I want to do) to ask what is needed- and to push into those initial ideas to develop them into ideas and practices that can be clearly communicated.

What we want is unconditional acceptance and excitement about our ideas and initiatives but what we need is to question, incubate and develop those ideas further. When met with resistance, stay with the idea (if it still looks like a good one) and develop it so you can communicate why it’s a good path to follow and build a group that will allow the ideas to become a reality.

Other links that inspired this post:
Shelly Terrell’s blog Teacher Reboot Camp post How do we nurture passion?
Another video of Seth Godin speaking about Linchpin
Video: Seth Godin speaking about Education
Daniel Pink’s 2 questions that can change your life
Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (And if you try sometime you find you get what you need)



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.

Starting the summer working out

June 28, 2009 at 8:39 am | Posted in Conference, Links, Web2.0 | 1 Comment
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It’s not officially summer vacation for me as I work until July 1, then fly to the US for time with family and friends. But summer work hours are 9-2 so I have more after-hours time for summer projects. I’ve started by working out with longer walk/runs and in-between pilates classes work. I’m also working the 7 Habits through text and audio of Covey’s book. But yesterday I virtually followed #ebc09, #necc09 and attended Vicki Davis’s Web2.0 Smackdown session (#w2smack). It was fairly insane and challenging to listen, follow the chat and links, and record links on a word doc- so many windows open at once, a sometimes sluggish PC (my Mac needs a US AppleDoctor) and my ADSL on Spanish siesta mode. It was great to say hello via chat to friends and see my fabulous friend Chris present a few audio tools.

Then I found a blog post by Kris Hagel with the post title, “Following Conferences Virtually Is Like Drinking From a Firehose” I had to laugh- so true. So in Kris’s spirit of sharing, here are the links I compiled from yesterday’s Smackdown session. Thank you Vicki and everyone on the chat who posted the links for us!

smackcapture visual lit type activities

Besides, there’s and

(Chris Chater’s Audio tools blog reverse image search

Kevin Honeycutt’s Web 2.0 smackdown video re his Web 2.0 keychain and album.

keychain idea:

smackdown wiki

So excited to be able to actually attend BLC09 and edubloggercon east in 4 weeks! that will be even more fast and furious!

Ahhh, summer work and summer vacation on the horizon

June 19, 2009 at 6:46 am | Posted in Blogging, Links, Professional Development, Scratch, SmartBoard | 1 Comment
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summerOk, so I haven’t posted in a long time. I have written notes and drafts for posts but have been so bogged down in the day-to-day whatever that I’ve felt zapped at the end of the day. As the sun rises, birds singing on the morning of the last day of classes on campus for students and staff, I’m looking forward to 2 weeks of summer work, 4 weeks of vacation, and then summer work in August. Not so much looking forward to the commute to school, but am looking forward to the time to reflect, plan and prep for next year to make it an even more successful and enjoyable year than this year.

I’m looking forward to:

At the risk of appearing a work-aholic, I do have plans for many hours with family, friends and the ocean. But one of my passions is my vocation and I look forward to slower-paced reflection and learning over the summer.

Time to breathe!

Why I love podcasts and podcasting

April 22, 2009 at 10:14 am | Posted in Collaboration, Links, Podcasting, Podcasts, Professional Development, Resources, Web2.0 | 2 Comments
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I’ve just returned from a stimulating walk/run to and around Retiro Park. It’s a beautiful spring day, paths not too crowded and as I took in some physical exercise I was working my mind as well listening to podcasts on my iPod. I love this and have been doing it for years, on the way to school, around the track at Dover High School, on the gym treadmill, along the beach and now around Retiro Park. It’s a great combination- simultaneous mind and body exercise.podcasting

But I didn’t start with the exercise. I started with a Podcasting workshop three years ago using Audacity. It was easy to do and fun and I was psyched to use it immediately in my grade 3 classroom. So I searched online for examples of podcasting in other classrooms for inspirational ideas. I found Bob Sprankle’s Room208 podcast– one of the best uses of podcasting I’ve ever found. Bob also kept a blog sharing how he podcasts and other related educational insights. Around that time he also started the Seedlings podcasts with Cheryl Oakes and Alice Barr, two other Maine educators. I recommend going into the archives and listen to all the Bit by Bit and Seedlings podcasts.

Anyway, while walking today I was listening to the podcasts. I’ll have to save many of the brilliant ideas I heard for other posts, but the main points that stood out today are:

•    “Learning is the constant, time is the variable”- in other words we need to focus on best practices for student learning, not on schedules. We also need to move to authentic, integrated learning.

•    Education, schools and caring for our children can best be improved by engaging the community- parents, businesses, teens, and citizens. Everyone needs to get on board. (I also heard this point emphasized by Ewan McIntosh at a workshop in London recently.)

I found the WholeChild podcasts from @Keytech on Twitter who posted this, “EBOOK Engaging the Whole Child: Reflections on Best Practices in Learning, Teaching, and Leadership FREE at

But back to podcasts and personal learning. Professionally, I was a lurker for a long time, listening and soaking up ideas and experiences. When I gradually began engaging with others by commenting on blogs and contributing through this blog and on Twitter last summer I moved from a listener/reader to an engaged member of my personal learning network.

As a teacher, after that first workshop I immediately began a podcast with my students. The best thing that came from using podcasting in the classroom was my reluctant writers began asking to stay in at recess to finish writing a story or article that they wanted to record and upload to our site. Writing and speaking became integrated regularly into all subjects and I was holding writing mini-lessons during content area activities.

As a listener, I subscribe to several podcasts so that when new recordings are uploaded, they are automatically downloaded to my iTunes library and then synced to my iPod.

There are many podcasts I listen to, but these are my top favorites:

Room208 Bob Sprankle’s class podcasts
Seedlings and Bit by Bit
SOS Podcast, OnDeck Podcast
K12 online Conf workshops (NECC for example- in fact, anytime a conference records and shares workshops/keynotes, it’s free PD)
EdTech Talk
November Learning
Ted Talks
Notes from Spain, A Year in Europe (both are currently not updating, but all worth a listen)
NPR: This American Life, This I Believe, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
iTunes Univ
Audio Books purchased and downloaded from iTunes Store (I recently listened to Bram Stoker’s Dracula during a winter trip around central Europe)

Please recommend/share your favorite podcasts!

Growing Digital Citizens

April 19, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Digital Citizenship, Global Collaboration, Internet Safety, Links, Literacy, Planning, Resources, Web2.0 | Leave a comment
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During the last two weeks of school I’ve led digital safety lessons for all classes K-5 in the lab. This was a follow up to lessons at the beginning of the year and last winter for the 5th grade when they started blogging. I was reminded of the need for ongoing digital safety and citizenship lessons and daily teachable moments while in a Digital Citizenship workshop led by John Mikton at the recent ECIS IT conference. This is certainly an area that needs planned lessons (ideally embedded into a relevant project)- not just for our students, but our colleagues and parents. There are several free, online resources for support materials, curriculum lessons, informational letters, and other valuable materials and ideas that can take out a good deal of the footwork when planning. My favorites are listed below, but I also use delicious to bookmark sites, blog posts, and articles as I come across them- not to mention searching within delicious, edublogs or twitter.g5sample1

There are 3 groups to provide ongoing digital education- ourselves, our children and our parent community.

Ourselves: At a recent on-campus professional  development day, my savvy colleague Andrew held a workshop on privacy settings for Facebook. It was well attended and a perfect way to awaken awareness for protecting our digital footprint. I also believe that all educators need further training on the overall issues in this area, in order to seize those teachable moments in the classroom, and prepare for issues that may arise when exploring Web2.0 activities and tools with students.

Our children: The safety lesson for the kindergarten classes (age 6) centered around the CBBC Dongle Rabbit video was followed by a discussion of the messages in the video. With children this young, I focused on one main message: There are many interesting things and opportunities on the Internet, but always take an adult you trust when you explore cyberspace. I did have to take time to explain what “cyberspace” meant, but they very much enjoyed the video and discussion and afterwards drew a KidPix picture showing themselves and an adult viewing something on the web. This time around I’m looking to create some great captioned images from the students to enlarge for posters to display in the lab and around the building. I’m using a variety of topics for the grade levels, but found that the grade 4 students were as excited about creating a captioned image in KidPix as the kinderkids were. During these lessons I’m also mulling over possible lessons for the fall that will be more relevant and tied to their beginning year curriculum. Also, we don’t need to be in the lab or in front of a computer to explore these issues, for example we used role-play and skits during Mikton’s workshop.
With grade 5 we viewed and discussed this video. This was the third discussion in this area as we viewed and discussed this video when we began blogging last winter. I also recently participated in the Sounding Board with a group of about 20 students for the Net GenEd project. This was such a valuable hands-on experience for the students to learn about IT communication issues and how to present oneself online.


Parent community: Every school and organization can reach out more to their community and this is a way to raise parental awareness and build our school community as well. I attended some of these PTA evenings as a teacher and parent in the US and the meetings were usually led by a town Police-tech officer who presented horror stories followed by ways to lock down tech in your home. More effective and positive is holding evenings for parents that educate and inform parents of the wealth of opportunities that tech provides, while also sharing age-appropriate guidance and resources that allow safe use. I have seen evidence of this approach on Kim Cofino’s blog, Always Learning, describing the plan for their parent coffee mornings. When visiting a school’s blog I always look for ways the school reaches out to the community in this regard for positive ideas and approaches. Providing hands-on workshops for setting search parameters in Google or other search engines, etc will be appreciated by parents and a great way to build relationships within the parent community.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to have a school-wide plan for digital safety and citizenship. By this I mean an active curriculum of topics to introduce at certain grades and times of the year. Due to rapid growth in communication technology, this should be reviewed and revised at least once a year, or as needed. One great place to start is with the curriculum established by CyberSmart. Orientation for new staff, ongoing workshops or in-school newsletters and quarterly PTA meetings will be beneficial. Adopting a mascot figure for the school, such as the BBC’s Dongle rabbit, will also provide a focus for everyone and a common vocabulary that encourages awareness daily throughout the school.


Two of my grade 3 gardeners in New Hampshire

I suppose I’ve always viewed digital awareness as a separate, but related, subject. The more we see tech as something that provides tools and opportunities for many kinds of learners, the easier these topics will be to embed into a lesson or teachable moment. It’s like learning to garden and learning which tools are best for different tasks, how to care for the tools and use them safely, as well as the many other skills and concepts we need to grasp in order to sustain and enjoy an abundant garden.

CyberSmart free online K-12 curriculum
CBBC Dongle the Rabbit Be Smart video and rules
Netsmartz Videos and lessons for kids aged 6+
NetNanny Inexpensive, effective Internet Protection software
ISB Parent Technology Coffee Mornings
Beyond Digital Workshops from John Mikton- great resources

Who inspires you?

March 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Blogging, Conference, games, Games-based learning, Links, Podcasts, Presentations, Professional Development, Resources, Web2.0 | 4 Comments
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Blog WordleAfter Ewan McIntosh‘s keynote at the London ECIS IT conference I attended recently, I decided to attend all his workshops. His views on the use of technology make so much sense to me- we have these technological advancements in our world and why not harness their power to create better schools and communities? In my notes from one of his workshops I wrote a quote, “It’s not about technology, it’s about changing someone’s life a bit.” That really summed it up for me. It’s all about joining the conversation, contributing, engaging our students in meaningful learning experiences.

Here are a few inspiring examples from Ewan:

Most of what I’ve learned and applied regarding tech use in education are from these sources of inspiration:

Bit by Bit and Seedlings blog and podcasts:
After my first taste of digital audio recording and editing for publication, I found Bob Sprankle’s class blog and podcasts. I’ve been following Bob, Alice and Cheryl ever since.

Chris Chater– Elementary music teacher extraordinaire and very nice guy. We connected years ago and collaborate and have become friends over the years.

Kim Cofino, Siliva Tolisano and Julie Lindsay– Tech Educators who inspire me. I think they are super-human as they seem to have more hours in the day than the rest of us based on their capacity to share and organize collaborations.

Who inspires you?

Si Se Puede

November 17, 2008 at 7:24 am | Posted in 21st Century, Collaboration, Conference, Global Collaboration, Links, Planning, Podcasts, Presentations, Professional Development, Resources, Video conferences, Voicethread | 1 Comment
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Like a picture coming into focus, the past week and a half have been very gratifying professionally- mainly due to connections I’ve made with local and distant educators. moka_pot

Reaching Out Off-Campus After last minute changes (due to reading Presentation Zen) to my presentation of educational uses of VoiceThread, I gave my presentation to a wonderful group of teachers at the MAIS conference. Afterwards, there was more discussion and connections made. One sample VoiceThread from our ESL teacher that I shared led to a new collaboration between she and a teacher in Barcelona. Also at the conference, the job-alike session contained some interesting discussion and a new connection. Also last week, I participated in a videoconference with teachers in Jacksonville, FL as part of Silvia’s K12 Online LAN party and was able to meet and speak directly with a first grade teacher we hope to collaborate with. And speaking of the K12 Online conference, I’m still enjoying the workshop podcasts while traveling to and from school and on long walks around Madrid- although it’s a challenge to write down quotes and thoughts that arise while listening!

Reaching Out on Campus While I didn’t meet with my after-school group last week due to a holiday and parent conference day, I did work with colleagues during the after-school open lab. I was also invited by two teachers to help create integrated activities/projects for upcoming units of study and will meet with blogging classes this week to continue with comments and new posts. One day was spent totally away from my desk in classrooms and meetings for ongoing new projects. This was all very welcome after spending weeks preparing for the NWEA MAP tests in the lab, two weeks of which I was closed in the lab as test proctor.

My Little Tribe I am loving my after-school group and the growing toolbox we are developing. We’ve shared on our blog through written posts with images, PPT slideshows, and are currently working on Camtasia movies to create online game reviews. Also, this week we start a videoconference friendship with Ms. Bunyi’s class in Tennessee. We have VoiceThread creations and podcasts coming up as well.

Outside and Inside

May 12, 2008 at 5:38 am | Posted in Blogging, Collaboration, Links, Professional Development, Project-based Learning, Resources | 2 Comments
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I’ve been spending some time reading the Comment Challenge members blogs. The first one that snagged me was a post from The Journey by Carla on Project-Based learning. In it is a fantastic video about the Student Inspiration Center at San Fernando High School that started in a custodian’s closet. Students are collaborating, communicating and learning- some videos reaching around the world to inspire others on world issues.

Another blog that inspired me (and has in the past) is Kevin’s Meandering Mind in his post about sharing our thoughts in a variety of ways related to his Day in a Sentence “project.” I love listening, viewing video and Voice Thread-type sharing in addition to reading text- it’s differently engaging and adds elements that text alone can’t as easily. A mosaic of forms of expression!

Lastly, a blogger who is not part of the comment challenge, but I’ve read her on Twitter and elsewhere and decided to check out her blog. Maria Knee is a Kindergarten teacher in New Hampshire and her blog is as engaging as her classroom is. First of all, as an ex-pat from New England, it was wonderful to read and listen to the kids sharing about snowy days, maple syruping and eating mud and worms. Her blog is a wonderful visit to her classroom. It is also a potpourri of communication tech tools I plan to start trying out (link to inspiration from Kevin’s blog) in my own blog and with students.

Celebrating adventurous teachers and students!

May 6, 2008 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Links, Podcasts, Professional Development, Scratch, Tech Integration, Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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As an edtech instructional specialist, it often feels as if in order to “do my job” I am trying to push colleagues down paths they don’t want to travel. It’s also tempting to fall into that “glass half empty” frame of mind. In order to feel successful on a daily basis, I make every effort to focus on how full the glass is each day.

Yesterday I listened to 2 podcasts that had a lot in common. One from Jeff and David in On Deck Podcasts, Celebrating Shifted Teachers and the latest Seedlings @Bit by Bit podcast from Maine. Both podcasts provided the encouragement and focus I needed for a Monday and I’ll save them as favorites for the rainy days.

In Seedlings, Bob shares his use of Scratch with fourth grade students. As he begins telling about his process to introduce Scratch, he relates that he decided that he would not be the expert in the room, but rather proposed that the students discover how to use the program. He realizes that some students will always exceed his skill levels, that they can identify and work through problems with his help as facilitator and guide. To create an environment where students can feel challenged and successful is so empowering! They do need us for guidance and presenting challenges, but we don’t need to “always be the smartest person in the room.”

Jeff and David “celebrate the teachers in their schools who are making the shift. No philosophical discussion tonight, just concrete and practical instructional strategies.”

Again I find it would be so lonely without the network of like-minded educators out here who inspire and encourage me!

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