Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Edublog Award Nominations

It is time again for the Edublog Awards. I read a lot of blogs and I thank everyone for taking the time to share their thoughts and resources with me. Here are just a few of the people that keep me learning every day.
  • Best individual Blog Blogush by Paul Bogush
    Paul is an 8th grade social studies teacher in Connecticut. He isn't afraid to tell it like it is. He makes me think, and sometime cringe and often laugh. I admire his risk taking and his commitment to his students and to being the best teacher he can be.
  • Best individual Tweeter @butwait
    It is hard to pick just one, but Shelly shares great stuff, she retweets and also responds and thinks about what might be helpful to individuals, not just the collective.
  • Best Resource Sharing Blog Edueyeview by Sarah Sutter
    Sarah is and art teacher in Maine. Her artistic perspective makes the links she shares particularly interesting, and often things you won't find elsewhere.
  • Most Influential Blog Post spectacle at Web2.0 Expo... from my perspective by Danah Boyd
    Danah's writing on teens and technology is always inspiring. This post about her recent experience with a backchannel gone rogue is particularly compelling.
  • Best Teacher Blog MagistraM by Danja Mahoney
    Danja is a Latin teacher in Massachusetts. She shares great resources, projects and ideas that relate to all teachers. I think it's particularly cool that such a forward thinking person teaches a "dead" language ;-)
  • Best Librarian / Library Blog The Web Footed Book Lady by Lesley Edwards
    I only recently discovered this librarian's blog. Lesley shares great ideas and resources.
  • Best Educational Tech Support Blog Thumann Resources by Lisa Thumann
    No Edublog nomination list would be complete without Lisa. She is the ultimate support person, sharing great ideas, tips and links.
  • Best Elearning / Corporate Education Blog Brandon Hall by Janet Clarey
    I love Janet's irreverent writing style. She writes thought provoking posts about the state of social media. Her spin is a little different than the teacher blogs I read. I always learn something new here and often laugh while doing so.
  • Best Educational Use of Audio Conversations.net - Live Conversations on the Impact of the Internet on Cutlure and Society.
    Steve Hargadon (my hero) chooses amazing guests and asks great questions.
  • Best educational use of a Social Networking Service Independent School Educators Network
    This is probably too niche a network to win, but this has been a great resource for me as I have recently moved into the world of independent schools.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rethinking Professional Development

I have been thinking about effective means of professional development for teachers for a long time. I started my edtech career as a Professional development specialist at Tom Snyder Productions. They still use my picture on their website. Not to bite the hand that still occasionally feeds me (I freelance for TSP), but lately I have been questioning the effectiveness of the group training model. On the surface it seems like the most efficient way to reach the largest number of people with the most information. In reality however, it doesn't quite work that way. I find it hard to get people to attend, hard to meet the needs of everyone in the room and hard to make a one day event sustainable over the long term.

I have found that my most effective instruction for teachers takes place one-on-one. I meet with faculty, discuss their needs and then help them to form a goal and implement their plans. This takes more of my time, but ultimately does pay off. I've been thinking about ways to formalize or systematize this method of PD so that I can reach more people in this way. It may take longer to get to everyone, but if I can create a system of one-to-one technology mentoring, ultimately I think I will get more people doing more technology in meaningful ways.

So here is my plan. I am approaching faculty at my school with this idea. In particular, I am talking to faculty who are up for review the following year, and asking them if they would be interested in spending a semester prior to their evaluation meeting with me one-on-one every 2 weeks or so to explore ways that they can better integrate technology into their teaching. I also created a sub group on the ISENet ning and hope this will help participating teachers to reach outside of their face to face network for ideas and to reflect and interact with each other.

I'm really excited about the potential for this project. So far I have three teachers on board and am hopeful that I can get a few more. I've even come up with a name (thanks to my Twitter network for help with this): Technology Exploration And Mentoring (T. E. A. M. Davis).

Have you ever tried anything like this? Do you have any suggestions for me? Are there resources for this kind of one-on-one coaching model that you could point me to? Any and all ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Making Meaningful Connections

NEIT2009 Days 2 and 3
At the closing keynote, Michael Wesch (@mwesch) posed this essential question: "How can we create students who can create meaningful connections?" At this conference I made dozens of meaningful connections. I learned about school to school collaborations, tried to figure out Google Wave (still don't get it), introduced more folks to Twitter and had a great discussion about effective professional development.

I talked and danced with many new faces including more people I had only known previously online. These included Bill Campbell (@BillCamp), Karen Blumberg (@specialkrb), Michelle Koetke, Matthew Lipstein (@matthewlipstein), Don Buckley, Aaron Grill (@agrill), Andrew Katz, Denise Daley, Kerri Richardson-Redding (@nandikerri), Lan Heng (@lheng ), Colin Samuel (@colincsh), Barbara Swanson (@barbaraswanson), Lisa Pedicini (@Pedicini ), Anne Marie Rowley (@amrowley), Julien Laveyssieres (@jlaveyssieres), and of course Arvind Grover (@arvind) and Alex Ragone (@alexragone). (I'm sorry if I've forgotten some people.)

I even got shake hands and get my picture taken (along with Kerri Richardson-Redding) with Michael Wesch himself. When I introduced myself to Michael he said he knew me from Twitter. OMG! You can imagine the look on my face when he said that. Talk about making a meaningful connection. That man is one of my rockstars! Here are some of my revelations from his talk. You can watch the entire keynote here including the etherpad collaborative notes. I reccommend that you do. Both parts were amazing.

Five Things I'm thinking about after listening to Michael Wesch:
  1. We need to go from creating knowledgeable students to creating knowledge-able students who can think and discover for themselves.

  2. Media are not just tools - media mediates relationships. Technologies shape who can say what, who can hear it and what can be said. When media changes, relationships change. When you introduce media into a culture you have cultural shift.

  3. There are no natives here - these technologies are only 5 years old and in 5 years there will be new technologies that are only 5 years old. We are all in the same boat. We can't give ourselves an out by suggesting that we don't have to teach students and ourselves how to best use these tools.

  4. All real learning hurts because it changes us in some way. If it's easy then we aren't doing it right. We need to be willing to take more risks and fail and get back up again. If we aren't failing then we aren't really learning.

  5. The ultimate question is how can we create students who can create meaningful connections? Maybe the first step is learning ourselves how to create meaningful connections. There is also a question of what makes a connection meaningful.
Wrapping Up:
We ended the conference with a World Cafe style discussion. I chose to sit at a table where we discussed creativity and innovation. What struck me at the end of our talk was the number of dichotomies that I am constantly balancing. The tension between tradition and innovation, between risk and reward, between product and process, between, my educational philosophy and the philosophy/culture of the school. The trick is to find a way to be comfortable with the discomfort. Good luck with that ;-)

Image Sources:
2009-11-13-NEIT2009 046 from alex.ragone's photostream on Flickr
Liz, Kerri and Michael from alex.ragone's photostream on Flickr
2009-11-13-NEIT2009-WorldCafe 040 from alex.ragone's photostream on Flickr

Reflections on NEIT2009 - Day One

I could hear my heart beating in my chest as I drove up to the Mohonk Mountain House, the site of the NEIT (New York State Association of Independent Schools (N) Education (E) Information (I) Technology (T) conference. I was excited, but also nervous at the end of my 3.5 hour drive. I learned about this conference from the tweets of two independent school educators, Alex Ragone and Arvind Grover, whom I greatly respect, but had never met.

It has been a while since I have attended a conference without knowing lots of people. I remember back to my first Educon 2.0 when my Twitter network first came alive. Since then, most conferences I attend are filled with real life versions of my virtual learning network. At NEIT2009 however, there was only one person at the conference that I had met face to face before, Kerri Richardson. Fortunately, her smiling face was there to meet me at the registration desk when I arrived. And what followed was everything I had hoped for and more.

I have never attended a truly open space conference. Edubloggercon is sort of open space, but many of the sessions are posted on the wiki before the conference. Not so at NEIT where the conference built itself as it went. But first, Siva Vaidhyanathan kicked the conference off with his Keynote, The Googlization of Everything.

The message I took away from Siva’s talk is that we can’t stop questioning the corporations that surround us. As Siva put it, “Google has been around for less time than Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were married. Why should we trust them?” We might love Google and what it does for us, but we have to remember that we are not actually Google’s customers, we don’t pay Google anything, we are Google's products. We provide the data that feeds their advertisers. This doesn’t mean that Google is bad, but just that we have to be careful not to get drink the Google Koolaid without also checking to see if it has been spiked.

Next we started the open space portion of the conference. Here people were given blank pieces of paper and markers. People interested in presenting sessions wrote down the name of their session on the paper, announced it to the group and then posted it on the session board. When we began the board had 70 of blank spots. By the end of the conference all but 7 were filled.

After a lovely tea and cookies break, we had our first session. I attended one on problem based learning. Michelle Koetke facilitated this session. She shared a project that she had done with her students on the Images of Girls Online. I learned from this session that an excellent project is driven by an authentic real question. If the question is real enough, the students will drive the project themselves. I think the hardest part is figuring out the best question. That is what I still struggle with. Does anyone have any suggestions for ways to come up with good questions?

More on day 2 of the conference in my next post...

Image Sources:
DSCF7594 from musicanys' photostream on Flickr

"How to Rawk NEIT2009" with Alex and Arvind
from SpecialKRB's photostream on Flickr

IMG_8314 from arvindgrover's photostream on Flickr
IMG_7909 from arvindgrover's photostream on Flickr
IMG_8372 from arvindgrover's photostream on Flickr
2009-11-11-Mohonk 091 from alex.ragone's photostream on Flickr

DSCF7697 from musicanys' photostream on Flickr

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Twitter List Screencast

Recently Twitter introduced the ability to create and subscribe to lists. I've been playing around with this new feature and I think it has a lot of potential. I created this screencast to show a few of the things I've learned.

In addition to my screencast, @_stevewoods wrote a great post describing Twitter lists. And, here is the direct link to the Twitter Gadget for embedding your list on a website.

Please share your tips. What have you learned about lists? Do you like them? I'm still trying to figure out how to subscribe to a list in a reader. Does anyone know how to do that?

P.S. This is the first time I have included my own image as part of the screencast. I'm not sure if I like it, or if it is helpful. Let me know what you think.