Sunday, March 18, 2012

Harbingers of what is to come--

It's only March--
It's been unseasonably warm--
The plants in the garden have peeked out from their winter rest exceptionally early.

The daffies' green leaves, the red nubs of the peonies, the green points of the Japanese Iris, the maple's baby leaves, the buds on the weeping cherry hold a special promise for what is to come. These harbingers of spring and summer, in a climate of often difficult winters, lift the spirit and the hopes for better times -- gardens full of color and trees leafed in green!

So too, from the year 2 teams of Powerful Learning Practice, precursors begin to appear that portend the exceptional problem based learning units they are designing. Signs of exciting plans for learning from accomplished and passioned educators pop up on Twitter, blogs, Google Docs and Posterous where they are sharing.

From Cori on the Instructional Focus team
whose students are exploring how they can share their stories:
Alan, the team leader, illustrates how his 4th grade students explore this question here and here

In classrooms in PA, Texas, and Saskatechwan, students are asking "How can making global connections help me learn and grow in different ways?" Their teachers on The Whole Teacher/Child team recently posted how they are making their own connections. The team is currently collaborating on a Google Doc on a connections menu for their students. Becky, the team leader offered a window onto their process on Twitter:
And Kathy's grade 1's composed, narrated and filmed their introductory video for the other students with whom they will be making connections:

The Inquiry Driven team has been blogging transparently sharing how in classrooms their students are asking "How can we make a difference? The posts from Renee, from Gail, and from Kristine illustrate the diverse and unique perspectives from which students are exploring this question. Tweets from Beth encourage us to support her students in their Peace projects.

You can support them too by following the this link to their projects.

A group of accomplished administrators from PA, Ontario, Alberta, and asking “How can we design problem/passion-based professional learning to engage our teachers for 21st century learners?” Leading the Shift transparently blogs as they capture just a bit of their rich conversations from Blackboard Collaborate sessions.

Our third Elluminate Session consisted of great dialogue about creating a framework for our project. We began the conversation by asking questions about how we can design units for our own contexts, what the framework would look like, and the planning and refining process. --source

Students in PA are asking "How can we pay it forward?" The educators on the Collective Action team collaborate on a Google Doc where they have already mapped their unit to standards, identified resources, initial and culminating activities and planned Skype sessions for their students.

Across PA students are exploring "How can art illustrate a culture of learning? The Arts and Crafts team has been blogging and has begun sharing on a wiki. Their passion based approach to this unit has generated great excitement among them as each teacher has brainstormed how this will become a part of their curriculum.

So much like the garden, these are harbingers only this time of meaningful, deep learning to come. Perhaps, even more exciting-- I have some notion of the garden I hope to see in May and June. I've only these hints and peeks at what may well become entirely new learning landscapes for these educators and their students. I'm impatient for both the garden and more about these projects-- Yet I know both will be more than worth the waiting--

Photo credit:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Diversity and Connected Coaching

Our latest Connected Coaching webinar ended Wednesday evening at 8:30 PM EST. At 9:00, Traci, Debra and Camilla continued to talk with each other in Blackboard Collaborate as they collaborated on a wiki page building a Connected Coaching toolkit. Three educators from Australia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, with diverse perspectives and a common goal, collaborated across time zones and geographical boundaries.

One of the many beauties of online collaboration and Connected Coaching is the potential for diverse perspectives to deepen learning. In our current course section, passioned and accomplished educators from Oregon, Ontario, Alberta, Virginia, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, China, Finland and Norway bring their unique gifts and talents and do just that.
That diversity is a critical component in effecting change and in improving our coaching practice. As Sheryl and I note in The Connected Educator:

"The importance of diversity is foundational for organizations and individuals wanting to reculture, transform, or totally reinvent themselves in order to remain relevant in students’ lives. To stimulate new ideas, facts, experiences, possibilities, insights, perspectives, and skills—conceptions and conversations need to bump up against each other in fresh and surprising ways. It is almost impossible to have something new emerge from people who hang out together all the time and think about the same things in much the same ways.

One of the strengths in collaborating as connected learners, both within and beyond the schoolhouse walls, lies in the range of thought, ideology, and culture that becomes part of the conversations and learning process. Connected learners expand their schemas and process issues and possible solutions from new perspectives and conceptual frames. Connected learners are able to hear differing voices and opinions and learn to confront challenges to assumptions authentically, in the manner of critical friends." --page 41

I am humbled by this opportunity to learn with and to facilitate an esteemed group of educators whose journey into Connected Coaching validates and illustrates the power of diversity to deepen thinking, open possibilities for innovation, and a more accomplished Connected Coaching practice.

Image: '3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept'

Friday, March 02, 2012

Reaching out a bit further--

Early this week, a terrible tragedy befell our small rural community. The entire town mourns with the 3 families who lost their sons.

Everyone, grieving and yearning to heal, supports each other. Red ribbons adorn trees and poles. More than a thousand people quietly stood outside St. Mary's for a prayer vigil because the church was full on Monday. Students organized a gathering at the village square and a walk together from there back to the school on Thursday. Residents lined the streets applauding and supporting them along the way. The Superintendent hugged every student returning to the high school. There are tears, hugs, arms entwined, everyone asking each other if they are ok--

A local author, in her "Shot through the heart" post shared her personal story and a plea that calls out to each of us --- as caring humans, as educators. You'll find it here:

"I refuse to finish this essay with empty platitudes about how we should all pray for the families and students of Chardon, Ohio. Of course we should. But we must do more. We live in a country littered with broken homes and lost children. You can reach out to a child. Now. Today. You can make a difference."

I know that you make a difference every day in the lives of children. But I hope you'll remember Danny, Demetrius and Russell and reach out just a bit farther.