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!!