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Last week was the Dynamic Landscapes conference here in Vermont. I  presented at one session during the day about our year-long school goal. This goal for our K-8 students and teachers, was to share, publish, and/or collaborate with an audience beyond our classroom. I’ve talked about this a few times in past blog posts here and here.

I’m sharing the slides I used at the session here, with MY larger audience. Some teachers have helped to reflect on the goal and offered feedback. It is obvious that we’ll continue to work on this goal for the next school year as well. Our plan is that we can refine and re-define our goal as well as stretch ourselves beyond what we were able to do this year.

Included in this presentation are some video clips of teachers and students. I noticed that the teachers all talked about their PLNs or how being connected has helped them work toward this goal with their students.

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Accepting Others

Today we had the first of two consecutive in-service days devoted to work on the Common Core. The morning, however, turned out better than I anticipated.

We saw a documentary titled, “Wretches and Jabberers“. It was one of the most powerful films I’ve seen in a while. It focused on Larry and Tracy, two men with autism, both from Vermont coincidentally. They are advocates for global education about autism. These men lived a challenging life until technology that allowed them to get heard and express themselves was introduced to them. They use various devices to ‘type’, which for them means ‘talk’. And boy do they talk! They are so articulate, have an amazing perspective, and a poetic use of vocabulary. One takeaway was that we can’t judge intelligence from the outside and that we should be more accepting and give everyone a chance.

In the film, Larry and Tracy had traveled the world connecting with other people with autism and without, presenting at conferences, and finding their purpose. They proved how important it is to be open to those with differences.

When it ended and we all sat down from our standing ovation, we were treated to a question/answer session with the stars of the movie. Larry and Tracy were there in person using iPads to “type” and “talk”. I was struck by their perseverance, their knowledge and use of language, and their amazing senses of humor. When asked a question from someone in the audience, they began to compose their response. They typed it out, taking as much time as they needed to articulate and communicate clearly and effectively.

Here are a few quotes:
“Unless people look for intelligence, it is not seen.”
“Autism is not an illness but a different way of being.”
“Learning about me is seeing through my autistic behaviors and steering my attention towards higher level activity.”
“I am a person with autism second and an artist most of all.”

In the afternoon, we reflected on the morning’s presentation. We thought about how it challenged our thinking around assumptions we make about children. One thing that came to mind for me was the power of connecting. Larry and Tracy were helping others with autism get connected and not feel alone. The power of being connected, and giving each of them an audience for their thoughts, art, words, and intelligence was life-changing for many. Isn’t that true of children in our schools? I also reflected on how important it is for children to express themselves in a variety of ways, given the right tools, support, and confidence. That’s where schools and families play such an important role.

Let’s all work together to support ALL children, hear their voices, and be more accepting.
Photo credit: Nancy Colbourn

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Yesterday we had another technology-based faculty meeting at our preK-2 school. In September the faculty in that building set a tech goal for the year:

Using technology as a learning tool, students will share and communicate learning with others within and beyond their classroom walls.

Before the meeting, I created a Google presentation and invited the teachers to contribute either ideas they were hoping to do to meet this goal or something they already had done with students. I anticipated that we would use this collaborative presentation as a resource for the year as well as a vehicle through which teachers could get an idea of what’s happening elsewhere in the building. What I didn’t expect was that before we even met face to face that 14 teachers would contribute! I’m not going to share the presentation here… yet. I’d like to honor the teachers and their desire to get things up and running before WE share to a larger audience.

 
During the meeting, we began with a few teachers showing and sharing some examples of how they are working toward our goal with students. These included connecting with others via Twitter class accounts and sharing their learning and participating in global projects that connect kindergarten classes.

We divided up into four groups after that to talk for a short while with these questions and topics:

1. Defining our goal: What does it mean to publish and share our learning with a larger audience?

2. Larger Audience:

  • How do we reach a larger audience?
  • Who is that?
  • Where are they?
  • How to find them and/or connect?

3. Feedback:

  • Why is feedback important?
  • Does your activity allow for it in some way?
  • How?
  • How do students receive or give feedback or comments?
  • How do we teach students about ‘good’ commenting?

4. Blogging: If you’re blogging with students…

  • How’s it going?
  • Share:
    ideas for posts
    how are you sharing and getting feedback/comments?
    What settings do you have in place currently on your blogs? (moderating, open for viewing/commenting

And finally, teachers reported out from these small group discussions. Throughout the meeting, I invited participants to utilize a room on TodaysMeet and the conversation there was rich as well.

Our next steps and things to ponder for the next meeting:

  • What support do you need?
  • What tools could we use to achieve this goal?
  • How can WE collaborate and continue to share ideas and support one another toward meeting the goal?

Overall, there are fabulous things happening in this school and we have an amazing faculty. I was so impressed by what teachers were sharing and the level of discussion and commitment. I have the opportunity to facilitate a similar meeting next week with our grades 3-8 faculty. I can’t wait!

Image credit: Creative Commons/flickr  by orkomedix   http://flic.kr/p/6APyZo

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