Tag Archives: teacher

“…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.

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I want to use collaborative technology with students but… I don’t know what our policy is (part 3 of 4)

In a recent 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.

This is the third 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 #3:

I can’t take them online during school because our policy doesn’t allow it.

Baloney.  I’m venturing a guess that you haven’t looked into it and are simply assuming that your parents, your leader, or your Board thinks the Big Bad Wolf is waiting just beyond your Firewall.  He’s not, first of all.  Once you’ve stopped fearing the unknown, you can baby step into taking your students online by doing the following:

  • Pay no attention to your nay-saying colleagues.  Remember, as you encounter disbelieving scoffs and raised eyebrows, what a well-developed claim includes – reference to specific and relevant evidence: your colleagues will be wont to offer that to you.
  • Start conducting research.  Your goal is to read all policy documents regarding instruction of students, student interaction, and the protection of student privacy and identity.  They’re on your school’s website, probably in the Administration or Board or Education tabs.  Your goal is to determine how you know which parents have asked for their students’ work not to be published and their photos not to be taken, what (if any) paperwork needs to be on file before students work online, and what steps you are supposed to take to ensure student safety online.

I want to explicitly mention that the purpose of this research is more than simply CYA: putting your students online is authentic learning, but includes authentic consequences: while the Big Bad Wolf – a metaphorical unknown evil – might not be waiting outside your firewall, a non-custodial parent, or a teenage student’s deranged ex, or even the Copyright Police very well may be.

  • If, after conducting this research, you actually find that no clear policy exists, talk to your direct supervisor about your intentions, their connection to the standards, and frame your question and conversation carefully: What is the procedure for alerting parents that students will be collaborating online?  not How do I get permission to for students to blog?  Being purposeful about asking for his or her help in facilitating this good work rather than permission to pursue it is critical to gaining support as you move forward and face the last remaining hurdle to student tech-enabled collaboration.

In closing, knowing your district’s policy, not relying on others’ interpretations of interpretations of policy, is critical in finding the space to do innovative work.

Read yesterday’s post about integrating collaborative technology even when the school-issued computers are less than ideal.

What other impediments keep you from integrating technology into your lessons?

I want to use collaborative technology with students but… the school’s computers don’t work well (part 2 of 4)

In a recent 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.

This is the second 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 #2:

I can’t take them online during school because the school-issued computers are a problem.

This excuse can also appear in a variety of related statements.

  • They take too long to long on.
  • The computer labs are always booked.
  • The right software isn’t installed.
  • The laptops always crash.
  • Our network is painfully slow and everything is blocked anyway.
  • I have 25 kids and there are only 12 seats in the lab.
  • My kids don’t know how to use those machines.

The answer to all of the tech-based excuses is easy, and it seamlessly includes the un-connected students.  BYOD: bring your own device.  Those who do have a personal electronic device are allowed – encouraged and instructed – to use this device educationally.  Those without a device of their own and those whose devices aren’t well suited to this particular task simply make the best of the school-issued computers or partner with someone else.

The most magical thing about BYOD is not the fact that suddenly the school’s connectivity issues become a mute point; the magical thing is the way students to begin to see their own personal electronic devices in a new light because it has Drive as well as Snapchat.  When students begin creating and sharing folders with each other to practice their evaluative skills while selecting prom dresses or colleges, you know you’ve offered them a valuable 21st Century skill.

Read yesterday’s post about building supports to connect your students who are not online at home, and chime in.

What other impediments keep you from using collaborative technology with your students?

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.

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Professional Collaboration in the 21st Century

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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.

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Power to the Edge

Public charters that assume any part of the traditional educational system into their daily operations are a missed opportunity, and the educational approach is no exception.

Power to the Edge is a text that suggests pushing much of the traditional tasks of leader to the literal troops on the ground.  It is a 2003 Department of Defense (DoD) publication that is part of the Command and Control Research Program (CCRP) which seeks specifically to understand the security issues inherent in the Information Age and how the military can embrace emerging technologies to maintain safety and security.  In the Foreword, however, John Stenbit almost suggests it be given a discipline-specific close reading:

This book explores a leap now in progress, one that will transform not only the U.S. military but all human interactions and collaborative endeavors.  Power to the edge is a results of technological advances that will… free us from the need to know a lot in order to share a lot, unfetter us from the requirement to be synchronous in time and space, and remove the last remaining technical barriers to information sharing and collaboration.

We would be smart to consider these issues when reimagining public education.  An educational interpretation of the text is fruitful to explore.  In the Foreword, Stenbit describes the benefits of shifting from a smart smart push to a smart pull approach in information dissemination, a topic very relevant to educators seeking to shift the heavy lifting of learning from the teacher to the student, moving from an educational approach in which content is pushed to (at?) students by teachers to one in which relevant information is pulled to students based on their interests, understanding of content, and preferred delivery method.

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