Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saving our schools---

Schools must be empowering for all its members if we want our children — and therefore our society — to thrive. And for that reason, we must Save Our Schools.
--Chris Lehman
On Saturday, July 30 at noon, I'll be here in Chardon, OH but my mind and spirit will be with the thousands who gather in Washington to Save our Schools.

Their guiding principles can serve us and the children we serve well.
For the future of our children, we demand:

Equitable funding for all public school communities

  • Equitable funding across all public schools and school systems
  • Full public funding of family and community support services
  • Full funding for 21st century school and neighborhood libraries
  • An end to economically and racially re-segregated schools

An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation

  • The use of multiple and varied assessments to evaluate students, teachers, and schools
  • An end to pay per test performance for teachers and administrators
  • An end to public school closures based upon test performance

Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies

  • Educator and civic community leadership in drafting new ESEA legislation
  • Federal support for local school programs free of punitive and competitive funding
  • An end to political and corporate control of curriculum, instruction and assessment decisions for teachers and administrators

Curriculum developed for and by local school communities

  • Support for teacher and student access to a wide-range of instructional programs and technologies
  • Well-rounded education that develops every student’s intellectual, creative, and physical potential
  • Opportunities for multicultural/multilingual curriculum for all students
  • Small class sizes that foster caring, democratic learning communities
If you, like I, will not be physically present to support this effort, join them in mind and spirit and raise your voice so that collectively our voices will make a difference and those guiding principles will be adopted- for our children.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coaching across time zones--

It was Tuesday-- 4 PM in Melbourne, Australia
and 2 AM in Chardon, OH.

Yet with the affordances of technology, time and space became totally irrelevant (although my brain rebelled a bit at that hour) as the PLP ConnectU Animals and Habitats team from Melbourne met in Elluminate and I joined in as their connected coach.

Committed, passioned educators-- keen to become more accomplished in developing PBL experiences for their students-- Jane, Lisa, and Tim (Ben's Internet was down) connected, collaborated and set out immediate next steps as they continued discussions begun in their team room in the PLP Ning online community.

Jane Brayshaw, the team's leader had summarized the discussions from Ning for the meeting and she and Lisa had developed a list of learning standards from the VELs that their soon to be unit might well address.

From the conversations came agreement on a driving question appropriate for the PBL unit they are designing for their students-- "How do we provide for the health of animals in our local communities?"

Their discussion around assessment -- as, of, and for -- was refreshing

As a coach, I answered questions they had for me and asked questions in chat of them as they thought through their process. My goal --they would recognize and call on their individual and collective strengths to carry on (they did and very likely could have done it well without me).

Similar to my recent role as community leader for PLP and as expert learner in a constructivist classroom, the complex dance of coaching- of nudging and suggesting and then stepping back, sitting on my hands - continued. Sometimes that dance is far more complex and difficult than others - this was not one of those times. That dance is an art it seems to me -- one I've been practicing in an ongoing quest to develop expertise. With this team, the dance is exhilarating and exciting.

The team is on their way; their focus is on their students' learning; a grand inquiry PBL unit into animals in their local communities is the making.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Connected Coaching-- our path

Cross Posted

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” --John Schaar

So it is with Connected Coaching. Our grand destination, so to speak, a transformation of professional learning, increasing confidence and self-efficacy of educators worldwide. Our path-- coaching in online spaces through an appreciative inquiry lens.

From the outset, Dean and I have viewed coaching in online spaces as a wayfinding process-- a process lacking linearity, and often requiring the need to loopback, to detour, to revisit. As we developed the model, we identified pathmarkers we believed could guide the way of coaches -- a process clearly characterized by lack of prescription. From exploring the model with Marsha, Brenda, John, Mark, Zoe and Chad -- the 6 bright, passionate, accomplished educators who joined our pilot-- to coaching in communities, I've come to understand and appreciate more fully both the great potential of and complex nuances inherent in such a model. Realizing, recognizing, inferring online when to step back, when to revisit, finding the right moment to interject the right question requires countless decisions by those coaching. Through our own collaborative appreciative inquiry into coaching, our own wayfinding, our pilot team of coaches (Dean and I included) have been engaged in an exciting ongoing development of expertise. Our challenges continue to be leveraging the uniqueness of online spaces-- lacking eye contact, visual body language cues, unable to adopt many face to face strategies for active listening-- we experiment with remixing current face to face protocols, with images, with audio, and with video to build trust, to develop rapport, to speak into the hearts of the team members we serve.

As important to our model has been the appreciative inquiry approach that underlies all our actions as connected coaches. We see our coaching with our community members as mediating their thinking-- helping them realize and clarify for themselves their own potential--not through telling but through questions and affirmations that help those we coach discover and uncover their own strengths, helping members to realize the potential of those strengths to effect change-- much as Zander notes here:

We have embraced what I view as a refreshing and powerful shift in paradigms-- from the current deficit, "fix it" which seems to permeate all we see and do to one of appreciation for the unique strengths of each person. I join others who believe that from this approach momentum for change builds and can flourish. Even now at this stage of our pilot, we see evidence of excitement and camaraderie with a number of teams we are coaching and sense momentum for change building as the positive principle of appreciate inquiry suggests--

“Momentum for change requires large amounts of positive affect and social bonding – things like hope, excitement, inspiration, caring, camaraderie, sense of urgent purpose, and sheer joy in creating something meaningful together. What we have found is that the more positive the question we ask in our work the more long lasting and successful the change effort. It does not help, we have found, to begin our inquiries from the standpoint of the world as a problem to be solved. We are more effective the longer we can retain the spirit of inquiry of the everlasting beginner. The major thing we do that makes the difference is to craft and seed, in better and more catalytic ways, the unconditional positive question.” --Positive Principle, AI

Have we changed as we've forged paths of connected coaching?

I-- usually but not always an optimist, I've become totally convinced that an appreciative inquiry approach is far more powerful and has greater potential to build momentum for change than others. I've reached deep inside as I've responded to discussions in our online space to find that my lifelong passion for learning about learning has been exceeded now by my passion for learning about coaching.

And our team-- as we've grown to know each other personally and professionally through our work, has become a community of practice. The conversations around coaching practice have grown deeper. We've had some difficult discussions and grown from them. Given other learning opportunities, many of us have chosen to join in because "if some of you are there, I'm in". We've committed to a path of continually developing our expertise. And our lives are the richer for our collaborations together.

Our path may alter a bit; that there will be loopbacks and revisits as we reflect upon and refine our practice is a given. This path to connected coaching holds more than great promise and will benefit from repeated traversing. We are not finished--

Photo Credit

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Enable or hinder--

Thanks so much to Nancy White for this find where she noted:
"When I think of group dynamics both face to face and online, there is this dynamic of conformity. It is stronger in some cultural contexts and in my experience, stronger F2F. But it also exists online —"
Hmmm, wondering-- can we leverage this phenomena as we encourage more educators to shift their practice
rather than an enabling, does this hinder shifting?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Community-- dreams deferred?

Dreaming and smiling as I dreamed--
about learning
about teaching
about self directed novice and expert learners collaborating
continually practicing their practice (full attribution SLA Poetry Jam, final keynote on ISTE11)
engaging in difficult conversations
challenged by cognitive dissonance
making the time to grow and nurture a more accomplished global practice
fulfilling a commitment I'd like to think we make to children, to each other to be the best we can
in vibrant, synergistic online communities

For I also believe, as does Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach who so eloquently has put it:
"the secret to change lies in developing the social fabric, capacity and connectedness found in communities of practice and learning networks. I believe that by focusing on a strengths-based model of education, looking at possibilities rather than problems, by using inquiry to ask the kinds of questions that reveal the gifts each of us bring to the table, by realizing that “none of us is as good as all of us” and somehow leveraging all of that to shift the conversations toward building a new future- one that focuses on the gifts each teacher, student, parent and leader has, that we have all we need to create an alternative future for schools. One that focuses on the well-being of the whole and uses diversity as a means to innovation."
Waking up suddenly,
jolted by a fear
that incredible opportunities whooshed right on by

Wondering if or how we haven't articulated what we've experienced and discovered in a way that others might also feel compelled embrace this path to transformation---

Striving continually to be better educators in online communities does not consist of quick, surface reading and many times 140 characters shorter replies. There's value there yet-- it is in communities where members commit to deep reflection, to sharing personal practice, to add value to the community, to exploring and trying new ideas that true potential for systemic change lies.

Learning in community, becoming better in community takes time-- we need to make the time to take time. The value we derive from participation can not be understated.

Being transparent and open to new ideas, acknowledging and dealing with cognitive dissonance is alien to some in our profession. Yet, as Joe Bower suggests:
"However, rather than seeing cognitive dissonance as a crisis to be avoided, the most successful people in the world embrace cognitive dissonance as a remarkable opportunity. They see it as a fork in the road where they can choose to continue down the comfortable status quo, or they can take a turn down a new, unfamiliar road. This is exactly how trailblazing starts. There may be no other way to engage in real improvement and authentic innovation."
Learning in community takes courage; if we are to work to provide the schools our children deserve, we need to make a choice-- acquiescence or courage. Joe Bower speaks to courage in his post when he quotes Mara Sapon Shevin (one of my former professors)
"Courage is what it takes when we leave behind something we know well and embrace (even tentatively) something unknown or frightening. Courage is what we need when we decide to do things differently... Courage is recognizing that things familiar are not necessarily right or inevitable. We mustn't mistake what is comfortable with what is good."
Wondering too what happens to a dream deferred?

Langston Hughes

Photo credit:

Friday, July 01, 2011


Sophia crossed my path twice in the last week--
once at The Innovative Educator where she asked Is this the future of learning?
and again in Stephen Downe's OLDaily.

As Downes quoted from the Sophia about page:
"Sophia is a social teaching and learning platform that taps the teacher in all of us and enhances the learning process by providing access to a wealth of knowledge, help, instruction, standards-aligned content, and expertise available to learners everywhere."

Sophia Overview from Sophia on Vimeo.

In response to the question, Is Sophia the future of learning?

I hope not. Perhaps a part of, a resource for some content.

I guess I'm questioning their use of the word community in describing Sophia. Community to me suggests collaborating to create meaning and deeper understanding together and the co creation of artifacts that illustrate that understanding. I'm not seeing that with Sophia--

I'm thinking/hoping the future of learning will be far more than one web portal in a sea of many, and will leverage the extraordinary power of the human network in collaborations, investigations and explorations; will encourage the development of deep, meaningful collegial relationships which will in turn become the foundation for change in education; and will compel learners to take collective action to make this world a better place.

What about you?