Friday, December 31, 2010

Missing from conversations--

Last Conversation Piecephoto © 2008 Cliff | more info (via: Wylio)Recent discussions of effective and highly qualified teachers--

Walt Gardner's, Is subject matter expertise enough for successful teaching-- in which he concludes that teachers in some schools need to engage their students--

The Answer Sheet ,one of many posts, chronicling Congressional action to permit alternative-route teachers to be considered highly qualified-- most notable those involved in Teach for America

Something is missing from so many conversations--

Two powerful components essential to good learning in our everchanging learning landscape--

Understanding deeply how people learn--

"deep knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning and how it encompasses (among other things) overall educational purposes, values and aims. This is a generic form of knowledge that is involved in all issues of student learning, classroom management, lesson plan development and implementation, and student evaluation. It includes knowledge about techniques or methods to be used in the classroom; the nature of the target audience; and strategies for evaluating student understanding. A teacher with deep pedagogical knowledge understands how students construct knowledge and acquire skills; develop habits of mind and positive dispositions towards learning. As such, pedagogical knowledge requires an understanding of cognitive, social and developmental theories of learning and how they apply to students in their classroom."
Deep profound pedagogical knowledge, theories of learning--- knowledge that becomes internalized and conditionalized--

That then is fused with content knowledge in a sweet spot that adds an additional dimension to teacher knowledge-- a dimension in which teachers are competent in "the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others" (Shulman, 1986, p. 9).
“[T]he idea is grasped, probed, and comprehended by a teacher, who then must turn it about in his or her mind, seeing many sides of it. Then the idea is shaped or tailored until it can in turn be grasped by students.” (Shulman, 1987, p. 13).
It is a dimension where we need to consider our students, their abilities and talents. We need to consider the unique pedagogical strategies specific to a discipline; for example, paideia in the language arts, multiple representations in mathematics, or inquiry in science. We need to consider how to organize the content for our students in a way that honors the discipline and our students’ current knowledge.

And the second, an insightful grasp of the affordances for learning offered by current technologies--

“Good teaching is not simply adding technology to the existing teaching and content domain. Rather,the introduction of technology causes the representation of new concepts and requires developing a sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship" (Kohler & Mishra, 2005, p. 134)between the technology, content, and pedagogy.

The legions of teachers who have elevated their practice and the learning of their students through collaboration and intense professional learning to make use of conditionalized content, pedagogical, content knowledge to add another dimension to their own learning and and that of their students-- those are the effective, qualified teachers--

Our students deserve no less than these--

From this computer, I'm continuing to engage in these conversations, nudging, pushing, and if need be, more assertively agitating for a more inclusive, more meaningful perspective on effective teaching and learning. What about you?


Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(2), 131-152.

Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.

Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

One drop--

One drop of water helps to swell the oceanphoto © 2009 Ygor Oliveira | more info (via: Wylio)

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
--Ryunosuke Satoro

One drop, then another
We can become an ocean
Changing learning

First drop--
Learning more about student passions

My sincere thank you goes to Ewan McIntosh for his post in which he quoted Marc Prensky on passions and learning.

From this brief audio file---

Then these words--
If you don't know what the passions of those in front of you are then you'll never know how to teach the people in front of you.

If you don’t know what your students passions are then you basically don’t know who is sitting in front of you and that makes teaching at a really deep level, I think difficult. Its never 30 separate passions its typically clusters of passions so one thing that you can do is to put people into clusters

There ought to be times in a day, maybe the days that a substitute teacher comes in when what you say to kids is ‘your job today, is to just learn more about what you are passionate in’ and it may have nothing to do with our curriculum but it is still important because you are going to find it valuable.
If every teacher tomorrow or the next school day takes twenty minutes out of the day and says to every student ‘what are you passionate about?’ and writes it down and then thinks about it in the back of their mind how they can use that, education will be much improved overnight.

One drop to improve education-- listen more to our students, learn their passions, and make more of those connections in the learning experiences we design for them.

If we each begin with this one drop, imagine the ocean--

Then what is the next drop that can make a difference?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An appreciative vision -- Blogging for Real Educational Reform

Just imagine--

A nation in which stakeholders come to appreciate all the best that can be found in education today

And upon those stories, create a vision and design for public education that--

Adopts a strengths based paradigm for learners and educators--

Shies from competition and strives for collaboration--

Believes its teachers are caring, compassionate, and competent and possess the vitality and desire to create a better world for their students--

Encourages authentic collegial collaboration among educators during which they connect and collaborate as they seek a more accomplished global practice as autonomous, open, self directed learners--

Recognizes the potential of the diversity of this great nation and its role in enhancing our ability to imagine, to create, to innovate in distinct ways by allowing states and regions to develop and create lean standards that best enable the learning of their children--

Believes in the resilience, the capacity, the potential of all students to learn--

Respects and celebrates the developmental stages of all learners--

Prepares its students for the future with global competencies and new literacies that can help them meet the challenges of living in a participatory culture--

Creates spaces and conditions for learning for students in which they inquire, ask questions, seek answers, connect, collaborate and take collective action for issues about which they are passionate--

Encourages authentic assessments as learning--

Invites parents as partners into the learning process--

Invokes appreciative inquiry in the ongoing quest for autonomous, open, distributed, connected, authentic learning--

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Missy and learning

Samanthaphoto © 2009 Andrew Magill | more info (via: Wylio)Warm and sunny, so unlike NE Ohio for November--
Enjoying a walk in the wildlife preserve without even a jacket--

Nearing the parking lot to find--
A 8 week old black lab puppy with her new owners--
Who were encouraging, laughing, aprreciating her antics, and providing lots of freedom on her leash--

And Missy, in turn, was exploring, greeting new people with grand bounces and kisses, prancing in the grass, sniffing and then stretching out, rolling over, and then up and running to become acquainted with someone else.

Pure joy-- that was contagious--- and learning, soaking up everything--

Such a contrast to many ideas for teacher learning-- for improving learning in our classrooms--

So much today in education for our students and for our profession of

Fact, Fear, and Force

that foster

Flight, Fight and Resistance

What if instead we looked at

Relating, reframing, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

Wouldn't that foster

Motivation, Self efficacy, Trust, and a Passion for the Possible

What if we strived for
"positive relationships that broker encouragement, extend respect, cultivate trust, reframe failure, endorse competence, model excellence and challenge teachers (and our students) to be the best that they can be." (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, Evocative Coaching, p. 177)
Note: (and our students) is mine.

Imagine the possibilities--
Imagine the joy and learning--

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Afloat in the ebb and flow

Ebb, Flowphoto © 2006 Ally Norris | more info(via: Wylio)
First the tide rushes in
Plants a kiss on the shore
Then rolls out to sea
And the sea is very still once more.

One of my favorites--
The melody--
The lyrics in that first stanza--
So often on my commutes, I'd sing along with the Righteous brothers--

And never, until just this week
Realized that it held perhaps an answer
To my lifelong quest for what I thought was balance

And then this:
"It's an ebb and flow. Balance isn't found in finding a middle place. It's found in staying afloat in the ebb and flow."
I hope John Spencer will forgive me for taking his words out of context (his metaphor for finding balance in his classroom was eloquent) but they struck a chord with me in so many ways--

Staying afloat in the ebb and flow of the seasons

The fall season -- leaves down and brown and curled from many trees, maples still proudly strutting their colors to the end –golden pine needles, once green and thick on evergreens, down on driveways, paths, and the wood’s floor, yet others cling still to branches high –and with each wind gust, no matter how slight, leaves and pine needles drifting sometimes slowly, often swiftly to join the others on the earth.

Into winter, with the first snow-- wet with enormous flakes covering first the roof, the deck and finally the grass-- the branches of the butterfly bush weeping from the weight of the snow-- and then it's gone-- Until later in the season one flake after another after another create a wonderland, with tree branches laden and bending down-

And finally spring, and a rebirth with green growth poking up in all of the gardens, blooms of daffodils, grass growing, and long walks in the park with an ear to the many birds stopping by on their migrations to their summer homes--

Staying afloat in the ebb and flow of our lives made more complex with the challenge my love's life with MS

Walking, talking, walking more ,some more than 30 years ago. Planning our lives and living them to the fullest. Never thinking, perhaps like many, how the years would change us, how our bodies would grow old despite young and fun loving attitudes, how strong and deep a bond would grow from our happy times and challenges. Still planning together our future.

My soulmate -- fighting poison of cytoxan as it attempts to restore some balance to his system, to strengthen some neural pathways so we can walk again together in the park, to confuse his immune system, to halt or hinder the progression of MS -- his strong will and mind that rise and greet each day ready to deal with all challenges, to adapt to new refusals by his leg or foot to listen to his brain and move, to go beyond himself and always think of us. And for 2 weeks, those walks in the park on his walker and then not so much-- and yet always, never complaining going with the ebb and flow-- and with his courage, how can I not meet each day as he does.

Staying afloat in the ebb and flow of my passion for teaching and learning--

Always wonderfully amazed at my evolving beliefs about learning-- and how that changed how my classroom looked, and sounded and felt- Always cherishing the relationships with students-- Sadly, yet not, in leaving the classroom to work from home-- spending some years developing online PD for Ohio teachers, missing sorely the possibilities for collegial relationship. And yet stil learning in a MOOC and from colleagues who generously share in the global PLN I've been fortunate to develop-- Isolated no longer-- with opportunities for collaboration-- to continue in some small way make a difference--

To facilitate in growing online communities of practice-- afloat in the ebb and flow of the community, at times electric and then again slow, sitting on my hands enjoying the conversations, jumping in inquire, to wonder, to pull in, hoping to deepen thinking and learning-- to engage in conversations around moving to a more accomplished global practice-- and reflecting deeply.

My life--
Afloat in the ebb and flow--
The extraordinary, remarkable beauty of balance--

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let's talk with each other

"To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and felt and in so far, meagerly or amply, has his own attitude modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected." --John Dewey

There’s lots of goodness in the "Talk TO me" post at Autodizactic.

These pieces really resonate with me:


I’m a teacher.

Please talk to me and not about me.

I understand we’ve been talking about each other for a while, and I’d like to work on ending this game of phone tag

…I wanted to thank you, though, for drawing attention to the importance of teacher quality. I’ve been working on mine since I entered the classroom in 2003.

From in-services at the end of school days to sometimes weeks-long trainings in the summer to attending professional conferences, I’ve really attempted to learn as much as possible.

That’s just the formal stuff. Since right around the time it launched, I’ve been connecting with teachers across the world through twitter and other social media tools to help me workshop ideas for helping my kids learn. Are you on twitter? If you are, follow me.

Plus, I’ve been using my blog as a space to play with ideas before implementing them in the classroom as well as a place to share the things that work so others can take them an build off of them.

Oh, also, I’ve connected with a couple of non-profit groups nationally and internationally that work to help teachers be better, well, teachers.

…You might be surprised to hear about it, but quite a few teachers are doing some great things in their classrooms. If you’ve got a feed reader, go ahead and subscribe. I’ll be writing about more teachers soon.

In fact, I know at least one teacher in every state personally. You should too; they’re doing some amazing work.

… I know the government has allocated quite a bit of money to helping schools and districts improve teaching and learning.

I was just wondering why nobody checked in with me or my colleagues about how we could use that money to shape lives and help our kids

… I don’t want my kids thinking I’m teaching them stuff so I can get more money. I’ve got this thing going where I help them come up with questions about their lives and their worlds and then help them to work to find answers to those questions.

I worry that, if they found out about merit pay, they’d start to wonder if I was just teaching them stuff so I could get paid more rather than because I wanted them to be thoughtful and caring citizens.

Changing mindsets The "Talk TO Me" post is a call in that direction.

We need dialog

We need conversations

And more than “talk TO me’

I’d far rather see

Let’s talk

Let’s listen


We need to engage in difficult conversations together. We need to delve deeply into convoluted waters with courage and tenacity. We need to emerge on the other side willing and ready to suggest new initiatives that may also involve messy yet compelling dialogue.

We need to talk with each other.

Photo Credit:

Monday, October 04, 2010

Visible Thinking-- the potential

Visible Thinking

This tab has been open in my browser for likely a couple of weeks now—

At this point I can’t thank whomever point me to this resource--

So sorry, for it’s full of goodness--

It called to me daily, reminding me of Darren Kuropatwa’s “Expert Voices” projects that he often described as making thinking visible—

Powerful concepts on these pages, ones that, were I currently in a classroom, I’d use or modify with a goal of bringing to the surface for all learners, me included, our thinking – to analyze, to reflect, to clarify and to dig deeper.

Just some snippets describing Visible Thinking, a Harvard Graduate School of Education project—

"Is thinking visible here? Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas? Are they, and I as their teacher, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm about alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan?"

When the answers to questions like these are consistently yes, students are more likely to show interest and commitment as learning unfolds in the classroom. They find more meaning in the subject matters and more meaningful connections between school and everyday life. They begin to display the sorts of attitudes toward thinking and learning we would most like to see in young learners -- not closed-minded but open-minded, not bored but curious, neither gullible nor sweepingly negative but appropriately skeptical, not satisfied with "just the facts" but wanting to understand.

We talk the need for relevance and connections, is this one avenue that leads in that direction? The attitudes, dispositions, they describe above really resonate with me.

The project details thinking routines, ideals, and suggestions that are easily incorporated into any curriculum for any age band.

About thinking routines---

Thinking routines are simple structures, for example a set of questions or a short sequence of steps, that can be used across various grade levels and content. What makes them routines, versus merely strategies, is that they get used over and over again in the classroom so that they become part of the fabric of classroom' culture. The routines become the ways in which students go about the process of learning.

Here are links to two examples of thinking routines--

About thinking ideals---

Thinking ideals are areas of thinking like understanding, truth, creativity, fairness, and more. They are important kinds of thinking that we cherish and strive to cultivate. Although there are certainly other thinking ideals besides these four, right now Visible Thinking includes specific guidelines on how to foster the development of these specific ideals.

What does it mean to get started with Visible Thinking by focusing on an ideal? You focus on that ideal, foreground thinking routines that emphasize the ideal, and draw out students' ideas and reflections about that ideal, to foster their conceptual development.

Personally and professionally thinking ideals of understanding, truth, creativity, and fairness have great appeal, particularly when I see them aligning with learning in a digital age.

Just imagine, youngsters deep into inquiry based learning around questions of social justice, around a globalized digital society-- having thinking routines, thinking ideals as part of their learning toolbox. Imagine making their thinking visible--

What learning might transpire-- What a future we might have before us--

Photo Credit

Monday, September 27, 2010

Making pizza and thinking of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia PLP cohort

Yeast, sugar, water and some flour---

Pizza dough in the making---

Adding some sugar and warm water to the yeast---

Hmm, a bit of interaction as they get to know each other—

Then stirring in flour and kneading—

Observing the relationships the ingredients are forming---

The dough with continued kneading (I’m not one of those pound-get-rid-of-the-frustrations kneaders but more a gentle but firm pushing one) becoming elastic, malleable, and open—

With a timer set for the rising, I’m thinking and anticipating---

In one sense, my anticipation is focused on great pizza dough and the subsequent eating of homemade pizza. Yet on the other, my thinking and anticipation are on the upcoming PLP kickoff for Archdiocese of Philadelphia cohort for which I have the privilege and honor of joining as community leader.

Last year as I joined a new cohort I wrote:

Anxious yet eager--

Apprehensive yet confident—

Never really knowing the ending, yet perceiving an exciting journey--

Always upbeat and hopeful—

From kindergarten through 35 years in education, more than 55 years (oh my goodness), always the delight and thrill of a new beginning—the first day of school!

And still, those same feelings -- and an additional sense of urgency-- to get to the work that I passionately believe can result in a more accomplished global practice, a practice that seizes the potential of collective action to make this world a better place. --Beginnings

Those same feelings are accompanied by thoughts a bit deeper this year. As the pizza dough rises, I’m wondering if there isn’t an analogy here; if the ingredients for the dough aren’t like the cohort members which when the opportunity to interact with one another, begin to develop deep and meaningful relationships with one another, to grow and stretch. And with thoughtful and careful nudging and encouragement, they may begin to collectively become open to new ideas; they may work together to grow such a community that by its very nature embraces the strength found in flexibility and the potential that arises from kneading together ideas for new possibilities.

This batch of dough – exceptional. And I’m going beyond hope to work to assure that the relationships formed in this upcoming community are as extraordinary, as deep, as meaningful, and as fulfilling. For it will be with those relationships that, together, we will learn, and connect and collaborate and eventually take collective action to improve instruction for our students. And with that, may the extraordinary become an ordinary occurrence.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia PLP cohort-- are you ready -- to mix together, to grow and stretch and develop those extraordinary relationships? And can we have pizza too?

Photo Credit

Adopting new mindsets--

Talk of war and victims--
References to being saved by Katrina--
Blame, fault, dysfunction--
Deep, and dark postings all around--
In discussions around educating our children--

So much energy expended--
So much frustration and anger expelled--

In my humble opinion, there is something very wrong with this picture. A bit of a slow thinker, I'm mulling over and questioning hard do I raise my voice with encouragement to move forward from a different perspective when a Tweet from Chris Lehmann last night aligned with much of what I'd been thinking:

Yes, the words humility and listen totally resonate with me and both of those have been pretty much missing entirely in recent weeks. Chris expanded on that in a later blog post from which I'm quoting. He eloquently voiced what he hoped he'd hear in the conversations.
"We are thrilled that the nation is focusing on education. We welcome so many leaders from such a wide array of professions are now making education a focus. We look forward to working with anyone who is willing to come to the conversation with humility and a willingness to listen, question and change. The task in front of us is so hard, and we understand that teachers and schools must change with the changing times. All that we ask is that you understand that school reform is not something you do to students and teachers and parents, it is something to undertake with students and teachers and parents. That is how we will build the schools we need." -- Chris Lehmann
As we strive to build the schools we need for our children, what if each of us humbly brought our stories of the best that we've observed thus far in learning and teaching. And what if after we listened to those provocative stories of learning at its best, we collectively built a vision of the future. What if from these stories we generate
"new ideas, images, theories and models that liberate our collective aspirations, alter the social construction of reality and, in the process, make available decisions and actions that weren’t available or didn’t occur to us before". --Gervasebushe
Naive on my part-- maybe-- But truly believing that together, if we adopt a new mindset, we can collectively create a design that enables possibilities we have not yet imagined. Just think-- twitter streams, blog posts, news media reports and symposiums--all that energy generating possibilities. Possibilities that can fuel the difficult and hard work to follow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My letter--

Today, on the Answer Sheet at the Washington Post, Anthony Cody was a guest blogger. As he makes his compelling case for teachers to raise their voices, he referenced and linked to letters written by members of Teachers Letters to Obama that call for change in current educational policy trends. Mine is there, one of many; I'm pasting the letter here also. As the conversations and the rhetoric gears up, remember our children.

Dear Mr. President, Secretary Duncan and members of Congress,

As a National Board certified teacher, a former classroom teacher of over 35 years, and a current teacher leader in a number of online communities of practice, I strongly encourage you to seriously consider an alternative direction as you address the issue of improving teacher practice to support student learning. The current trend of using test scores to evaluate teacher practice and improve instruction, in my opinion, is divisive, counterproductive, competitive and unsubstantiated by research.

There are many and varied studies indicating that teachers --who collaborate around their practice, who share a deep commitment to understanding learning and improving practice in communities, who develop collegial relationships and dispositions, who engage in difficult and meaningful conversations around learning, who take risks in implementing new strategies to improve learning, who continuously reflect on those changes and as a community develop a sense of collective efficacy-- will develop a knowledge of practice that leads to systemic change and better learning for all students.

In Finland, for example, teachers are provided weekly time to collaborate around questions of learning, they collaboratively develop curriculum from a lean set of national standards that meets the needs of their students. They work collectively to improve teaching practice and the country has seen positive systemic changes in instruction and learning for students.

I have had the privilege to participate as a leader and co learner in a number of online communities of practice and witness firsthand the power of teacher collaboration in improving learning. I urge you to open conversations with teachers and researchers around this topic and to support and implement policies for teacher collaboration that can lead to transformation in instruction and greater learning for all students.

For our children,
Lani Ritter Hall

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learning across times zones

Four educators--

Two half a world away--

Across so many time zones that in our eastern time evening meetings, our Australian friends referred to the morning meetings as yesterday

On Skype and signed into an online community of practice--

Seeking a common understanding of aspects of knowledge construction in an online community to reach an inter rater reliability co efficient appropriate to proceed with a content analysis of more than 1000 responses--

This opportunity to learn from and with Sheryl, Sofia and Richard was pretty incredible and energizing -- filled with laughter --with deep meaningful conversations –with difficult decisions as we analyzed responses--

The knowledge construction functions we used in the content analysis were adapted from

Gunawardena, C. N., Lowe, C. A., & Anderson, T. (1997). Analysis of a global online debate and the development of an interaction analysis model for examining social construction of knowledge in computer conferencing. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17(4), 395-429.

The original framework included sharing and comparing information, discovery and exploration of dissonance, negotiation of meaning, testing and modification of proposed synthesis and applications of newly constructed meaning.

Now that I’ve completed coding the sample I was assigned, I’ve begun to think on how valuable this experience is to my work as community leader for Powerful Learning Practice. My sense is that I may be more mindful of the types of responses in the communities in which I am learning and working; and given that mindfulness, may be able to draw on what I’ve learned about facilitation, particularly from MOOM, in helping folks dig deeper. Working with the framework on knowledge construction clarified for me, in a way that I’m not currently able to articulate (is that an oxymoron), a path to becoming better at learning and leading. I need to continue to think on this, as I know that my ability to intelligibly share with others will mean I’m far clearer in my thinking too.

Thanks to Sheryl, Sofia, and Richard for the opportunity to learn and grow--

Photo credit

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On leadership and education

Seemingly mired in a state of inexplicable inertia—

Hoping to extricate myself with this writing—

These resonated deeply with me in the last few weeks—

In Matters of the Heart, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach mentions seven themes of a leadership approach espoused by Jonathan Jansen:

1. We must recognize the politics of emotions that energize behaviors.

2. The change strategy cannot create victims.

3. The problem must be named and confronted.

4. Leaders must exemplify the expected standards of behavior.

5. We must engage emotionally with students in their world.

6. Teachers and principals themselves are sometimes actors.

7. The environment must accommodate risk. (Jansen, 2009b, p.189)

The basic message Jansen gives and Fullan underscores is that we need to learn to combine love, trustworthiness, and empathic but firm handling of resistance, to quicken the pace of the change we wish to see.

Themes one and two really caught my attention. As many work to impact and redirect the trending educational policy of the current administration, hoping to move the punitive rhetoric to that which is positive and supporting of America’s children, I think there is an important implication in “recognizing the politics of emotions that energize behaviors”. It’s my sincere belief that a focus on the well being of our children, the well being of our democracy plays to those emotions and can energize a diverse group of stakeholders and citizens to become activists in changing the direction of educational policy.

What really struck me was number two—a theme that seems rare in these days of polarity, vitriol, and deep partisanship in which bitterness and hatred often prevail-- a theme to me that offers limitless potential and possibility for moving forward. In Leadership comes from within, Jansen writes:

“I have learned that leadership is not only technical and muscular; it is also spiritual and emotional. Strong leaders are in touch with their own emotions and the emotions of their followers. They know that the "bottom line" can only be achieved by relating to the spiritual and emotional lives of people.

In divided communities, equanimity of leadership matters. Even-handed leadership acknowledges the humanity of all followers, irrespective of what they look like or what they believe.

I've learned that leadership that overcomes division has to be counter-cultural leadership.

To be a strong leader, do what people do not expect; love those you are expected to hurt; forgive those who do not deserve it. Surprise your followers by generosity when it is least expected. Make your leadership appeal to human solidarity.”

I see this leadership approach more far more difficult than the bitter blasting away at and denigrating of those that disagree and hence creating victims; it has the power to engage all parties in systemic change. To those who may find this unrealistic, Jansen bases his tenets on the leadership of Nelson Mandela in South Africa (Mandela’s 8 Lessons of Leadership under the link) which is what Jansen terms a leadership that makes an “enduring difference.” Given the changes that have occurred in what was historically a bitterly divided South Africa, my sense is we would do well to adopt and adapt these Jansen’s premises and Mandela’s lessons as we work to support a new direction in educational policy.

How might that approach to leadership look, read and feel? Two brief examples--

From Chris Lehman in Constructing Modern Knowledge Reflections – This feels to me an exemplar of language that envisions leadership in education from a lens similar to that of Jansen:

“…we also succeeded because we were in an environment where we were encouraged to spend the time to solve the problem. We had the permission, freedom, time and resources to create something.

This week, I was reminded of how powerful -- and how frustrating -- problem-solving and building can be. I also was reminded that we can work with our hands, we can listen and engage our minds in the world of ideas, and we can speak from our hearts.”

From Brian Crosby who urges us to go “back to the notion of building schools that honor kids” and in his sharing leads us, aware of our emotions that energize— through his students, our students--

What can we gain from such an approach? The possibilities abound-- How can we garner support to move forward in this way? Can it be through our very own modeling and demonstration?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To come back to--

One thought led to another and then another,

Wanting them here as I continue on my journey,

To come back to.

Years ago, one of my favorite books, Teaching with your Mouth Shut, by Finkel,

Not forgotten, influential--
Finkel 's overarching theme in his text Teaching with your Mouth Shut stems from John Dewey's belief that "no thought, no idea, can possibly be conveyed as an idea from one person to another". Finkel explores, through both theory and praxis, possible methods for moving from the realm of "telling" students to "teaching" students. Early in his text, Finkel defines good teaching as "creating... those circumstances that lead to significant learning in others" --source
Recently, at Education Innovation a post, Teaching in the White Spaces--

Resonating, really--
"Leaving out the right ideas, concepts, information in our lessons engages the student’s imagination."
And he quoted this from Lao Tzu:
"Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote

“Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub,
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel,
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room,
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there,
Usefulness from what is not there."
And then today, from The Freire Project Blogs--

An Indian fable --

That spoke to me--

A wish Cocoon

Along a dusty road in India there sat a beggar who sold cocoons. A young boy watched him day after day, and the beggar finally beckoned to him.

"Do you know what beauty lies within this chrysalis? I will give you one so you might see for yourself. But you must be careful not to handle the cocoon until the butterfly comes out."

The boy was enchanted with the gift and hurried home to await the butterfly. He laid the cocoon on the floor and became aware of a curious thing. The butterfly was beating its fragile wings against the hard wall of the chrysalis until it appeared it would surely perish, before it could break the unyielding prison. Wanting only to help, the boy swiftly pried the cocoon open.

Out flopped a wet, brown, ugly thing which quickly died. When the beggar discovered what had happened, he explained to the boy "In order for the butterfly wings to grow strong enough to support him, it is necessary that he beat them against the walls of his cocoon. Only by this struggle can his wings become beautiful and durable. When you denied him that struggle, you took away from him his only chance of survival."

Don't we need to spend more time listening? providing time for learning? designing opportunities for our students to struggle, and to grow and to become? I think so!

Photo Credit

Sunday, June 20, 2010

21 days-

ECMP455-- Spring ECMP 455 Class at the University of Regina

13 weeks reduced to 3--

21 days to develop an understanding of these concepts (Learning is social and connected, Learning is personal and self-directed, Learning is shared and transparent, Learning is rich in content and diversity)--

Dean Shareski shared his plan--

His students, joining him, explored vast new landscapes in an exciting, roller coaster, journey into deep learning—

And because their learning was social, connected, shared, transparent, personal and self-directed, they have compiled powerful personal PD plans with wonderful resources, they have experienced some serious “aha” moments, and they have revealed some personal stories that will affect not only the look and feel of their future classrooms but their “learning” lives forever—

Just 3 of many for example—

Learn to Unlearn
So this was unexpected
Cyber bullying

Their blogs are linked here

To the accomplished and caring educators they are becoming, to the power of a learning environment that is social, connected, shared, transparent, personal and self-directed, and to Dean for its creation— a standing ovation--

That we all can learn in and design this type of environment for all our students-- what possibilities might arise and abound—in 21 days--

Photo Credit

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Help Wanted: Moving conversations from testing to learning

Passion against testing and for learning--

Synergy electrifying a digital meeting space--

Expertise abounding--

Connecting with likeminded teachers--

Collaborating for our students--

Collective Action in the works to move the conversation from testing to learning—

One gathering of many planned—

To engage all stakeholders moving the conversation around education from testing to learning—

When teacher leaders, Yong Zhao, Doug Christensen and Monty Neill gather together in one room (this one sponsored by PLP) to dialogue as they did last night in TLO’s first virtual Teach In around education and learning, a remarkable electricity fills the air and ideas grounded in principles, values and vision encircle and embrace the gathering. (You can access the archive of the Elluminate gathering at this link.) Too rare an occurrence -- one to be treasured.

Under the fine leadership of Anthony Cody and Nancy Flanagan, teachers, teacher leaders, the members of the Facebook group Teachers’ Letters to Obama, are ready to move out of the “echo chamber” and engage all stakeholders as they seek to enable a huge shift --from discussions of testing to ones of learning- The time is now, as Anthony Cody says to use our “outside voices”.

My deep belief is that we can make a difference; through collaboration and collective action, we can influence change in policy. We have to, for our students.


1. By joining the Facebook group, participating in the discussions there, and attending their upcoming gatherings.

2. By following Nancy’s and Anthony’s blogs

3. By learning more about alternatives to the current toxic testing policies and collecting evidence that supports the negative impact of this testing culture.

Monty Neill suggested these websites had useful information:

Are these specific documents at the Fair Test site of value?

How Standardized Testing Damages Education

Seven ways to work for NCLB reform

Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

These sites on the alternate model that Doug Christensen described in the session-- The STARS model that had been implemented in Nebraska share a unique perspective that really resonates with me:

How Nebraska Leaves No Child Behind, 2007,8599,1626423,00.html

Douglas Christensen Assessment Maverick

Doug Christensen on Classroom-Based Assessment

4. By committing to help move the conversation from testing to learning through writing letters to editors, to legislators and/or meeting with legislators. Zhao, Christensen and Neill all stressed the need to educate and influence legislators and the public and offered suggestions—

· Be for something; offer stories of youngsters learning—

· Learn a little about them before you write or meet and always mention something good they’ve done—

· Make a request-- for example, ask if we might return to the 1994 law

· Have evidence to back it up your request that illustrate the power of learning

· Leave them some materials if you are meeting in a group with them, not more than a 2 pager

Imagine the possibilities when hundreds and thousands of teachers raise their voices for learning and for their students—

Photo Credit

Saturday, May 29, 2010

KIPP-- a model for the learning revolution?

Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution --
I'm listening, enjoying the humor, nodding in agreement--
Appreciating the comments about diversity and passion and the need for an agricultural model--
And then he mentioned "a great model" KIPP at 14.06 minutes into his talk--
The only model mentioned--
Disappointed --
KIPP, learning revolution, diversity, passion in learning -- not seeing how they go together--

Sunday, May 23, 2010


‘Any serious learning will take you through a dark night of your identity’.
–Etienne Wenger via Jenny Mackness

Well into my 6th decade and yet some of my most serious learning

Truly enjoying a second year in a role of community leader for PLP

Hoping to attain a greater sense of competency far sooner than occurred in my teaching practice

Realizing as Sheryl suggests that learning is not so much just doing but more reflecting transparently while doing, and thus this posting--

When the opportunity to act in the role of community leader with PLP opened, I welcomed the occasion to continue learning and the challenge of facilitating a diverse cohort of educators in a virtual learning community. My thought-- much of what I had learned in my many years as a classroom teacher and more recently in designing online PD for teachers, particularly my MOOM-ing experience, would translate easily into this role as well and be very helpful. While providing a sound foundation, what proved most valuable was my experience with full spectrum questioning from MOOM and the WRITE model (warm, responsive, inquisitive, tentative, and empathetic) for facilitation.

However, my understanding of learning in the social networking environment of PLP and my sophistication in applying my knowledge of concepts of community of practice was far from accomplished when I began. Thanks to the members of the Illinois-Ohio cohort, the Ohio Consortium, and the Elementary Virtual Institute of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Sheryl, Robin and Will, my wayfinding has been fruitful, though often fraught with frustration over my perceived inadequacies as I seek to become more competent in supporting socialibility and participation in a community. Always asking how can I better help to support and build a sense of community and social relationships and trust, how can I better encourage different levels of participation, and how can I better add value to the community on the side out of the middle, always as a co-learner --for that is how I presently view this role.

Much learned, and so much to yet to learn, from this place in which I now find myself—

That community, relationships and trust are essential to learning has long rung true to me and I always made a sincere effort to develop those in my classrooms. I treasure amazing and very special memories of students, events, and years in which we experienced incredible synergy and learning that arose from those relationships and trust that had developed. I’ve come to understand how much more critical these characteristics are to online communities.

Helping build a sense of community

Taking the recommendation of Cothrel and Williams (1999) to heart --that community building is the key to success and developing a sense of community for its members is essential to achieve a high level of participation, I’ve worked hard to do that. I’m feeling some degree of confidence in building community through one-on-networking. My feeling is that one of my greatest strengths is the ability to allieve some of the fears of novice members and work with them to understand all levels of participation are welcome in the community, that they have something of value to add. In addition, although I make pretty extensive use of comments to member’s personal pages in the virtual learning community, as well as to videos and photos they publish. In addition, I try to increase the exposure of community members to each other with references to postings or comments by others. I need, with greater intention, to leave comments for all in the community in the initial stages of the cohort and over the course of time.

Helping to build social relationships and trust

With the building of relationships, collegiality and trust, members begin to feel a sense of community and with that arises sharing and learning from each other. Nichani and Hung (2002) point out that:

“trust is the glue that binds the members of a community to act in sharing and adapting manner. Without trust, members would hoard their knowledge and experience and would not go through the trouble of sharing with or learning from others”

In my desire to build trust, I’ve used member’s names, met virtually with teams, responded with affirmations and positive statements, attempted to be sure that every member received a response in a timely manner, pointed to responses that evidenced competence, and co created content with digital stories as we became acquainted with each other for I’ve learned that in communities that are perceived as friendly, honest, reliable and competent, members are more willing to participate. (Sharratt and Usoro, 2003) Although my sense is that I’ve been somewhat successful, I believe there is a need for me to model more often and more fully competence through transparency and sharing, making myself more vulnerable to others in order to develop that kind of trust. That willingness to be more vulnerable is not always easy for me-- I’ve long been a pretty private person and paradoxically a great sharer when approached—lots of life experiences reinforced those characteristics. However, to that end, I’m committed to reading more widely, blogging and reflecting more frequently and openly, and tweeting with more consistency and substance.

Helping to encourage different levels of participation.

Knowing when to invite folks in and how often has been an area that has challenged me. Knowing and understanding the normal three levels of participation in community (a small core leadership group of active participants, about 10-15% of the whole community; a small active group (15-20%) that attend regularly participate in community forums occasionally; and large proportions of members are peripheral and rarely participate) (Wenger and his colleagues, 2002) and confidently encouraging the participation of those on the periphery are two very different things. Lurking or legitimate peripheral participation has been the topic of member posts in the communities in which I’ve learned, and often there are members who want to push and do aggressively; I’d rather pull and invite, those lurking. I’ve been extremely gentle in these conversations and in the future will be a bit more assertive in sharing if the topic is raised early on now that I’ve learned that it has been argued that with diverse members in terms of knowledge and expertise, allowing novices to the practice to acquire expertise through legitimate peripheral participation is important, as early criticism can lead to inactive community members. (Lave & Wenger, 1991) I need to be more sensitive to content that will draw those on the periphery into the community.

On another level, nurturing the growth of others to become leaders and then knowing when to step back and sit on my hands as they emerge to lead others has been a dimension that has been somewhat effective for me and an area I’ll continue to tweak and adjust with the dynamics of a particular community as guides.

Lastly, with a deepened understanding of Tuckman’s stages of group development, I hope to develop a better sense of how to respond most appropriately to responses that clearly represent one stage in which a professional learning team may be operating. Sheryl’s modeling has been of such great value and I hope to be able to apply what I’ve learned from her more aptly.

Mentoring and offering assistance to the diverse membership of the communities has been an area of overall strength as I see it and has provided great joy to me as the community has flourished and learned together.

Helping to add value

To encourage participation, potential members have to be convinced that it is worth participating in the CoP. (Sharratt & Usoro, 2003). As evidenced by an evaluation, this is an area in which I am challenged. Although I believe that I have been particularly effective in helping members to clarify their thinking and deepen their understanding through good questions and very tentative “what if” scenarios, and I believe that has been instrumental to building collective knowledge, I realize that I’ve not been seen as one to add value. With my previously stated commitment to model and demonstrate more fully transparency in learning and sharing through blogging, tweeting and more widespread reading, I hope to feel more confident that I do add more value to the community and that that confidence may shine through in the sharing and be a factor in persuading others to also add value to our collective learning.

If that occurs, I hope that I might be more effective in encouraging more reflection in the community (I was totally unsuccessful in that area) and in sharing the potential I see in community for learning. Encouraging critical reflections at junctures of the journey through modeling may assist all of us in the community to take knowledge creation to the next level and demonstrate to members that despite how busy they may become, the virtual community of practice can lead to continued learning, collective action, and a sophisticated global practice. I am seriously considering how I can better do just that.

What has truly taken me through a dark night of my identity and continues to be more difficult for me is my nature to mull things over and my failure to become more comfortable in communicating without the customary visual and auditory cues afforded by face to face conversations.

I’m a “ponderer”; my brain doesn’t seem to be wired for quick immediate responses, but for ones for which I’ve had time to consider angles and perspectives and word use that best relays my meaning. In a fast paced virtual community and digital society, those are not always most valuable ways to guide and build community. And although I’ve made some progress in this respect, I need to work more diligently at getting beyond always needing just the right word or phrase.

More critical though, I think, is that in my lifetime, I’ve been a grand reader of eyes, of facial expressions, of gestures, of body language, and sophisticated listener of the nuances of word choice, tone and rhythm in speech. That’s been a strength, an important for me-- one that I can’t play to in a virtual environment. Without those cues, I’ve found myself less confident in replying, concerned (perhaps overly and yet again maybe not) about misinterpretation and the opportunity for misunderstanding that by the nature of the asynchronous environment, seems to me to have the potential to become amplified. That I’m finding learning to infer and imply the correct meaning from pure text and infrequent images, the complexities and nuances, in a manner in which I am comfortable and feel competent challenging is an understatement. Yet it is my impression that this will come with more years of experience; I hope sooner than later for I know a more sophisticated approach may help to better build community, encourage participation and add value. Now a passion—to help others recognize the power and potential of community to improve our practice and learning for our students.

This reflecting and the very process of bringing some sense of organization to my thoughts regarding my current place in wayfinding has been incredibly powerful learning-- For these opportunities and all the possibilities that abound from them, I am most grateful. A very special thanks to Sheryl for her generous, inspired sharing and the pathmarkers she has provided on this journey.

Deep and serious learning, through a dark night of identity, significant time to reflect meaningfully— might these same opportunities excite all learners, educators and students, as much as they have this aging, grey haired woman?


Cothrel, J. & Williams, R.L. (1999) On-line communities: helping them form and grow. Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol.3, No.1, pp 54-60.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity: Cambridge University Press.

Photo Credit

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Slow learning

A volcano—

An ash cloud—

Fast paced global traveling in Europe came to a halt--

And then the stories not only of frustration but also of folks talking, and moving slowly—

Ewan McIntosh’s [#ashcloud] Keep moving in the right direction and talk to people thinks on the latter and then draws a terrific parallel to learning:

“But imagine if learning could learn to slow down a little. Fewer (or no) tests we have to meet (like unpredictable timetables and trains to new, uncharted destinations), and more talking to strangers who might be interesting, useful (or might not, and necessitate some diplomatic manoeuvrings onto the next conversation).”

There’s faster movement now with the return of some air travel—

In that increased speed, I hope we don’t let go of that notion of slow learning—

In A Dangerous but Powerful Idea - Counter Acceleration and Speed with Slowness and Wholeness, Geetha Narayanan (Founder and Director of Srishti, School of Art Design and Technology and the Mallya Aditi International School) describes slow learning—

“Slowness as a pedagogy allows students to learn not at the metronome of the school day or the school bell, but at the metronome of nature, giving them time to absorb, to introspect, to contemplate, to argue and rebut and to enjoy.”

And she continues:

“The learning opportunities which foster slowness are created in such a way that they operate on three levels which are not discrete, linear or sequential. Taken together they enable experiences which foster genuine and sophisticated understanding. The layers are:

1. looking and listening

2. exploring and thinking

3. making and being.

The goal of our slowness pedagogy is to generate the more creative, more lyrical and the playful aspects of learning and represent it in the many languages of children - the language of movement or music; the languages of colour or shape; the language of images and of forms; the language of sounds and of feelings and many more.

In order to do this we arrange learning differently, because we are not-school. The learning arrangements that we find foster and promote slowness are:

1. the circle which represents symbolically the spirit of unity and equality within the learning community

2. grouping learners in collaborative, vertical heterogeneous teams

3. using large blocks of time

4. themes or topics for study are not prescribed but are emergent. The topics are selected from student talk, through dialogue with the community or based on the individual experiences of a family or the interests of a child. It is not static and a given but is the constant subject of negotiation.

5. the learning is organised into projects - some seem to go on for as long as a term and others last just a few weeks. The facilitators at the centres help the learners frame their learning plan, research the topic and make decisions on the representational medium that will demonstrate and showcase their learning.

6. the learning materials are made using local content, in ways that allow them to be used and re-used and to be produced within the community at low cost

7. all learning is the result of direct first person conscious experience. This method or tool focuses on the transformation of the self and the awakening of the mind rather than on the transfer of knowledge and the acquisition of skills.

The new digital technologies are tools that allow for learners to develop their imaginations, to be able to play and to have fun, to be able to tell stories in different and exciting ways. But in order to generate value they need to be integrated into new forms and structures in an invisible and contextual manner, so that they work slowly and with great finesse to create an unquiet and critical pedagogy - one where new media arts can sustain social change.”

In an interview Geetha shares:

Deceleration--- “an unquiet and critical pedagogy” in which technology is integrated so it “works slowly and with great finesse”-- Just imagine the possibilities for learning--

Photo credit

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On paths to possibilities

"It's easy for anybody to point out what a kid does wrong. But that's not what a good teacher does. A good teacher goes out of his way to figure out what the kid does right and then sets the kid on a path of confidence and success." --Teach Paperless


Liking this quote—

And thinking and wondering---

It was not uncommon to seek out a youngster’s talents, to build on them, and set them on such path-- years ago-- this statement would not have been so remarkable.

It’s a mindset that often leads to unforeseen learning and achievements—to young people with heads held high and eyes on the future.

Can this mindset also be of value in professional development as we seek to engage reluctant professionals in 21st century learning?

Photo Credit:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Different paths, different outcomes--

Elimination of funding for the National Writing Project—

Common Core Standards proposals--

National Educational Technology Plan—

Seemingly very different paths, different outcomes-

Sensing some tensions here, some real disconnects?

Despite many sources and opinions available, feeling compelled to add my voice to the mix---

The National Writing Project -- The proposed national budget would eliminate funding for the National Writing Project. That would be a great loss. Don’t reading and writing and thinking, more reading, revising and thinking lead to good learning? Bud Hunt here and here, Brian Crosby, and Zachary Chase are some of the many seeking to change this. Add your voice; our government needs to understand the importance of writing and the positive impact of this project.

Common Core Standards-- The draft of the Common Core Standards is available for comment. The New York Times says:

The new proposals could transform American education.

Believing in my heart that diversity has lead to the richness of underlying values of our nation and really questioning here the wisdom in striving for such conformity--- especially from each youngster at a specific time in their lives, when developmentally perhaps it really isn’t just right for them? And appreciating the following perspectives:

The goal here isn’t to nourish children’s curiosity, to help them fall in love with reading, to promote both the ability and the disposition to think critically, or to support a democratic society. Rather, a prescription for uniform, specific, rigorous standards is made to order for those whose chief concern is to pump up the American economy and triumph over people who live in other countries.

If these standards are more economic than educational in their inspiration, more about winning than learning, devoted more to serving the interests of business than to meeting the needs of kids, then we’ve merely painted a 21st-century facade on a hoary, dreary model of school-as-employee-training.

The debate about national standards should really be a debate about what education is, what kind of skills and knowledge should be taught, and what truly are essential for our children to succeed in the 21st century. We cannot simply look at what is taught in a subject area. We must consider the meaning of education. After all, what we want is the big watermelon, not the tiny sesame seed.

About the National Educational Technology Plan from THE Journal:

If there were any doubts about the Obama administration's intentions toward education technology, the United States Department of Education settled them Friday with the release of the first public draft of the National Education Technology Plan (NETP). The 114-page document reveals an intent not only to infuse technology throughout the curriculum (and beyond), but to implement some major--sometimes radical--changes to education itself.

You can find the entire plan here. Will Richardson’s summary mirrors my surprise, excitement, and wonder. This snippet from his post captures the good stuff in the plan:

* Personalized learning

* Learning that is “lifelong and life-wide and available on demand.”

* A device and ubiquitous access for every student and teacher.

* Professional development that focuses on “connected teaching” in “online learning communities” (Sounds familiar.)

* Professional learning that is “collaborative, coherent, and continuous.”

* Learning that is “always on”

* Learning that is no longer “one size fits all.”

* Student work on the cloud

* Student managed electronic learning portfolios

* Students as “networked learners”

* Broadband everywhere

* Open educational resources

* Creative Commons licenses

* Changes to CIPA and FERPA to open up access

* Rethinking the “basic assumptions” of schooling

Given these, wouldn’t all children have opportunities to realize their fullest potential? Won’t individual talents, creativity, and innovation grow and flourish in such an environment?

Now I’m wondering here -- how do national standards and “Learning that is no longer ‘one size fits all’.” co-exist with each other? Or can they? Or maybe I shouldn’t even get stuck there but be energized to move forward, to move beyond hope to the work at hand, as I consider the possibilities that can abound as we travel the path of the National Educational Technology Plan which seems to me can lead to far richer and far more abundant outcomes?