Category Archives: changes

Getting out of your comfort zone

balletIn the past year, I’ve taken on two new endeavors that have greatly challenged me, sometimes to a breaking point. Last summer, I left a job I adored, a beautiful 22nd-floor apartment, and close friends, to move across the Pacific and start a new job in the curriculum department at an international school. Not long ago, I also started taking ballet lessons after a 16-year hiatus.
The similarities of those two endeavors sometimes take me by surprise.
My landings are rough;
My muscles stiff.
What I used to do with ease now feels, at times, false, as though I’m pretending to be something I’m not; yet in my memory, my time as a teacher and as a dancer doesn’t seem so long ago.
I force myself to get up every morning knowing that I’m going to stretch a little longer today. And slowly, I’m celebrating small wins.
Things start to feel familiar.
A new identity starts to awaken.
Complacency is the body & mind slowly decaying.
Scare yourself.
Be uncomfortable.
Your reward will amaze you.

Ch-ch-ch-changes (an announcement)

As many of you know, I have spent the past nine years working as a consultant for McREL International. This wasn’t something I ever thought I would do when I first went into the teaching profession. (I’m not even sure I knew it was an option.) Yet for most of the past decade, I have enjoyed every aspect of this amazing job. I’ve had opportunities to learn from our talented researchers and consultants, to travel the US and the world, and to reconnect with my love of writing by co-authoring five books and numerous articles. I have reveled in this role more than I ever imagined and am grateful for the many mentors and friends I have met while doing so.

A few months ago, however, I started to feel the need to shake things up. I wasn’t exactly sure why or how. Maybe it was because I had lived in Denver for almost 16 years, which was never really the plan. Maybe I was starting to feel disconnected from the day-to-day vibrancy of working in a school and seeing learning in action on a daily basis. Maybe I realized that my career was half over and I hadn’t yet fulfilled a lifelong dream of living abroad.

Whatever the impetus, a series of conversations and events led to reconnecting with some of the wonderful people at the American School in Japan. One conversation led to another and as a result…

I will be moving to Tokyo (with husband and kitty in tow) this summer where I will take on the position of Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning for ASIJ. While the prospect of leaving a city I love, my McREL family, and a job that I adore is bittersweet, I am SO EXCITED to begin this new chapter in our lives and to embrace all the challenges and joys that living in a different country will bring. Most of all, I am honored to join this amazing community of educators.

I hope to chronicle my travels, learning, and experiences on this blog and via my Twitter account (@erhubbell). I hope you will join me in the conversation. 


Pushing the (Digital) Envelope

20110925-092824.jpg I recently started working with a new client to help their teacher leaders become district trainers for one of our lines of work. They had previously worked with a colleague of mine with great success, but I knew that our two different presentation styles would be a shift for them.

My colleague had warned me, when I asked if I could simply create a Google site for the work, that the technology wasn’t readily available to do so and that I should come prepared with paper handouts and a flash key drive.

I struggled with the message that I was hearing: in spite of my role in helping schools to transition into 21st century learning environments, I should enable them to continue doing things in an expensive, time-consuming manner. I made a risky decision…I uploaded all documents onto a Google site and sent an email asking them to bring a laptop or iPad if available.

The first morning was dicey…one person had to take the documents from my flash key and run to the office to print them off. I started to question my doggedness. When we moved to the computer lab later in the day, I started to feel some hope.

By the second morning, however, everyone brought a device or borrowed a netbook from the cart that had been sitting in the room the entire time (!) The transformation was amazing…people were actively adjusting slides and adding notes as I was presenting. By the end of the day, they had finished products ready to use. My favorite moment came as I listened to two colleagues talk about their upcoming presentation:

“Should we provide handouts, you think?”

“No, (gesturing to her own pile of papers) it’ll just end up on a shelf somewhere. Let’s get them on the Google site and give them tools they can use right away.”

I’ve said this before…I love my job 🙂


An article from 2000

When I was still a teacher, a small group of us decided to reignite the Montessori Association of Colorado (MAC). We managed to get out one small publication and host a conference before enthusiasm fizzled and many of us went on to other endeavors.

I still have that little publication from 2000 and came across it the other day. In re-reading my article, I noted several things. One, it’s where I see my first musings that would later lead me to getting a Master’s in Information & Learning Technologies, focusing on 21st century classrooms, incorporating modern tools into my instruction…everything that led me to where I am today.

I also noted, with frustration, that we are still having the same conversations eleven years later. Does this mean that I’m going to come across one of my more recent publications in the year 2022 and see the same issues? I most certainly hope not.

In the meantime, here is the article as published in November of 2000. To put this year in perspective: I had just purchased my first cell phone and laptop that summer. The three computers I had in my classroom were the Apple “candy” colored desktops. No one had ever heard of an iPod, a PLN, or wikis. I see imperfections in some of my thinking, but I can also see seeds of what would grow into my love of networking with other educators and helping students to think deeply rather than look up facts. (You can also see evidence that I was really into Jared Diamond’s work at the time.)

Montessori for the 21st Century: The Changing Face of Montessori

by Elizabeth A. Ross

It’s common knowledge when discussing the development of a species…

It’s often a driving statement behind the restructuring of a business…

It is true of any machine, life form, or philosophy…

That which does not evolve eventually dies.

Many Montessorians, as of late, have had to struggle with this phenomenon. In this age of research, technology, and more quickly changing societies, when students are having to learn more information at an increasing speed, we find ourselves sometimes having to make tough decisions. Should I focus more on keyboarding skills? How much time should I spend teaching test-taking strategies? How soon should children be proficient at using a CD-ROM and the Web? With an already-full curriculum, what are we willing to sacrifice for these added units?

I guiltily find myself asking: Is knowledge of facts now as important as being able to independently find the answers when needed? I seems that, as some point, one has to stop memorizing and begin learning reference material.

Life coach Martha Beck recently wrote in the September issue of Real Simple magazine: “Consider…that there’s more information in one daily edition of The New York Times than the average 18-century person would have consumed in a lifetime.”

Not only is there more to know now, but the profile of a typical Montessori student has shifted incredibly since its beginning. Maria Montessori shaped her philosophy and materials based upon observations of inner-city, underprivileged children in the 1800s. While children share many commonalities throughout ages, cultures, and socioeconomic circumstances, most children educated in the Montessori tradition today come from middle- to upper-class homes. They have been reared by well-educated parents. They have been entertained by TV, the Web, and various electronics. They are generally well-traveled and have a vast knowledge of the world at a very early age. Can we compete and hold these children’s interest with traditional Montessori? (Incidentally, many Charter Schools and Head Start programs are thankfully making Montessori available to children of all backgrounds. Montessorians are so grateful to finally see such a wonderful program offered to everyone.)

Even within my own 6-9 classroom, I’m seeing changes. By the third grade, gone is the interest in using the Stamp Game or learning plant nomenclature. The children make mental leaps earlier and earlier with each passing year. Sadly, things that glitter and move hold much more of an interest than those beloved green, blue, and red tiles. A child will not necessarily get exposure to every wonderful material Montessori has to offer. Now, to keep from boring the learner, I have to quickly move on once a concept is understood.

What’s a Montessorian to do? I believe the first step is finding others who are sharing these frustrations. Knowledge that others are feeling torn between what we were taught as fundamental in our training and answering the twenty-first century’s educational demands would be a great relief. From that point, sharing ideas is a must. Montessori must undergo some changes, but we need to be able to also hold on to what makes Montessori education the beauty that it is. This also filters into training centers: do they keep the training pure or must they, too, revolutionize? How many changes are too many changes? When is Montessori no longer Montessori?


My Back-to-School Season starts Sunday

After a lovely summer of golf, grilling, ISTE, NanoTeach, and reading, back-to-school season starts for me early Sunday when I fly to Wisconsin for Tech & CITW training.

I am AMAZED at how quickly this summer went by, at how much I learned (largely from books, blogs, Tweets, and magazines on my iPad). This fall brings exciting work with two trips to NE, three to WI, one to Colorado Springs, and a trip back to Tokyo. (I love and am grateful for my job.)

Today, I worked on updating a PBWorks site that I’d used last year with a group in Wisconsin. Since I’m working with the same client, we decided to keep the same site, even though I tend to use Google sites more often these days. Going through the site, updating links, embedding videos, attaching articles, made me realize how much our conversation can shift in one year. Some links had to be deleted (e.g. EtherPad), some that were new and exciting last year are now common tools that I use on a regular basis (e.g. Wolfram Alpha). Some tools had to be added that didn’t even exist last year (e.g. iPad apps).

My lesson from all of this: one of the biggest workplace hazards for people in education is to not stay current.


Ok…I’m blogging again

I took a long hiatus from blogging here; mostly because I was often blogging on my Organization’s blog. Since we’ve decided not to do that as much, however, I realize that I need a place to reflect, think, get my ideas down, hear what others think of my ideas.

So my next post will be about my reflections on the Leadership Bootcamp, ISTE 2010, and what has changed (for me) since my first NECC in 2005.


Changing Office Procedures

For a literature review in our office, about two dozen people are charged with reading hundreds of research studies and summarizing them. This actually comes after an even larger group has the task of searching for research studies and coding them to see if they are appropriate for our review. Most of these studies are in PDF format and not all of us have the full version of Acrobat. The amount of paper that would mean if all of us physically printed out each study – even if we shared hard copies – is mind-boggling. Before I started my task yesterday, I searched for the best way to make notes and highlights on a PDF.

What I found was a resource called http://a.nnotate.com. It’s free (up to a certain limit) and has some features that I really like. You can color-code your various highlights as well as tag and make notes for each highlight. When you’re finished, all of your highlighted text shows up on one screen along with the tags and notes you used. Clicking on the text takes you to that place in the document. While it took a couple of hours to search for the resource, then get comfortable using it, it’s well worth not using hundreds of reams of paper.

Are there other similar resources out there that you are using to annotate PDFs? If so, please share.