Saturday, January 31, 2009

Where to begin--

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." --Confucius

"The real world is about distances keeping people apart. The Web is about shared interests bringing people together. Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web - built out of hyperlinks and energized by peoples interests and passions - is a place where we can be better at being people." --David Weinberger

Where to begin-- a question posed by an administrator attending a workshop on 21st century learning--

My response-- by taking the first step on your journey into 21st century learning with the development of your own personal learning network (PLN). Alec Couros says of personal learning networks:
"The most important part of PLNs, in my opinion, is how they can help us connect to other humans, to help us better understand the world, to negotiate knowledge and meaning, and of course, to help us to learn."
Start small. Add an additional step, perhaps each month. Go as fast or as slow as you choose. You'll find that, as Alec says, it is all about connecting-- to people and their ideas, then adding yours to the mix-- toward an accomplished global practice in the best interests of all students.

There are many resources on the web that lay out plans for developing a PLN. Google "build a PLN +educator" and take your pick. Or see if these brief suggestions which flow from the steps of my personal journey don't work for you. You may decide to skip a step here or take two steps there-- But do take that first step!!!

What if--
  1. You begin to read posts from a few bloggers each week. You might want to start with the ones below or check out the list of edubloggers they read on their blogrolls for additional suggestions.
    1. PracticalTheory-- Chris Lehman
    2. 2 Cents Worth--David Warlick
    3. weblogg-ed-- Will Richardson

  2. You continue to read varied blog posts and join in the conversation by commenting on the ideas in their writing.
  3. You begin to use a social bookmarking service such as Delicious. You tag your bookmarks; you encourage your colleagues to do the same; you use the network feature of delicious increase your number of resources to assist you in your work.
    1. Delicious

  4. You begin to use RSS and a reader. You want to save time and have the content on their blogs come to you.
    1. What is RSS
    2. Readers: Bloglines, Google Reader

  5. You begin to blog yourself. You share your ideas. Setting up a blog can be as easy as one, two, three. You might want to try:
    1. Blogger
    2. Edublogs

  6. You begin to look to the web for professional development. For example, the K12 Online Conference, the totally online, free conference that never ends, has 3 years of archived presentations.
    1. K12 Online Conference

  7. You begin to collaborate with your fellow administrators or teachers on a wiki or Google doc.
    1. PBwiki
    2. Wikispaces
    3. Google Docs

  8. You decide to explore Twitter, a micro blogging tool which limits what you say to 140 characters.
    1. Twitter
With your first steps, aren't you likely to leave a path for your staff to follow? One foot in front of the other on the way to capturing, connecting, and sharing--

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Opportunities-- Possibilities--

As the rhythm of the Illinois/Ohio PLP cohort ebbs and flows-- There is growth-- There is pull back—There is learning-- There is resistance--

More than exciting-- Members have begun to develop personal learning networks-- Teams are grappling thoughtfully and carefully with the design of a project— Both essential components of the visionary PLP model.

And yet I worry--- that members of this cohort may inadvertently allow a glorious opportunity to whoosh right on by— the possibility to develop and improve a global practice—a grand endeavor that is greater than each of us— that can lead to the systemic change that we espouse— That opportunity--the real work of building a community of practice.

Considering here a developmental continuum? I’m wondering if networks can be fairly characterized by “I” and “my”. Don’t we talk about “my PLN”? Can the next stage be a move to a less egocentric “we” and “our” in which we come to the realization that it is in collaboration, not competition; in transparency, not secrecy; in openness, not confined by boundaries of classrooms, schools or districts that we can help to develop and refine a global practice that transcends all perceived barriers and benefits all children? If that is so, that is an incredible leap from current practice— where isolation, individualism, and secrecy abound. But isn’t that one leap that can lead to that systemic change we want to be? Hasn’t Sheryl captured it? “Networks are the gateway to community and community results in systemic change.”

I want to raise my voice-- no I want to scream-- don’t let the opportunity pass us by-- with the passion for learning and diverse talents within this cohort, if we take this leap together, what possibilities abound for the greater good, bigger and better than any of us. We can’t allow fear to hold us back. Angela Stockman suggested in a comment to Sheryl's recent post:
“Many of us are afraid of the unknown, afraid we aren't adequately prepared, afraid we won't be respected or supported...afraid that if we do change, our expertise will no longer be valued...WE will no longer be valued. Furthermore, we're afraid to be imperfect and to embrace the "messiness" of it all, because quite honestly, we are held to perfect standards by administrators and other leaders who expect too much too soon and exact consequences when perfect doesn't happen within the space of five minutes.”
We need to look these fears in the face, and know that within this cohort, in our private space they are ungrounded. We need to grab each others’ hands, envelop in warm bear hugs those who need the additional support, and together take that leap into “we” and community, and growing for a higher purpose— We need to truly see ourselves as co learners in the quest of a practice so accomplished that every one of our children flourish--

But I can’t-- I need to let them travel this path---

But that doesn’t mean I won’t be there every step of the way --learning, celebrating growth, nudging, pushing back, and sitting on my hands, and waiting--for I wouldn’t miss these possibilities for the world—

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009

"President Obama's inauguration is not a beginning, but the continuation of a glorious history that is hallmarked by the American people's desire to be one. Our Constitution demands it. And it forces us to a life much greater than the Founding Fathers could have possibly imagined."
Wynton Marsalis

"Yes, our greatness as a nation has depended on individual initiative, on a belief in the free market. But it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, of mutual responsibility. The idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we're all in it together and everybody's got a shot at opportunity. Americans know this. We know that government can't solve all our problems - and we don't want it to. But we also know that there are some things we can't do on our own. We know that there are some things we do better together."
Barack Obama

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Monday, January 19, 2009

A year passes--

Remembering the cold of that night, and the warmth of family love--

Winter, spring, summer, fall and winter again--

Little things spark memories--

Bringing a smile --

An emptiness that has not yet gone-

Keeping these words close--

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Just thinking--

and hoping-- and going beyond hope in some small way with the addition of these voices to this space--
"We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors....but they all exist very nicely in the same box."
Author Unknown

"We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders."
Maya Angelou

"We will continue to flourish because our diverse American society has the strength, hardiness, and resilience of the hybrid plant we are."
Colin Powell -My American Journey

"There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just the familiar ones: honest search for understanding, education, organization, action that raises the cost of state violence for its perpetrators or that lays the basis for institutional change -- and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future."
Noam Chomsky

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The time is now—

Over 10 years ago, more than a decade, a long time-- the large urban district in which I taught purchased the first filter for the emerging network. A vision of engaged learning through rich primary sources, real time data, and communication was deferred.

As a resource teacher in the instructional technology office I frequently, and usually unsuccessful advocated for teachers the opportunities to access valuable content for engaged learning. My relationship with the IT folks, which had begun quite amicably, deteriorated quickly as my frustration rose. I often worried that my head would forever reveal the dents from hitting it against what I termed a “brick wall.”

Today, now, some 10 years later-- a lively conversation on the NING of the Illinois/Ohio cohort of PLP reveals that nothing--nothing has changed, filters continue to hinder/prohibit opportunities for learning for students and educators.

But –

The technology has changed and increasingly affords opportunities for networked learning that can help our children learn to learn in the world they will inhabit. In our current “climate of abundance, rapid change, diverse information sources and perspectives”, there is a critical need for students and educators to be able to make sense of the chaos –through personal “filters” developed on foundations of digital citizenship and integrity:
"You cannot empower learners and encourage them to seize hold of their own learning experiences while at the same time controlling what they learn, how they interact, who they listen to, the networks they form, the way they are exposed to the information, and the time frame in which they are expected to learn it." --Tech Ticker
"As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able." --M. Wesch

Filtering-- we’ve been complaining, whining for years—

Enough. The time is now to move to collective action. To do something.

The immediate catalyst for this —Sheryl’s contribution to the PLP conversation:
“What if you .. asked to meet with the IT folks and had an honest open dialog? You all do your research and have proactive solutions for each complaint (don't just make it a whining session). Build a relationship with the IT folks and see if collectively all of you can start to move policy in a direction that supports 21st Century teaching and learning.”
A meaningful project for students, an opportunity for problem based learning—but I’m without at this point in my career. Yet, I’m feeling compelled, remembering my students, to not let this go.

What if—

Through the opportunities afforded by current technologies WE created a resource
  • On which educators could discover proactive solutions for each argument
  • On which educators could find samples of exemplary student learning resulting from the use of participatory technologies
  • On which educators could locate student produced videos that brought their perspective on networked learning
  • On which educators could find examples and contacts of those who successfully dealt with this issue

Brainstorming here, at this moment--

What else?

Will you join me? For our children and their futures?

Could we start here?
The time is now----

“None of us is as good as all of us.” Ray Kroc

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