With a little help from my friends…..


I left school yesterday feeling rather discouraged. Change is hard, and I was feeling it.
Today, though, the world seemed to shift:

  •  a math teacher came to say a document I'd created (with help from my network) would be a help in figuring out 21st century skills in the math department…and did I know of a way she could try using wikis again in her class? Did I? How about an extra tablet to allow students to share their probem-solving?
  • an English teacher emailed to share that her work with online collaboration has been recognized by NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) as an example of a Story of Excellence. Go Jen!
  • our MS librarian stopped me to say: "I didn't get, but now I get it! It's not only about the laptops, this 21st century learning." And then she shared a fabulous idea about using our MS students to teach others about online ethics.
  • a MS history teacher flagged me down to share a great site for creating online newspapers she'd found and planned to use with her students this year. They'll "track history" all year.
  • a high school teacher in our PLP stopped by to tell me she showed the other history teacher how to use blogs for our students' Senior Exhibits and then how to use RSS to keep up with their posts. He was excited and came to see me to ask how to use an online tool to create a presentation to show a visiting Congressman next week–a way to have students tell him what their hope for their future is. Let's see: Voice Thread? Google Docs? (He also recently used an online survey app to poll students about political issues before and after students' speeches.)
  • our French teacher sent some of her students' VoiceThreads, saying the best part was hearing how successful her students were with using their target language.
  • my own students managed to use a Google Doc to begin a discussion of Elie Wiesel's Night. They opened Google accounts, created a document, shared it with several other students, and sent me the published link for the wiki so everyone in the class could see the responses, correct any issues, and discuss. Cool.

And that was today. No,baby steps here. Uh uh. We're talking leaps and bounds.

I really should be….

grading papers and planning. Instead, I am:

  • learning how Lisa turned over control of class discussions to her students.
  • catching up on the international part of our international PLP!
  • responding to discussions about teaching and learning on the ning
  • finding that Seth continues to motivate and inspire me
  • figuring out how to share this bit on storytelling with my kids
  • preparing for a committee meeting on our tech philosophy by re-reading this

What I can't find time to do much of anymore:

Now I really need to finish preparing for tomorrow……………

Walking the Walk


Creating Passionate Users

Before I realized I would be teaching full time this year, I agreed to help organize the VA-International Powerful Learning Practice cohort and to present at the Virginia Association of Independent Schools annual conference next month. The first complicates my schedule but enriches my professional life in valuable ways. The second has been like an annoying mosquito buzzing around my head as I haven't had any free moments to think about it.

Well, it's time to slap that bug and get organized.

But knowing that people who attend the conference have high expectations for what my colleague Jennifer and I might say about "using online collaborative tools in the classroom," I want to deliver. There's nothing worse than attending a worthless session.

Applying what I am learning from my colleagues in the PLP, my network, and from much reading, I want this session to not only engage, enrich, and possibly inspire, but also to reflect what I wish I could do in the classroom on a day to day basis. So far, I haven't been able to make that happen for a myriad of reasons (including that BIG wall pictured above), but it's not too much to ask of myself, is it?

When things do click in my ninth-grade English classroom, it's often because of ideas I've borrowed from Kathy Sierra's "Crash course in learning theory."

She says:

This is not a comprehensive look at the state of learning theory
today, but it does include almost everything we think about in creating
our books. And although it's geared toward blogs/writing, virtually
everything in here applies regardless of how you deliver the
learning–you can easily adapt it to presentations, user documentation,
or classroom learning.

Here's a brief list of some of her points:

  • Learning is co-creation
  • Use visuals, engage senses, repeat-repeat-repeat
  • Maintain interest with variety and surprise
  • Show don't tell
  • Show failures
  • Use chunking
  • Use suspense to build curiosity
  • Context matters
  • Use Emotions, Fun, Stories, Pacing

Remember, it's never about you. It's about how the learner feels about himself as a result of the learning experience…she says.

And that applies to teachers who come to my session as well as my own students.

What would you want to take away from my session? What's the best session you've ever attended? Why?