Sunday, 20 November 2011


CC image via flickr by Bethan
The inability to focus will doom an entire generation of learners if we don’t embrace this skill now.

Tonight I did something out of the ordinary. I sat down at my kitchen table and had dinner. No TV. No phone. No twitter. No music. Just the dinner plate, the food I prepared and me. If you’re wondering I slow-cooked pork tenderloin, added some potatoes and an array of spices along with some thyme that I picked from my still lingering windowsill herb garden. I promise, the coincidences in that dinner and this piece were not preconceived.

Typically, I will eat at the coffee table while watching television. I usually watch a DVR program while I blindly shovel food into my mouth. Sometimes forgetting entirely what I just consumed. Sure, the tastes are there, but so are the phone, the television, the iPad and numerous outlets to trending topics happening instantaneously around me. If the food were my significant other, our relationship would surely be on the outs.

I think about the ability to focus and what the future of the learner holds in a culture that is enamored with gadgets and instantaneous information. While I embrace this culture and think a lot of good can and has come from it, I fear for an unfocused future. I fear that an entire generation of learners will spread itself so thin that it will hardly appreciate the small moments in life: a sunset, a book, handwriting, a winter walk, a well orchestrated lecture, a newspaper, or a well-prepared dinner.

I know, I know, I know...these things only appeal to me and the learner of today is well groomed to think and interact in a gaming world of instantaneous decision-making and a myriad of stimuli. They are different than you, Andy. They thrive on technology in the classroom and need it to survive in a global job market. Yes, I agree completely. In fact, it’s my job to integrate these devices and approaches to learning daily; however, I yield at the possibility of limiting today’s learner by throwing too much on their plate.

Today’s learner must be challenged beyond the simple rote, systemic procedures of the past. This concept is a given. For years we taught students to memorize answers and learn in a uniformed way. Many would argue that some aspects of this system still exist in today’s classroom. Students must not only seek out answers, but also develop engaging, thought-provoking questions that will lead them to a variety of answers. I believe this can happen with and without technology in today’s classroom. Technology simply affords us the opportunity to connect, share, and engage with the content and a broader audience. And that is a really good thing. However, we should not let the variety of technologies dilute the learning.

We have a lot of good things in this world and yet we always want something more. It’s like the “new toy syndrome” afflicts an entire society: the syndrome that exudes a strong desire and want for something, yet when we get it, we are looking towards the next new thing. We get the iPhone 4s and we are already anticipating the iPhone 5. The same approaches are happening in education. We get a cart of laptops and we’re already thinking about adding a cart of iPads. We get an HD projector and an Apple TV and we are already anticipating an interactive projector that covers are entire wall.  Please, slow down. Appreciate and embrace what we have. Take a moment and learn the new technologies you have in your possession before trying to find out what you can get your hands on next. Administrators, don’t overwhelm your faculty with too many gadgets at once. Give them time to play, learn and use what they have effectively.

This piece is not meant to deter innovation, but rather to promote it. I imagine at some point Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs focused their talents and thoughts in one direction. I imagine that the greatest artists, inventors, composers, engineers, and athletes eventually came to a point in their life where they focused their intellectual or physical capital in one direction. This method is not halting innovation, but making it better, making it stronger.

I fear that if we, as educators race to add gadgets, apps, etc. to our classrooms then we will continue to water down the product. We must give our learners opportunities to experience forms of technology in the classroom, but also give them room to breathe and learn. I work in a school that supplies one iPad for every student and I’ll admit, I see many frustrated students that feel overwhelmed at times with trying to integrate a device into a learning style that is not yet there. I see students longing for the focused format of a book, a pencil, and a notebook.

I'm not asserting that technology is a bad thing, however it is an entity that we must pace appropriately and integrate purposefully. I have no doubt that I will receive criticisms for halting creativity and innovation in the educational system, but remember I am not presenting a sweeping conclusion of extensive research. I simply sat down and had dinner without anything else going on in my life. I enjoyed it. I thought about a variety of things while I was savoring each bite and when it was over I felt good, I felt accomplished, and learned that I should use less salt.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Education Restart

My digital literacy students started with the project detailed in the post below. They first watched the 2007 video by Michael Wesch titled, A vision of students today. They conducted research and presented their findings in this video. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Room to learn

CC image via flickr by Marcin Wichary 
I have decided to step off of the stage and remove my sage sash (say it 5 times fast...go!). In my digital & Information literacy course my students are the authors of their learning, not me. I still present a new tool or lesson at the beginning of class, but I hardly remain on stage longer than five minutes. This is merely a demonstration. In many classes I am learning with the students and seen as a resource.  As a result I have noticed happier, more engaged students. Plus, I have witnessed students asking more relevant questions, thinking their way through a problem rather than me telling them, and seeking out all available resources to find a solution. In short the learning is theirs they own it.

The project at the end of this post is something my class is working on at the moment and I’d like to share it with you. The objective is to create a comprehensive guide for digital citizenship and understanding your digital identity and privacy. I designated project managers and provided objectives and outcomes for the class along with a five point structure of what should be covered.

As this project progresses, so has my classroom dynamic.  I walk into class, briefly check in with the project managers, and watch the students work. Yesterday, I came in an introduced them to Diigo. I presented this tool for roughly five minutes and then let them get to work. As soon as I finished presenting I witnessed a bustling office with everyone seeking out his or her task for the day. Students were moving around the room and communicating with each other. I could over hear problem deconstruction and decisions being made. Throughout each period all of their progress is documented on a shared Google doc. Each team, as well as the project managers, shares a doc with me. As they develop and accomplish tasks, they add them and eventually check them off on the Google doc. I witness communication, networking with other groups, community building, problem solving, critical thinking, and engagement. My class functions like most places of work. It’s relevant.

I encourage you to steal the project below and make it better. In fact, remix and share it with others. I will share the final result once students complete this project. Don’t feel this type of learning is impossible in core subjects. This type of project has potential across all content areas and all the way up Bloom’s taxonomy. Also, this is not a technology driven lesson. Students could complete the same type of project without any technology in the classroom.

Instead of a Google doc students could collaborate on large post-it easel paper. They could conduct research in their library and pull all available resources to find the most current, credible articles on the subject of digital citizenship. They could use pen and paper to take notes and interview teachers, students and administrators.

I could go on, but you get my point. This is not ground breaking or anything profound. It simply puts the onus on the student to learn by doing and own their learning. Students can find their niche in this project and learn something that interests them. I encourage you, the reader, and the educator, to try this. Take off your sage sash and see what happens. I imagine you will discover, along with your students, some pretty amazing results.
Today we are about to embark on another exciting project. Once again our class must come together as a team and create a comprehensive guide for understanding digital citizenship and knowing how to take care of your digital identity.


Develop a comprehensive guide for maintaining your digital identity and understanding your web privacy. Your target audience should be high school students.

Your appointed project managers are                              


What you should present at the conclusion of this project...

1. Have a website that you can showcase your information, research, and media you find on digital citizenship, web privacy, and maintaining a healthy digital identity. This website will showcase your findings and serve as a resource for future BHS students and high school students beyond Burlington. You should include information you find, links, interviews, videos, pictures, etc. The media you post must be authored by you or cited properly.

2. Go to the source: Interview students, teachers, parents, and administrators and ask them what they know about digital citizenship and maintaining their digital identity. All interviews must have consent and highlight that this information will be posted online publicly. NOTE: You may want to seek out a generic consent form.

3. Submit research and studies that detail why it is imperative to maintain and understand your digital identity as a high school student. This can come in the form of interviews with teachers, administrators, experts, or articles you find on line. Any assertion you make must include supporting evidence. Remember, you are presenting support for those that say students in high school have no business on these sites. Prove them wrong.

4. Cover all the bases: Think about what sites your peers use and find out all the good, the bad, and the ugly concerning these sites. Check out Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Formspring, Blogs, etc. and detail why students can be trusted to use this type of forum to empower their voice and present research to back up your points. NOTE: You may want to include sections for each site on your website. One link could be an entire guide about understanding your Facebook privacy settings.

5. Many say that BHS is crazy for allowing students to use iPads, and mobile phones in class; present examples of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Provide examples in the form of research and studies as to why we allow these devices. Also poll teachers and administrators.

Grading notes...
You will be graded on your interaction and engagement with your team/group and feedback from your project managers. I suggest that each team, once assembled, shares a Google doc with me and the other members should post daily progress and any information you gather. This documentation will be the bulk of your grade. The end result will speak for itself. I am more interested in the process, your interaction with each other each day in class, and how you accomplish a task as a team.


I want the project managers to propose a working time frame for completing this project. Once submitted, we will stick to that schedule. If we need to adjust the schedule, the project managers must connect with me and provide support for extending the time.

Monday, 10 October 2011

How We're Learning

The past month has been very exciting time at Burlington High School. On the first day of school every student showed up with an iPad 2. Our first few weeks did not accurately resemble those simple, clean Apple iPad commercials. There were hiccups and challenges along the way. In some cases, we were all learning by trial and error, and by doing. It was great to observe colleagues seeking new approaches to learning and using the device as a vehicle to replace passive learning with active engagement.  As this year progresses we hope to learn from our mistakes and continue to provide the most relevant, engaging learning environment for our students.

One thing I have noticed here at Burlington is that with the sweeping integration of a new device, many seem to be trying new things at the risk of a possible fail. For many of us, this is hard to overcome. I have started working with some teachers on various class projects and, while these projects are exciting and engaging, the distribution and presentation of them is occasionally met with a hiccup. This isn’t to say that teachers are ill prepared, but instead it is showing determination in the face of possible failure. What’s more is that our students get to see a model for taking on educated risks. I have yet to meet a teacher who stands in front of a classroom and bats 1.000. To quote the Dead Parrot Monty Python sketch, “It ceases to exist!” And that is a good thing.

Another good thing is the new approaches to learning many teachers are taking on this year. I had the opportunity to work with a few teachers this past month and in some cases, collaboratively teach the class. Here are a few of those highlights:
Michael Milton is teaching the Enlightenment period through social media. Each student cohort was assigned a philosopher from the period. Student groups started researching their philosopher and collecting facts about their respective philosopher. Students then created a social profile for their philosopher using Twitter and a blogger page. Once these pages and profiles were created, Milton had students write introductory blog posts for each persona. The blog posts were written from the philosophers’ point of view. Once the posts were completed, students asked the philosophers questions using the comment section on the blog. This conversation was extended to Twitter as well. Student groups had to field questions from users on Twitter (many of which were teachers at BPS) and learned how to aggregate Twitter conversations using a hashtag.

This experience remixes the traditional and allows the students to not just be the recipients of information, but also drive it.  To many students, this subject matter is boring and trite, however when you allow students to engage with the content rather than just receive it you create a more fruitful learning experience.

Another exciting experience is happening in our foreign language department. Our Italian students recently traveled abroad for a week in Cles, Italy. They spent time at a host school and got a first hand experience of another culture. While abroad, another Italian class at BHS got to Skype with their peers abroad. While this type of connection seems commonplace in today’s world, the experience for many students was memorable. Students opened up the videoconference and held a dialogue in Italian with their peers abroad and the Italian students they were sitting with. They got to experience the immediate relevancy and powerful impact learning another language can have. Students also began to rethink our place in the global classroom. These students experienced how powerful connections can be and how using these types of social learning tools can impact and enliven their learning.

These are just two examples of the new approaches to learning happening this year at Burlington High School. In both cases, there were things that didn’t go right; an application crashed, a restart was needed, and the network was not found. This is normal and is what we should come to expect. The message that we take from this is that both teachers attempted to try something new at the risk of a potential hiccup in order to give their students a relevant learning experience. In both examples listed above the students involved in these lessons were not simply the recipients of information, they were the authors of their learning. As educators, this should be our objective each time we step in front of a class. Each time we create a lesson plan we should ask, “Are my students inactive participants in their learning? Or are they the authors?”

Friday, 16 September 2011

Learn by doing

On Monday I started my digital & information literacy class (aka Web 2.0 class) with this 2007 video by Michael Wesch

The video went viral a few years ago and provoked an ongoing conversation about what it is like to be a student today. When the video wrapped, I asked my students to comment. Some of them related to the video, while some had questions about the cost of higher education and “is that really what a college classroom looks like?” After we discussed their initial reactions, I asked them, “What is it like to be a student today?”


When these responses came back, I followed up by asking them what they would change? They seemed to want some time to relax throughout the course of a school day and more engaging classrooms where they are active participants. Their requests seemed fair.

After our discussion, I told them they were going to create this video. Their prompt:

“What is it like to be a student today at BHS?”

Once the prompt was established, I shared a Google Doc with them. I took a few steps back in this assignment and provided minimal directives. I defined some roles that I felt were imperative to seeing this video through to completion and posted them on the doc.

  • Project manager(s)
  • Film crew
  • Design team
  • Research team
  • Screenwriting team

The class is comprised of sixteen students. Every student had to have a role in the project. I told them to pretend that our classroom was their hip, Boston office space that had exposed brick and modern furniture. Every day they would come to the office and get to work on this video project. They would have to check in with the project manager(s) each morning and at the end of each day. They had a tentative deadline of finishing the project in seven days, but if they needed an extension they would have to provide me with evidence to grant that extension.

After my brief overview of the project, I told them to begin. Silent, static students followed. They did not know where to begin. Some of them looked genuinely frightened as to what they should do next. Just minutes earlier these same students told me that in most of their classes throughout their academic career they were told what to do as opposed to having more freedom to do. They would have to shed the system for a moment that they were marching along with since their first day of school.

Eventually the google doc (comments welcome) started coming alive with active students. They each started by joining a team. The project managers were established and they started leading the different teams. As the project started to develop I noticed something happening. Once the students felt is was okay to do, they started to make great progress. The Google doc continued to build and they began to make progress.

The next few class periods I noticed some really amazing things happening.

The film crew organized and started tinkering with iMovie. They told the project manager that they wanted to use this application to edit, but never used it before. Without any direction, they went to YouTube and found instructional videos on how to use iMovie. They continued to play around with iMovie and eventually learned some really great tricks for editing. The film crew also realized that they needed to check in with the research team and design team so they could start framing their shots and scouting locations. They learned by doing.

The research team put together a list of questions they wanted to ask their peers to gather data. They performed a Google search for how to create google forms and found a video on how to create and collect data through a Google form. Once they had their form created, they thought about where they could post it. Some suggested email, but they decided for best visibility they would use Principal Larkin’s blog. Once they post the form, they would make an announcement to all students and teachers during morning announcements. They learned by doing.

The design team organized with the screenwriting team not because I told them to, but because they felt it was necessary for their two teams to collaborate. They started their work by consulting with the research team. They wanted to know what questions they would be asking so that they could make shot decisions and create a storyboard. Once the design and screenwriting teams were briefed by the research team, they started to sketch a storyboard. First they used pencil and paper and then transferred their sketches into photoshop. One member of the design team had prior experience in photoshop and started teaching the rest of the design team how to use the program. They learned by doing.

While the end result of this project will be a simple video, the skills and talents elicited during this project are authentic to most working environments. I challenged my students to think differently about learning, collaboration, and time management. I put my trust in them and allowed them to talk in class and connect with each other. Collaboration was imperative and students had to make decisions with each other in order for their team to accomplish their intended tasks. The onus was on them to question, adapt, and learn.

A little over a year ago, a very special person in my life told me I needed to watch the David McCullough documentary, “Painting with Words”. Near the end of documentary (3:14) he says, “The great thing about the arts is that you can only learn to do it by doing it.” This message resonated with me and I believe so strongly in it. I also believe that classrooms, regardless of the subject, need more active participants, more talking, more discussing, and more doing.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


CC image via Flickr by fpsurgeon

Today was my first day of school at Burlington High School. I woke up early, packed up my school bag, and left for Starbucks in the morning darkness and rain. I arrived at Starbucks before the door was unlocked. I waited patiently in my car listening to the radio and the raindrops. The clock struck 6am and a barista opened the lock on the door. I entered, ordered a large iced coffee with an add shot -otherwise known as a “Red Eye” – and left the store.

When I approached my car, I clicked the key fob and nothing happened. I clicked it again and nothing happened. The rain continued to fall as the subtle daylight started to peek through the night. I clicked again. Nothing happened. For a moment, I panicked. I could not get into my car unless this small piece of technology in my hand worked properly. More, I would have to call my brother, wake him up, and have him come over before work and open my house so I could get my spare key. Plus, I needed to be at work on the first day of school. The first day of school that included every student arriving with an iPad 2. It was imperative that I get there on time without delay.

I placed my coffee on the hood of my car and hit the fob twice on my hand. I clicked the fob again and it worked. My headlights flashed and the door was open. I was in my car and on my way to work.

On my way to work, I thought about what just happened. The simple moral to this story is that we will all encounter new challenges this school year that may cause us to panic and, on occasion, freak out. We may have a new mail system or a new device that will now be part of our school day. It may take us some time to learn it and use it effectively, but we must be patient. We must understand that with any innovation there will be hiccups and hurdles.

We may be using a new technology in our classroom and it may break down. We may be reading a new text and one student may have a page missing. Stay calm. Take a deep or subtle breath and work though this issue. Don’t panic and don't just give up. Take some time to work through the problem and if it doesn’t work, be prepared to incorporate plan B. Think of all the progress we might have missed out on if our greatest innovators had panicked and given up on landing on the moon or curing diseases. 

As educators we must be flexible and understand that everything we try may not work the first time, but the fact that we are trying something new is a positive. Educators should never be too comfortable with their classes from year to year. No matter how long we have been teaching, we should seek the best ways to make our classrooms engaging and relevant to our current students. This simple, patient attitude will give your students something exciting to experience and provide a dynamic learning environment for all involved.

Have a great school year everyone and share your hits and misses. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Why I camp

edcamp Boston
Last Saturday marked the third new teacher camp (ntcamp) that was held at WHYY studios in Philadelphia. I had no idea that we, the ntcamp organizers, would be putting on another show, let alone our third event. Nor did I ever imagine the unconference movement erupting into what has become today. It is now possible to attend an edcamp nearly every month of the year. Plus, edcamps are starting to focus their attention on specific groups such as an edcamp for administrators and an edcamp for superintendents. I have also heard about edcamp models being used in school PDs throughout the summer and school year. There is no denying, the edcamp model is catching on.

For years, the education world has operated, in many cases, in isolation. Teachers and Administrators (not all) plan behind closed doors and most never cross district lines to see what others are doing. edcamps have torn down these walls (Reagan in 2012 plug) and broadened the conversation. If you leave an edcamp with one thing, it will be that the scope of your network is limitless (Limitless plug).

Most question the appeal of an edcamp and ask “What’s the deal with all the “sizzle” showing up in twitter columns followed by the edcamp hashtag?” The answer is rooted in the conversations happening at edcamps across the country. I don’t organize or attend edcamps because of the technology or to gain more attention on Twitter, I attend edcamps because of the people and the conversations they bring with them. edcamps get right what many big, vendor-driven conferences get wrong. They allow everyone to have a voice. For many educators, their first edcamp is the first time they have encountered professional development in which they have a voice.  A voice that is being heard, debated, and questioned.

edcamp Philly
So why do I camp, and why should you camp? The answer is in everyone who has ever stepped inside a classroom full of students. If we want to produce inquiry-driven, dynamic learners, then we must leave our comfort zone and become this type of learner as well. Not for just one day, but every day we wake up. Educators (This includes Administrators, Superintendents, etc.) should be eager to learn and comfortable with not knowing the answer. Educators should be ecstatic about trying something new and open to experimenting, not resistant. An edcamp may not be your cup of tea, but I implore you to at least try it before you dismiss the value.

I often wonder what the medical field would be like if Doctors didn’t take a risk and try something new. I imagine we would still have some awful diseases lingering around and maybe a plague or two. The simple point is that there is no downside to getting out to your local (this is now possible) edcamp and trying something outside of your comfort zone. And who knows, maybe you’ll discover something great. Or maybe it will suck. Either way, you made an attempt to get out there among your peers and place yourself in the role of
the learner. And that alone, is a step in the right direction.

Find a list of upcoming edcamps here and let's continue this conversation in a session at edcampCT

Monday, 18 July 2011

A Celebration of life

Most of you don’t know Uncle Bob, while some of you had the pleasure of taking his math class at Shamokin Area High School. Or maybe you had the pleasure of fishing with him or watching a Phillies game with him and enjoying a cold beer. Regardless of your connection, Uncle Bob’s life stands out amongst most and I'd like to share it with you. 

Uncle Bob possessed a passion for teaching and thoroughly enjoyed learning. I remember witnessing him stand back and observe as some of his brightest Calculus students showed him new ways of solving a problem or introduced him to new functionality on a graphing calculator. He loved when students would challenge him in math class and always welcomed a good debate.

At family functions, Uncle Bob was always the life of the party. He energized a room just by showing up. He was usually the first one on the dance floor at family weddings and the last one to get off at the end of the night. He made a point to listen to his granddaughter, Lauren, and his nieces and nephews so he could get a grasp on the pulse of this generation. He always opened his ear and allowed us to talk. He wanted to learn from us and stay relevant in an ever-changing society. Uncle Bob did not let time pass him by as he grew up, instead, he moved in sync with changing trends in education, politics, and technology. He always wanted to learn more.

This past Saturday, as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, Uncle Bob, in his own words, went “belly-up”. While family gatherings will never be the same without Uncle Bob in attendance, he has left us with great memories and a rich life of stories, travels, and debates. His life will live on in the stories we carry with us.

I’m not writing this post to eulogize Uncle Bob, but to share his final story, in his own words. Plus, I know he would get a kick out of being the focus of a blog post and surely ask a variety of questions about the blogosphere and all who read this. 

When I read his obituary Saturday morning (full text below) I was not surprised that when I finished I was laughing. Uncle Bob composed his own obituary and in it, reminds us all that life is silly and we should never take it too seriously. Uncle Bob is no longer physically here, but he leaves us with a lasting reminder that we all must laugh once in awhile and realize how damn lucky we all are to be here at this moment.

DANVILLE — Robert R. Erdman, of 9 Meadowlark Lane, went belly-up on Friday, July 15, 2011, at the Hershey Medical Center. 

Bob left abruptly to fish one last time at the Rainbow Bridge, with his canine companion of 12 years, Sneakers. Dr. Watson will also accompany them, if he can behave. He also promised to stop at Timbuktu to say hello to Bones and check for other abandoned dogs.

Due to numerous afflictions and a reckless youth, Bob probably lived longer than he should have. This unexpected “longevity” can probably be attributed to his very competent physicians and the care he got from his devoted spouse. So blame them! While here, he enjoyed the friendship and love of his wife and family, good beer, good food, Phillies baseball and trout fishing.

Robert was born June 26, 1943, to Charles R. Erdman and Mildred G. Erdman, of Overlook, where he grew up with the old gang of Turtle, Moose, Rat, Duck, Rabbit and assorted other critters.

He was educated at Mount Union School by some of the meanest teachers that ever stood in front of a classroom. Mr. Erdman went to high school in Elysburg to seek revenge. From there, it was on to Bloomsburg University, Bucknell University and then a career of teaching mathematics at Shamokin Area High School for 35 years where he had many good students, worked with some devoted teachers, but taught under very few inspiring administrators. While teaching, however, he had no better student than his granddaughter, Lauren , and better teacher than his father, Baldy.

Robert belonged to several fraternal organizations over the years, all of which he quit. He did, however, remain loyal to the Audubon Society, the Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, the WWF, and other tree hugging groups. When Mr. Erdman cashed out, it was not determined whether he was a Republican or Democrat, since he changed registration so frequently. One thing for certain, however, was that the election of Barack Obama meant so much to him.

Surviving are his beloved wife of 50 years, Scarett, his son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Deborah Erdman, of Bloomsburg, and his “adopted” son, Lucho Fuentealba, of San Francisco. In addition, he had one granddaughter, Lauren, someone very special in his life. He was preceded in death by his brother, Frank Erdman, and sister, Joan Bell, and is survived by his sister, Peggy McDermott.

A viewing will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Leonard J. Lucas Funeral Home, Ltd., 120 S. Market St., Shamokin. A celebration of life will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Wayside Inn.

Burial will be at the convenience of the family.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 15120, Chicago, IL 60693,, or the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation, 333 Mamaroneck Ave., #492, White Plains, NY 10605, Please do not give any gifts to some charity of your choice in my name. I have nothing against other organizations, except that these are my choices. If you can’t donate to the above, by all means keep your money.*
*Originally published in The Daily Item on July 17, 2011

Friday, 1 July 2011

Will lifelong learning live on?

CC image from flickr via Rob Shenk

I hear the term “lifelong learning” a lot in the twittersphere, blogosphere, and many other spheres out there spinning around the education community. It is the buzziest of buzzwords and the go to phrase when we try and provoke change in our schools. We all want it, but what does it look like every day in the classroom, in the halls of our schools? What does it look like for a Superintendent? An Administrator? A Parent? How do we elicit this drive in our students? In our schools?  And then, how do we ensure that it endures?

When our students leave us for higher education, the work force, military, etc. we are left on the shore waving, hoping that we have provided them with everything they need for their future endeavors. One wish that I have for all of my students is to constantly question the world around them. I hope that when they encounter adversity they can question, adapt, and learn. I hope they understand that every hurdle will not be met with an immediate success, but that they will see the value in an occasional stumble.

So my question is how do we model our daily instruction to ensure that lifelong learning lives on in our students?

Please start the discussion here.

The edcamp model as Summer Professional Development

Starting this Tuesday, July 5, Burlington High School in Burlington, MA will open its doors to edcamp Tuesdays. Every Tuesday from 8-12 educators, administrators, parents, etc can come together for free, participant driven conversations centered around best practices and innovations in education. Occasionally we will bring in specialists to work with us or attend remotely via Skype. All sessions will be accesible from afar via a global Google Doc note share. This feature will highlight and model the importance of collaborative notes and transparency in professional development.  

All are welcome to attend and we hope you can make it one Tuesday this summer and continue to spread the word about effective PD that is happening under the edcamp model.

If you have any questions please visit our website and fill out the help desk form. If you plan on attending there is an “I’m Attending” tab on our website sidebar for you to show others you are attending. There is also a board for posting session ideas and future session suggestions. Please use these forums so we can make edcamp Tuesdays the best experience for all involved.

Directions to Burlington HS can be found here

View Larger Map

Friday, 13 May 2011

Edcamp Impromptu

In the past year the edcamp movement has flourished around the globe. An unconference that started on a sunny day in Philadelphia in 2010, has made its way into the educational lexicon. While many of us have attended an edcamp, a lot have not. Today this changes. In the spirit of learning, sharing, and community I bring you edcamp impromptu.

edcamp impromptu is simply an open google doc that has a specific focus or theme for all to contribute. Starting...NOW...the Google Docs are launching. The documents will be open and available to all who have the link. Once you have access, start a thread. Post an idea or a lesson or a question. Invite others to join or possibly scrap your faculty meeting and watch as the documents fill up with ideas, links, and resources. Use the doc to facilitate a discussion. Tweet out the link to this post and share the Google Docs with everyone you know. Use these docs for further support of social media and connected, transparent learning in your district or school. There is no denying we are more powerful as a collective.

Once the edcamp impromptu docs launch, tweet out the links and use the hashtag #edcampi. Keep this column open in your twitter application and check back throughout the day. Like an edcamp, there will be several rooms available to present, share, etc. Each doc will be a numbered room. When you enter a room (doc) you may lurk, start a conversation, ask a question, etc. If you begin a conversation, post it at the top of the page in bold, underline it and either link it to another Google Doc or simply allow the conversation to unfold on the page. That’s it. Simple, productive learning happening in real-time. What is better than that?

At the top of each doc there will be a table for signing in. This will allow others to see who is in the room and posting. Also, when you post anything to the page leave your twitter handle after your post. This will allow for follow up and further conversation. 

Finally, edcamp impromptu technically never ends. However, I would like to see the conversation build throughout the weekend. Next week we can reflect on the experience and continue adding to the conversation. As a collective, we are creating a sustainable, breathing resource. You can check back next fall and glean something from the doc to use at the beginning of the school year or continue adding to a conversation. Edcamp impromptu is constant learning and sharing.
This is an idea I had after edcamp Boston. We have the ability to constantly share and spread ideas that work in education. Let’s take advantage of the technology and resources we have at the moment and make this type of learning contagious.

Edcamp Impromptu Rooms (Docs)