October 1, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Connected Educator

June 10, 2013

The Ultimate Guide to #ISTE13


It's that time of year again where thousands upon thousands of tech-enthused educators come together at the annual ISTE conference!  The hosts of the TechEducator Podcast invited ISTE13 keynote speaker, Adam Bellow, and myself onto the show last night for our take on the Ultimate conference experience.  Check out the recording here.
There are lots of posts going around right now to help others prepare for the conference.  So in the spirit of sharing, here are my top 3 tips for the Ultimate ISTE experience:

Networking Fair
When:  Sunday, 6/23 from 3-5pm
What: An amazing opportunity to meet Twitter and Conference Ning friends face to face, make new friends, get great session ideas and be sure to stop by the YEN booth for YEN session picks!


Organized Conference PlannerWhen: Start NOW and download the app
What:  This is the premier ed tech conference with oodles and oodles of amazing session choices, I'm booked 14-deep on Tuesday along, have a backup session for your backup session, share notes with others using Google Drive or Evernote since you can't be in two places at once, and be sure to visit the Poster Sessions and Playground areas for a different learning and sharing environment.

Social Events Social opportunities are great way to decompress from an amazing day of learning!  Follow the #ISTE13 hashtag for ticketed events and casual meetups and treatups.  Plan ahead and come out to Lonesome Dove on Monday from 5pm-7pm for a #EpicYEN fun with the Young Educators Network, whether you are a young educator or young at heart!  Sign up today!

Your turn!  What are your top 3 tips to make this ISTE13 the ultimate conference?

March 13, 2013

Listen!

I'm a talker.  I teach 380+ students per week, direct the school play, facilitate Student Council, and I talk too much.  This week I had the opportunity, dare I say privilege, to stop talking and listen.  Seven students from my 4th grade Student Council group were invited to guest blog for the 12 Days of Dreaming: Student Edition.  They had blogged about their dreams for education on our Student Council blog and submitted proposals for their post which were thoughtful, honest and very, very surprising.

Over the past two days I met with three of the guest bloggers to talk over their ideas.  I quickly realized that my role was not to do the talking but to listen and ask questions.  The conversation was remarkable and the students schooled the teacher.

Listen, these students shared that they want to be heard.  They want the opportunity to share their perspectives and have their thoughts and opinions matter.
Choice was a consistent theme in our discussion.  Choice in topics of study, project guidelines and due dates.  These students value their extracurricular activities (enjoyment, life-long skills, specific interests) and wanted to better balance their schedules to accomplish learning goals and extracurricular. 
Passion was a topic that made them all jump out of their seats!  Maybe they're a passionate bunch to begin with, but these students want and dream of opportunities to pursue their passions- in 4th grade none the less!

We looked at this post of photo prompts together, and this particular slide really got under the skin of these 4th graders.  They could all personally relate to the quote and thought of classmates who also fit this description.  This led to a very heated conversation about grades and report cards- details forthcoming in their future #12DOD blog posts.

I walked away from these meetings reminded again just how important it is to have these discussions with students.  In this day where teacher evaluations and school letter grade ratings are dependant upon student's standardized test scores, we cannot lose focus on student learning and what is important to students.  Many of the ideas, suggestions and dreams these students shared are easily attainable, we just need to stop talking and listen more.

If you are a teacher reading this post, I challenge you to ask your students what are your dreams for education?  They are dreams worth dreaming.

I would like to thank the three students mentioned above who completely inspired a very lethargic teacher/blogger to blog again.  

November 12, 2012

You don't know what you don't know, do you?


After reading a great post today, How to Connect the Dots, from Brett Clark, I ended up on a post from Tom Whitby which really got me thinking about this question, How do educators get to what they don't know?
This overarching question, how do educators get to what they don't know, is a challenging one.  I think of the phrase "you don't know what you don't know," and wonder how do we move beyond it?  I feel I did move beyond it because I felt stagnant in my trajectory as a teacher and knew there had to be more I could, and should, be doing.  But how is this accomplished when teachers may be complacent, simply because they don't know what they don't know?
The model of Flipped PD that I've implemented within my school has been one way to bring this overarching question to the front of our minds- mine included.  One hour a month of face to face time, with consistent and personalized support in between meetings, has provided the time for teachers to think, to consider, to wonder, to dream-- what don't I know, how else can I do this, what do my students need, how can I cultivate this...
How do we get educators to what they don't know?  I know now it goes slowly, with caution and regard for their experience, comfort level, and personal and pedagogical beliefs.  It's about building relationships and trust so that the unknown doesn't seem so isolated and scary, when impending observations loom.  It takes time, a lot of time, maybe more time than I ever imagined.  Consistency, encouragement, celebration and reflection are so important along this journey. 
I think now, getting to what they don't know is not simply about a piece of technology, or starting a class blog, or using the online features of the science curriculum.  It's about getting to know who we are as educators and truly what we believe about teaching and learning, beyond that philosophical paragraph on the parent welcome letter at the start of school.  It's the shift to not only student centered, but learning centered classrooms.  We're changing our school culture through collegial conversation that is deep, challenging, and meaningful.
I didn't know how this model would work or IF it would work, so for me, getting to what I didn't know meant simply to try, and not give up on my teachers no matter their fears, resistance, or struggles.  Growth, change and progress take time, as does learning.  Looking back over the first few months of this journey, I'm awed and inspired by the goals and projects which have tremendously impacted student learning in my school.  We have momentum and I believe this momentum will continue to inspire teachers to question, wonder and seek out what they don't know.  My calendar and to-do list are there to support them all along the journey.

October 2, 2012

Mars Rocks!

From the first week of school in our STEM classes, we have been following the Curiosity rover's exciting mission on Mars.  We check the time on Mars using the Mars24 Sunclock, catch up on @MarsCuriosity's latest tweets and tweet a question or two of our own, and usually check in with NASA JPL's Curiosity Week in Review.  Students greet me at the door with excitement, questions, and their stories of looking up Curiosity at home (or building their own rover out of Legos!).

We geeked out over Martian rocks this week with the discovery of an ancient streambed.  I was so proud when one 4th grade class erupted into applause over smooth, round rocks on Mars!!  But it's emails like this one below that literally bring tears to my eyes, because this is why I teach.


This email was sent to myself and a 3rd grade teacher whose class had read a great Time for Kids article about the Mars rovers.  Check out Renzulli Learning for more information about this unique platform for student directed learning.