Meme: Passion Quilt


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you
didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail
away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
~Mark Twain

My contribution to the meme, per Dean Shareski’s nod.

Here are the rules:

* Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative
Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most
passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short

    * Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.

    * Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

Your turn:

Jennifer Clark Evans
Matt Montagne
Dana Huff
Gardner Campbell (do you do these things??)
Robin Ellis

Come Join Us

Learning through connections and community. Six months ago, I didn’t fully understand what this meant. Today, with Twitter, my Google Reader, and various Skype interactions, I’ve realized the powerful impact on my own learning. Not only that, I am watching it happen to a colleague, who has joined this network recently.
Through this community, I became aware of a program Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson run. At first glance, I knew it was something I wanted, needed, to be involved in. Their plan, Powerful Learning Practice, provides a unique opportunity for a group of teachers at a school to engage in a professional development opportunity with others from the area (and across the globe). Here’s a quote from their website:

"The PLP model is currently enabling hundreds of educators around the
country to experience the transformative potential of social Web tools
to build global learning communities and re-envision their own personal
learning practice."

I am gathering interested independent school teachers from around Virginia and the surrounding states to form a cohort of energetic teachers. Are you interested?  Email me for more information (susancartermorganatgmaildotcom), DM me on Twitter (scmorgan), or leave a comment.

Also, if you know someone who might be interested, please pass the information along.

Come, join us!

And the wind shifts….


Sometimes counting to ten is how we all get through the moment or the day. We are challenged by colleagues, issues, finances, and minutia.

Other times, everything seems to click. That’s where I am today. And that’s why I want to share what’s been happening around here. The teachers have been coming up with challenging, meaningful assignments (and that IS the key) –one after the other. I can hardly keep up with THEM.

Take a look at what’s been going on around my school:

  • the eighth-grade history classes researched events in American history and then posted their research to their wikis, complete with Voice Threads. Visit, if you have a chance, and leave a comment
  • one history teacher radically changed his approach to teaching after visiting EduCon last month. I visited his class to share possible ways to help them present project-based learning to their classmates.
  • the AP American history teacher has been inspired by Carolyn Foote’s students’ Vietnam projects to do something similar with local Civil Rights activitists
  • AP Government students created political commercials before debating as their politicians in front of the school. We Ustreamed it, but it is password protected for families only.
  • Latin students drew pictures of characters from a book they had just finished, then found other images online that represented the characters, finally putting them all together in a Photostory, which they will narrate with their analysis of the character this week.
  • The French and Spanish teachers are coordinating an effort to create podcasts of public service announcements using audacity.
  • The sophomores will be making videos of scenes from Macbeth, while juniors will do much of their research and work toward a research paper online using wikis and tumblr.
  • Many of our other ongoing projects are linked here

And that’s just the beginning……I’m meeting with the creative writing teacher tomorrow to talk about ways to do an online magazine (and, she doesn’t know it yet, but I want to have the class explore a ning site together!)
My own learning continues as well. You know, I’ve been in and around the classroom for more than 25 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about work as I have been this year, despite the occasional bumps in the road.

  • I continue to gather interest from area schools in participating in Will Richardson’s and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s Powerful Learning Practice for the Virginia-DC area.
  • The past few Wednesdays, I’ve been able to log into Darren and Robin’s Open PD, which has been a chance to learn and share with even more people.
  • Sunday, my colleague Jennifer came over to begin planning for a VAIS presentation on the read/write web and shifted learning we are doing in
    April. (Actually it began as simply a web 2.0 tools idea, but it’s
    morphed into much more.) David Warlick is the keynote speaker, and I can’t wait to finally meet him face to face.
  • Today, we heard that we are one of Best Buy’s award winning schools. I know our digital film teacher will LOVE spending that $2.000 on her digital story-telling class.
  • And the best news? Gardner Campbell is coming to speak to us at the beginning of April. He is one inspirational, brilliant man, and I know we will all benefit from his wisdom as he discusses learning, "the digital imagination," and much more. We are ready for you, Gardner.

The ideas are moving from the theoretical to the concrete, and watching students learn and think in engaging ways is what it’s all about.

What is an essential question?

I’ve been thinking about Matt’s suggestion…
Then what IS an essential question? Should teachers guide students’ thinking? Does framing the reading limit students’ exploration of a topic?
I’m not sure, but Grant Wiggins talk about essential questions on his website, focusing on three components:

  • One meaning of “essential” involves important questions that recur throughout one’s life.
  • A second connotation for “essential” refers to key inquiries within a discipline.
    Essential questions in this sense are those that point to the big ideas
    of a subject and to the frontiers of technical knowledge.
  • There is a
    third important connotation for the term “essential” that refers to
    what is needed for learning core content. In this sense, a question can
    be considered essential when it helps students make sense
    of important but complicated ideas, knowledge, and know-how – findings
    that may be understood by experts, but not yet grasped or seen as
    valuable by the learner.

To what extent will students explore ideas on their own, and will they miss "essential" learning if not guided in some specific way? What happens when a student hears about Sir Thomas More in class and wants to know more but instead is led down a different path by the constraints of the class. Will he pursue this later or has the moment been lost?