Posts Tagged With: PLN

I’m Joining the PLN Blogging Challenge

OK – I have no choice but to enter this PLN Blogging Challenge. My plan was to just pretend I missed the Tweet inviting me to take part but being invited by two superstars like Shira Leibowitz and Craig Badura has changed all of that. What’s good enough for them is good enough for me, so here I go.

Here are the guidelines that were laid out by whoever it is that started this in the first place:
1.  Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
2.  Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3.  Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4.  List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition.
5.  Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated.  (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
Introductions of my nominators:
Shira Leibowitz is Head of School at The Solomon Schechter School of Queens in New York, an instructional coach for teachers and principals, and facilitator of on-line learning. Shira is one of the #educoach leaders and has joined my district’s Teacher Growth and Supervision Wiki. She is an amazing member of my PLN and I learn from her every day.
Craig Badura is the PK-12 Technology Integration Specialist for Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, Nebraska. Craig and I set up a Mystery Skype with our grade 1 teachers last year. He is one of the most innovative members of my PLN.
11 Random Facts About Me:
  1. I have 4 children – 2 boys (20 & 22) and 2 girls (11 & 13) – same wife. 🙂
  2. My 4 children are named (middle names) after mountains in the Canadian Rockies. (Robson, Forbes, Cavell, & Ranee)
  3. My favourite movie of all time is Dances With Wolves.
  4. 6 feet of snow has fallen in my city so far this year.
  5. I love loons. I have many paintings, carvings and artifacts that depict loons.
  6. I coached college woman’s soccer and mens volleyball in the same year – 1989.
  7. I have driven across Canada and back 3 times. (I live in the far west and most of my relatives live in the far east)
  8. My family camped at the KOA beside Circus Circus in Las Vegas. It was $125/night.
  9. I try a lot of new things.
  10. Every member of my family blogs.
  11. I purchased my first ever cell phone just 3 years ago.
I’m going to answer 6 of Craig’s questions and 6 of Shira’s questions.
Craig’s questions:
What motivates you?

I am motivated by teachers who are pushing their own thinking. I love it when a teacher takes a risk and tries something new. When I see this I’m willing to do anything I can to support them.

Is the iPad a distraction in the classroom?

I think the iPad is a distraction for some teachers. Many have not figured out how to use them to support learning and build important competencies in their students. Once they figure out how to use the iPads to create, present, communicate, and connect they will no longer be a distraction. BTW, they are not a distraction for students.

In your opinion, who has been the most influential person in the history of the world?

Jesus Christ. Even those who are not religious should be able to see how he is the ultimate role model for all of us. He forgave unconditionally, he gave himself for us, he helped the less fortunate, and he loved unconditionally.

What’s one thing you have not done that you really want to do.

Meet Craig Badura and Shira Leibowitz. Enough said.

What is your happiest childhood memory?

Spending time with my dad at his hunting camp in our woodlot in Nova Scotia. Funny thing is that I never saw him shoot a deer.

What is best part about about your current job?

I really like how I have expanded my circle of influence. My work influences an entire district of teachers. 🙂 I was worried about moving to central office but now realize that I can stay as close to the classroom as I want to. It’s up to me to keep that as a priority. 

Shira’s questions:
What is one piece of advice you have to offer a first year teacher?
If they don’t know that you care, they won’t care what you know. Build and maintain trusting and caring relationships with students, parents and colleagues.
What is one piece of advice you have to offer principals?
Never forget that your most important work is about learning. Your learning and the learning of others.
How do you like to spend time off from work?
My free time is entwined in the lives of my wife and my daughters. Basketball, volleyball, badminton, dance, drama, friends, movies, and food. That’s about it. 🙂 Some sleep.
What inspires you?
The same thing that motivates me as I shared above in Craig’s questions. I am inspired by teachers who are pushing their own thinking. I love it when a teacher takes a risk and tries something new. When I see this I’m willing to do anything I can to support them.
What makes you laugh?
Little kids, my executive assistant, my wife, and my youngest daughter Jessa. Oh, and Adam Sandler sometimes.
What is a goal you have for yourself in the coming year?
To never stop pushing the envelope. Most of my work will be involved with our Learning Commons pilot, Teacher Growth and Supervision, Teacher Recruitment, and Probationary Teacher Portfolios.
My 11 Influential Bloggers:
Susan Miller          @millers6
Chris Smeaton      @cdsmeaton
Karl Germann       @KarlGermann
Annette Rouleau  @annetterouleau
Greg Kostiuk         @GregKostiuk
Teri Hartman        @HartmanTeri
Lian Helm             @lianhelm
Roy Fernandez     @sthenryschool
David Culberhouse @dculberhouse
And finally… My 11 questions?
  1. What is one new thing you tried in the last year?
  2. What is the most recent educational book/resource you read, watched or listened to and why that resource?
  3. What do you do when you fail at something?
  4. What do you do when someone you are responsible for fails?
  5. How do you deal with stress?
  6. What is your favourite movie and why?
  7. How many Smartphones have you owned and which was your favourite?
  8. Other than Twitter, what/who makes up your PLN?
  9. What does collaboration mean to you?
  10. Who would you recommend I follow on Twitter?
  11. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Categories: Education Transformation | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Observations on ETMOOC Week 1 – People, Processes and Stuff

For a few years now I have been following the annual Horizon Report.

The internationally recognized New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report is a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. In the 2011 report “personal learning environments” was expected to be 4 to 5 years away from adoption into the mainstream and in the 2012 report, 2 to 3 years away. Interestingly enough, in the 2010 report there is no mention of personal learning environments at all.

The report describes personal learning environments as something that “supports self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization.” It goes on to say that “while the concept of PLEs is still fairly fluid, it is clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person.”

So now I find myself in ETMOOC, a 12 week long Massive Open Online Course with a focus on Technology & Media, along with hundreds of other early adopters who I assume are, like me, looking for ways to continue on their lifelong journey of learning. This has been an amazing week and I thank the conspirators for their foresight and leadership. Although it takes innovative, divergent thinkers like yourselves to get something as big as this off the ground, I’m sure your intentions will be realized as our MOOC takes on a life of its own.gg53965385[1]

Some of my observations from this past week:

The People – Wow! What a learning experience it was for me to view all the ETMOOC introductions. I was both humbled and reinforced every day as I saw what was put out there for all to see. Everything from simple blog posts to intricate multi-media presentations were used to introduce ourselves to our new community. Through these introductions alone, the learning had already begun in full force. The one thing that stood out for me was how far we’ve come with our attitude toward online safety and sharing of personal information. People openly depicted names and images of homes, work places, colleagues, and loved ones. Just a few short years ago we as a society were so much more careful about our digital footprint.

The Processes – I really liked how the introductory sessions were accessible through both Blackboard Collaborate and a Twitter Chat (and were repeated for those who missed or were from different time zones). I participated in both and came away with a sense of being part of something important. @courosa and @cogdog moderated these sessions and did a great job of reminding us why we are here. I’m already thinking the “C” in MOOC stands more for community and less for course. The blog hub and G+ community will also serve as great platforms to communicate and build relationships. I noticed that someone suggested we stick to one social media platform to keep things simpler. Personally, I like the varied approach. It forces me to broaden my skills. It will be interesting to see where most of the interaction takes place. I have one final thought in this area. Thank you for keeping Friday, Saturday and Sunday off the schedule.

The Stuff – Theres a lot of really good stuff being shared already. How many multi media presentation tools have you added to your “I have to learn that” list after intro week? We saw iMovie, Vimeo, YouTube, Voki, Tagxedo, PhotoPeach, Glogster, and Go! Animate just to name a few. Also, the introductions to Twitter, Blogging and Social Curation were perfectly placed in this first week. In my opinion a wonderful example of relevant scaffolding of learning. Many will benefit going forward as a result of those presentations.

One week in and I’m not regretting my decision to join ETMOOC. And if what I am hearing from others on Twitter, Blogs and G+ is any indication, the Horizon Report has probably got it right.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Next Engaging Project

It’s amazing how being a connected educator can lead to learning experiences that one may never have imagined in the past. Roy Fernandez is the principal of St. Henry School in Toronto. I met Roy for the first time on February 17, 2012 when he left this comment on my blog:

I’m a principal at a school in Toronto and while I’m not a technophobe, I’m not a technophile either. Have been learning in the last month about blogs, twitter accounts, etc. I recently added a link to your blog to mine as part of an assignment we were asked to do. Your post today about tweets was VERY topical as I am very unsure how to use the tweeting on a daily basis. Will start following as soon as I remember my twitter password! One big question I have is how have you encouraged parents to follow. I have more board people following me than parents so I’m not sure how to get those numbers up. My blog is Have a good weekend ahead.

the-ripple-effect[1]Shortly there after we connected via email, which began a professional (and to some degree personal) relationship that has seen us sharing best practices and bouncing many ideas off of one another along the way. We have managed to collaborate through Twitter, blogs , text, email, Google Docs, telephone, and Skype. It did not take me long to realize that, in Roy, I had gained a colleague who was as eager and passionate as I was about moving his school along the challenging road of education reform. Although we have never met in person, Roy and I have been introduced to each others wives and children on Skype and have gotten to know a few things about one another away from our professional lives. I think the personal piece enhances the professional piece.

Anyway, together we have initiated some engaging collaboration and for me personally, my instructional leadership has been greatly enhanced. We certainly learn from one another but perhaps the greatest benefit of our working relationship is that, as we think of new approaches, we are able to enlist teachers and students from each of our schools to join us. I think I speak for both Roy and I when I say that building teacher and student capacity is the most important part of our work together. A good example of this capacity building took place last June when our grade 5 classes participated in a Mystery Skype for the first time. Roy and I took care of some of the logistical work but our teachers and students planned and carried out the project. I’m not sure if I had ever seen my grade 5s more engaged.

So on to the title of this blog entry, Our Next Engaging Project. As I write this post our grade 6s are using this wonder book exemplar to brainstorm “I wonder…” questions for teams of students to research and answer. They will then be expected to improve and refine their answers using this better answer self assessment tool. Both of these instructional tools were shared with me by Roy awhile back. At our end, we are familiar with Google Docs so will set that part up. The garde 6 teachers, Ms. Poulin and Mrs. Mabin are taking charge of the project. Think of all the authentic literacy taking place here. These are the steps we hope to follow:

  1. The two classes will meet at an agreed upon time via Google Docs to brainstorm a list of “I wonder…” questions. Do we want a theme for these questions or just leave it wide open? We decided to leave it wide open.
  2. Each “I wonder…” question will be offered to teams of students at the other school for consideration.
  3. Schools will take turns offering “I wonder…” questions until all teams from each school are partnered up.
  4. Teams will work independently to answer the questions by using all resources available. (Internet, local experts, library books, etc.)
  5. Students will then use the “Better Answer” strategy to create a finished product. Should be a paragraph or so.
  6. With finished products in hand, classes will meet at an agreed upon time via Skype to present answers to one another. Skype will begin with a virtual handshake. (I’ll explain later)
  7. Each “I wonder…” answer will be presented to the other class, first by one school and then by the other.
  8. All students will use a teacher created scoring rubric to peer assess the team from the other school. (We’ll need to create that rubric)
  9. Schools can forward the completed peer assessments to the other school. (Electronically or perhaps via snail mail?)

We would never have been able to provide our students with this type of authentic engagement had we not reached out to one another in the first place. As I reflect on how far this relationship has come, I think of the analogy of the rock being tossed into the middle of the quiet pond. The ripple effect is enormous.

Check out Roy Fernandez’s blog here

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

We Need to Disagree Better

We’ve all done it.  The moment someone retweets our thoughts, we head straight  to their profile and click the follow button.  Why not?  They obviously like the way we think and that’s good for our ego and self-esteem.  If we follow them, and they follow us we will have one more person entrenching us in our way of thinking.

As a matter of fact, teachers in most schools tend to connect and work with colleagues who see the world through the same eyes as them.  It’s so much easier to collaborate with others who are on the same page.  Even when hiring, leaders look for individuals who are going to fit the best with their philosophy and way of thinking.  In general, human beings don’t like to openly disagree with the ideas of others. There just seems to be too much work involved with it, and more often than not it leads to some level of conflict.  Why engage in conflict when it can be avoided?  If things go wrong it also may affect our standing within our school or organization.  So most of us go through our careers never giving ourselves the opportunity to learn from people who might challenge our way of thinking.

It’s my opinion that this kind of thinking supports the status quo and will slow us down significantly in efforts to transform education.  Not only do we need to do a better job of connecting with those who see things differently, we also need to approach conflict not as a roadblock but as working toward a solution.  We must listen to the ideas of others and be prepared to change our minds.  When approached in this manner, spirited collaboration can produce some of the most creative and innovative solutions and ideas.

Last week, at my opening staff gathering  I shared this Ted Talk by Margaret Heffernan called Dare to Disagree.  In the conversation that followed, all agreed that if our collaborative efforts are to make a real difference, we need to be more willing to disagree and bring conflict into our processes.  All agreed to make this effort in the year that lies ahead.

I encourage each of you in my PLN to engage, both online and in person, with passionate and caring individuals who challenge your way of thinking every day; and even with a few that think the same way as you.

Categories: Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Teachers – Invite Them and They Will Tweet

For some time now I’ve been preaching to my teachers about the benefits of Twitter. Since opening my own account in May 2011 I would say that I’ve grown more as an educator than in the previous 20 years. The personalized learning offered through a quality PLN is second to none when it comes to relevant professional growth. I know this, but have often wondered if those I work with feel the same way. On more than one occasion in the past, I’ve felt the rolling of eyes while sharing my latest Twitter gold nugget with whoever is ready and willing to listen.

When two teachers approached me a few days back to ask if I would consider hosting an “Introduction to Twitter” supper session, I must say I was a bit reluctant. Hesitant to act on the request, I told them we would probably be the only one’s there, but decided to give it a try, and on February 7th I fired off the following email:

“Good Morning Everyone,

A few of you have asked me about the possibility of having a session to learn more about how to use Twitter. In my opinion, there are many benefits of having your own Twitter account or one for your class. If interested, I would like to invite you to a sharing and learning session Thursday, February 16th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in our school library. I will provide great food and a babysitter if needed. Let me know if you are interested.”

I was surprised to hear back from a couple of teachers later that day and could not have imagined that the numbers would continue to grow. The next morning a couple more committed to attending and by the end of that day we were at 20.  One by one, almost every teacher on staff took up the offer to attend the session – on their own time. I was reminded of the importance of inviting rather than forcing when it comes to new learning experiences.
This evening we met. We set up Twitter accounts, followed great educators, and were introduced to hashtags, retweets and favorites. We learned, laughed and ate together. It was a powerful collaborative experience.  I am proud to introduce these great educators. Please consider giving them a follow.  @arlenewilliams9 @TedGross2 @BKindergarten @WingerterL @CrystalLothian @ANemecek
@ERodzinyak @AnnieGreeno @MeganRSLP @lisemccormack @CorkyKovach @millers6 @kimyearous
@EAMunroe @DoddiMatz @HeideeW @TheresaMead @JordanGroves2 @KBouch8 @cdsmeaton    
Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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