Sunday, August 21, 2011

1st Day of School Thoughts

This was one of the slides in my "Next Steps" presentation. The original source of the quote was this post from Paul Bogush, which I love.

We may spend a lot of time planning lessons, managing the classroom, communicating with parents, all important components of the craft of teaching. But when it comes down to it, who we are in every moment is the greatest teacher of all.

Am I a learner?
Do I do what I expect my students to do?
Am I a reader?
A writer?
Do I own my mistakes and try to do better the next time?
Do I take risks?
Do I listen well?
Am I a critical thinker?
Do I treat others the way I want to be treated?

With that slide, I read the following, from the book Reflective Practice to Improve Schools
"You can genuinely teach only who you are. In these demanding times, it is easy to slide to a place of feeling as if you are never enough. But who you are every day, how you create meaningful learning experiences for students, the positive energy you choose to bring to your work is enough. It is more than enough: It is an enormous gift to the world around you. By maintaining a focus on reflective capacities that expand and improve your personal practices, your influence on others expands as well. Just remember to place your own oxygen mask securely in place before assisting others."

Take care of yourself so that you have something to give. Be mindful of your own practice of learning and reflecting, communicating, collaborating, creating and, most importantly, being a human being relating to other human beings. Because, at the end of the day, that is what matters most.

image credit: Silvia Tolisano

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Next Steps

This past week was pre-planning for teachers, and in my new, moving-into-the-future-that-is-now role of "21st century learning specialist" I was given 2 hours on Tuesday to present "Next Steps." My presentation followed Silvia's one hour, "Curriculum 21- A Deeper Cut."
View more presentations from edtechworkshop
I really like presenting. Although it is a ton of work to think through what I want to share, organize it and create the slides, I find it really satisfying. I also think I'm kind of good at it, and it comes somewhat naturally (after the tons of work and preparation). I'm a talker, a storyteller.
My audience seemed, for the most part, engaged, interested, respectful. I really appreciated their attentiveness. Afterwards, I got a lot of positive feedback, which felt gratifying. My favorite comment was from our MS social studies teacher who said that my presentation was like 21st century therapy. I took that as a compliment.

What I would like to do better (my own "next steps") is to work toward being more of a conversation facilitator and less of a presenter.
Who really likes to sit and listen for 3 hours? My presentation was supposed to be shorter, with time afterwards for teachers to reflect on the prompt in the final slide, "What is your next step?" or another topic from either of the presentations, but both of us went a little long, and we ended up taking the whole three hours to present (with a little break in between).

When I present, I feel like there is so much to say. I definitely do my homework, in terms of preparation (including pre-presentation insomnia where I lie in bed while my mind races and reviews my slides, thinking of all the things I might say). However, if I learned anything at all from Educon, it is that active learning is better than passively listening to a presenter, no matter how entertaining and engaging. I remember in Chris Lehmann's really inspiring session about leadership, 2 Educon's ago, how he threw out ideas, had everyone discuss, and then brought it all back together so that the group could move to the next idea. Like a magician. In reviewing my notes from that session, I wrote " The ability to have these conversations and come to common ground requires a good leader. Get to common ground and then move on."
"Conversation leadership" - it sounds a lot like teaching...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We Are Not Alone...The Power of the Network

In my role as one of our school's two 21st century learning specialists, I am tasked with presenting a 2- hour professional development session for teachers on the 2nd day of our pre-planning week. If you know teachers during back-to-school time, you know that they can be a bit of a tough crowd during this week when they have so much to do setting up classrooms and preparing for students.

I really want to make those 2 hours meaningful, inspiring and totally worth the time spent away from the work that needs to be done in the classrooms. I love the idea of opening up with a TED Talk to get people feeling inspired. At our PD day in January, I opened with Adora Svitak's fabulous TED Talk "What Adults Can Learn from Kids." It was well-received and generated some excitement and fun discussion.

But this post isn't about which TED Talk I'm going to choose. Nope. This post is about what happened when I did what I usually do when planning any type of instruction these days. I ask my trusted network.

I have truly, completely, totally embraced the "together we are smarter" idea to the point where I don't even try to think alone anymore. When it comes to TED, even if I watched one TED talk every single day, it would take several years to watch them all! (When I got my ipad and downloaded the TED app, I did intend to watch one talk a day, but you know how those things go...) So, naturally I turned to my network on Twitter.

The tweet was re-tweeted by Rachel Abrahams and between my tweet and her re-tweet, I received a handful of responses (newest on top).

Since I've already seen Sir Ken Robinson's TED talks "Schools Kill Creativity" and "Bring on the Learning Revolution", as well as Alan November's TEDxNYED talk, I started by watching Itay Talgam's brilliant, "Lead Like the Great Conductors." My husband and I both really enjoyed it. Next I watched Julian Treasure's "5 Ways to Listen Better."

This was on Sunday morning, and just watching those two talks took almost 30 minutes. That was all the time I had to indulge in the pleasure of watching TED Talks (although it WAS for work!). A little later in the day, I looked at Facebook and saw that TED had posted my question on their Facebook page.

It was amazing....and at the same time overwhelming! I could barely watch two TED Talks. I skimmed the FB comments (LOTS of votes for Sir Ken Robinson), but I couldn't even read all those comments!!

Then tonight, Tuesday, I saw this tweet:

There is so much to this. First of all, I now have the opinions of over 1000 TEDTalk watchers. TED writer/editor Ben Lillie went through the freeform comments and tallied the results. Seems that Sir Ken is the favorite by a mile, but I have a great list of the top 14 vote-getters to watch, many of which I haven't yet seen. And that is doable.
Besides that, I have a good story to share! This is a terrific example of the power of networking- what we're working to bring to our school.
Collaboration. Social learning. Content curation. Filtering. Connecting.
Ideas worth spreading.
Thanks for the help everyone.

PS- After speaking with my partner, Silvia Tolisano this morning, and connecting what I'm doing with what she's bringing, we have decided to open with the Alan November talk. It really speaks to what we are going to be doing this year with our 21st century learning program.... which involves, among other things, having our students write and present their own TED Talks. There are so many incredible thinkers; it's really an uplifting change from watching the network news shows' tales of gloom and doom. I challenge myself to revisit my intention to watch one TED talk a day!