Digital PLC’s in 4 Steps

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During the #satchat conversation of August 23, 2014 the participants discussed Digital PLC’s. Of the six questions one was focused on the transition from physical face to face PLC’s to digital ones. During this part of the conversation I outlined four steps to the process.

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Although there are only four, each is vital and not easily mastered. But each is essential to taking our learning as educators to the next level by engaging colleagues through the use of technology.

It’s vital that we educators explore the use of digital PLC’s and the learning that can come from the connections. Personally, my own learning has expanded beyond my expectations and would not have been possible without the digital connections. 2014-08-23_0855

Step 1: Establish a positive mindset with educators who have yet to make digital connections. When we ask others to try something new, that will take time from other activities they engage in, then we should expect some reluctance. With this understanding we must establish a positive mindset with the educators we are hoping will establish a digital connection and ultimately a digital PLC. This positive mindset comes from your experiences and how digital connections and your digital PLC have helped you as a professional, made you more efficient in your educational role and ultimately more effective. The key here is how it helped you, not how it will help them. Each of us is different, we have different professional needs, different amounts of time available. Trying to fit your success into someone else’s needs will not work so the establishing a positive mindset with educators who have yet to make a digital connection needs to be centered on your success.

Step 2: Model the use of digital resources, apps, and websites. Of all four steps this is the most powerful. I talk about this all the time… model your expectations of others. What we model, how we model it and when tells the true story of what we believe in and why we do what we do. So model the digital connections and model the power of a digital PLC so others can see what you get out of these connections. Modeling the use of digital resources, apps, and websites should be a daily occurrence.

Step 3: Demonstrate the value you have found with your digital PLC in your daily educational activities. Let other educators see you in action. Our words are one thing, and they can be powerful, but our actions are the most powerful. Demonstrate something you learned directly from your digital connections and digital PLC. This opportunity to demonstrate should be clearly identified as a result of your connection with your digital PLC. Demonstrating is an opportunity that comes around periodically and is different than what you model. In this step it is clearly identifying something that has helped you and is a result of your digital PLC connections.

Step 4: Encourage others to connect and establish their own digital PLC. The key word being “encourage” in the sentence above. We can not force, dictate or mandate that others make a connection to a digital PLC. Educators must want this connection after they have experienced the first 3 steps. Encouragement means words and deeds in this step. Be a positive influence and be willing to help.

As connected educators who have a growing digital PLC we can help others through these four steps.

Leave a comment and tell other connected educators how you are encouraging the development of digital PLC’s in your educational community.

 

The Winds of Change Are Here

Being a leader in this era of educational change requires we critically look at how every aspect of education is addressed. We can no longer make grandiose assumptions that what we are doing educationally for all is actually good for the individual. Within the instructional ranks we address learning differences through differentiation. But what do we do for educators when it comes to their learning? Are we differentiating professional development? Are we helping individual educators focus on their own needs? Or, are we jamming as many of them in one room to hear a generalized message with no practical application to the classroom?

If we are truly serious about the changes that are occurring in our profession then we need to design our professional development in a way that focuses on 3 key aspects of educator learning:

1. Relevant Topics: If we want to get to the core of individual educator needs then the topics must be relevant to them. How do you do that? Ask educators what’s important to them. This means a regular in-service day that typically has about 10 to 12 activities may need double or triple the number of activities to address the needs of specific educators. But before professional development planners lose it over this statement, you need to understand that some of the most educated and informed presenters on topics relevant to your staff are actually part of your staff. Be sure to empower these experts and make them presenters.
2. Engaging and Innovative Presentations: Classroom instruction can no longer be sit and lecture for a class period. Our teachers need to develop the skills necessary to be engaging and innovative instructors. However, if their own professional development lacks any signs of engagement or innovation how can they be held to the opposite when it comes time for them to teach? Professional development for our educators needs to model what we expect them to do in the classroom. Demonstrations, modeling, and hands-on trainings will provide educators with an opportunity to see how what they are learning during a professional development session can translate into learning in their classroom the very next day.
3. Continual Learning: At the end of the standard professional development day educators will leave. The training has ended, the learning has ended, and so has most hope that what was taught today will be used tomorrow. That does not need to happen. Through a variety of social media sources the learning, discussion, and collaboration can continue long after the specific day of professional development. Effective professional development moving forward will take advantage of continual learning for educators to assure what was taught today is discussed tomorrow, and effectively implemented going forward. The day of the one and done is DONE!

Today’s educational leaders need to look critically at the professional development we are providing our educators and find ways to make it relevant, engaging and innovative, and the learning continual. How are you addressing any/all of these changes as an educational leader? Leave a comment to continue the conversation.

This is the third year I am participating in Scott McLeod’s Leadership Day and the above blog post is dedicated to his efforts on #LeadershipDay14

5 Lessons Learned from Edcamp Leadership

Edcamp Leadership

On Monday, August 4, 2014 educational leaders from 10 states and Canada came together for Edcamp Leadership in the city of brotherly love; Philadelphia. It felt like a reunion for educators who were meeting members of their professional learning network (PLN)for the first time. That sounds strange to say, that it felt like a reunion with people you never met in person, but thanks to social media connections that’s exactly what it felt like for many of us.

The day itself was filled with learning, collaboration and new connections. Here’s 5 lessons learned from Edcamp Leadership:

1. Robert Southey said, “No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” Edcamp Leadership proved this quote to be true as so many of us finally had an opportunity to meet other educational leaders we have grown to first respect and second consider friends through our educational connections in social media.

2. Quality professional development needs to be focused on the needs of the masses not the needs of the few. The scheduling board at an Edcamp dictates what topics are important to people and what will be learned on that day. The board is a product of the participants not the organizers of the event. Therefore, the masses dictate that which is most important to their learning. This model also assures that individual “canned” presentations focused on commercial ventures are few and far between, and are replaced by hands-on and educationally stimulating discussions.

3. Quality professional learning happens in all corners of the Edcamp event. Throughout the day educational leaders talked, discussed and debated practices, ideas, and concepts. One of the rooms was reserved specifically for a “think tank” space where anyone could come together and talk educational shop. This is a great idea but can be further advanced with specific educators being assigned and promoted as the moderator of the room.

4. Change is on the way in education. So many educators shared how they are transforming learning, teaching, and leading within their classrooms, schools, and districts. It was inspiring.

5. Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” And so in one day’s professional development that included pre-Edcamp activities, 4 sessions, a collaborative lunch, and post-Edcamp activities, I learned because I was involved. Each one of the sessions and activities included involvement, discussions, and activities that made the learning real and relevant to my role as an educational administrator. Those experiences will be taken right back to my school district for consideration.

It was an exciting and exhausting learning experience at Edcamp Leadership but it was one that involved great learning opportunities with administrators in my profession that I respect and learn from daily through social media. If you have yet to attend an Edcamp, please take advantage of the opportunity when one becomes available in your area. You will learn and get to meet the very educators who you have connected with through social media. Both the learning and connections will be of great value to you professionally.

Leaders Need to Learn Too

On Monday, August 4, 2014 educational leaders from around the United States will come together in Philadelphia for Edcamp Leadership (#edcampldr). It’s a wonderful opportunity for educational leaders to connect, collaborate and learn. Too often educational leaders preach to those in their charge about the value of professional development and the need for others to engage in it but they themselves do not do so. The opposite is true with Edcamp Leadership. Those who will attend are committed to the professional development of all educators, including themselves.

Here are 5 things all educational leaders should commit to when it comes to their own professional learning:

1. Be a role model with your own learn for those you lead. It is vital for all educators to stay current with professional development training. As educational leaders we can not promote its value if we don’t engage in the learning ourselves. By committing to being a role model for our own learning we set the example and demonstrate the value of professional development.

2. Be willing to try something new that you learned while expanding your own learning. What’s the purpose in attending professional development unless you are going to try something new? Too many times we go to professional development workshops and put the handouts in a pile that will eventually be recycled. Commit to taking something learned at a professional development training and try it in your classroom, school, or district. This helps us identify valuable professional development that is worth attending.

3. Encourage other educational leaders to engage in professional development that they would not traditionally attend. The days of large group lectures, overly slide focused PowerPoint presentations, and irrelevant professional development trainings are over. Learning opportunities similar to the Edcamp model are becoming more popular and more effective methods of learning for all educators. However, if you have never attended one then you may not “get the concept”. As an educational leader commit to taking a colleague to a professional development opportunity that has a structure or learning experience outside the comfort zone of your colleague. This is being collegial and may just open the door to new learning opportunities for that person.

4. Be an informal mentor to a tech phobic educational leader to help the educator learn the value of being a connected educator. If you are reading this post you get it; technology integration in education for learning and teaching is the present and the future. However, there is a large group of leaders who are either not using it or need some guidance on how to be more effective with the use of technology. Lend a hand, and mentor a colleague. We were once in the position of those who have yet to find value in this technology integration movement. Commit to being a resource and support for your colleague.

5. Be brave enough to submit a proposal to present at a local, state, or national conference. Then inspire the presenters. This sounds as if you will provide the learning but in reality you are doing that and learning yourself. All good presentations help the presenter learn too. But most of all, if you are committed to your own learning and the integration of technology, you will develop a presentation that engages the audience through the information you present and the technology you use. It’s a great way to demonstrate how far you have come as a learner with your own professional development.

Educational Leaders need to continue their professional development as much as the educators they lead. It’s vital to our profession and all of our professional growth. Commit to the five items above related to your own professional learning and let me know how it goes.

Twitter Chats 2.0

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An example of a Voxer Conversation  between the #satchat moderators.

An example of a Voxer Conversation between the #satchat moderators.

Since April 2012 #satchat has engaged educators from all over the world in a positive and progressive educational conversation on Saturday mornings. As one of many educational chats on Twitter, we try to make the hour of educational conversation engaging, practical and something that educators can use in their classroom or school office the next school day. But one of the issues that people have with Twitter chats is the limited characters available for a message. I addressed this concern in a February 2013 blog post called The Great 140 Character Debate. But there is some truth to this issue.

Many Twitter chats have so much information being provided, in such a short time, that educators want to look back at the conversation well after it has ended. #satchat archives the conversation and then tweets out the link to the information a few hours after the conversation ends. This tends to help those looking to catch up on what was discussed. But there is another group of educators who wish to engage in Twitter chats and want to take the conversation to the next level or a little deeper. This is where Twitter Chats 2.0 comes in. It’s an opportunity for educators who wish to take the conversation beyond the hour and continue to share information and learn from each other.

To take the Twitter chats to 2.0 #satchat will use Google Forms and Voxer. Starting on Saturday, July 12, 2014 a link to a Google form will be sent out on Twitter toward the end of the conversation. Those interested in taking the conversation deeper and through the rest of the week can sign up for the Voxer group. Brad Currie, Billy Krakower and I will be joined by the guest moderator, when we have one scheduled, or another educator who is knowledgeable on the subject, and discuss the topic in more depth throughout the week. This will give us (all educators) an opportunity to really learn from each other without the character or time limitations.

If you are not familiar with Voxer, it’s simply awesome. Voxer is like a walkie-talkie that records audio, but it also records text, pictures and links. You can Vox (I know it’s not a real word!) with one person or a group of people. I’m in a number of Voxer conversations with educators from all over the United States and the conversations have been incredible. You can contribute as much or as little as you wish and when you want. Sound familiar?

So if you like #satchat please continue to join the Global Educational Conversation each Saturday morning. But if you want to take that conversation to the next level, join us through the Voxer conversation and be part of taking Twitter Chats to 2.0.

A Message to the Class of 2014

Image credit: Openclipart.org

Image credit: Openclipart.org

At graduations across the US, year in and year, out speakers stand in front of the graduating students with one primary responsibility. That responsibility is to try to impart some words of wisdom upon the graduates that can guide them in the next phase of their lives. We do this from the perspective of life lessons learned and the old adage of been there… done that…

The speaker also does this because people in society wonder if today’s graduates can take care of us in the future and if those graduates know what is necessary to be successful in the “real world” after graduating from high school.

So as I began to think about what you need to know about what the future has to offer and what words of wisdom I could provide you to help you after graduation,  I realized it’s not what I can tell you right now that will help you after graduation. It’s what you taught us this year that tells me that you are ready for life outside of Spotswood High School.

This year you taught us 3 lessons.

The first is that HARD WORK MATTERS. On the grid-iron, soccer field, tennis courts, hardwood, wrestling mat, softball and baseball diamonds, and track you worked as a team. Some records were broken and some championships were won but more importantly your hard work and effort made you and your team the best possible.

This hard work went beyond athletics. Your hard work was evident in the fall play, spring musical, chorus and band concerts, poetry and band competitions. Again, competitions were won, trophies issued but your hard work made yourself and your peers the best possible.

Your hard work also showed in the classroom. First, you are all here today which means you have passed your classes to graduate. But you also demonstrated that your hard work paid off based on the 2 and 4 year colleges you are going to and the massive amounts of scholarships you accumulated this spring.

In all of these areas you showed us this year that HARD WORK MATTERS.

The second thing you taught us is a lesson that we hoped you did not have to teach us. But in the face of tragedy you taught us CARING AND COMPASSION. You showed this to families, friends, each other and the entire school community. You showed us how to come together in a tough situation and what it means to truly be a Spotswood Charger. Do not forget how important it is to be caring and compassionate in the best and toughest of times.

Finally, you taught us that we should not forget to HAVE FUN. From showing school spirit throughout the year, to cheering on your classmates in competitions and games, to creating the look and feel of New York City during spirit week, to demonstrating how sticky notes could be used to create a giant 2014, to filling a car full of balloons. Your genuine sense of fun showed us that you understood how to work hard and play hard. Do not lose your ability to enjoy the moment.

If you are going to be successful in life you need to know that hard work matters, you need to be caring and compassionate, and you need to take time to have fun. I can not provide you better examples of these three vital lessons than the examples you have provided us this school year.

So when society wonders if today’s graduates can take care of us and if those graduates know what is necessary to be successful in the “real world” I can say Spotswood High School’s Class of 2014 absolutely knows what it takes because they have showed us all year what hard work, caring, compassion, and fun can do for them individually, as a class and for us!

Continue to work hard, be caring and compassionate, and have some fun in all that life has to offer. Congratulations class of 2014.

NOTE: This entry is the 2nd in an annual tradition of posting the graduating speech I give to the seniors. I encourage other educators to share their speeches as a way to acknowledge the efforts and success of our students, hard work of our teachers, staff and administrators, and hopefully inspire people to action. 

Summer Bucket List

By definition, a bucket list is developed when you want to achieve certain experiences before you die. Recently the concept has taken on a new meaning. It’s now a way to identify things you want to do during a selected period of time. For me it’s this second, more recent meaning I’m focused on.  The idea of developing a summer bucket list came to me while teaching a class to aspiring building and district administrators in June of 2013. A topic that comes up year in and year out in this class is how to find a balance between career and family. I’ve always made the joke that when you (the students who want to be school leaders) find that balance let me know how to accomplish it because I’m bad at it. When I mean bad, I mean my balance is leans towards my career. In reality this is the life of building and district administrators. We need to be at schools, activities, and events in the mornings, afternoons, and evening, and our responsibilities span the work week and weekends.

As I thought more about it I began to realize that there actually can be a more appropriate balance, especially during the summer. The summer balance can actually swing more in favor of family. So with that I developed my summer bucket list to bring the career and family balance more in perspective, and ultimately try to give my family a fun, exciting, and memorable summer.

Here’s my list:

  1. Take the family to see a sunrise at the Jersey shore. We are less than an hour from the beach and this will be an opportunity to see what is an awesome daily site.
  2. Watch a movie as a family and with friends outside. We’ll hang a bed sheet, project a movie and enjoy a “night at the movies” in the back yard.
  3. Go fishing at sun up with my two boys. There’s nothing like “gettin’ them early”. A nap will be needed after this one.
  4. Celebrate with my wife our wedding anniversary. We have always been low key on our birthdays and anniversary but I think this summer will be a little different. Shhhh, it’s a surprise!
  5. Have a BBQ with friends. Nothing is as good as having friends over for a BBQ, swim and fun. The adults can be adults and the kids can play all day.
  6. Spend the day at a museum. I live between New York City and Philadelphia so there are a lot of museums to pick from that will interest the whole family.
  7. A tech free day. As a family we’ll power down the phones, ipods, ipad, laptop and Kindle. I’m not sure how this one will go but I’m hoping I’ll make it 24 hours.
  8. A do nothing day. I’d like to plan a day that has no plans so we can hangout and relax without having to run from one place to another.
  9. A don’t say NO day. As a parent I’ve realized more often than not we say “no”, “not now”, “maybe later” or some other variation that basically means whatever was asked for is not going to happen. In a way it’s a balancing act for parents. I’m not going to broadcast this one to the family because of a fear of what might be asked for but I’ll make a conscious effort to have a day where NO is not the first response.
  10. Have a spontaneous road trip.  Why not just pick up and go somewhere for the day without planning. This idea has potential for lots of fun or disaster. Either way, I’ll give it a try.

What’s your summer bucket list? Are you finding the balance? Leave a comment or idea, and make the summer of 2014 one that you find a balance between family and career.

Have a great summer!

Worth Something

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On my desk at work sits a paperweight given to me by my children last Christmas. It is a mold of a rectangle with pens on top of it and it’s colored bronze. The inscription by Benjamin Franklin says:

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

This inscription faces me, instead of facing out to those who sit in the chairs on the opposite side of my desk, to remind me that as a professional educator my work must be worth something. The quote is simple, yet a powerful reminder to all of us professional educators that we have an important responsibility and our efforts in the classroom, school office or district administration must be worth something to our students, parents and community.

As spring changes to summer and the school year wraps up for many of us, it’s time to reflect on that “something” that we did that was worth something for our students, staff and / or parents. It is also a time to plan for next year’s “something”.  My thoughts on planning for next year include:

  1. How will next year’s learning experience be better for our students?
  2. What types of professional development will  our teachers need to make the learning environment more effective?
  3. Will the technology we are implementing be seamlessly integrated into the learning and teaching process?
  4. How will we engage the community in the learning process and connect them to what occurs daily in our schools?
  5. What methods of communication will we use to connect students, staff, parents and community?
  6. What will our district theme be that conveys a focus all staff members can rally behind?

These six questions will guide my planning for next year to demonstrate that what happens in our schools is “worth something”. I challenge you as professional educators who are in the classroom, school office and district administration to “either write something worth reading or do something worth writing” by planning now for next school year, and use the six questions above to help in the process of making next year “worth something”.

Finding Your Place in Education’s Digital Evolution

ImageThe conversation on #satchat for Saturday, May 17, 2014 was about tech equity in our classrooms and schools. But as the conversation progressed it became clear that as professional educators we need to find our own place in education’s digital evolution. Here are some thoughts I took away from the conversation which may help all of us find our place in this digital evolution.

  1. Nothing replaces great teachers.  All the automation, technology integration and digital resources in the world will not make learning more effective or efficient without great teachers.  Students need the connection and examples great teachers provide. Great teachers also see the value of technology integration. Combine great teachers with effective technology integration and you have an amazing and dynamic learning for students. But before you integrate technology take a look at these essential questions.
  2. It’s not an all or none environment. Brad Currie, (@BradMCurrie), was spot on when he said, “Students should always be given an option to learn, collaborate, and create with and without tech. Differentiation is key”.  We are a connected generation Imageand technology is infused into our daily lives but we also need to learn from each other, person to person, and in small groups.  Sharon LePage Plante, (@iplante), also hit on this topic when she said, “It’s not tech vs no tech… it’s about innovation in the classroom to meet the needs of Ss to prepare.”Image
  3. Don’t be limited to a specific device. There are so many options available to education and each has a place. Limiting your choices limit the possibilities. However, multiple devices do pose professional development issues. Jenny Grabiec, (@techgirljenny), made this point when she stated, “Negatives: Everyone is using different tools, apps, OS. Positives: Everyone is using different tools, apps, operating systems.” The point being that there are pros and cons and in the end it comes down to what works for you and your students.Image
  4. Professional Development is vital to the effective integration of technology in learning.  Our learning as professional educators should never stop. However, the professional development should be of a high quality and demonstrate practical uses of technology integration. Many of the technology tools, software, and apps available are easy to use but how to do so in a way that improves instruction and learning is always the main concern. Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman) hit on this issue when he stated, “Many schools have a lot of tech but it is not being used properly or at all. Need plan, PD & support if it is to be successful.”Image

Finding your place in education’s digital evolution is not simple. It involves great teachers (and administrators), understanding the learning environment is fluid and can be effective with and without technology, not limited to a specific device, and solid professional development for all educators that is practical and immediately able to be implemented.  Find your place and feel free to add to this list in the comments section.

Tech You Need to Try

cropped-nomine-badges.pngOn a daily basis something new in technology is made available. For educators we need to determine which of these new technologies has value for learning, teaching, connections and collaboration. Since we can not try everything out there, we

often rely on recommendations from other educators. So in the spirit of sharing and collaboration here are three things in tech I’ve found useful and you need to try:

  1. Pocket – www.getpocket.com – If you are like me and spend a lot of time reading on your Pocket   My List Examplecomputer, tablet, ipad and phone you often find more items than you have time to read. By the time you find the time and want to read what you found you no longer know where to find it. Well Pocket saves the article, tweet, post, or site for you. It puts it in your Pocket. Then when you get some free time you can go to your Pocket and read it. I started using Pocket about 3 months ago and love it. I have not lost a single item I wanted to read later because it is in one place.
  2. Padlet – www.padlet.com – A great app that provides a “wall” for you to gather information from Building Digital Momentum - Padlet exampleothers as a teacher, administrator, and / or presenter. It’s all done on-line and updates in real time so you are gathering comments and feedback instantaneously. Just provide the URL to the people you want to gather feedback from and watch the wall fill up. I’ve used it in a number of presentations and absolutely love the interaction with the audience. Afterwards you can lock the wall so no other information can be added. The owner also has the ability to move items around the wall or delete an item.
  3. Tagboard – www.tagboard.com – It’s easy to get a Twitter addiction as an educator because of the great content being satchat on Tagboard - examplesent out daily. Keeping track of it and your favorite hashtags can become a laborious task. I came across Tagboard as part of the Blooms Taxonomy Apps spreadsheet put together on a previous #satchat conversation. This is a great site to filter hashtags and more. I’m using it daily to get caught up on the information being sent out from some of my favorite educational hashtags.

There’s lots of great technology out there but some of the most useful comes from your PLN’s recommendations. Hopefully you will find these three useful. If you have your own you’d like to share add it here or post in the comments section of this post.

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