Saturday, December 15, 2012

Prayers and recommitting

In this winter of shared grief, as we go our ways in tears, let our thoughts and prayers be sent from our heart's deep core for love to surround and embrace Newtown and give them strength and courage needed to face tomorrow. 

And let's recommit --to each other in the communities we inhabit, to our local colleagues, to our networks-- to keeping everyone close and closer as we aspire to make this world a better place for children.

Image: 'Candles'
Found on

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My nominations for this year's Edublog Awards

Individual Blog:  User Generated Education  Jackie Gerstein

Group Blog: Voices from the Learning Revolution

Class Blog:  Mrs. Cassidy's Classroom Blog

EdTech Blog:  Ideas and Thoughts Dean Shareski

Teacher Blog:  Education Rethink  John T Spencer

Administrator Blog:  Practical Theory  Chris Lehmann

Influential Post:  The Flip: End of a Love Affair Shelley Wright

Twitter Hashtag:  #plpnetwork

Social Network:  Powerful Learning Practice

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Have you heard?

Powerful Learning Practice has launched a new initiative-- Powerful Learning Press!

From their website:

The Connected Teacher: Powering Up shares stories written by teachers and school leaders who are making the shift to technology infused, student-driven learning on behalf of their iGeneration students.

The 22 helpful articles in Powering Up first appeared here in our Voices from the Learning Revolution group blog. In addition to the original text, the book includes images, clickable links, videos and selected comments from readers of the original posts.

You can download your free copy at the new Powerful Learning Press website.

Celebrating too 3 of the authors who are Connected Coaches.

Becky Bair
Patti Grayson
Marsha Ratzel

Becky, Patti, and Marsha give selflessly to their coaching practice and now the world has the opportunity to become more closely acquainted with these passioned educators.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Those of us living in NE Ohio have been gifted the last two weeks with sunshine and temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s. That's big here-- rarely does the sun shine in November and often we are deep in snow -- for example 

The irresistible sunshine pulled me outside to garden chores I had left for spring. On my knees with the sun on my back, cutting back the 3 foot high Monarda  stems blown askew by Sandy, I smiled as I remembered the pink blossoms in their glory the past summer. Their strength-- the height and pink they bring to a landscape also graced with shorter yellow daylilies, pink peonies, deep pink coral bells, orange lillies, and yellow primrose. The Monarda are a favorite of the hummingbirds as they blossom and of the finches and chickadees for strong enough stalks to hold them as they light to check out surroundings. As I looked over the cut back, brown remains of the other perennials, I recalled their glory as they stood alone and  their wonderful swath of color as they grew together.

Stems cut back, basking in the sun, my mind turned as it does so often these days, to Connected Coaching. Strong connections to the array of perennials in my garden struck me again as I reflected on the remarkable opportunity to improve a collective coaching practice with 13 talented, passioned educators in the Powerful Learning Practice Connected Learner Experience.

The group thrives and grows on the extraordinary synergy that emerges each time we meet together much like the collective swath of color from the garden. And coaches bring that synergy into the CLE community in their own unique ways much like the blossoms of each perennial in the garden. They become immersed in the ebb and flow of the community, much like the garden gives to the ends and beginnings of seasons. Can it be coincidence that with their pairings, their strengths and characteristics beautifully compliment the approach they bring to their coaching as do the groupings of perennials in the garden?

Anne and Amy, Amanda, Becky and Dave, Patti and Heidi, Gene and Pati, Mark and Lisa, Marsha and Debby -- bring warmth, enthusiasm, joy, and caring to their  coaching in addition to a meaningful belief system and foundation of values that support them in the work they do with a very diverse group of learners. Their propensity for and understanding of strengths based, appreciative approaches; their tendency for mindfulness (paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally); their commitment to understanding gained through listening and asking good questions related to practice; their perseverance toward deep thought by exploring ideas and concepts, rethinking, revising, and continual repacking and unpacking, resisting urges to finish prematurely; their courage and initiative to engage in discussions on difficult or messy topics; their willingness to leave one's comfort zone to experiment with new strategies; their commitment to deep reflection and growth over time; their inclination toward being open-minded, integritous, and professional; their dedication to the ongoing development of expertise; their ardor for a culture of collegiality- that "None of us is as good as all of us" and that the contributions of all can lead to improved coaching practice; and their comfort level with and thoughtfulness for the affordances of current technology for learning --collectively and individually create a brilliant splash of color and diversity that rivals and surpasses in so many ways my garden.

Gifted again and grateful beyond words for both.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

We voted!

October 2-- the first day of early voting in Ohio
11:00 AM at the Geauga County Board of Elections

The Board was full of people--
Talking to each other
The women behind the counter were helpful, friendly and busy--

No politics
No signs
No negative ads
No vitriol

It was refreshing
People exercising their right and responsibility

We voted!

It's been a long month since that day--
The waiting is almost over.

Image: 'I Voted!'
Found on

Monday, September 10, 2012

On this 11th year anniversary--

References to tomorrow's upcoming 11 year anniversary are on TV--
In today's ASCD Smartbrief, the lead story's title -- "Addressing 9/11 in the classroom"--

The pain of that day-- the raw feelings, the grief at terrible loss of lives, the memory of first hearing, the disbelief -- all rush into my head at the sight of those images now on TV again. And then too remembering-- the caring, the uniting, the kindler and gentler nation we became for each other  -- for a while.

On the first anniversary, I struggled with how my students and I should approach the topic in class. So complex, so many issues. They knew too well what had occurred-- the jets had scrambled over Cleveland prior to Flight 93 turning east and going down and they and their parents had seen them (I was teaching in a school near the Cleveland airport). They, as had I, watched hours of heartrending images as the tragedy unfolded. It seemed right that they should be able to express their feelings, what they knew in ways that were meaningful to them. And as it was prior to web 2.0 tools, and in the age of PowerPoint-- they did just that through emotional, beautifully composed presentations. They came to class to share, saying their parents had cried upon seeing what they created. I cried too. For those were not the meaningless PowerPoint presentations, but true expressions that captured how very deeply that day had altered their lives-- filled with images, music, and very personal thoughts.

My personal aspiration to try make a difference as we moved forward from that unspeakable day was to explore with them the subject of tolerance-- how we each could become better people in a world that was increasingly more consumed by hate. It was a class that I approached with both apprehension and a sense of possibilities, bracing myself for all possible turns the day might take. There seemed to be almost a climate of reverence that day enabled by the exercises and activities we completed together. We each looked closely at ourselves and then shared together possibilities for moving forward as a more tolerant human being -- ways we each individually and then collectively might encourage that in others. That time we spent together, in which they realized they could take some bit of control over their lives to make a difference, was pretty powerful for all of us.

Tomorrow, if you're in a classroom, I wish for you the courage that I know is needed to approach this topic in these times--- your students likely were very young in 2001; the issues are complex; feelings run high; there may be many misconceptions. I think that the director of Teaching Tolerance said it well when she wrote:

Most important, let’s keep in mind the role education plays in healing. We teach to help children recognize and overcome the hatreds, challenges and fear that—along with the ash and sorrow—became embedded in our lives ten years ago.

Maybe, some of these resources at Teaching Tolerance, might help you in doing just that. Your lesson, your words and your countenance tomorrow will make a profound difference in so many children's lives; in so many ways just like every other day. Yet to me, this one day has the potential to stand out above the others.

Photo Credit

Monday, September 03, 2012

She could not say it--

Full disclosure: I have permission to blog about this conversation.

It was going to be an easy conversation
Or so I thought

A Connected Coaching eCourse participant
Self assessing her learning and sharing with me the grade she felt she had earned and why

It was the first day of school for her and she had just returned from a first session of music with second graders. She shared with great delight how long it had taken for them to finish one simple task. We giggled and laughed together over the story--

It was such a good day-- the joy enveloped our Skype call.

The conversation turned toward her learning- "Had she found the content of value?" I asked. "How are you feeling about your learning?"

Without hesitation, she described what had been of greatest value to her and how it would be instrumental in the work she would be doing during the course of the year. She added a concern she had had, unwarranted, about "taking over conversations". She asked about a learning opportunity the group let pass them by (creating a collaborative rubric).

There was a silence--

So I asked, what did she feel should be the grade I reported to the institution.

There was silence--

Then she asked me what I thought it should be.

And we both laughed.

And I asked, why is self assessing so difficult?

And we laughed again.

And she said her second graders were very good at it as were her daughters--

And I asked her again.

And again there was silence.

She never could bring herself to say it.

I finally asked, both of us laughing some more, "Does the letter have points or curves?"

"Points" she said.

To which I replied, from what you have told me, of course, it is an A.

Why is self assessing for very smart learners so hard? We didn't use video in the Skype call; did that make a difference when we couldn't read each other's body language? Had we not developed enough trust between us?

Lots to think ---

Image: 'it can't be true! you're so posh,+more+than+me!'
Found on

Friday, August 24, 2012

Well, Duh!

I surely do have my moments--
Sometimes I am so dense--
And then what I missed jumps up and slaps me in the face-- hard--
It is for those slaps that I am extremely grateful--

The most recent--  thanks to the very wise, very accomplished women educators in the recently finished section of the Connected Coaching eCourse.

As they reflected collaboratively on our 11 weeks together and I listened in our final webinar, it became crystal clear--

I have repeatedly attributed the depth of learning and the collegial relationships evidenced in each section of the eCourse to the very intentional building of trust and relationships that we focus on early in the course.  I wrote about that here and here. Now that I've listened so closely, I realize I developed a lazer focus, neglecting to highlight critical elements that also contribute to what have been extraordinary personal outcomes for all of us who have co constructed knowledge together. Don't get me wrong, there is no way the importance of trust and relationships can be understated. No. Way.

It is that, coupled with process that creates an environment for learning that leads to each member leaving the course with a bittersweet feeling. Bittersweet-- It was like climbing a mountain. Bummed that it is over. I struggled. I am a changed person. It was hard, rigorous. We need to maintain these connections.

I am convinced an appreciative, strength based inquiry approach to learning, one in which co learners are self directed, self governing, leads to the deepest learning and self realization. The approach enables each co learner to explore that which they wonder. It requires deep thinking in that the inquiry is facilitated through questions, those of the lead learner and that of all co learners. The approach creates a "no fail", safe environment for learning in which each learner feels valued.

Add to that the element of a personal learning contract described as challenging, empowering, difficult, freeing, respecting the learner. Woven together, the contract, the appreciative strength based inquiry process and the intentional growing of relationships and trust create a rich tapestry that embraces, immerses, and supports collaborative personal learning that enables the best of knowing and doing.

Well, duh! Of course-- Now that I've heard it from them, it seems pretty obvious to me.  

Wendy, Heidi, Amy, Dawn, Judi, Janne, Pati and Lindy-- thank you! Thank you highlighting what I should have realized so much earlier. And thank you for giving so much of yourselves during our 11 weeks together.

And now I'm wondering what else am I missing? 

Photo Credit

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reaching out to others

A pre-service educator excitedly posting in the Connected Educator Book club and others celebrating her posts and offering support

Passioned comments in the backchannel chat of a webinar session around the need to burn bridges and start a revolution

A Honduran educator reaching out to those in webinar not as competent as he, answering "how to" questions

Seasoned and novice educators in a forum lamenting those who they view as unconnected

An Israeli teacher sharing a story of her course which brings adversary cultures (Israeli and Arab) to collaborate and learn more about each other as they learn in online spaces

It's Connected Educator month--
All of August--
With grand opportunities to share, to collaborate, to reach out to others in webinars and forums--
The #CE12 hashtag on Twitter flows like a swift river, rich with resources and suggestions--
There is a 31 day starter kit for those wanting to learn more about being connected--

Those in webinars, in forums, on Twitter share a common passion for immersion in connected learning. It's an exciting time to be a connected educator-- the potential for making new connections and learning abounds.

And yet I'm wondering, have we reached in effective ways to those currently not connected? Have you?

Those not connected don't see the #CE12 twitter stream. Those not connected don't know of the blog posts. Those unconnected likely won't be in the discussion forums, or the book club, or the webinars.

What if every connected educator made a special effort to reach out to a colleague that's unconnected?

If school hasn't yet begun, what if they invited a grade level team member, a fellow faculty member over for coffee to participate in a webinar together. If school has started, what if they invited those unconnected colleagues to read some of the forum responses with them on topics for which they have an interest? What if they shared with their grade level teams something they learned in the book club or a forum, inviting the team to explore that together? What if they sat with their administrator, for a moment, exploring a professional learning forum together?

If each one reaches out to one, imagine the possibilities-- for all of our professional learning and that of our students.

Image: 'take my hand'

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Getting to Know You

I've always loved this song-- We played it in orchestra and in band when I was in intermediate (yes that many years ago) and high school. I used to think of it at the beginning of each school year during those first few days with new students. I saw myself in Anna in the King and I; we both were delighted to get to know and learn more about new students. It was a critical step toward developing meaningful relationships with them.

 Getting to know you---

 Now, in online spaces, Getting to Know You is the first discussion in the communities of practice of Powerful Learning Practice that I've had the privilege of leading. It's the very first step in developing trust among educators. It's the first step on the way to developing collegial relationships that enable deep and messy learning to occur. It's a beginning that holds great promise.

 Getting to know all about you--

In the PLP Connected Coaching model and in the eCourse around that model, we spend more than considerable time on trustbuilding. Online spaces require that be done with greater intent, lacking the informal ways in which people often meet and share face to face. Our Connected Coaching model encourages use of the greatest bandwith as coaches get to know those with whom they will be coaching-- through video, through audio, through images we learn more about each other. We push coaches to Skype with team leaders-- to get to know them.

Getting to know you--

Just about this time last summer I had a grand Skype conversation with Jane in Australia--she a team leader and I the team's Connected Coach. We talked, not about the work to follow, but about children, how we saw teaching, some of the projects in which we were involved. That initial conversation, hearing her voice, her intonation, the passion in her voice on certain topics paved the way for developing a collegial relationship during which time I supported her team as they developed an excellent PBL unit.

Getting to feel free and easy--

In the eCourse we dig deep into building trust with video, activities, discussions and crowdsourced presentations, seeking ideas for trustbuilding in online spaces. One of the first tasks in the eCourse is creating a video of introduction. We also build a crowsourced collaborative presentation gathering ideas from everyone who will contribute about trustbuilding in online spaces. The February section's presentation illustrates the power of images coupled with brief text and the June's presentation is now growing; hope you'll add your thoughts there.

 Getting to know know you--

In addition, and one of the key reasons for this post--
In conjunction with the learning contracts that I requested co learners in this June section to develop, I asked that they briefly skype with me around their contract and any questions they might have about the eCourse. Now this is after our getting to know you discussion, our setting ground rules, our creating 6 word stories and posting passions, and our creating introductory videos. At this point we have really been getting to know each other. Yet it's my feeling, that it's been in these one to one conversations-- with the focused one to one sharing, the voice intonations, the real time opportunity to respond, the laughter, the children wandering into the room, the hearing more about families and aspirations and past activities -- that we've truly begun to build the kind of trust, deep and profound, that engenders and enables meaningful, collegial collaboration.

To my co learners-- Judi, Amy, Dawn, Lynn, Lindy, Pati, Smadar, Janne, Wendy, Heidi, and Jen-- thank you!

So glad we're
Getting to know you--

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

How I'm preparing to get Alzheimer's

"I need a heart so pure that if it's stripped bare by dementia, it will survive.” (Alanna Shaikh)
- Thank you Alanna---

Friday, June 29, 2012

Connecting and Caring

The Cluetrain Manifesto
Small Pieces Loosely Joined
Everything is Miscellaneous

And on my list to read Too Big to Know 

David Weinberger's books have always resonated with me.

In any number of inservices, I've used parts from What the Web is For -- his version of Small Pieces for kids.

His next to last sentence has always been one of my favorites:
"Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web - built out of hyperlinks and energized by people's interests and passions - is a place where we can be better at being people."

So why this post now---

Clarence Fisher's recent post caught my eye-- What the Web is For Updated for 2012 

His students, in collaboration with Heather Durnin's students in Ontario, collaborated on Google Docs to update the book. As I read his post, my thought was what a tremendous learning experience. He mentioned that:
"I’ve been in contact with Dr. Weinberger about this project and he is pleased that someone took it on. The students in our classrooms were also very excited to receive an email from Dr. Weinberger at the end of the process which began “to my 7th and 8th grade co – authors.” Yeah….. how’d you like to be in grade 7 or 8 and receive an email like that from an authentic Harvard – based researcher? Cool stuff."

More than cool, Clarence!

Clarence shared his students' version and as I read it--
It was filled with passion and the technology of the web they know today--
The students mentioned that David Weinberger had used a Creative Commons license and so were they --
David Weinberger commented on their writing--

Just think, collaborating to write a book on Google Docs with other students hundreds of miles away, an author commenting on the adaption you have done of his work when you are in 7/8 grade--

Isn't this really such a good example of just what David Weinberger said?
"Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web - built out of hyperlinks and energized by people's interests and passions - is a place where we can be better at being people."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thinking on assessing learning--

Out of sync
Always wanting better
Not in agreement
Time and time again

More than 45 years ago, GRE exams
My answers and scores significantly impacted by the recent death of my mom
Not a reflection of my learning at all

More than 30 years ago, a Master's thesis and comprehensive exams
Real opportunities to demonstrate what I had learned

More than a decade ago, applying for a new position and answering a question on assessment
Replying that the process and the projects themselves illustrated what students had learned

In that new position, creating rubrics for projects for high schoolers aspiring to become teachers
Knowing that the state used the same type of rubrics to assess new teachers
Crying in the car after being told to change the rubrics to written tests by an old school CTE administrator

Almost 10 years ago, with a terrible cold, an appointment to take the assessment component as a NBPTS candidate
Timed testing, no kleenex allowed in the testing room, cranking out as fast as I could responses to 6 questions
No time to think

High stakes testing even for our beloved Harley as his obedience training classes came to completion
In the dark in a strange park, he would not stay as I walked away passing 9 of 10 tasks and failing
He curled up in the corner of the back seat with his head down on the way home

Some 6 years ago, designing and creating online professional development courses for Ohio teachers
Always pushing back against suggestions of quizzes, of tests
Pulling for learner created content and powerful questions that enabled deeper learning

Grades, points, projects, quizzes, standardized tests, rubrics--

And then MOOC 2008 with vast learning landscapes, autonomy, openness and distributed learning
I assessed my learning in the open here on this blog (in the blog search box, enter CCK08 for 6 pages of posts)
That learning experience was empowering and scary and full of wonder
And my thoughts on assessment are shifting --again


Very honestly, I've never been a real quiz, test person. In the classroom, I had conversations, I observed, I watched process and explored projects. With proficiencies and standardized testing, I was pushed to change. Conflicted, some testing entered the learning experiences of my students-- not without tension.

Now I'm old, less disposed to "push"-- more likely to follow my instincts---  especially when I've had an experience such as MOOC 2008 and I'm finding other educators seeking a shift/making a shift too.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach undoubtably has provided the most fodder for my thinking. She has articulated in so many places a vision of what could that truly resonates with me. That wayfinding, co constructing meaning and self directed processes play a huge role in shifting is an understatement.
Let the co-learners in the room decide context- the how of what we will share, the teaching and learning processes and the why of how we learn it this way.

Let us do our own wayfinding. Let us construct our own meaning and design, our own sense making activities. Let us show mastery of what we learned in ways that align not only with the standards but also with the self-directed processes and creative ways in which each learner chooses.

maybe we need to standardize (make it business as usual) that learning should be self-directed and knowledge co-constructed.
Anne Fox joined the group of PLP Connected Coaches last fall and in a conversation shared this resource on Heutagogy. Totally new to me, very exciting as learning moves from self directed to self determined. Maybe it's because so much of my professional learning was self determined (I rarely felt that the organized PD that was a staple in my career was of much value) that this notion speaks to me so clearly as does the accompanying concept of developing capabilities. This resource has had a critical impact on my thinking.
Heutagogy (based on the Greek for “self”) was defined by Hase and Kenyon in 2000 as the study of self-determined learning. Heutagogy applies a holistic approach to developing learner capabilities, with learning as an active and proactive process, and learners serving as “the major agent in their own learning, which occurs as a result of personal experiences” (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 112). As in an andragogical approach, in heutagogy the instructor also facilitates the learning process by providing guidance and resources, but fully relinquishes ownership of the learning path and process to the learner, who negotiates learning and determines what will be learned and how it will be learned (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Eberle, 2009).

When designing a self-determined learner experience, certain considerations should be made. A heutagogical approach to learning and teaching is characterized first and foremost by learner-centeredness in terms of both learner-generated contexts and content. Course design elements that support learner-centeredness in a heutagogical approach are presented below.

    Learner-defined learning contracts:
Learning contracts support students in defining and determining their individual learning paths. These individualized contracts, such as those used at distance education institution Empire State College (see, define what will be learned (e.g., scope), how it will be learned (e.g., teaching and learning approaches, learning activities), and what will be assessed and how it will be assessed (Kenyon & Hase, 2010; Gilbert, 1975; Cristiano, 1993).
    Flexible curriculum: In a self-determined learning environment, the learner is the driver in creating flexible curriculum, which is defined by the student: learners create the learning map, and instructors serve as the compass (Hase & Kenyon, 2007; Hase, 2009). Flexible curriculum in this sense is negotiated action learning, which adapts and evolves according to learner needs (Hase, 2009; Hase & Kenyon, 2007). Learners negotiate “how, when, where and to what upper (rather than minimal) level they want to take their learning” (Hase, 2009, p. 47).
    Learner-directed questions: Learner-directed questions and the discussion that results from these questions are what guide learners and serve as mechanisms for helping learners make sense of course content, bring clarity to ideas, and promote individual and group reflection (Kenyon & Hase, 2001; Eberle, 2009). Guiding learners to define self-directed questions is one of the biggest challenges facing developers of heutagogical courses, as designers must be “creative enough to have learners ask questions about the universe they inhabit” (Kenyon & Hase, 2001, para. 29).
    Flexible and negotiated assessment: In heutagogy, the learner is involved in designing his or her assessment. Negotiated and learner-defined assessment has been shown to improve the motivation of learners and their involvement in the learning process, as well as make learners feel less threatened by instructor control of their learning process (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 115; Hase, 2009; Ashton & Elliott, 2007; Canning, 2010). One way of incorporating negotiation into the assessment process is through the use of learning contracts (Hase, 2009). The assessment should include measurable forms of assessing understanding of content, including whether the learner has achieved the competencies desired. Rubrics can also be used effectively in guiding learners in their self-assessment process, for example by assessing “discussion skills, quality of work, outcomes, collaboration, academic soundness and knowledge of material” (Eberle, 2008, p. 186).

Another dually important characteristic of heutagogy is that of reflective practice, “a critical learning skill associated with knowing how to learn” (Hase, 2009, p. 49).

Dean Shareski  has recently reflected on assessment as he teaches again his pre service online course at the U. of Regina. When I read his post, I reread the the sentence "The biggest change this term was to have my student's assessment themselves for the entire course." and I read it again. I like that and his "I really don't care much about the grade at all." as I don't either. It took me back to my learning in the 2008 MOOC-- of how much I learned, of how excited I was.

The biggest change this term was to have my student's assessment themselves for the entire course. In the past, it was required for a few assignments but not all. This term I was clear that they were going to tell me their grade and justify it. As long as their documentation was clear and from my perspective truthful, that's the grade they would receive. I suppose in some respects, I'm still assessing, assessing their assessments but my goal was to do two things. First to empower them to think deeply about their learning. While I've always advocated for reflection, I tried to emphasize more documentation. I still need to structure this better but that was my intent. Secondly I wanted the pressure of grading to be removed from learning.

I really don't care much about the grade at all. I'm interested in their documentation of learning and how I might support them and indeed provide new and better opportunities for them in the future and for my future students as well.

Dave Cormier  has been talking assessment around the course he began teaching this spring. Over the years I've been learning with Powerful Learning Practice, I've become convinced as is he that "making meaning, creating knowledge, is something that happens in public". And so his students are negotiating grading contracts with him.

I’ve been lacking a way to bring a method of assessment to the course that reflects the philosophy of education I’ve been working with. The idea of saying that you understood 92% of the ‘right’ way of seeing something is the exact opposite of the way that I see this course. From a traditional perspective… I want you to cheat. I want you to ‘get the answer’ from your neighbour. I want you to tell me that you did that… but more importantly, I’m hoping that you’ll tell each other that. So the contract measures how much work you’re doing… How much you are contributing. And, if you take anything from this course, is that making meaning, creating knowledge, is something that happens in public.

Student work in this course is evaluated by ‘contract’ – meaning that each of you decide how much work you would like to do for what grade.

The contract grading approach, loosely speaking, is one where the student and the instructor negotiate a ‘contract’ for how that course is supposed to go.

Here is an excellent example from Cathy N. Davidson that I’ve been borrowing from. (or, as she suggests, pilfering from)

I'd rather contract grading become contract learning or rather a learning contract. I'm starting to put pieces together. Learning in public, self assessment, learning contract, no talk of failure--

Cathy N. Davidson  was one of the resources to which Dave Cormier provided a link. With her contract grading the learner decides on what she/he wants or needs from the course (yes I remixed that too from "what grade"); the learner empowered to follow personal passions and needs truly resonated with me. If you follow the link below the quote, Cathy did not create her grading contracts with that in mind; yet her words "what you need or want" are important in my thinking.
The advantage of contract grading is that you, the student, decide how much work you wish to do this semester; if you complete that work on time and satisfactorily, you will receive the grade for which you contracted.  This means planning ahead, thinking about all of your obligations and responsibilities this semester and also determining what grade you want or need in this course
As the facilitator for the PLP Connected Coaching eCourse  I had to submit a syllabus to NDSU; we wanted to provide an opportunity for learners to earn graduate credit if they so wished.  Required by the credentialing institution, I laid out assignments and their influence on a total grade to be earned (no points, percentages).  Not entirely comfortable with that, I've been thinking hard on ways to incorporate all that resonates with me best for learning and assure that learners in the course who seek to earn graduate credit have that option.

In addition, I wanted the course to be of value to the diverse range of educators who were interested for varying reasons. Some wanted to become PLP Connected Coaches, some were face to face coaches and wanted to learn about strategies for coaching in online spaces, some were classroom teachers who wanted to move to a more inquiry based classroom and sought insight on facilitating communication. Some were in it to go deep; others more on the surface. My quandary, a way to facilitate deep learning that met the needs of everyone, remained true to the inquiry based model of the course, and promoted self governed learning.

Adapted, adopted from those who have gone before me, with a lot of Lani sprinkled throughout, I requested that all learners create a learning contract. Really anxious, very much believing in it's potential, yet still nervous I posted this and asked each learner to post theirs in our asynchronous virtual space.
Here it is:

It's not perfect. I haven't figured out how to give those taking the course for credit more options although I have personally encouraged them to add their own personal learning goals, to negotiate percentages for the graduate assignments, to create a timeline for demonstrating their learning that best meets their own personal schedule within the time limits of the course. I've asked them to determine how they will show evidence of their learning and to assess themselves using strategies of their own choosing. In the end, the reality is, I have to submit a grade; we'll Skype or phone; and if there is a need, we'll negotiate--  I am feeling at this point, this is a step in the right direction. If it proves to be of value in the learners' eyes, I will attempt to modify the syllabus for the university to more closely reflect this philosophy of learning.


2 weeks of learning in, I asked for initial reactions (yes I remain anxious and nervous, very much wanting this to be of value) in a recent webinar. Participants placed red stars on the value line on the whiteboard to indicate their feelings. This coupled with comments -- "scary but valued, learning about me,respecting the learner" --encourage me.

Stay tuned-- In late August when the formal course time for learning has come, I'll be back here sharing what I learned, what we learned --

 Image: 'Thinking & Playing'

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Remembering Dad

Searching through images--
And coming upon a folder "Dad" -- I'd forgotten I had made sure it was transferred to this computer--
Images originally gathered and scanned for his memorial service-
Now smiling, remembering--

The engineer

The gardener

The Sailor
He loved the water
Even in his last years
Our father
When I was very young and he traveled lots for his job, he sent me a quote that has been with me all the days of my life--

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. --George Bernard Shaw
Thank you Daddy--

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New possibilities---
11 passioned women educators spending hours of their summer break learning and collaborating together in the current section of the PLP Connected Coaching eCourse. In our first few days together, their remarkable sharing has begun to enable an environment where a community of co learners can grow and flourish.

It struck me as we left our first webinar last night, an all women group is new for this course. My sense is that portends unique and exceptional opportunities to go deep into appreciative inquiry and coaching together. That's not to say that did not occur before; it did. The male voices in the previous sections have been incredibly insightful, and have added a richness to the collective wisdom of the groups. Yet with these strong, accomplished women, my intuition tells me we are about to travel an exceptional learning journey where possibilities truly abound.  I'm excited!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Celebrating a unique collaborative inquiry

Some 2 years minus 4 months ago, I embarked on a unique collaborative inquiry.

The driving question:
How can I restore range of motion and functionality to my left shoulder?

Luckily I've had the opportunity to dig deeper and deeper with an expert learner, Dana Melena, with this content.

And as the expert learner, Dana has brought to our collaboration all the attributes of expertise that Bransford described:

  • Expert learners have well-organized knowledge, not just problem-solving strategies.
  • Expert knowledge is organized to support understanding, not just recall. And the organization is grounded in a field’s foundational concepts.
  • Expert knowledge is conditionalized, and the conditional relationships form patterns that experts recognize and rely upon.
  • An expert’s fluency allows the easy retrieval of relevant knowledge. The patterns mentioned in the previous point are second nature to the expert, while the novice struggles to recognize them. This fluency with fundamental patterns frees the mental energy to focus on new knowledge to add to the pattern.
  • There is a difference between adaptive experts, whose metacognitive skills allow the transfer of knowledge from one setting to another, and routine experts, whose expertise allows them to function well in standard settings but doesn’t serve them well when conditions are different.

Dana is undeniably an "adaptive expert" as this inquiry has been challenging and this body of mine more than unique.

Throughout this twice weekly collaboration
We've asked questions--
We've listened, really listened to each other--
We've brought in expert opinions--
We've had difficult conversations--
She's valued what is important to me; she's been encouraging, she's been frank and honest.

And reflecting now-- the elements of collaborative inquiry abound.

Developing Collaborative Knowledge - Collaborative inquiry creates intersubjective understanding, including areas of common experience and mutual knowing. Knowledge is co-created by the group and is shared by the group.

Relationship - The potential for collaboration is enhanced by a shared history and careful attention to relationship building. It is characterized by an affirmation of one another's contributions, an absence of internal competition and the nurturing of individual and well as group development.

Dialogue - Dialogue is central to the process of  collaborative inquiry. This includes storytelling, creating metaphors and using other right brained processes, experience sharing and the expression of tentative, not fully-formed ideas.

Attentive Listening - Collaborative inquiry requires careful attention to self and others by listening with the intent to understand, observing nonverbal cues, attending to affective responses, honoring silence, and listening to the spaces between the silences.

Reflection -Engagement in collaborative inquiry requires multiple levels of reflection:individual reflection on process and experience, individual reflection on the written reflection of others, and group reflection through dialogue.

Openness to divergent views - By acknowledging that our own knowledge base may be limited by our socio-cultural background and experiences and becoming open to seeing from another's frame, opportunities to extend knowledge are created.

Shared Passion - When passion is mutual, the motivation for collaboration is high. Excitement and energy generated by one member often ignites passion in others.

Commitment - In order for effective collaboration to occur, members must be committed to themselves, to one another and to the group process and project.

We've created areas of common experience-- she has been the lead learner in this area with expansive expertise; I've brought some knowledge of my history and aspirations for doing.

The relationship element, as always, is huge. Each of us has intentionally engaged in affirmations growing a meaningful and productive relationship that enables visions to become reality.

Our sharing of experiences, the stories -- have contributed to formal and informal dialogues that have deepened and supported my learning.

And we have listened, really; so important to highlight that again-- Dana's a master of observational listening, hearing what's not said and that has been a strength for me also.

Our reflections on what worked, what didn't yielded more questions, more experimentation-- and led to different paths all in the quest of an answer to the driving question.

We've extended our collaborative knowledge -- when presented with a divergent view I was struck by Dana's nimbleness and flexibility and my excitement as she changed directions in mid step within seconds.

Fueled by our passions-- mine for regaining functionality and hers for seeing that occur-- we have sustained a huge momentum throughout this extensive inquiry. Dana's passion has truly "re ignited" mine when the inquiry came up against potholes and some detours.

And lastly commitment, articulated more clearly than I could ever-- we've been committed to ourselves, to one another and to the process.

Adding here one last element-- that of celebration and recognition of a process that is seen as important and significant by those involved. In my mind, these celebrations and affirmations can not only add value to the process but also provide opportunities for those involved to understand more deeply how profoundly the opportunity to inquire collaboratively has altered their lives.

Still inquiring and learning more, Dana, this celebration's for you! Thank you--

Image: 'The Art of Inquiry'

Monday, May 28, 2012

Making their own connections

4th graders in PA
2nd graders in TX
5th graders in PA
Grade 1's in Saskatchewan
High schoolers in TX
2nd graders in PA

Learning  and collaborating together
Teaching each other

How did this come to be?

Their teachers, participants in the year 2 Powerful Learning Practice community (, team together on the Whole Teacher/Child team ( to design a PBL unit in which students inquired:

"How can making global connections help me learn and grow in different ways?"

In this learning experience, students connected and created videos of introduction and learning, and a story together.

Powerful learning across time zones--
Making their own connections--

One of their introductions

A collaborative story created by grade 1s and 4th graders can be viewed here:

To their teachers, a standing ovation for your collaboration, for helping your students connect and learn--

When teachers provide theses kinds of opportunities for young people to engage in these kinds of collaboration, possibilities abound--

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Monday Mourning - A Tribute to Chardon High School

A group of seniors wrote, edited, and performed this song and created this video for others at Chardon High School as a Senior Project. On February 27, 2012 a gunman shot and killed 3 students and injured 2 others. This is one illustration of the resiliency of our youth and of our small town healing.


Monday morning, could see the city mourning,
Getting horrifying stories from the cameras recording
But morally informing the nation of the story,
Reporting the good and the love outpouring,
The support was heartwarming.

I heard someone say the worst of one person
has brought out the best in everyone;
Some are still hurting,
Some are still worried,
Some are still wondering why,
Some are still questioning God,
like "How could He just let them die?"
But believe they're gonna rise.

It's just surreal how quick it went,
It took a month to comprehend
But what felt like a month was really only ten
days later, But we won't forget
2/27 etched forever on our hearts,
The day D, Dan, and Rusty went
Back to the Father.
Dead faiths have been renewed
And God's grace has filled its shoes,
This place no longer two.

You can feel love,
who can steal from us can also lift us up to You,
Forgive him Father for he knows not what he do.
Unwavering prayer from around the states,
Contemplating the care, a tear roll down your face.
This is a special place, this a very special place.
Hate reared its face,
Great strength overcame.

Three great souls rose while we prayed in their name,
Don't believe for a minute Satan played a better game;
For every ounce of evil, God's love is ten times as great
So spend time today in a prayer with the Father.
Thank him for your parents, or for your son or daughter,
Thank him for the care when your friends are so supportive.

Live with a purpose, and live for the Lord.
If you seek Him, you shall find Him and I know He's all around.
There's no excuse for at least not trying,
So if you feel your if you've never accepted Him,
I encourage you to try it.
And while we rise up together,
Let's show the world who we live for.

'Cause when the dust settles
All they'll have is a snapshot,
A glimpse into life here,
Where each and every day is filled with hope, love, and life here;
We'll hold on despite fear
And show the globe this is our home and we despise fear.

For every tear that's been shed, a dear friend's made a friend,
Old friends that grew apart let their differences go dark,
With mere love on their hearts,
Once again they can enjoy each other's presence
And call what they have a true friendship.

All the right from the wrong,
All the light from the dark,
You work mysteriously,
God, You work mysteriously.

But seriously, this clearly could be
The worst and greatest experience we
Could have ever gone through together,
Yet it's merely a seed that's been planted
Now watch us sow it for the world to be
A better place, it starts here,
Can you feel it awaken ?
So no more tears, no more crying,
No more fears, wear a smile
And through the years we'll remember
The date, names, and the time when
Our town became one,
When each and every kid felt loved.
And for those still struggling,
Come to peace knowing God is all love.
"Every child goes to heaven" it says in His book;

And believe it.

And while you let it sink in,
Keep your mind thinking good thoughts;
Devote your time to paying it forward.
Pray for the victims, pray for the families,
Pray for the afflicted so God can heal the damage.
Pray for the strong, and pray for the weak,
But most of all pray for the lord to intercede for TJ
'Cause he's still God's child,
Made in God's image.
What's done is done;
What happens now is only God's business.

Listen, I'm not saying we should all defend him,
But as D's mom said, we should all forgive him.

'Cause on..
Monday morning you could see the city mourning,
Getting horrifying stories from the cameras recording,
But morally informing the nation of the story,
Reporting the good and the love outpouring,
The support was heartwarming.

Turned a stormy week into a week of God's glory,
We are Chardon, hear our warning;
We're Topper strong
And ready to tear down the walls of grief and mourning.

And while we rise up together,
Let's show the world who we live for.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Designing learning through a "multiple paths" lens

As member of a  new community--
Reaching All Students--
Sponsored by ARPDC--

I've been excited and reinvigorated learning so much with these accomplished educators in Alberta.

Their focus and lens on learning speak to me-- reaching all students, designing for learning through a "multiple paths" approach.

Their brief overview video captures how inclusive learning enables every learner to be the best that they can be.

 The student smiles, their words very clearly suggest to me that this is an approach that enables communities of learners in which everyone learns to their strengths.

A member of the UDL group in the wall garden community, I have had the opportunity to renew and deepen my understanding and appreciation for universal design for learning thanks to the contributions of the accomplished educators in this group. A group member shared this interactive website that illustrates the many and varied multiple pathways to learning: Not only are there options for each principle of multiple pathways but also additional resources for each.

With the availability of these kinds of resources, I'm thinking the support for designing learning experiences that reach all learners can enable incredible possibilities for learning. Just consider the potential-- what if the focus in Alberta, on inclusion, on designing learning through a "multiple pathways" truly became the foundation for learning across our nation? Can you imagine?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Winding Down

In our walled garden PLP virtual learning community--
Scanning through the "latest activity" when this caught my attention--
Amy Musone (@musone), a year 1 team leader in the IU 13 community from the Central York District, PA (, encouraged her team members to reflect with her as they wind down this year of Powerful Learning Practice professional learning. The team had been immersed in an action research project, examining how their teaching would be transformed as they engaged in PBL in order to promote 21st century learning.
Our goal for this post is to reflect on where each of us started and where we have come.

Remember our driving question:   How will the Pringles Project transform our teaching practices to promote 21st century skills within our students?  

Our beginning: We started with a survey to gather information about how each of us perceived ourselves along with information about what we felt comfortable and uncomfortable with. We input data using this Google form. We shared our thinking when we met via Skype and on the Community Hub.  

Now: Now it is time for us to reflect on what we have done, how we've grown, and struggles that still hold us back. It is also important for us to consider and share where we plan to go from here.   Looking forward to hearing your ideas!
And leader that she is, she modeled for them her own reflection:
Okay...when we began this venture, I felt unsure of myself and a little self-conscious that I just wasn't "getting it." One thing I wasn't sure about was what exactly was expected of me. As I became more involved I came to the conclusion that the expectation was going to be set by one person...myself. I could get guidance and encouragement from my team members and the PLP community at large, but ideally, the motivation to move forward and become a more effective educator came from within. I knew that I alway wanted to engage in PBL, but never knew how to fully embrace it. Through our meetings both with my PLP Year 1 team and the larger community webinars I felt like I could wrap my head around this idea. head was in the right place, finally. My students are just completing their projects. My room was a disaster (we were using packaging materials), there was a constant buzz of excited and on-task conversations, and the creative juices were flowing. There is NO way that I could have "taught" them everything that they discovered (technology, and science) and that made me glow. ....  

This project has begun to infiltrate other activities that happen throughout the school day. I worked to devise a project with another teacher in my classroom and have collaborated with the gifted support teacher on a project. I am truly excited about this.  My hope would be to work with the PLP group on other projects.... I know that in order to do this, we are going to need teacher and administrative buy in. Luckily, I have plenty of artifacts created by kids to demonstrate learning, problem solving, critical thinking skills, and collaboration. Still have a hill to climb...sure, but I've taken a couple of steps!
With Amy's powerful reflection on her PLP journey, I decided to "follow" the discussion; sure enough, the next day Melissa Wilson responded. She shared in part her challenges and her beliefs in the power of PBL:
This has been a very challenging project. At the fifth grade level there are many obstacles to overcome just to find the time to proceed with a problem based assignment. ...  

I believe that there is a real need for problem based learning. ... The challenges created by this type of project parallel the types of challenges the students will face in real life....  

Next year I plan to look at ways that I can create projects such as "The Pringle Project" that will fit in the curriculum. In designing these assignments the plan is to be able to deliver instruction covering the curriculum and then allow the students to use what they have learned in creative real world problem solving. With support from my colleagues I hope that this will help my students to learn and prepare them for the future.
And then Barb Ream chimed in a day later attributing their success and learning to their coach; Amy, their team leader; and their collaboration:
I know that the point of this whole project was to think differently about education by experiencing it firsthand. I am an old fashioned learner who is used to having everything laid out for me. ..  

I felt like I was floundering - a fish out of water. I felt like it must just be me, however after talking to the rest of my group I realized it wasn't just me. We all floundered together and somehow we managed to figure it out in the end.  

I feel the reason we were able to pull it together was for a number of reasons. The first was we had a great coach. Peter (@peterskillen) really guided us through the process and made us think outside the box. Our fearless leader, Amy, was invaluable. Her insight, leadership, creativity, and motivation pulled us through. We would have been lost forever without her. Lastly, my team members. It was such a great experience getting to know members of my school community better. We met through skype and in person. We had great collaboration sessions and worked very well together.  

I think this project taught me many things. The first is that it is ok to be messy learners. .... I learned that if you give students an interesting project, they will come up with some amazing solutions to problems.  

My plan for the future is to continue to create more Problem Based Projects. I actually enjoyed how all of the students came up with different solutions to the same problem. I also plan on sharing this with more colleagues in hopes of having them do something similar.
Deep reflections with common themes--  
Initially overwhelmed with uncertainty and challenges yet persevering-- Floundering and figuring it out together--  
Appreciations for collaboration, the risk taking that enables, and hopes to continue that--  
Recognition of the power of a collegial team working together and of PBL in learning--  
Evidence of profound, collegial professional learning-- absorbing, doing, interacting and reflecting--

Although this team is winding down their formal time together in year 1 PLP, these reflections portend a gearing up--  
for future collaborations, collegial learning,
for more in depth journeys into transforming their teaching practices to promote 21st century skills within their students.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wayfinding continued --

The wayfinding continues
Four years in
Looking back
As I look forward

Realizing more fully the tensions, the dualities, the uncertainties, the dissonance, the nuances that accompany the privilege of leading an online community remain constant—
Following year 1, these words described my first experience as a community leader for Powerful Learning Practice:
“On the side, in the middle, questioning, nudging, modeling, holding back sitting on my hands”

“Where I once might have suggested or pushed in a conversation, now others begin to take that lead. As an almost out of body experience, I hear my voice slowly morphing from that of leader as trust builds and the voices of the community grow and mature.” --Powerful Learning Practice
These tensions, this dissonance—only compel my own stretching, my moving out of my comfort zone as I find my way as a community leader. At this point, it's messy, it’s exhilarating, it’s formidable and it’s stupefying – 21st century learning at its best!!! Learning that brings new meaning to being open to new ideas, to flexibility, to being nimble— challenging and demanding.

As I find my way, seeking tone that is most welcoming, and yet again true, I find myself on the side in private emails and comments to walls on the NING encouraging those who continue to find this environment daunting.

… asking questions of clarification, hoping to push folk deeper in thinking or in considering an alternate perspective. Composing these questions—again with attention to tone –does not come easily-- wanting just the right words, just the right phrase, in my own voice—
Most challenging – sensing the right time to be quiet at the computer, just sitting on my hands, letting go -- allowing members of the community the opportunity for their own personal messy learning. I often feel like I’m on a roller coaster as passioned conversations take off and then suddenly few voices are raised-- I’m confident with my choice to step back and then I’m questioning the appropriateness—
Those words, those phrases, those thoughts-- they continue today. 

Two years in
One year ago—passioned, savoring my journey as a PLP community leader— Feeling exhilarated, bungling, practiced, ineffectual, poised, uncertain And finally thinking I was on the cusp of moving beyond the tensions, the dualities I found inherent in the role of community leader—
One year later—perhaps a little wiser Just a touch more widely read—
Arrogant in suggesting a year ago that the “perhaps less need for me to make those difficult choices” as the community evolved-- of what, and when and how to nudge, to cajole and to be silent—
Finding that wayfinding, always is fraught with tensions and dualities – jumping in, sitting on my hands, nudging, holding back, encouraging—
Finding that wayfinding continues to invoke inexplicable, disparate feelings – joy, insecurity, fervor, doubt, excitement, indecision, zeal, awe —
Learning, forever learning-- reveling in the messiness, the tensions, and the day to day need for nuanced silence or responses—

Year 2
Those words, those phrases, those feelings, those thoughts-- they continue today.

And 6 months later:
‘Any serious learning will take you through a dark night of your identity’.
–Etienne Wenger via Jenny Mackness wayfinding has been fruitful, though often fraught with frustration over my perceived inadequacies as I seek to become more competent in supporting sociability 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—
Helping build a sense of community
Taking the recommendation of Cothrel & 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..

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 & 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 & 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.
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 & his colleagues, 2002) and confidently encouraging the participation of those on the periphery are two very different things. ... 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, 1998)
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.

Helping to add value
To encourage participation, potential members have to be convinced that it is worth participating in the CoP. (Sharratt & Usoro, 2003). …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.

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.

End of year2:
 I find growth in that reflection-- feelings and thoughts not changed, yet there is emerging a researched foundation on which to grow my practice.

And now--

A bit more confident--

Nevertheless continuing to sense the tensions, the nuances, the extreme care needed for the emergence and growth of a real community--

Realizing even more fully (did I think that was possible?) how leading a community is an art-- 

In the building of relationships, in the right and powerful questions, in the appreciative inquiry, in the capacity building, in the value adding--

And yet learning more and eagerly anticipating the next opportunity to grow and learn more, to focus on what I've come to know--

I know now that it is when everyone is sharing and everyone is deciding where and what they will read, do, or reflect upon-- that is when the real action and learning takes place. I want to model myself out of a job and make things easy for natural leaders to emerge.

I want to focus on keeping the community together. I need to recognize more fully the community’s need for balance; need for change and a need for stability. Too much newness, and there is a danger of the community losing its sense of identity; too much stability can lead to a loss of intensity and vitality. I'm thinking obtaining more feedback from all members can be helpful in guiding the community. I need to be more open, willing to consider new thinking, to help the community continue to evolve and thrive (Stuckey & Smith, 2004). I need to focus more on nurturing new leadership (Lai et al., 2006). I need to reach out to core members to lead an activity; create occasions that by their organic nature leave opportunities for leaders to emerge. As well, I should be engaging in ongoing efforts to build community especially focusing on social interactions, deepening and extending collegial relationships. As important, if not more, should be my continuous nurturing of and creating conditions in which trust develops -- the trust that comes to underlie collegial relationships where risk taking and stretching are the norm (Rasberry & Mahajan, 2008).

I've come to know that wayfinding as a community leader:

is always fraught with tensions and dualities – jumping in, sitting on my hands, nudging, holding back, encouraging —

will evoke inexplicable, disparate feelings – joy, insecurity, fervor, doubt, excitement, indecision, zeal, awe —

is learning, forever learning-- reveling in the messiness, the tensions, and the day to day need for nuanced silence and responses —

Image: 'London Loop or Beeches Way'

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Archdiocese of Philadelphia educators + Virtual Academies = Collegial Learning

What happens when a community leader for Powerful Learning Practice from NE Ohio and educators from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia come together in virtual sessions with presenters from Kansas, Quebec, Iowa, Illinois, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Manitoba, California, Ontario, New Jersey, Michigan, and Maine? Learning. More learning. And more learning.

For 3 years now, here in NE Ohio on many Tuesday or Thursday afternoons and evenings, I've been facilitating sessions and monitoring chats with passioned educators from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a myriad of different webinars. My calendar reminders simply say VA-- reminding me of the Virtual Academy sessions. And on those same days, as soon as buses leave the Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools in the afternoon, a number of teachers have hurried back to their classrooms. It's likely time to log into the Virtual Academy webinar sessions sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with Powerful Learning Practice. Many times, these dedicated educators have extended their school day by a number of hours and joined the later webinar that evening. Why? In the service of their children, they have aspired to learn more about technology infused learning and become more accomplished connected educators. Following each session, I've had the privilege to engage in discussions with these educators around the topic of the week in our private online community of practice. I've had the opportunity to come to know caring, passionate educators who want the very best for their children and who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to do just that. My role of community leader in the PLP Virtual Academy is one I've come to cherish.

Together we've explored TPACK in English, Social Studies, Math and Science classrooms as well as digital creativity in each of these disciplines. We've examined digital images and videos in learning. We've gone deep into implementing Common Core Standards and Understanding by Design into personal practice and classroom instruction. You can view some of the sessions here and see descriptions of others here .

And the Virtual Academy impact? Kay and Tina share:
Virtual Academies give me the opportunity to network with, share new ideas for engaging students, and learn how others are using technology in their classroom. The Virtual Academy gives me a an outlet for assisting my peers and discussions about providing effective student collaboration.The sessions gave me a way of talking and sharing with other Archdiocese teachers and educators from different parts of the country in a relaxed atmosphere.

The Virtual Academies are by far a great and powerful way of providing teachers who my be unable to attend a workshop with online professional development. When school was closed because of snow or ice the Virtual Academy still provided professional development for us. If I had missed a session all I needed to do was go online for an archived session to help improve my teaching skills. --Kathleen Burgess, Library/Media Curriculum Chairperson, Conshohocken Catholic School, Kay on Twitter

I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with the Virtual Academy classes over the last 3 years. There were many times that I learned an exciting new tool and was able to incorporate it the very next day in my classroom. Even if I didn't know all of the ins and outs of the tool, my students and I gave it a try and had fun learning from each other. Not only did the teachers learn some fantastic new Web 2.0 tools, but we also had a place to converse and try out these new skills in the discussion group with Lani there to answer our questions and lend us a hand. Another important aspect was the chat discussions which lead to the exchanging of more great ideas and support from our colleagues. I was thrilled when I was asked to present at a Virtual Academy class this year! I enjoyed sharing my ideas and I hope I was able to encourage others to try something new. Special thanks to the Archdiocese for making this available to us! -- Tina Schmidt, 3rd grade teacher, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Tina on Twitter

Tina's classroom blog and her participation in a Flat Stanley Project with Romania evidence the sharing and collaboration in her classroom. In so many other classrooms, educators proudly share in chat and in discussions how technology is changing learning for their students-- that students are blogging, collaborating on wikis, creating and commenting on Voicethreads, making posters using Glogster, and creating stories on Storybird .

We've explored new learning landscapes. And as a result, the design of students' learning experiences are more authentic, more collaborative and full of sharing. And we, our lives are the richer for the time we have spent sharing, collaborating, laughing, and learning together. Now connected educators, I know these Virtual Academy members will continue to guide both their colleagues and their students deeper into connected, collegial learning.

Cross Posted at PLP Network