Sharing with the folks from Canada

I had another great online opportunity for professional development last night–from Manitoba. “Awakening Possibilities” included a series of 5-minute presentations from people I respect and admire. One, Darren Kuropatwa, is our community leader in the PLP, so I was eager to see what he had to say. Carey, a colleague, happened to be in the chatroom at the same time. What a great showing from FA–two out of 29 people! I love what Darren had to say about learning:

Awakening Possibilities

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: presentation mbe08)

Dean Shareski also shared his views on learning to share and sharing to learn. Check out all the presentations here.

I Skim

It’s a habit I’ve developed over the years. So if really need to concentrate on something, I get out a highlighter, turn off peripheral devices, and make myself pay attention.
When I skim,I always read enough to allow me to think and ponder the issues, but often find myself thinking back, wishing I had spent more time on the text (time I never seem to have these days).
Recently, I skimmed Seth Godin’s Tribes (can you skim while you listen?), The MacArthur report, and Christenson’s Disrupting Class. Christenson’s book is a fascinating look at how “disruptive innovation” will change learning.
For a few weeks now, I’ve been thinking about his ideas. Yesterday, I was delighted to tune into EdTechTalk on 21st Century Learning to hear a conversation with Michael Horne, co-author of Disrupting Class. As I puttered around my classroom, cleaning up for Thanksgiving break, it was great to hear the ideas I’d been thinking about bantered back and forth among those present. This second chance allowed me to focus on some of the points of how schools need to change. Here, have a listen:
Download 21stCenturyLearning#86-2008-11-24

Here and now

 I usually resist setting up lines in the sand for our
teachers to have to cross, thinking that a gentle tug or suggestion
will work better.
But I've been pondering this all day, this reluctance to say–yes, all this matters. I just finished reading Will Richardson's post about Writing to Connect.
He's right. It is the sharing of ideas, the learning from one another,
that makes blogging powerful. Other teachers aside, my own learning now
comes from my sharing with colleagues and friends in my network.
When we ask our students to blog, we are asking them to publish in
order to get a response, to be heard. Creating for the sake of creating
or publishing for the sake of publishing is worthless without the
audience and response. Will's comment about the teaching of writing, in
particular, hit home: "I
want a conversation, and that changes the way I write. And it changes
the way we think about teaching writing. This is not simply about
publishing, about taking what we did on paper and throwing it up on a
blog and patting ourselves on the back."

My students were working on their persuasive essays today, an
assignment that asked them to answer the question: What Matters to You?
Listening to them discuss and debate their ideas this week made me
realize that they do want to change minds. They are not writing for me,
they are writing to be heard. And that's what is making the assignment
more meaningful to most of them. So I need to get their writing on the
blogs to give them an audience and an opportunity to share and learn
from each other.
And the teaching and learning doesn't have to come only in the classroom. Jim Groom,
a professor/instructional tech guru from the University of Mary
Washington, wrote on his blog this morning: "I’m beginning to realize
more and more that you teach from where you are, and I’m deep in the
blog right now
. "
Perhaps it is time to draw a line in the sand.

One more time….

Grumpy. That's what I am.
I was so sure I would be able to transform my teaching this year. After years of encouraging teachers to take a chance, become student-centered, try technology, take a risk….I was back in the classroom in a 1:1 program myself.
I looked forward to seeing how I would use web 2.0 tools to make them better writers and thinkers. I wouldn't have any bored students in MY class. Oh no.
Oh yes.
Today I looked around my class, and saw it in their eyes. And it was not an unfamiliar look. You know it. The glazed eyes, the "I'm looking at you but I"m not really listening" look.
As they left the classroom, I plopped myself down in one of the comfortable lounge chair I purchased from Target over the summer and pondered what I'd done wrong. Oh, I am not so naive to think it's all me. Teenagers have bad days. Sometimes they are on, and sometimes life interferes in their ability to focus and participate. But I have the sense with this class (and it is only one of three), that the problem is partially me.
Anyway, I did what I always do when I want to reflect upon my concerns. I connect with colleagues.
 Susanne's blog post resonated with me today. She was writing about her own students when she said:

So what does this mean? First, it reminds me of the learning process —
learning starts out slow because those early stages can be hard. As
teachers, we have a duty to try to show our students WHY they might
enjoy this new learning, but I know I rarely grab every student as I try to do this.

Ok, that's true, I thought. And in ninth-grade, the early stages are even more difficult as we expose them to learning with their laptops, adjusting to a new collegiate schedule that gives them "unscheduled" time, and managing a more rigorous course load.
Why is this so important to me? Is it ego, the need to feel as if I am reaching and inspiring every student? I'm not sure. I feel frustrated, and I don't have any easy answers.
But I know tonight I am thinking again, of ways to step aside, to ask them to participate in their own learning, to not stare at me as if some magic words will come out of my mouth to "educate" them.
Tomorrow they are bringing in drafts of their persuasive essays entitled, "What Matters to You?" I am eager to see what they care about.
And I hope they care to share with me and each other. I know where I want them to go. So, as Stephen Covey says…..

Begin with the end in mind.

Here we go again….