Category Archives: education reform

“…the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do.”

My resume doesn’t look like yours.  It’s deliberately meant to be non-traditional, both to vet you, dear potential employer and collaborator, and to help me stand out from the pack.

The title of this blog post is part of an Andrew Carnegie quote that frames the second and final page of my resume which simply contains a timeline of the last ten years of my professional life.  As the medium is the message, let me put this blog to use showing you what I do: not only do I plan un/conferences such as #L2BB2L and present on using technology to regional and national teachers, but I also take the time to learn.  What follows are examples of professional learning I am currently participating in and professional learning I am looking forward to participating in this summer.

Continue reading


#L2BB2L Unconference: Epic Fail, Great Success, or Something in Between?


After months and months and months of planning, the Learning2Build/Building2Learn Unconference has just ended.  Reflective learner and practitioner that I am, I can’t help but immediately want to evaluate and assess to what extent we achieved our objectives as event organizers.  And, true to life, I find that in some ways it was a (and hear Borat in your head, please) Greeeeeeat success! and in other ways it was a complete and epic failure.  In order to address this question, we have to know what our objectives are.  In this case, we had several:

  • Create a space in which K-12 and college/ university educators can collaborate.
  • Gather change agents working in education, especially, but not exclusively, those in the Rochester area.
  • Empower learners to take ownership of their own learning.
  • Utilize a presentation method in which the medium is imperative to the message.

Our first and second objectives were absolutely met.  K-12 and college/ university educators did indeed gather at RIT on a frigid Saturday morning to discuss how we can help students create more content than they consume, the barriers that keep us from shifting the create/consume balance, and successful methods for tearing down those barriers.  There were scheduled sessions which included presentations, lectures, and demonstrations that were somehow related to this topic.  There is a Facebook group, a Google+ community, YouTube Videos and a flood of #l2bb2l tweets that allow this fledgling community to remain in touch.  It’s easy to see that the first two objectives were achieved.

The third and fourth objectives are much harder for me to evaluate.  In reality, the event was far more conference than un.

Continue reading

I want to use collaborative technology with students but… they can’t connect at home (part 1 of 4)

In my last post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

I am acutely aware of the impediments to the kind of connected classrooms I imagine, and I’d encourage you, dear reader, to begin making plans to integrate technology instead of excuses as to why you can’t.  This is the first of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #1:

Some of my students don’t have access to the Internet at home, not even on a smart phone.

Continue reading

Using the Internet with Students is Nonnegotiable with Common Core

Teachers and leaders who have been waiting for a compelling reason to integrate technology into their instruction need to wait no further: use of technology by students, including the Internet, is explicitly stated in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  While no one is arguing that students need to, for instance, be able to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources (RL1, RI1), under the Common Core, few school-communities seem to be using the mandate in CCSS to push for technology integration.

Where is technology use in the standards?

The Common Core Learning Standards are not a salad bar, where educators pick and choose what is relevant to their communities; all are necessary; all are required.  And the Standards very clearly state that students need to be using technology purposefully, matching the right tool to the right task.

The short answer is everywhere, both as students receive texts (as readers) and as they produce texts (as writers).  And I’m not just talking about in an English class; to explain, let me cite the literacy standards for history/social studies, and the technical subjects for 6th -12th grade.

Continue reading

Professional Collaboration in the 21st Century


A very interesting professional collaboration is in the works.  While I’m not going to discuss the specifics of the work itself in this post, I am going to discuss the fascinating manner in which this work is occurring and the potential for this work to be a model for others who are also similarly aligned.

We let our avocation be our vocation.  

I get annoyed with colleagues who suggest my wee hour weekend tweets are evidence of a work-life imbalance.  When you do what you love for a living, you simply get paid a portion of the time you are doing the thing you love: you still do what you love 24/7.  Michael tweeted his close-reading work surrounding “Royals” Thursday evening; Kristen and I discussed the creation of a mini-unit Friday afternoon.  Kristen reached out both to me, her collaborator, and Michael, the originator of the material, with one fell swoop on Twitter Friday evening.  With this one sub-140 character action, a team had been assembled.

We use a variety of collaboration tools to suit the task at hand.

After browsing Michael’s work, I saw what Kristen did: that he had already done a lion’s share of writing text-dependent questions and finding entry points into the text that we might now build upon.  Because of our itinerant coaching assignments, Kristen and I don’t actually work face-to-face, elbow-to-elbow like we did on Friday more than once a month.  Not to be stymied by physical distance, I suggested we work in Google Docs too, and Kristen agreed.  We had connected to each other and to the material on Twitter, but recognizing that ongoing collaboration can be clunky in 140-character messages, had migrated to Google Docs, matching the right tool to the task at hand.

We literally speak the same language.

A strength of the Common Core is certainly this: that educators everywhere now speak the same language.  When Michael expressed a curiosity with what Kristen and I might be building on top of his work, I was able to communicate it to him clearly and succinctly.  It turns out he’s from Buffalo, an hour or two from us; but he could have been from California. I was able to get Michael up to speed in less than 140 characters, even, knowing that either he’d know what RL2, RL7, and RL9 were, or that he wouldn’t – but would recognize them as standards and go look them up.  Because of this common language, we could all access the same schema regarding expectations for students, and could move immediately into the work of building the unit, not the ceaseless talking about building the unit.

We value the collaboration of like-minded individuals.

None of this tech-enabled collaboration surprised me up until this point.  Of course Kristen was thinking about the mini-unit Friday evening, and of course she saw Michael’s tweet with fresh eyes after that conversation.  Of course she forwarded it to me and of course I browsed it, loved it, and then set up a Doc on which we can collaborate.

But I didn’t expect Michael to want to collaborate with us.

And in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I wonder how many other opportunities to collaborate in this manner – asynchronously, with someone from outside your district or organization, and using only collaborative technologies –  I’ve missed, simply because I didn’t know to look for them.

Conditions for Success

The work that is resulting — a mini-unit tailored to the needs of a specific subset of the student population — wouldn’t be possible without collaborating with others, using a variety of collaboration tools to fulfill various tasks,  speaking a common language surrounding goals and practice, and making one’s passion one’s life work. 

Facilitative Teaching and Learning

Underlying my pedadogy is a strong desire to get out of the way of my learners, be they students in my high school English classes or adults I coach or who participate in professional development courses I’ve designed.  I’ve found that being more facilitative than directive communicates both a clear investment in the continued growth of the learner and a belief that the learner is indeed capable of solving his or her own problems, the ultimate goal of any effective teacher.  What follows are four tips for getting out of the way of your learners.

Don’t answer their questions.

Continue reading