Thursday, June 26, 2008

Seeing the World through Blog Colored Glasses

I continue to be amazed by the affect that blogging has on my thinking. Everything I do and see and experience is filed away as a potential blog post. I make meaning of my world in ways I never did before. I am constantly composing posts in my head. It makes for some incredible learning experiences, but can also make it hard to sleep.

I haven't posted in a while. I've been finishing up the school year and just ended 4 days of teaching a professional development class for teachers. There are lots of things bouncing around in my head that I plan to blog about. I thought I would give you just a taste of things to come and, in doing so, force myself to follow up on my ideas.

I have a new job! I just accepted the position of Director of Academic Technology at The Belmont Hill School in Belmont, MA. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to help define and lead this extraordinary school in a quest to prepare students to succeed and excel in the 21st century. I am honored by the confidence in me that the leadership team of this school has expressed. It is truly an exciting new adventure that I can't wait to start.

Top Down or Bottom Up? Should every teacher in a school have a basic technology proficiency? Is it more important to focus on complex and creative technology projects with a few teachers and let the excitement and rewards spill down through the faculty, or should the focus be on making sure every teacher is at least proficient in using a mouse, a browser and setting up a Web page? I think there is a choice to be made, because I don't think there is enough time to focus on both.

Professional Development that works. I just finished teaching a 4 days professional development course titled Using 21st Century Technology Tools to Improve and Inspire Student Writing. I co-taught this course with an English teacher with whom I have worked a lot this year. I think our model overall really worked. We focused first on the learning goals and then on how different technology tools could help teachers achieve these goals and objectives. It was wonderful to have a teacher working with me who could really speak to the realities of using these tools in the classroom.

Professional Development Meme. I haven't forgotten that I was tagged for this meme a while back. I have a lot of things on my list - one of them being working on this blog. I do plan to dedicate an entire post to laying out my professional goals for the summer.

Trying out a new tool. In just the last two days I have been playing with a new Twitter like tool called Plurk. I'm not sure yet what I think of the tool, but I have been loving learning to use it. For me it has been a true constructivist experience. Together with my network, we've been working out how things work. Plurk may or may not be the hot new tool, but just learning to use it has been a great experience for me.

Here is a screencast of what I have learned so far.

So stay tuned for more on at least a few of these topics (let me know if you have a preference for where you would like me to start).

OK - now I just have to figure out when I'm going to take a vacation...

Photo Credit: Life Through Rose Colored Glasses from pangalactic gargleblaster's photostream on Flickr.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Trickle Down Tech-inomics

I have been working at a grassroots level to help teachers find ways to incorporate 21st century tools into their curriculum. I've made great progress with many teachers and they are spreading the word to their colleagues. The movement is growing and at the level of teacher and student we are making a difference. That is where it matters and slowly change is happening.

I think it is now time for administrators to come on board. To truly make a difference, superintendents, principals, and department heads need to start blogging, podcasting, and participating in social networks like Twitter and Ning. We need to gear some of our technology professional development to the needs of administrators. Andrew Torres wrote a great post about Why School Leaders Should Blog. He articulates well the benefits that blogging brings to the entire school community. Dennis Richards is an excellent example of a school superintendent who is leading the way for his district.

How do we get school leaders to see these benefits? Are your district leaders using these tools? Do you have ideas about ways to make this happen? Please share them here.

Photo Credit: Trickle Down the Mountain from gkaren96's Flickr photostream

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Why I love So You Think You Can Dance

As some of you may already know, So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) is one of my favorite TV shows. It is basically American Idol for dancers. This show features talented people who excel in a variety of dance genres including hip-hop, lyrical, jazz, and ballroom. And no, I am not a fan of Dancing with the Stars. As Andrew Wallenstein puts it in his NPR piece, Why 'Dance' is Hotter than Idol, "watching Dancing with the Stars is like watching a Ferrari pulling around a golf cart".

SYTYCD features strong dancers in their own area of expertise and pushes them to step out of their comfort zones into different genres of dance. Some of these dancers have been trained by dance teachers and others have never taken a dance class. We watch these people struggle as they go from being an expert to being a novice. The ones who succeed are learners at heart and truly love dance. They push themselves and don't give up. And, if they don't make it to the top 20 this year, many go home and get more training and come back again and again. They attribute their "failure" to their strategy and not to their ability. This is a message that I have blogged about in the past, so I'm sorry if y'all are tired of it. But I believe so strongly in a growth mindset that I just have to keep coming back to it.

We as educators can learn so much from watching these dancers grow and push themselves and work hard to overcome their weaknesses. As experienced teachers we are used to being good at what we do. When we come to a challenge, like using new technologies in the classroom, it can feel very uncomfortable. We don't like to look "dumb" in front of our students. Stepping out of your comfort zone while others are watching makes it that much harder to do. These dancers inspire me to keep working, not give up and continue to try different strategies when things don't go the way I had hoped.

Oh yeah, and the dancing is amazing to watch.