Sunday, May 19, 2013


Two months ago I attended edCamp Columbus.  First off, a little about edCamp . . .
edCamp Columbus is an unconference. The first Edcamp columbustook place March 3rd, 2012 at Upper Arlington High School near Columbus, Ohio. The second Edcamp Coumbus will be held March 9th, 2013 at Gahanna Lincoln School’s Clark Hall. We look forward to hosting a diverse assembly of people interested in all topics related to education. Our crowd will include teachers, parents, students, and administrators. There will be representatives from early childhood, primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. Librarians, museum curators, and everyone else are encouraged to attend.
What is an unconference?
We like Wikipedia’s definition: “An unconference is a participant-driven meeting.” It’s a gathering that tries “to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees, sponsored presentations, and top-down organization.”
The description above does not do this professional development justice.  It was a great experience and just as important a quality day of learning with great educators from around the state (by the way everybody was there on a beautiful Saturday). I had the opportunity to collaborate and listen to how educators are thinking differently about the math classroom, innovative master schedules, sharing high quality open-source resources, and having a "hangout" with other edCampers from other parts of the world.  With each of these sessions, I was able to bring something back to my building.

I'm left wondering how my colleagues and I can implement an edCamp like experience with our own professional development for staff members. Has anybody out there tried an edCamp at the building or district level?

Thanks Toby Fischer, Cara Hubbell, and whoever else played a role in designing edCamp Columbus! I look forward to it next year.



Friday, February 15, 2013

Connect, Learn, Share Part 2

This past week, I attended and presented with Stan McDonald at eTech Ohio.  For those of you that are not familiar with this conference, it is all about innovative teaching and learning with technology.  Our presentation was "Designing your PLN" with a focus on Connecting, Learning, and Sharing.  We had a great conversation with the educators that attended our BYOT session.

More than just our session, I was able to connect, learn, and share with a variety of educators both formally and informally.  From the keynote speakers to the breakout sessions to the OETCx unconference, I was able to walk away with new ideas and new friends, while also re-enforcing my thoughts on how education must evolve.

As promised, our presentation slides are below as a YouTube video; sans the talking points because they weren't there in the first place but hopefully it will jog your memory of the session.  Don't forget, on the first slide is a link to our Evernote folder.



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Connect, Learn, Share

Over the past year, I have grown to understand and appreciate the idea of connecting, sharing, and learning.  I have wrestled with the time and necessity of having a Personal Learning Network.  However, these three core ideas (connect, share, learn) are at the heart of leadership.  A PLN, while not the only way, certainly enhances and easily allows one to connect, share, and learn.

I have only begun to connect with other educators, but I have certainly found educators through my PLN that I wouldn't have otherwise found.  Just as important, I get to hear and read from highly respected educators and organizations on a regular basis instead of at a conference once a year, or an article here and there, or a book written every two years.  These same educators and organizations also frequently highlight other peoples' work that I wouldn't otherwise know about.

I had a professor in college who harped on not just absorbing information, but instead "mining for gold."  This phrase is more important than ever because of the amount of information being shared and not necessarily is it always quality.  It is also easy in our Social Media Networked world to only get the information that meshes with our current philosophy/ideas/paradigm.  As a result, we need to actively search out information that pushes, questions, and contradicts.  The constant learning that can occur is amazing and has certainly added to my traditional methods of learning.

I am still working on consistently sharing original thoughts or at least a new perspective as well as (re)posting interesting articles.  The hardest part is thinking that you have something important, new, or original to share.  Another difficult task, but no less important, is to leave comments through blogs, articles, and twitter discussion. There is a wealth of information out there, hopefully we can all add to the conversation.

So get out there to connect, share, and learn with your PLN.



Friday, December 21, 2012

Time Management

                                          cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by lett -/=
The past few weeks I have felt really pinched on time.  It's a challenge, as many of you know, to balance family, professional, and personal needs such as exercise. While I have neglected the last item during this time span, I am thankful for for a wonderful, healthy, supporting family; and I am thankful for getting to pursue a career that I love.

In working with students, it is important to keep this idea of teaching time management.  Students have family, school, friends, activities (sometimes numerous), and a myriad of other things that seek their time.  As educators, it feels as if we are responsible for helping students learn a variety of things.  How does one fit in one more thing such as time management?  It shouldn't be any one teacher's or class responsibility; it is a school responsibility.  It needs to be purposeful, planned for, and seamless.  At every level, habit development looks a little different, but it comes down to instilling some good habits and continuing to build on, talk and refine those habits as students progress through their schooling.  Plus, well developed habits pay huge dividends down the road such as students that are more likely to be prepared, organized, motivated, and engaged.

During this holiday season, focus on habits that will help you and your student balance their time.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,


Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 Components to a Quality Education

Will Richardson asks the question Why School? in his new book and Seth Godin also asks in this video what is school for?  School fills a myriad of roles in our society.  However, it is quite simple: Schools are here to educate, yet the process is complex.  Here are five components that we have to focus on and use transformatively to educate in the current society:

1. Rigor
2. Relevance
3. Creativity
4. Individualization
5. Grit

First, rigor is essential to education and preparing students for what lies ahead.  Rigor is nothing new and it certainly gets a lot of lip service.  Step back and reflect on how often we ask students what something is or how often we let students give us short and/or opinionated answers with no evidence. Instead, let's design questions that get students to analyze data, and/or compile information from a variety of sources to create an original/alternative solution, and/or evaluate a document(s) to present a claim and defend with evidence.  In other words, students need to speak articulately, write at a high level, or create an original idea in their own voice; not just regurgitate.  Barbara Blackburn, in Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word, discusses the different ways to up rigor:
  1. Raise the Level of Content
  2. Increase Complexity
  3. Open-Ended Questions, Instruction, and Projects
Yes, students will push back, but we have to expect them to learn at high levels and they will rise to our expectations; provided that we give support and guidance along the way.  

Second, a lesson can be rigorous, but it also needs to be engaging and relevant.  There has been a big push for project based learning (PBL), but it goes beyond PBL.  Students need to be able to connect their learning.  Technology provides a great tool whether it is blogging, tweeting, or live chatting with a class in another part of the country or world.  George Couros has spoken effusively about the benefits of blogging such as sharing, providing feedback, speaking to an authentic audience, etc. Further, to be engaging, we need to stay on top of what is going on in the world by being an active participant in a personal learning network, reading books, and watching the news which are wonderful avenues for finding these connections.

Third, creativity is a key ingredient to both the teacher and the learner.  Sir Ken Robinson has delivered the most popular TED talk and written two books on the importance of creativity and developing it in school.  Creativity could be as simple as allowing students to make the choice of how they want to demonstrate their learning whether it be a paper, website, test, or presentation.  In the end, teachers and students need to be encouraged to take creative risk.  Standardized tests should be the floor, not the ceiling.  Students that are regularly being asked to creatively solve problems, reason, and design original ideas will meet the benchmark of the test. 

Individualizing student learning is the fourth component to creating a transformative education for students.  Students often ask why do I need to know this or at the upper grades begin to check out because they don't see how school will help them.  Allowing students the intellectual freedom to learn about a unique idea or demonstrate their learning in a particular way is important to fostering an interest in learning.  Technology is a critical piece to enabling individualization because it can help with items such as intervention and enrichment.  We need students to leave high school with the same love for learning as when they entered kindergarten. 

The fifth component is grit.  Paul tough in How Children Succeed writes eloquently about grit which is basically developing student focus, perseverance, and resilience.  Stephen and Sean Covey have similar ideas on the importance of good habits.  Making time to teach and have students practice these traits can be overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be one more thing.  One just needs to find avenues to seamlessly weave these habits into teaching practice. 

While none of these five components (Rigor, Relevance, Creativity, Individual, and Grit) are new, they need to all be a focus of creating a transformative learning environment.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Election and 21st Century Literacies

NCTE defines 21st Century Literacies as:
Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology 
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally 
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes 
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information 
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts 
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
On my Twitter feed, I have seen a couple of educators post about having their students or wanting to teach a lesson with their students on watching the different news feeds (including digital and social media) to compare perspectives.  No matter your politics, I think it would be a great assignment.  And it would address the following literacies: develop proficiency with the tools of technology; manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information; create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts.

The question now is what should the assignment be for students to demonstrate their learning?  Should it be a class discussion, a project such as creating a website to deliver the news of the presidential election, or a piece of writing such as a blog, or some combination of all three, or something altogether different?  

I know this post is a little late in prompting a creative lesson around the election. However, there are plenty of other events that occur throughout the year that could prompt this type of lesson design addressing 21st century literacies.  The bottom line is that whether you are an English teacher, Government teacher or a teacher of another subject, I encourage you to think about how to get students to think critically (Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking)  about who is saying what, who do you believe and why, and what is the evidence.  The final piece to this type of assignment is deciding, or allowing students to decide, in what medium will the students present their learning.

What are your thoughts?  Did anybody do a lesson addressing 21st century literacies around the election, or have an ongoing assignment about Hurricane Sandy, or another current issue?  How is it going?



Friday, November 2, 2012

Technology Overload 

After being geeked up on technology and attending ITSCO almost a month ago, I took some time away to disconnect from blogging and tweeting.  When I returned, Google reader was filled up and of course I had missed many tweets and a handful of RT's. I have read a few blogs about balancing technology in education ranging from Will Richardson's debate on twitter with another educator to a blog post from the mindful classroom to watching our library director run PD on technology for our faculty.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with all that is out there.  

(Image courtesy of Yash Bhatia @

I am a person that likes technology, but I am also not the first to jump in either.  I watch, read, listen, and probably many other things before I leap.  It is great that many teachers are trying to figure out avenues to utilize technology, but it needs to be transformative.  In other words, how do we leverage technology to create a rigorous and relevant curriculum that promotes collaboration and creativity?

I do not believe that technology is a panacea for education, but there is a lot of value and it is certainly re-shaping the conversation in education. Take a moment to watch Seth Godin's recent TED talk:

I found parts of his talk to be very interesting and poignant.  We do need to examine our teaching practices.  Students do have information at their fingertips.  I do disagree with his statement that there is no need to memorize anything.  For instance, I would prefer that my doctor has a certain medical procedure memorized inside and out before operating.  Or an example more at the educational level, is the idea that there is some foundational information for learning in order to work at higher levels in a discipline.  In essence though, Seth Godin is asking for a rigorous and relevant curriculum that promotes collaboration and creativity.  Technology can no longer be planned for as nice to have in a lesson design, but it needs to be planned for intently.  To get beyond the time issue, educational leaders need to continue to share with each other so that educators are not overwhelmed.  Additionally, focus on two or three tech tools that are being utilized in better and more transformative ways.  The K.I.S.S. philosophy,  Keep It Simple Stupid, is an important phrase to remember.