Monday, December 10, 2007

NSDC Reflections: Resources

Another beautiful thing about attending a conference full of staff developers is that they are so interested in your continued learning. Many made references to and suggested books to read. If any of you have a spontaneous review of these works or suggestions as to what to read first, let me know!


Online Resources:

Friday, December 7, 2007

NSCD Reflections: A Whole New Mind Book Talk

The book talk about Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, was very interesting; not just because I truly enjoyed the book but because it let me really see what an insightful group of educators I was with at the NSDC conference. We did several activities (mostly from the portfolio sections of the book) that promoted great discussions and were led by three great facilitators. I'm not going to summarize the book here; while I don't agree with everything in the book (very Amero-centric and some consider it classist) I recommend it for reading and you can see a summary here.

So, what do I do now? That's what I kept asking people in our discussion groups. I get it. I buy into it. So what do I do? The administrative team at my school read it. Are they going to do anything about it? Maybe, maybe not. I kept asking for answers at our tables. Then, during the last table discussion of the session someone helped me realize that I probably shouldn't be looking for a set plan (that would be very "left-brained" of me!). I also realized that, in my area of educational technology, maybe I can weave this in my own curriculum; I work with everyone in my building...why don't I do something about it?

So, what do I do now? Here's my current thought. I heard a lot about professional learning communities during the NSDC conference. Why not a PLC about infusing right-brained thinking into the curriculum? Educational technology can facilitate a lot of this thinking...not all but a lot. I might be making a call out to my colleagues to see if anyone else wants to investigate this.

Stay tuned... if this flies, you'll see a lot more about it here! Maybe we'll have a "Whole New PLC" that could impact our whole educational environment.

NSDC Reflections: Instructional Technology Coaching for 21st Century Teachers and Learners

Dr. Jan Streich and several Instructional Technology Resource Teachers (ITRTs) from Spotsylvania, VA shared how they've implemented the Virginia mandate of an ITRT for every 1000 students. They're not saying they have it all figured out but they sure have done their research and they certainly had a lot of good advice/resources to offer. A few highlights:

  • ITRTs are proven teacher leaders, not "techies", and continue to be teachers leaders, members of curricular teams.
  • ITRTs are placed in each building in the district, they set up goals with the school principal and sign a contract as to what objectives they are trying to achieve and activities and programs of staff development and technology implementation they are responsible for. Having the contract helps make achievement more measurable, holds both parties responsible for providing what they've promised, and helps schools stay focused.
  • ITRTs walk with teachers as they move toward implementing 21st century tools. Classroom teachers are responsible for content; the ITRT starts off with the technology and eventually moves the teachers toward independence.
  • Curricular goals and student learning objectives drive instructional technology decision making.
  • ITRTs are versed in the schools' curricular maps so they can anticipate when units/topics are coming up and address potential services/enhancements ahead of time so that appropriate planning and implementation can take place.
  • Data-driven decision making is used. Data is everywhere in this project: test scores, record of ITRTs activities/time, teacher work time, etc. They are building databases of activities, resources, documentations, lesson plans, etc.

I was quite impressed with this team and, in particular, their director Dr. Jan Streich. There appears to be an impressive amount of thought and planning in this implementation. They admit they are not perfect and they don't have all the answers (which I admire) but I really think they could serve as a model for many school districts.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NSDC Reflections: Jennifer James

Jennifer James, an urban cultural anthropologist, gave a fascinating keynote at the National Staff Development Council Annual Conference this week. Professor James made a number of wonderful analogies, thought provoking comments, and real challenges for us to take back with us. While I differ from her with regard to philosophy/belief system I still felt she had a plethora of valuable thoughts to share and I'll focus on what I believe impacts me most as an educational technology professional.

At the heart of James' presentation was an analogy of a tapestry of belief - our "mythologies", our beliefs, our traditions, our culture, our work, our wisdom, all that makes us comfortable and safe. Most of us can handle changes to that tapestry at a certain pace - a thread here and there. We are living in a time when that tapestry is changing very fast; it feels to many that their tapestries are being torn apart and that cuts deep into our being.

What can help? Someone needs to show people the "new tapestry". If your old tapestry is being torn apart and you can't see a new one you can be quite shaken. But, if you can envision the new tapestry being woven one can adjust to the changes more easily.

To me, showing people the new tapestry is my challenge. We're asking people to go into a technological future in which they don't understand the language, the culture, the traditions. Our job is to do more than "train" but to welcome them into a new culture. It's bigger than classes; it's bigger than workshops. We need to help people really see what's around the corner so we don't tear down their tapestry to fast or without helping them see how the new one is being created.

So an underlying question for me for the foreseeable future: how do I show them the new tapestry?

Some favorite quotes/notes from keynote:

“Civilization is the long process of learning to be kind.”

“Why is common sense not common practice?”

"We don’t care about many of our children. We seem to believe they won’t grow up – but they will…and they’ll move next door to you."

In extraordinary times like we have now the learning curve is STRAIGHT UP – we are constantly overwhelmed.

We have very little time to REFLECT in our culture and use everything we know.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NSDC Annual Conference Notes

It was my privilege to attend the National Staff Development Council's Annual Conference in Dallas, TX this week. It was the first time I've attended this conference; I tend to attend educational technology conferences and I loved being amongst people whose primary goal was staff development. In fact, NSDC's Purpose is: Every educator engages in effective professional learning every day so every student achieves. I'll be describing several session more in depth soon. Some high points...

  • Jennifer James on change and needing to see a new tapestry (of belief, culture, comfort) as our old ones change so rapidly.
  • Jan Streich and the Instructional Technology Resource Teachers (ITRTs) from Spotsylvania, VA on how they've implemented the Virginia mandate of an ITRT for every 1000 students...we were riveted to our seats! They're not saying they have it all figured out but they sure have done their research and they certainly had a lot of good advice/resources to offer.
  • Book talk on A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink -- great discussions and activities with great educators.
  • Learning more about this field. I have spent so much time in the educational technology world it was nice to approach my goals and what I do everyday from a different perspective. I know it will serve me, my school and my district.

There were several other good and even great moments during the conference and, of course, wonderful times with the colleagues it was my pleasure to join; thanks Sue, Bob and Jeff for your leadership, generosity of thought and ideas and wonderful company!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Plan to be Better..." and "Ancora Imparo"

Plan to be better tomorrow than today, but don't plan to be finished.”
- Carol Ann Tomlinson

I read this quote today and believe that, in its simplicity, it encapsulates what many educational technologists want to see happen with educators today. You might be an extraordinary teacher...but you're not finished. None of us are.

Another, related phrase I've adopted recently: "Ancora Imparo" - I am still learning. (Michelangelo, Age 87)
This phrase reminds me of two things: 1) There is so much to learn that I need to keep the energy and enthusiasm to always be "still learning" and 2) I need to cut myself some slack - I can't know everything; I'm still learning!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Instruction vs. Function

Yesterday, I was asked by a colleague about what my job of technology trainer entails and what I want it to be. Historically, it has been very much about "functional" instruction - helping people with the Office Suite, file management, grade books, student administration programs, etc. This year, I've had the opportunity to focus more on curriculum and educational technology - CPS systems, creating graphic organizers, SMART boards, wikis, etc. What do I want it to be? I want to spend my day helping make teaching and learning better and people's jobs easier.

While I tend to push the curricular aspects of my job I have to remember what an administrator in our district says, "Don't forget the functional." If people are laboring to function with 21st century tools, the integral nature of technology in the classroom that so many of us desire will not happen; it will never be natural. Let's not do what we did in the 20th century as computers entered our schools - race ahead and leave so many teachers behind. Let's make sure we have strong, confident, efficient users who also know how to best apply skills and tools to their curriculum. We have a number those users today...and, boy, they are powerful.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Magnitude Of It All

I just finished reading David Warlick's recent post in, 80 Percent of Voters Want New Skills Taught to their Children. It prompted me to start envisioning a school, a REAL 21st century school. I saw the creation of student "collaboration labs", less structured school days, project based learning all around, a community of learners - students, teachers, parents, neighborhood all learning together. And, as usually tends to happen to me, I then found myself overwhelmed. How do we make the transformation so many of us want to see? The overall BIG picture just makes my head spin sometimes. And I think I'm not alone... which is why we still have 19th century style schools in the 21st century. It's all so BIG. And do we make grand strides when our 21st century schools are evaluated with 20th century yardsticks?
I suppose looking at what's already in place is a good start. We DO have 21st century learning occuring in our schools. And, as I often need to remind myself, control what I can control in my EdTech area -- start offering those classes in which adults and students collaborate and learn together, etc. And, hear from others! If any of you are making those great strides, I'd love to hear about it, where you started, where you are now, how did you do it?

Monday, September 10, 2007

What one teacher can do....

From the title, you might think this is going to be a post of how one teacher can change a student's life/day/direction. Well, it's actually how one teacher can recharge a technology trainer's batteries. I have been absent from this blog for awhile, sadly, because I frankly haven't been "feeling the love" of instructional technology lately. Various technical frustrations, vendor issues and general beginning of the year chaos sometimes wears me out. But a conversation with one of my English teachers, Chris Palmi, today really got me started again.

This is what I call one of those "little big things"...doesn't sound like a big deal, but it can have a great impact. Chris is jumping into Web 2.0 tools in his classroom - discussion boards, blogs, etc. We've met a few times about determining goals, what tools best serve his needs - not really anything earth shattering. But there are two things that he's doing that really got me excited:

1) Chris is having his students create a website that is basically a fake MySpace page for a character in a book they read. Now, here's the twist: they are using the information about safe MySpace accounts from the technology orientation I gave all our freshman last week. Will Richardson, Dave Jakes and others have been suggesting we teach MySpace for a while now... how refreshing to find I actually have someone doing it and doing it in context and of his own accord. He's not losing any time. He was already doing a similar activity -- he just updated it and is incorporating online safety information while he's at it.

2) Chris also happens to be a teacher educator at a local university and teachers pre-service methods classes. He's incorporating Web 2.0 tools in there as well. He knows his students were taught traditionally and will lean toward teaching traditionally but he also knows he would not serve them or their future students well by not introducing them to 21st century tools while they're in his class. His English methods students are blogging. His English methods students are using discussion boards. If it's an integral part of their teacher prep (they're not taught about blogging, they are blogging) there's a chance these ideas (and more) will become part of their teaching. And, even better, he knows that if he is going to have them blog he'd better be blogging himself - and he is.

Many of Chris's ideas are in the infancy stages but we're already talking about how to improve them for next year and what more we can do to make connections with teachers, students and pre-service teachers.

Here's the other thing I love about this: Chris is not a "tech-head" kind of teacher. He is your regular, everyday English teacher (well, frankly, he's a phenomenal, regular, everyday English teacher) who might not know a lot about technology but he does know two things -- technology is undeniably a part of life in the 21st century and we need to connect to the world kids live in better than we do right now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Life-Long Learning: No longer a choice

As I look around at the Web 2.0 and School 2.0 discussions occurring all over the globe I keep coming back to a phrase I hear myself utter more and more: Being a life-long learner is no longer a lifestyle choice, it's a necessity. We know that we are preparing students for a world we cannot imagine. But, there is one thing we know, they will have to keep learning new concepts, ideas and strategies their entire lives.

So, what about us? As teachers, it is easy and natural to slip into the easy chair of expertise knowing that we know our topic inside and out. I always say the class that probably served me better than any methods class was the university math class in which I "hit the wall". Math had always been easy for me; it came very naturally - until my 2nd year at the University of Illinois. I earned the lowest grade I had ever earned...since Kindergarten. I just didn't get it. Remembering how I felt in that class went a long way in having compassion and patience for my students who just didn't get it.

In order to remember that feeling, I contend that every teacher should learn something new at least every two years. And I mean something REALLY new...and out of their comfort zone. Whether it be Italian, sewing, golf or the new grade book program makes no difference. I am convinced teachers will be as well served by remembering that "I don't get it" feeling as any other professional development they participate in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why I do it...

I had the wonderful experience yesterday of remembering exactly why I like my job. I'm a "Technology Trainer" (though I'd love to change that title to something along the lines of "Instructional Technology Specialist" or some other such high-falootin' name). In the summer, days can get long as I write and read and plan. Don't get me wrong...I enjoy that part, too. But I miss the regular interaction with people I have during the school year.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of facilitating two workshops with 9 teachers who gave their time in the summer to learn something new that will hopefully have a significant impact on their classrooms. And, I remembered...THIS is what I love doing - teaching, facilitating, interacting , brainstorming and being surrounded by people who are great at what they do and only trying to get better. Thanks, GBS teachers, for the inspiration!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

NECC2007 Session 11: From Hand It In to Publish It: Re-Envisioning our Classrooms

Notes on From Hand It In to Publish It: Re-Envisioning our Classrooms

Presenter: Will Richardson, Connective Learning Group

This session reminded me of why I enjoy reading and listening to Will Richardson so much. He really challenges the audience. I didn't take too many notes as most of it is in the wiki he created for the session. A few notable points:

  • Today's students are hyperconnected
  • Today's students are hypertransparent
  • They are extremely collaborative
  • The world is no longer saying "do your own work" but "do work with others" (are schools??)
  • Students need to see people who are modeling learning
  • (This is something I've been saying for awhile now) LIFELONG LEARNING IS NO LONGER A CHOICE!!
  • change in information - e.g. all of MIT's course content is online, for free, for anyone at

I have to include these favorites from the session wiki. Richardson was visibly taken aback by the spontaneous applause for number 5:

So what are the challenges, and how do we overcome them? What are the "Yeah,

  1. "We don't have the technology." Talk about and model the uses of these
    technologies in your own practice as much as you can. Start a conversation about
    the ways in which you can bring free and open hardware and software to your
  2. "My supervisor (principal, superintendent, etc.) won't let me do this." Be a
    beacon for these changes in your own practice, ask for small opportunities to
  3. "My parents don't want their kids 'out there.'" Teach them why it's
    important for their students to be using these tools, that they are using them
    already, that they are not going away, and that they need to understand how to use them safely, effectively and ethically.
  4. "I have to make sure my kids do well on the test." Make the case that this
    is not either/or, that the ends can be met through these means and at the same time, the "standards" can be met.
  5. "I don't have the time." At the end of the day, as an educator, you don't
    have much choice. You need to make the time, You need to understand these
    changes for yourselves.
  6. "I'm scared." You should be. On some level we all are.

I can't say I've always agreed with Will Richardson but I have a lot of respect for what he says and does... and there is a LOT of good stuff in here. It was a great way to end the conference!

NECC 2007: 5th year - New Experience

This was a very different NECC conference for me. I'm usually very focused on sessions and the exhibit hall. The people with whom I attend the conference and I get together and talk about our sessions. This year it didn't exactly happen that way. While I did not stop by the Blogger Cafe as so many of my colleagues did, I still reaped the rewards of the new age of conference and informal learning. Ryan Bretag, educational technologist extraordinaire, introduced several of us to people whose posts we've read and whom we'd heard of but never met - virtually or face to face. Being immersed all day and throughout the evening with educational technologists from around the globe was exhausting and fascinating. Thanks to all who shared their ideas and experiences with us over a meal Pittypat's Porch: Julie (I'll probably never go rafting again!), Vicki, Brian (who has my new favorite blog name), Vinnie, Terry, Peggy and John!

And, here's what got to me - the passion I saw in so many people. And not just passion for technology. These are not just gadget-heads and techno-geeks (though some of them are). These are educators who care deeply about teaching, learning and the future of young people in this country and around the world. The time and energy so many folks pour into learning new things so they can serve their students better is astounding. Jeff Utecht, for one, seems to be a non-stop learning machine!

Not only did the learning in Atlanta start before NECC started with Edubloggercon but it lasted long after, too. After several days of being immersed in discussions about educational technology, were we done? No! The conversations continued at the Atlanta airport and on board flights, as well. A small group of us (David Knudson, Ryan Bretag, Dave Jakes) gathered in an airport watering hole and people dropped in and out (as some of us had longer waits than others). Sorry I don't recall everyone's names but it was a pleasure meeting Brian Grenier and Tim Lauer among others in the airport version of NECC!

Thank you, everyone, for your dedication, generous spirits and willingness to share!

NECC2007 Session 8: Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape

Notes on Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape

Presenter: David Warlick, The Landmark Project

Lots to think about...Warlick has been writing quite a bit about the changing nature of information. This was interesting and here are a few points:

On reading:

  • FIND IT: in the digital network landscape
  • DECODE IT: regardless of the format
  • EVALUATE IT: determine its value
  • ORGANIZE IT: create personal digital libraries

Reading is now "exposing"
Arithmetic is now "employing"
Writing is "expressing"

Stop teaching to ASSUME authority; instead teach students to PROVE authority

On Wikipedia vs. traditional sources:

  • Who's more reliable - the source that warns you that it might not be true or the one who is protecting its reputation?

Stop integrating technology - integrate LITERACY

Know 2 things:

  • We're preparing students for an unpredictable future
  • Nature of information has changed

We need to teach and learn LITERACY

NECC2007 Session 7: New Tools, New Schools: Starting the Conversation about Web 2.0

Notes on New Tools, New Schools: Starting the Conversation about Web 2.0

Presenters: Gwen Solomon, with Timothy Magner, Will Richardson, Lynne Schrum and David Warlick

This was more of an audience participation session than I thought it would be. With the names I saw on the presenter list I thought it would be interesting to hear them speak on Web 2.0 in the classroom and do a little in person compare/contrast of some of their ideas. It's always interesting to hear what "regular people" like me have to say; I was just expecting something different.

  • Richardson: We still hear too many "yeah, but's"
  • Warlick: need to USE Web 2.0 tools in the conversation; not just talk about them
  • Schumann: need to parter with Higher Ed and teacher prep
  • Magner: Everyone went to Industrial Age schools but are teaching and learning in the Information Age; School 2.0
  • Student introduced the audience to a learning networking site

Lot's of agreement that something needs to be done; lot's of agreement that we don't exactly know what to do.

NECC07 Session 6: Staggeringly Good Things Integrating Media and Google Earth

Notes on Staggeringly Good Things Integrating Media and Google Earth

Presenter: Hall Davidson, Discovery

  • With Google Earth Pro you can capture your trip and make a movie so it doesn't have to operate "live" all the time
  • Jason Burg again mentioned for GoogleLit Trips
  • for sounds to embed
  • Can add a Flickr layer for images
  • You can paste a web cam address in a box and see a web cam from a site while following a trip/location

NECC07 Session 5: The Longest Mile: From Media Resources to Successful Lesson Plans

Notes on The Longest Mile: From Media Resources to Successful Lesson Plans

Presenter: Lynell Burmark, VisionShift International

Lynell Burmark always has interesting statistics and thoughts to share about Visual Literacy. (The Visual Literacy book is also available as an ebook now.) I've heard many of the resources and stats before but here are some interesting resources, etc.:
  • The most effective PowerPoint slide is one with image only IF there is a voice over (speaks to dual-coding research by Allan Paivio)
  • Using illustrated materials, retention and recall increase 42% and transfer 89%
  • Start your class with a picture...perfect "anticipatory set"
  • Free high-res stock photography at
  • More image sites available on handout "Web Resrouces for Images" at
  • Jerome Burg did "Google Lit Trips" using literature and Google maps
  • What percent of the Internet is educationally relevant? 6%

NECC07 Session 4: Five Obstacles to Information Fluency (and How to Remove Them)

Notes on Five Obstacles to Information Fluency (and How to Remove Them)

Presenters: Carl Heine, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy with Dennis O'Connor

21st Century Information Fluency Project - IMSA

  • Used to be called "5 things digital natives cannot do"
  • 1/3 of students do things effectively
  • What do they need to do?
  1. What? how do I translate a question into a query?
  2. Where? Choose the best database in which to look
  3. How? Recognizing information that's relevant, finding better keywords
  4. How good? Verifying the credibility of the information
  5. Ethical? Follow guidelines of fair use? How do I cite so that I don't plagiarize?
  • Google results only so 85 pages, you'll never see ALL the results
  • Presenters gave examples of very interesting Internet Search Challenges
  • Tools and challenges and more details available at

NECC2007 Session 3: A Reflective Look at Online Professional Development

Notes on A Reflective Look at Online Professional Development

Presenters: Bill Thomas, Educational Technology Cooperative, Southern Regional Educational Board with Michael Murray and Jo Williamson

NECC2007 Session 2: Standards for Us! Building Technology Facilitators and Leaders

Notes on Standards for Us! Building Technology Facilitators and Leaders

Presenters: Jo Williamson, Kennesaw State University with Traci Redish

There ARE standards for us! They aren't published like NETS-S, NETS-T, and NETS-A and seem to focus very much on the preparation for technology facilitators and leaders but they do exist. As the presenters stated, having standards for what we do adds a certain level of professionalism and expectations for our jobs. Technology leadership can no longer be the role of the big-hearted teacher who likes computers and wants to help his or her colleagues. We need to be able to accomplish great things because great things are expected of us. These standards are one way to help us choose and keep better technology leaders.

Though these presenters were simply sharing some information about existing standards, this was one of the more impactful sessions for me. I hope I can successfully impact the leadership in my school district when I return.

You can see the standards for Technology Facilitators and Leaders at:

NECC2007: Assessing Students' and Teachers' Technology Skills: NETS as Benchmarks

Notes on Assessing Students' and Teachers' Technology Skills: NETS as Benchmarks

Presenter: Mila Fuller, ISTE with Mary Ann Wolf

My primary takeaway from this session was PBS Teacherline. Teachers can take courses about not just tools but utilizing technology in the curriculum. I'd like to explore this more and see if it might be appropriate for members of our Tech Mentor team.

Also, we learned that the state of Virginia requires an instructional technology resource person for every 1000 students!! Holy smokes...that's fantastic! Bravo, Virginia!

This session was in a strange time slot and I had to leave early to attend my next session. See more at Ryan Bretag's post!

NECC07 Session 1: Learning for Leaders 2.0: Development of Self and Team

Notes on Learning for Leaders 2.0: Development of Self and Team

Presenters: Dr. Gordan Dahlby and Dr. Larry Anderson

I left another session to come to this leadership session so I arrived late. The main concept I took home was a Top 9 list of tech leadership statements from Google (some of these might have been abridged in my notetaking:

  1. Ideas can come from anywhere (Everyone is expected to contribute!)
  2. Share everything you can (Information is power)
  3. "You're brilliant, we're hiring." (Work with a lot of smart people)
  4. A license to pursue dreams
  5. Innovation, not instant perfection
  6. Data is apolitical
  7. Creativity loves constraint
  8. Users, not money (If you build it they will come)
  9. Don't kill projects, morph them (What was the kernel of value in something that didn't work?)

Larry Anderson: "All leaders are learners"

NECC07 Session 1: Refreshed NETS-S Release!

Notes on Refreshed NETS-S Release!

Presenters: Lynn Nolan, ISTE with Don Knezek

  • ISTE has released a new set of Technology Standards for Students (NETS - S)
  • Won't actually be published until September
  • #1 change since original is "globalization"6 New Standards are:

  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and Collaboration
  3. Research and Information Fluency
  4. Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision Making
  5. Digital Citenzenship
  6. Technology Operations and Concepts

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A matter of perspective...

Wednesday and Thursday of this week seemed much like a movie as I tried to leave the great state of Georgia and the NECC 2007 conference with my colleague, Ryan Bretag. It was vaguely reminiscent of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". We endured cancelled flights, late hotel shuttles and high tension in the long airport lines. As I stood in what felt like my 20th line before 8:00am on our second day in the airport, an airline employee asked if I was ticketed. I thanked her but told her my reservations were a "disaster" and that I was told I needed to talk to an agent. As she moved to the traveler behind me, I looked up to see a young man in uniform. I asked if he was returning home or heading for duty. Josh was returning from 5 months in Iraq. He had 2 weeks to come home to Iowa for his anniversary before he was to return. I welcomed him home, thanked him for his service and told him I'd keep him in my prayers in the coming months. He thanked me.

Ryan arrived shortly after my talk with Josh. I left the line and we moved on, planning our next exit strategy. All I could think of was how, minutes earlier, I had told someone my travel plans were a "disaster" only to look in the eyes of someone who really knew what disaster was. Lord only knows what he's seen. I gained some perspective in those few minutes with Josh....along with some humility and gratefulness.

I'll be writing about my experiences at NECC soon. This was a different type of NECC for me with some wonderful moments. But the image from the week foremost in my mind right now? Josh. May he and other young men and women return again safely.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Taste of NECC 2007

Well, I'm following along with some of my fellow edubloggers and posting just a few items from my NECC 2007 schedule. Here are just a few highlights. (And I thought I'd toss this question out there: Tom March, where are you?? Apparently the March sessions have been cancelled....won't feel like a NECC to me without him....)

Refreshed NETS•S Release!
Lynn Nolan, ISTE with Don Knezek Monday
I'm curious to see what changes, improvements, adjustments are included in the new NETS.

Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society
Mitchel Resnick, MIT Media Lab
I was listening to a presentation of Resnick's recently and found him very interesting...thought I'd go see him in person.

New Tools, New Schools: Starting the Conversation about Web 2.0
Gwen Solomon, with Timothy Magner, Will Richardson, Lynne Schrum and David Warlick
Always interested in conversations held by the TechLearning team!

ESL, iPods, and Student Learning
Johnna Paraiso Torok, Rutherford County Schools with Dorothy Valcarcel Craig, Brandi Nunnery and Johnna Paraiso Torok
Looking for ways to help out our ELL students and teachers.

Standards for Us! Building Technology Facilitators and Leaders
Jo Williamson, Kennesaw State University with Traci Redish
I need to make sure "my own house" is cleaned up before I start preachin'!!

Staggeringly Good Things Integrating Media and Google Earth
Hall Davidson, Discovery Tuesday, 6/26/2007, 11:00am–12:00pm; GWCC Murphy 1
I really want to see Google Earth usage be not just "so cool" but meaningful. I always learn something in a Davidson session and, frankly, he's just darn entertaining!

Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape
David Warlick, The Landmark Project
I've been intrigued reading Warlick's posts about changing nature of information.

Volunteer Shift: Ask Me Stations
Lisa Meinhard Sly, attendee
About time I gave something back!! I'll be in an Ask Me t-shirt from 7:00-10:00 Tuesday morning!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Educational Technology Vocabulary, revisited

Amen to the post on eSchool News, "Experts: Ed tech must change its message". (Thanks, Ryan Bretag for the heads up!) In the article, Dennis Pearce discusses the need to change our educational technology focus from tools to teaching. As technology trainers in our district, Ryan and I have been spending time trying to figure out how to do just that in our schools. The focus in technology integration has been, in my experience in the classroom and as a trainer, just that, "technology integration" -- not curriculum, not instructional design, etc. Our current mission, as I referenced in April, is to shift our focus to the teacher's instructional design, not the tools. A small but essential shift in our vocabulary can have a huge impact on that message. (Frankly, the content of my technology classes won't change all that much -- but the advertising will!) The main conversations with our staff should include more words like curriculum, engagement, collaboration, creativity, assessment, instructional design, professional learning, and problem solving and fewer words like CPS, SMART boards, Bluetooth, Web 2.0, MS Office and other techie talk. Not that those words are eliminated - certainly not - but they play supporting roles; not the lead. We need to talk with teachers first about their instructional goals-- and then we can have a much more impactful conversation about the tools that can support what teachers and students need.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Flattening of the Educational Community

Second Life... wow, has this been fascinating to watch. After much encouragement by Ryan Bretag, I stumbled around Second Life once or twice. Frankly, I haven't had the time or energy to visit very much...hopefully soon. It has struck me, though, how people I know, in Real Life, are now conversing regularly with educational gurus Will Richardson, Kathy Schrock, David Warlick and the like. I'm struck by the fact that the degrees of separations have decreased dramatically. It's incredible how new tools like Second Life facilitate the ease with which great educators, nationally know or not, get to learn from each other, run ideas by one another, discuss, debate... For the lover of educational philosophy and practice this flattening of the educational community is an incredible opportunity and experience. This new realm of informal learning is a wonder to behold!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Art of Teaching

David Warlick speaks to the art of teaching in a recent blog when he asks:

Thinking of those great teachers that you had who truly influenced who you are
today. What percentage of what those teachers did do you think might be
effectively measured by scientific research, and what percent do you think is
not measurable?

When I last checked, the responses overwhelmingly indicated that the influence of those great teachers was largely immeasurable....and I wholeheartedly agree. The first people who popped into my mind? Mr. Mark - choir director I had for less than one year before his life was tragically ended in a car accident; Mr. Dieckhoff - PE and health teacher who help me have confidence and encouraged me to become a Jr/Sr Leader and thus led me to my first foray into "teaching"; Mr. Dionesotes - photography teacher who inspired a lifelong shutterbug; Mr. White - English teacher who made me think about every word I wrote- "Diction, diction, diction"; Mr. Hicks - physics teacher, a gentle man who made physics more real, fun and understandable than I would have thought possible. Not a lot of "measurablility" there in my descriptions, huh? Yes, I did well on standardized tests. Yes, I was in on the hyper-college-prep race track. But what stuck with me? Photography, kindness, the art of writing (perhaps not evidenced here but it's still in there somewhere) and fun.

I hear people comment about the "art" rather than the science of teaching. So many people seem to think that technology interferes with the art of teaching. I have to admit I have fallen in that trap in the past, too. I struggle at times with the intensity with which I work with technology. I'm really "low-tech Lisa"; I always say I should have grown up in the 40's listening to Glenn Miller sipping a soda at the fountain. But, I'm here in the 21st century and I love teaching. And I love teaching people who teach. And I truly see how the tools we have at GBS can allow teachers to better implement so many fundamentally sound instructional practices that it is ridiculous to think that the tools interfere with the art. But, the secret is choosing the tool. A sculptor doesn't use watercolors and a painter doesn't use a chisel. Likewise, not every technology tool is a good fit for every teacher. I think we make a mistake when we say "you must use this tool..." I do however believe that it behooves every teacher to investigate tools to see which ones are a good fit, will enhance or enliven curriculum, will help their students, etc.

Technology tools don't diminish the art of teaching; the refusal to investigate them might...

Monday, April 2, 2007

Educational Technology Vocabulary

Ryan Bretag and I have been discussing our approach to our "Technology Trainer" positions in our district. Our mission is to work with teachers to help "integrate technology in the classroom". One of the issues we are addressing is the vocabulary of our "technology training". There are so many titles for what we do out there (see THE Journal) and they all mean different things.

What terminology issues have you faced over the years and how have you addressed the ever-changing technology positions in your schools with vocabulary? For instance, instead of a technology trainer do you have an "educational technology specialist"? Instead of training are you "facilitating"? Instead of integration technology are you....well, I still need a word to describe the more natural....infusion?...of technology in our curriculum.

I think changing the vocabulary we and our colleagues use can, in some small way, help us focus on our real mission here and facilitate changes in our classrooms, curriculum and how we approach education and technology. What do you think?

Friday, March 23, 2007

What about THIS generation?

The subject of new teachers and their use of technology in the classroom seems to be coming up a lot lately. As a high school technology trainer, this subject is near and dear to my heart. Will Richardson wrote recently about talking with The Next Generation of Teachers. In speaking with graduate students, Richardson told them,

"You know, there’s a lot of pressure on you in my circles because many people think nothing is going to change until the old guard retires out and you guys take over.”

While I agree with this statement to some extent, the issue I have with the concept is that, at this point, the "old guard" has been teaching the next generation how to teach. We are looking for a fundamental change here, a transformation from ground zero. Ryan Bretag (my edtech "partner in crime" and great inspiration) responded to Richardson's post and discovered in doing a spot check of local universities that the educational technology preparation around here was woefully lacking for their pre-service teachers. If we don't convert the old guard, that change will be painfully slow.

The shift so many of us so desperately seek is not going to magically happen because new people are coming in the door. We seem to be waiting for a "Friedman flat-world-esque convergence" to happen. We need the will, the means, the support, the energy, the desire, the faith, the tools and the means to come together. It's bigger than "young people will do it"; the old guard needs to buy in now to generate real power real soon. We need to create what Gladwell would call "positive epidemics" of our own in our own schools.


I've been inspired lately by the blogs of Will Richardson, Dave Jakes and Ryan Bretag. After observing the Educational Blogosphere for some time, dabbling in blogging here and there, and now having a challenging and insightful "partner in crime" in Ryan, I find myself itching to speak. I have never been one to journal professionally or personally and certainly not one air my thoughts for the world to see but, and I know this is painfully obvious, once you immerse yourself in this community you can't help but want to join in.

Here I am, a perfect example of a "non-writer" anxious to write. And for whom? Primarily me. I was struck this morning by David Warlick's post about the fact that, even though our posts are public, we are often "laying trails" for ourselves. My challenge lately has been to examine my own professional development and growth. The urge to write very much stems from the need to see where I've been, where I'm going and how I got there.