Sunday, July 19, 2009

Putting the PD Before the IT

As I do all too often I checked up on the Tweets of the day for a little PD (professional development). I'm still working on that thing called balance. I think I still fit into all of Jeff Utecht's stages of PLN adoption. Working on getting to stage 5, but I'm not there yet.
A colleague of mine "tweeted" something that hit home with me and I couldn't help share it with the Bolton staff. I wanted to share it here as well because the point was to put the "PD" before the "IT."
Paul Bogush, an eighth grade teacher in CT, posted Dear Administrator on his Blog called Blogush as a response to Scott McLeod's challenge to “blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, etc.” The challenge was issued for LeadershipDay09, an event in its 3rd year that has been created to help education leaders (adminstrators, etc.) get and handle on
  • what it means to prepare students for the 21st century;
  • how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers;
  • what appropriate technology support structures (budget, staffing, infrastructure) look like or how to implement them;
  • how to utilize modern technologies to facilitate communication with internal and external stakeholders;
  • the ways in which learning technologies can improve student learning outcomes;
  • how to utilize technology systems to make their organizations more efficient and effective;
and so on…
Click here for more on Leadership Day 2009. It's an interesting concept!

As 2Teach21 went through their three-day kickoff training last week I thought about them often, and I knew they were putting the PD before the IT, so that when the IT is there, installed in their classrooms, they know what to do with it, and why to do it. I don't think we should underestimate the importance of that step. That's also what has been foremost on my mind as I begin anew at Kimmel Farm Elementary. If educators aren't lifelong learners, how can we expect our students to strive to be?

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Farewell - But Not Goodbye

Photo by H. Koppdelaney via Flickr
"Don't be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends." - American Author Richard Bach
I write this feeling ambivalent, but nonetheless at peace. My colleagues at Bolton Elementary now know that I will not be back with them for the 2009-2010 school year. I accepted a generous offer to help open the newly-built Kimmel Farm Elementary. The process was a quick one, and it wasn't taken lightly. As I often do, I stayed up through the night and into the first hours of the next day pondering my future.

Ironically, a couple of months earlier our principal asked me point blank if I was going to apply for the Kimmel Farm job if it was open. Honestly, at that point in the year, I was so engaged with what we were doing at Bolton I had not even thought about working elsewhere. Then, out of nowhere, I received an email inviting me to interview for a possible position at Kimmel Farm. I realized then, I had to at least consider the possibilities. A few weeks went by after an initial interview and I had heard nothing. I put it out of my mind, thinking for one reason or another it wasn't an option.
Tuesday, the final week of school (with students) I returned a phone call and learned I had to make a choice - quickly. The next afternoon I accepted, and let our principal know my decision. She was very gracious through the entire process, which I greatly appreciate. I realize she took a chance on me when we decided to embark on the Teach21 journey (the hours of professional development, the expensive classroom makeovers, the belief in different methods of teaching), and it would not be the success it is without her leadership and commitment. But I also realized the process will continue on, and that the chance to begin the process again with a new faculty at a new school is something I very much want to do. It's a very unique opportunity.
As I presented an update on Teach21 one year after it began I said I believe what made it successful was that the team challenged the status quo, built a learning community that connected people, and that they committed to our cause. Those are no small accomplishments. We've all come a long way in a year, but all realize there's still a long way to go. That's just how it is in education. We can't stop moving forward, can't stop developing our ourselves as learning educators, can't stop trying new ways to develop our students into well-prepared 21st Century citizens.
As I move on to Kimmel Farm I don't really feel like I'm totally leaving Bolton. There's just too much of me invested there. I believe learning is social and connected and there's no reason, through the use of technology, that Bolton can't be connected to Kimmel Farm. I said I believe learning is shared and transparent - and that can happen at both these schools too. There's a genuine opportunity for student motivation right there. And I said I believe learning is rich in content and diversity, which technology brings to the classroom so well.
There hasn't been a year in my entire career when there wasn't change. People come and go, and with each new school year comes new professional relationships and new opportunities. It's been an honor to be your colleague, and I know I'm a better educator because of the many things I have learned from each and every one of you (Remember, learning - and teaching - is social and connected). I'm still learning.
I have always believed Bolton has talented educators. The unique element that comes through Teach21 are that there are ways to connect that talent into an especially powerful collaborative. I know Mrs. McMillan will be a wonderful Technology Facilitator, and Bolton will move forward through the use of her innumerable talents. She's already a gifted educator, but her desire to learn more and share it with others makes her perfectly suited for this job that changes by the minute.
This is my farewell, but not my goodbye. Remember, I'm just a text message, email, or Skype call away.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Students Give the Answers

In late April I asked the question - "How do You Measure Your Effectiveness?" The point was that in a data-driven education environment it sometimes becomes all about the numbers. We strive as educators to help our students earn "those numbers" and schools and teachers get defined - sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse - by the numbers. I said, "That doesn't tell me enough about my effectiveness as an educator."
Tonight, we celebrated the passing of the 5th grade class from elementary to middle school with our awards and recognition program, held at a beautiful church near our school. It was there that at I received at least part of the answer to my question of effectiveness - from a likely source - our students.
The students were the ones I work with producing our school's broadcast show. Ever since we launched WBBB we have worked dilligently to make it supportive of the curriculum, and motivational not only for the students on the show, but also our entire student body. We hold the broadcast crew to high standards regarding academics, behavior, and citizenship because we want to express and them to model what we value about those elements of life at Bolton.
We always honor our broadcast crew for their consistency in those areas, and ask them reflect on the process at the end of each year. Their reflections are edited into a short video presentation which we share at the awards program.
As I stood before packed pews and proud parents the students I was there to honor, honored me. It was humbling, because I've always believed our students make the broadcast a success. I'm just there to support the process.
Presented with a generous gift card to a local restaurant and handwritten cards from each student the answer for which I had been looking began to reveal itself. As I read the cards their words brought more into focus.

Here are some excerpts from their writings

"Thank-you for the stuff you have done for always make me laugh and made WBBB interesting."

"Thank-you for doing the best you could do for the new and old crew of WBBB. The new and old crew appreciate you so much... I want you to know that when I move I will miss you and Mrs. McMillan."

"We had a great time at school because you are a great leader to our whole class."

"Thank-You for a wonderful time at Bolton. It's an honor being on WBBB. Thanks for taking us to all the awesome places... I will always remember the things you did for us."

"Thanks for the field trips and videos and letting us have fun."

"Wanted to thank-you for all you do on WBBB. You are very smart (that's debatable). I will miss you when I move on to middle school."

"Thank you so much for your hard work teaching us rugrats how to use electronics to do our show. I will miss you terribly..."

"I have really been honored by being on WBBB news and I've learned a lot. Without you, none of this would have been possible."

"Thank-you for everything you have done."

Sometimes being an educator can be a thankless job, but tonight I was thankful to have mine. Many students always write or say they'll never forget you because that's the thing to say in the moment. In my experience, few have returned or written back to tell "the rest of their stories." While the gift card was overwhelmingly generous (and I plan to use it to help decompress from another arduous year) it's their written words I value most. They were so obviously genuine, and they let me know at some significant level I am, and we are at Bolton effective educators. Thanks students, for giving me the answers to my own test. (Is that cheating?)

Here is the video we presented tonight with our student reflections.

(Above photo by Alison Jackson-Bass via Flickr)

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Brief History of Technology in the Classroom

This speaks for itself, and I can proudly say this is where we are and the direction we're going at our school! This comes via SchoolTube.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Do You Have A 21st Century Brain?

Thought this was intriguing. It comes via the website "Big Think." This is Princeton Neuroscientist Sam Wang answering some probing questions about how we think about learning and knowledge in the 21st Century.