Category Archives: ProfessionalDevelopment

It’s not you; it’s me…or maybe it’s you…

As with many of you, I maintain a few professional memberships of organizations who focus on certain issues and to whom I look for learning and networking. I have been a member of one in particular since the early 2000s when, as I was getting my Master’s degree, I decided that becoming a member was of paramount importance on my career path. I happily doled out my yearly fees and looked forward to its monthly magazine and yearly conference. By reading its publication, I learned of people, ideas, and tools that I might not have learned about otherwise.

In recent years, however, I find myself disengaged – not with my profession…indeed those conversations seem to be getting richer and more thoughtful as my network expands – but with one organization in particular. I have stopped going to its annual conference, finding it more focused on pens, prizes, and over-populated lecture halls than about improving pedagogy.

I scan the periodical and only occasionally find anything that I think helps teachers who are working to meet the needs of their learners. Wanting to contribute (and not just complain), I submitted an article last year to its publication that looked at digital learning through the lens of research-based instructional strategies, thinking of teachers more as instructional designers than providers of information. The feedback from the editor was dismissive at best:

“…this felt a bit to me like dressing up old ideas in new vocabulary, rather than presenting truly new ideas.”


I recently received an email reminding me that my annual membership was about to expire. I have to ask myself: what am I getting out of this relationship? These days, I find that I learn more through Twitter feeds, blogs, and smaller, more intimate gatherings (e.g. salons, local or state conferences) than I do through its publication, special interest groups, or conference. Has it gotten too big? Or has my learning style simply shifted so much that glossy periodicals and over-stimulating conferences don’t engage me anymore?

Is anyone else dealing with this?


My Favorite Quote from Educon 2.5

FranklinI had such a wonderful three days at Educon that I thought it would be difficult to pinpoint any one statement or over-arching idea that most resonated. Indeed, every session I went to was thought-provoking, energizing, and an excellent model of how to NOT lecture, but to teach.

If I had to choose one favorite quote, however, it was given by Dr. William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools and keynote speaker. In other words, it was one of the first things that I heard and it stuck with me throughout the conference. It still resonates with me today and I’m still toying with how to incorporate this into my work:

“Suppose we were evaluated on how smart we make other people in our profession.”

I like this thought because it assumes that our primary job as we learn, no matter what our profession, is to share and to add to the collective understanding and growth of our colleagues. It encourages openness over carefully guarding information, adding to rather than competing against.

Good food for thought.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin


Hope to see you at ISTE’s Leadership Forum!

On October 21-23, I will be joining other educators and leaders for ISTE’s inaugural Leadership Forum in Indianapolis. I will be attending as a learner and teacher as well as hosting McREL’s kiosk.

I am most excited about the opportunity to moderate the Essential Conditions panel on Skilled Personnel. This panel includes people I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years in my work at McREL. Each of them brings specific models or practices of professional development that has led to having skilled personnel who are ready to instruct in ever-evolving learning environments. My panel members are:

This forum encourages discussions over presentations; shared learning over “expert dissemination.” I look forward to meeting many people whom I only currently know as “Tweeps” and “bloggers,” but who impact my learning on a daily basis. It should be a great experience. I hope to see you there!

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 🙂

Join the ISTE SIGilt book study

As you may or may not know, I’ve recently taken on the role of PD chair for the ISTE SIGilt. One of my roles is to organize a series of 1-hour webinars and a couple of book studies over the course of the coming school year.


Using Tech with CITW

I thought I’d start with a book that I know pretty well: Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. While my colleagues and I wrote this four years ago, I still find it amazing that, while the technologies have evolved, that the strategies provide such a strong structure for utilizing technology in the classroom.

Say, for example, a teacher finds a good frog dissection website. At first, his thoughts might be, “This will be a great website for my students to use when we’re studying amphibians.”

When one starts to think about technology in terms of the strategies from Classroom Instruction that Works, the language changes to something like, “This will be a great website for my students to use when we’re studying amphibians and I what them to use nonlinguistic representation to compare and contrast amphibians to fish and reptiles.” The technology is no longer a part of the “noun” of the content, but becomes rather the “verb” of what skills and strategies we want students using.

To that end, I invite you to join our book study. We will go through the research behind each strategy and look at a variety of tools and resources that help you integrate those strategies. We start September 1st and wrap up around Thanksgiving, ending with a webinar hosted by the authors. Hope to see you online!

Is ignorance bliss?

I had a workshop participant advise me recently that I should omit showing or demo-ing any tool that isn’t free. As a former teacher with a limited budget, I am well aware of the frustration of seeing things that you want so badly for your students but couldn’t possibly afford.

I struggle, however, with the idea of omitting ANYTHING that isn’t free. I certainly use “free” as much as I can, but honestly, there are some amazing tools out there that do have a price. I worry that I’d be doing teachers a disservice by not making them aware of these tools. What if next year they have some room in the budget? What if they are the recipients of a grant? Would it really be better to not even know about what’s available?

I’d love your thoughts: should I honor the limited budgets of educators by showing only what’s free? Or should I show what’s out there, even if it isn’t immediately attainable?

When you actually make a difference…

While sitting in a very quiet, serious discussion one afternoon this week, I snuck a peek at my BlackBerry and found this email from a former client for whom I had conducted a technology audit:

We are all very excited that our district is going to have 18 classrooms with 1:1 computing with
the ASUS EEEPC 1000 ‘s laptops ! We received another EETT Grant that was going to provide laptops
for 4 classrooms through a competitive application process within the district.
The applications were so good, the district decided to take care of the 14 more classrooms.
The kids and teachers are really excited about this opportunity. I have heard some great stories
about what happened in the schools when they found out that they were selected for the program.
Teachers running and dancing in the halls; one teacher was so excited and so red in the face, the
students were afraid she was having a heart attack! There is still joy in learning!

I just wanted you to know how the spark you ignited here is becoming a bigger flame.

I wish you could do research on the impact of our laptops in the classrooms! Then we could
visit more often and share more stories.

Thanks for all you have done for us.”

Needless to say, I wanted to jump out of my seat and do a little running and dancing myself! What makes this email even more special is that this tech audit was conducted almost 2 years ago. Being a few degrees removed from the classroom, I miss that immediate feedback I used to get from the kids, knowing that what I had attempted to do had meaning and value. I’m going to tuck this email away for those rainy days when I feel that I’m having the same conversations with the same people, yet nothing is happening. Thank you – you-know-who-you-are – for sending this.