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Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

I’m reading a few different books simultaneously and two of them just converged. Both of the books are important on their own and have a lot to teach us. Both books are timely and relevant.

social LEADiaFirst, I’ve been reading Jennifer Casa-Todd’s Social LEADia with a small group of educators in my district. I’ve been inspired by this book for a while. I’m passionate about shifting the conversation around digital citizenship to digital leadership and Casa-Todd’s book outlines the steps for doing just that. So much of what we’ve focused upon in the past has been via scare tactics when teaching or introducing digital citizenship to adults and students. It’s time to focus on the positive ways we can use digital tools and social media to bring about change.

Common Sense Education is doing just that as they release updated digital citizenship lessons, so far for grades 3-8 with more coming.

Social LEADia provides clear examples of students who have raised their voices and brought about change in a variety of ways, whether for their schools, communities, or globally. The book also outlines how schools can start making the shift to share our stories, our passions, and our voices. And most importantly, those of our students.

say somethingThe other book I’ve read recently is Say Something, the newest amazing book by Peter H. Reynolds. This book is the follow-up to The Word Collector, which helped our students see the power of words and vocabulary in a positive light. In Say Something, Reynolds empowers students to use their voices, in a wide variety of ways, to speak up. Say something to help others know how you feel. Say something with your actions. It illustrates how their voices matter. One of my favorite pages says, “Keep saying it… and you may be surprised to find the whole world listening.” The wonderful illustration on that page features many, many birds. Thanks, Peter!

Digital tools provide the mechanism through which we can say something and become digital leaders. Both books strike a chord with me. Both books encourage all of us to use our voices to bring about change. How can we shift the thinking and empower our students? How do we encourage them to speak up and understand that their words and actions matter, and that THEY matter?

It starts with us, the educators. YOU can start by reading these books.

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Did you ever stop to think that teachers don’t have business cards? It came up for me way back, I don’t want to date myself, but before cell phones when we wanted to exchange phone numbers with someone else or just give someone your number. I was a teacher in Boston and didn’t have a business card.

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That was remedied once, when I did an internship  at Tom Snyder Productions (no relation to my former last name) and their in-house illustrator created one single card for me after a conversation about it. That illustrator was no other than Peter H. Reynolds. Here’s that card; I still carry it in my wallet. I shared it with him at a conference a few years back as we reconnected the dots.

I went on to another role in education, one where my husband insists I had a business card and I probably did, but we can’t find any evidence of that. And then, I went back to the classroom. Attending conferences where vendors encourage you to put your business card in a fish bowl to win something gets complicated when you don’t have one. That was before the days of badges with codes that could be scanned. As teachers, we don’t need a card to identify the many hats one wears throughout the day, week, months, and year. It just wouldn’t be possible to describe on a small card.

Well, to make a long story short, I’m making a change. I’m leaving the role I’ve been in for 9 years, that of Digital Learning Leader for the Williston, VT schools and 15 years as a classroom teacher before that, and moving to our district office. My long-winded title will be Director of Digital Learning and Communications.

I’ll miss the day-to-day of school life, interacting directly with students, and the family that I’ve been a part of for 24 years in Williston. But I’m off to exciting, new challenges and new endeavors. I’ll be working with some people I know and some I don’t but who will, hopefully, become my next work family.

And I apparently get business cards. Stay tuned.

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At the dinner table tonight, I brought up the topic of choosing our #OneWord for 2017. After being home over the holiday break, my husband and I did some cleaning out. It makes sense that he chose Simplify as his word. When we asked our son, his reply was “No.” I think that’s his word … we’ll keep working on that after we finish laughing. #TeenageHumor

oneword17Last year my word was Try. I have always loved that word and all that if connotes. My word this year is Positive. Given the political climate, I want to be sure that I focus not on that, but on my own actions. I intend to stay positive, react positively, speak positively, and collaborate positively. I also connect this word to having a growth mindset, which also means I’ll take a positive approach to whatever comes along.

I hope that having a positive attitude will cause more positive things to happen. We’ll see.

I shared the #OneWord challenge with our whole faculty and staff and created a Padlet on which we can all share our words. I won’t connect it here so that everyone has time to  contribute to it, but will follow up with another post soon.

Stay Positive!

 

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Blogs I Follow

This week’s #ETCoaches blog challenge: How do the reading of blogs influence you as an educator? Which blogs do you follow/love? Do you use a RSS reader?”

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I receive most of the resources and blogs that have an influence on me via Twitter and the Google+ Communities of which I’m a member. It’s my PLN to the rescue, once again. I used to use an RSS feed, back when Google Reader was an option. Then I realized that most of the blogs/people I follow share via Twitter. It felt redundant to have an RSS feed and Twitter, so I cut out the RSS.

Some of the blogs are thought-provoking, some share resources, and others share ideas about pedagogy. They all benefit me in different ways.

Here are some of the blogs/people I follow.

Thanks for reading; I always appreciate feedback.

 

 

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Here’s this week task for the #ETCoaches Blog Challenge:

“What are your strengths, areas for improvement, challenges, successes in your current role?” screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-4-26-05-pm

I’ll break down the individual areas with some thoughts below.

Strengths: I’m a good communicator. I respond quickly to inquiries or requests. I share new tools, ideas, and resources via a Tech News often, but not too often. As a former classroom teacher, I know how much teachers are juggling and adding another email isn’t helpful every week, so I spread them out. I stay positive and try to remain neutral.

Areas for Improvement: I know that I need to continue to build relationships, even though I’ve worked in these schools for 22 years! I’d like to work more closely with our special educators and increase my awareness of their needs in their work with students. After research and a long approval process, we’ve just purchased Read & Write for Google for all of our district’s students, grades 3-12. I’m very excited to share and support folks with this incredible resource with all of our faculty and staff.

Challenges: Like many, I’d say that time is always a factor. Determining how I best budget my time and prioritize is always a challenge. I hope to model best practices and demonstrate that student needs drive our work. We’ve embarked on some new things this year that require shifts for all of us.(We’re dropping traditional grades and gradebooks, moving to standards-based learning and reporting; middle school students now all have ePortfolios that also function as a personal learning plan, to name a few!) My challenge is to provide the support and encouragement necessary to help make this a smooth process.

Successes: I’m extremely fortunate to have opportunities to offer professional development to our faculty and supporting staff members as well. I feel that those are well-planned and facilitated, offering support, encouragement, and ideas that can be implemented right away. It is not my intention to share cool techie tools. I hope that I communicate that curriculum and pedagogy come first, followed by a discussion of how digital tools might best support the learning.

Those are initial thoughts. I’m noticing how often I used the word ‘support’. I guess that’s a big factor of who I am and what I do. As always, I welcome feedback!

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With and Without

This year we piloted our first ever 1:1 program with Chromebooks. We have two teams of four teachers who have enough Chromebooks for each student to use during the day, when needed. We are not using the term 1:1, as that often gets misconstrued. Our students do not take the Chromebooks home. When they move on to another team or class next year, they won’t take their Chromebook with them, but they will get one to use for that year in the new class.

learningWe have six more teams of teachers waiting in the wings for next year to see how this turns out. Having had great success on many levels, we are planning on moving forward and purchasing Chromebooks for 4 more teams for next year. Sadly, our budget doesn’t have room for all six of the remaining teams in this building. We are developing a whole new replacement cycle with these devices and the remaining two teams will use the existing laptops to serve the same purpose; they’ll have enough devices for each student to use, when needed. The plan is that they’ll get Chromebooks the following year. Hopefully.

Interestingly, at last week’s School Board meeting, when the Board heard about with our hopes and dreams for next year, they balked. Were they worried about budgets overall? We’re not asking for additional funding and intend to work within our budget. They want to know how having more access and more devices transforms teaching and learning. They think we’re doing great things with our current set-up. We are. Thanks to amazing teachers who are flexible and patient.

contractorsThere comes a time when our old structure, having a shared cart of 24 laptops for each team of 80-100 students sufficed. That’s no longer the case. School needs to mirror the real world. Would you ask an employee in a place of business to do their work, but they only have access to a computer for an hour a day? The cost of Chromebooks allows us to move forward in providing more access to learning and the world to our students. We’ve seen the change in students having access to devices when they needed them on these two initial teams. Students are so much more comfortable, fluent, and confident. The device fades into the background as they focus on ways to demonstrate their learning, participate in class, reflect, and grow.

The bottom line is this: it still all comes down to good teachers and great teaching. Teachers are the ones who create the experiences and the culture for success.

We are preparing an updated report for the School Board and for parents, with clear examples of the difference for those in our building with ample devices and without. I’ll share that soon, but would appreciate your thoughts. What can you and your students do if you have ample devices that you can’t do otherwise or if you have to share devices with a number of other classes? This is about the learning, but having the access is a part of it.

Feedback and insight are always welcome!

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What Am I Afraid Of?

Post 30 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeWhat would you do as an educator if you weren’t afraid?


 

fearThis prompt makes the assumption that we are afraid of something. I know that as an introvert, I was more fearful getting up in front of a group of adults than I was with students. But with the change in my role 5 years ago, that fear had to fade away. I’d like to say I got over it, but do still find myself taking a deep breath and diving in before addressing a group of adults!

Fear masks deeper issues. What am I afraid of? Taking risks? Working with others? Trying new things? Does it prevent me from doing these things? No- it can’t or I wouldn’t be productive, I wouldn’t learn, I wouldn’t grow. But perhaps there are those for whom this is an issue. Are some educators inhibited from moving forward because of underlying fears? Do they not want to be seen making mistakes? Not knowing something? Are they not taking steps toward innovation because they feel they don’t have the support?

Aren’t these the same things we work on with our students? We want to support them, encourage them to learn from mistakes, take risks.

We all have fears – whether adult or child. It’s how we handle the fears and work through them that lets our true colors shine.

I’ll close (my 30th post in 30 days!) by sharing a post written by George Couros recently about this very topic,  “What Our Fear Actually Inhibits”.  I found this very powerful.

Thanks for reading my blog over this past month. I intend to keep it going! And thanks to the folks at Teach Thought and Beth Leidolf for the inspiration!

 


 

Image: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by hang_in_there: http://flickr.com/photos/59632563@N04/8443032580

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Post 29 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeHow have you changed as an educator?


 

change

I’ve changed a lot as an educator. I think back to my early days when I was so young it was hard to believe that parents took me seriously. Then I became a parent myself and could relate to them better. Now I’m older than most parents. The cycle continues.

  • I have a broader perspective on education.
  • I’m more educated.
  • I have a PLN that reaches far and wide.
  • I prioritize better and do my best to keep it focused on children and learning.
  • I am no longer a classroom teacher, though I will always be an educator.
  • I have learned so much from many valuable colleagues, peers, and mentors.
  • I spend more time teaching teachers than teaching students. (I hope to balance that a bit more!)
  • I’ve taken on more of a leadership role.
  • I’m more reflective.

What hasn’t changed:

  • My passion for technology
  • My ability to keep track of the details and stay organized (I imagine that will recede as I continue to age!)
  • My dedication to colleagueship
  • My commitment to students
  • My belief that everyone can learn

jfk change

 

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Post 24 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeWhat learning trend captures your attention the most and why?


 

trendingOf the many trends and ‘new ideas’ in education, I think I’d pick Personalized Learning Plans as the one that is capturing my attention. Here in Vermont, we have a new act (Act 77) requiring schools with students in grades 7-12 to develop personalized learning plans. This is going to be in place by September of 2015. The act provides students with the opportunities to explore multiple pathways toward graduation, guided by their personalized learning plans. Already, high school students have the opportunity to take classes at Vermont colleges and universities as one of these paths. All of this is designed to help ensure that students are college and/or career-ready by the time they graduate from high school.

The reason I’m excited about it is because it filters down to our middle school students. At a younger age, students will be setting goals, establishing contacts with the community, working with adult mentors, designing aspects of their school days, and more. Students will use ePortfolios as a means to document their learning and set goals. The state of Vermont is working with vendors to develop the best tools for the job, but starting now, we can have students begin to think about the process of learning in a new way.

This will promote student-centered learning in a positive way and shift the role of teacher to guide them through the process. I know I’m not as informed and articulate about this topic as I will be in the next few months, but I am excited that I am a member of our school’s PLP team.

 

 

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Post 18 in the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging Challenge: Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…”


 

A teacher is… a chameleon.

changeThis post connects to yesterday’s where I talked about how many hats we wear. In addition to the many roles we play, we also must be adaptable. Things in education change, our communities change, the new initiatives change, and so on. Everything is always changing and we need to adapt and change with it.

I like Tom Whitby’s recent post, “Why Do We Do What We Do?” and how many of us say, ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Often the many changes that come our way in education are not those that we can control. But there are many areas in which we can make positive change. We can be in control of adapting what we do to the times we live in and using the resources we have available.

Change is good. Adapt. Make things happen.

 


image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by lezumbalaberenjena: http://flickr.com/photos/14020964@N02/7515883628

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