Monday, February 16, 2015

Reading, Reflecting, and Now Sharing

Challenge for Lead Learners: Share what
and how you're learning and why it matters.
From Leading Prof. Learning (19)
Reading is a passion, but my latest professional reading has challenged me in ways that won't let me settle for merely highlighting, annotating, and recommending the title to others.  The book, Leading Professional Learning:  Tools to Connect and Empower Teachers by Thomas C. Murray and Jeffrey Zoul has provoked deep thought about my own learning and about my work as a curriculum specialist.

In creating a new vision for professional learning, there were two key points that stood out:  1)  the need for lead learners who will model the practices necessary for a systemic change, and 2) the use of personalized learning plans.  The ultimate challenge is to "establish a self-directed, collaborative, and dynamic culture of learning and to build the capability of staff to engage in such a culture of learning" (10).  If the goal is to have "empowered professionals driving their own continuous learning, holding themselves accountable, and focusing on outcomes" (14), how can we make that happen?

For me, it means modeling more (starting with this post) and being willing to share my learning with a broader audience than my colleagues in the curriculum department.  My personalized learning plan (PLP) will include a more consistent time for keeping up with my professional reading and a commitment to ongoing, collaborative discussions about what's having the greatest impact on professional growth.  That practice is comfortable because it's the kind of learning that I've always done. However, the ideas in Leading Professional Learning are not about remaining in a comfort zone -- they challenge me to think more deeply, to re-evaluate how I'm investing my time, and to do the hard work that can inspire change.  It is no longer enough for me to simply read.  My reflective practice must include more risk-taking and more action like posting on a blog and completing the  Leading the Digital Learning Transition MOOC with other team members.  Creating a new vision will require asking tough questions, learning from failures, and doing my part to ensure that there's a "dynamic culture of learning" for myself and for my colleagues.  At the heart of all of this is the fact that we want these same things for our students --ownership of learning, a focus on growth, and empowerment.  For that, I'm willing to risk and commit.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reading, Connecting, and Caring Through the Global Read Aloud

What better way to jump in and celebrate Connected Educator Month than by joining the Global Read Aloud, which begins on October 6th and ends on November 14th.  This international collaboration was started by teacher, blogger, and author, Pernille Ripp, and last year more than 144,000 students in 30 countries on six different continents were represented.  What caught my attention was the passion and purpose in the initial description:  “Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part of something bigger than them. That the world needs to be protected and that we need to care for all people. You can show them pictures of kids in other countries but why not have them speak to each other? Then the caring can begin.”  What a powerful idea! 

If you’re interested, this project connects people in multiple ways.  You can participate in whatever way you feel most comfortable -- various Edmodo groups, on a wiki, or through Twitter (using the hashtag #GRA14).  Click here to see a link to the different places to share. 

To sign up to be a participant, either by yourself or with a class, use this Google Form. This way you will receive all email updates about the project. You will then be added to the Google Group to receive updates and all the information that you need.   You choose your level of engagement and participation. 

For more information on the books and the reading assignments each week as well as the Edmodo groups and ways to connect, please go to Info for 2014.    

Here’s your challenge.  Be an active participant in Connected Educator Month by trying something new like the Global Read Aloud.  Explore, connect, reflect, and then find your own way of sharing what you’ve learned.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Celebrate Connected Educator Month

 Today is the start of  Connected Educator Month, and its purpose is to “help educators thrive in a connected society.”  Passionate educators around the world are collaborating and sharing questions and best practices about how to engage students in relevant, real-world learning.  As part of Alpine School District’s participation, we will be announcing a calendar of events and small challenges that can be done locally, or you can choose to get involved globally through projects like the Global Read Aloud or the Global Cardboard Challenge.   If you aren't able to participate in the Cardboard Challenge, watch Caine’s Arcade which reflects the tremendous power of creativity in our children. 

Throughout the year, Georgia and I will be sharing ways to connect and collaborate both with teachers within our district, nationally, and globally.  We’ll share our learning and challenge you to do the same.  Our students are growing up in a world that has been changed by technology, and our goal is to prepare them for college and for jobs that don’t even exist today.  To do this, we need to establish crucial connections both with them and with other learners to ensure that they have the skills necessary for their futures.  In an article titled, “Powerful Learning: Studies Show Deep Understanding Derives from Collaborative Methods,” Linda Darling-Hammond and Brigid Barron conclude that “Students must learn how to learn, while responding to endlessly changing technologies and social, economic, and global conditions.  Students learn more deeply if they have engaged in activities that require applying classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems.”  (Barron)   In our blog and on the district curriculum website, we’ll be exploring ways to create “self-directed learning experiences that serve authentic physical and digital communities, ultimately leading to personal and social change” (12 Questions to Promote Self-Knowledge in Students)We’ll be sharing the incredible work that teachers in our district and around the world are doing.  And, we’ll be learning together. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Let’s Get Connected #

School is in full swing. All students have found their classes and all have an actual seat! Routines have been learned, rules mastered (for the most part), and schedules are settling in.

Teachers now need to decide how they will best communicate about student learning with parents. History has taught us that parents not only want, but also need to hear from their teachers. A first contact usually involves a welcome back and some items to keep in mind for the whole year. Technology has opened a plethora of opportunity for communication between school and home.

With the dominance of social media and mobile learning (New Media Consortium, 2013), and more parents connected to others through smartphones, tablets, and other devices; educators should be considering using technology tools to stay connected with patrons in their school communities.

A first technology tool that is readily available is to use the Message Center in Skyward. The beauty of this is all of the parent emails are already entered into the system; leaving out the need for creating email groups. Emails and messages show up in Family and Student Access looking much like the message wall of Facebook. All parents and students already have a login, so this is a natural place to turn for interaction.
A popular tool that lets parents feel as if they have a say in their child’s education is to use surveys. A human need to have our voices heard can be tapped into using a tool such as Survey Monkey. Perhaps questions could be generated as to which field trip choices would most parents’ want, choices for a class party, or even novels students may enjoy. Answers can be recorded privately, and information kept confidential.

Twitter can be used to communicate effectively, but keep in mind it would be an effective tool for school wide activities rather than classroom reminders. Hastags are a powerful global connector that brings people together for a common purpose.
Blogging is a powerful writing tool where student work can be showcased. As students become writers of blogs, their audience expands with their ability. Blogging teaches students needed skills such as communication, digital literacy, collaboration, and critical thinking. This venue offers students to communicate about their learning. Classroom blogs can be kept private, shared with parents, or made public to the world. Two of my favorite blogs to follow are: Matt B. Gomez, an incredible Kindergarten teacher (, and Vicki Davis, a high school teacher in Camilla, Georgia (

Deciding which tool is best for your classroom requires a couple of things to consider:

Know your families! You would think that in 2014 all families are connected online, not so! Every family may not have access to technology, so it will be important to have more than one method to ensure access to information. Those who do have digital tools at their fingertips may not fully know how to use Twitter, messaging, or blogging; so written messages may still be needed.

Know Alpine District’s Technology policies:
Parents approve or deny access for their children to be online via Skyward. In every teacher’s account, they see if students have access. Following this policy is a key safeguard.

Have fun connecting!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Teachers, Take Care of Yourselves

Having spent a lot of time in schools the past couple of months has been wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to see the magic our teachers are working every single day. I am concerned however at the feelings of being exhausted that many of our teachers are showing. Over and over I ask, “How are you doing?” The response at this time of the year is always the same, “I am TIRED!” Another response that seems to come up often is, “I just want to teach these kids.” 
If you do it right, teaching is the toughest job you will ever do. Teachers have more stamina than the most well-tuned athlete, they have more will power than an extreme cross-fitter, and more hope for mankind than the rest of the world put together!  Because you’ve all been on my mind a lot lately and trying to figure out ways to make your job easier, I’ve been searching for inspiration. The following short article really reminds us to take care of, and bolster ourselves in order to make it to the end of the year. I truly hope you’ll enjoy reading this and find a little something to buoy you up!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Digital Learning Day - Celebrating the Influencers

In celebration of Digital Learning Day, my pledge is to be more fearless when it comes to sharing what I'm learning.  Too often I've put off my goal of keeping up a blog, and I've managed to convince myself - through a myriad of illusory thoughts - that there isn't time or other things have to take priority, but the reality is, it's fear that's stopping me.  So, throwing worries about inadequacies in writing aside, I'm going to do more to be bold -- to learn and to lead.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Challenge Embraced

The digital culture affects every aspect of today's society, and as educators, that creates an intriguing challenge.  How have these changes impacted instruction?  What must be done differently to engage our students in relevant and meaningful work?   For me, finding answers meant that I had to question, read, ponder, listen to others in my professional learning network,and then reflect some more.   One of the most crucial shifts in my thinking came when I realized that my most important role is to be a learner first.