Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adapt or Become Irrelevant! My 5 Favorite Tweets of 2011

I would like to take a moment to thank all of the outstanding educators who are part of my PLN and invest in making me better each and every day.  The 10 people who influence me the most and on a daily basis...... I have never met!  

As this year comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to share my 5 favorite tweets of 2011 and a brief explanation as to why.  

Mary Beth Hertz offers some important advice when she tweeted, "Be patient but relentless in helping colleagues build connections!"  Steve Wheeler recently wrote a blog post titled, Connected Educators in which he shares, "It is abundantly clear to me that connectivity is one of the essentials in the 21st Century teacher toolkit.  We are now learning more from each other than we could ever learn on our own." 

Tom Whitby shares some meaningful advice in his blog, My Island View, in which he defines What's A Connected Educator?  "Educators must get over all of the obstacles they are putting up about connectedness. It can be done slowly, one step at a time, but it must be done. We need educators to be connected." You are absolutely right Tom, it must be done!

I could not agree more with Nancy and her straightforward tweet about technology integration.  For over a decade now, we have been providing much professional development in the area of technology integration in hopes all teachers will get on board.  Yet, many teachers still feel as if they have an option and choose not to change.  The fact is, we can no longer attend professional development five days a year and cross our fingers and hope that each teacher will utilize technology.  Nor can we continue to block access for those teachers and leaders who are willing and able to open up their classrooms and schools to the world.

Superintendent David Britten recently wrote, "Communities waiting until only the best roads are put in place before anyone's allowed to drive a car are just plain backwards and need to get out of the way of progress."

Thank you David for sharing this outstanding quote.  Recently, I read a provocative post by Jeff Delp called, Staying Plugged In, in which Lyn Hilt makes the following comment that I believe substantiates Stephen Downes quote.

"At this point in my admin career, especially due to the connections I've made through Twitter, locating blog and other resources, attending conferences, etc., I have learned so many new things about teaching, learning, classroom culture, and more- there are many days when I wish to have a classroom of my own to try out these new ideas and methodologies with a  group of students." - Lyn Hilt

Wow!  Adapt or become irrelevant!  On this particular evening, the discussion centered around the positives and negatives of limited technology in schools. Excuse after excuse tweeted throughout the discussion board.  Finally, @colonelb had the courage to submit such a honest tweet.  

A day or two later, David Britten followed up with a blog post of his own, Smoke From My Keyboard: Cut the Excuses and Lead!  This post, one of my favorites of 2011, not only expressed his frustration but also included many key points.
"It's about your kids' future, not yours!  In fact, it's not even about your present!  Teaching has never been about you nor should it be.  It's about kids - rich or poor - being raised in a world where technology is woven into their lives 24/7 (except during school in too many places) and has become a key tool in how they learn, how they communicate, how they socialize, how they create and publish, and simply who they are." - Superintendent David Britten  

There is nothing like a tweet that speaks the indisputable truth.  I remember it like it was yesterday, the conversation was centered around accountability and how difficult it is to dismiss bad teachers.  Tom Whitby fired back with this veracious tweet.  This I believe to be one of our biggest obstacles in education. Student engagement is a precondition of learning.  If students aren't engaged in the classroom, they will not learn.  

"The least educators can do for kids is to stimulate a curiosity for learning.  The best would be to impart a passion for learning." - Tom Whitby

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Ultimate Gift

Every year, before winter break, I make it a habit to give my teachers a small gift to express my deep appreciation for what they do every day. Maybe it is movie passes or a gift card to their favorite restaurant along with a hand written card. If I could do more, I would. As leaders, I think we all would. But what if we could do more? What if there was something? Something that requires much intentional thought, much time, and much energy. I'm talking about “The Ultimate Gift.”

What if we became more than an instructional leader, more than an evaluator, and instead, became more of a leader of learning? In other words, what if we were to instill a passion for learning within every teacher? I do admit, it does sound difficult for an external force to persuade someone to develop a love of learning. I too believe the desire has to come from within. However, I believe with deliberate and purposeful planning, the ultimate gift can become a reality.

Make It A Priority
Look for and even create opportunities to spark a curiosity for learning. Give a teacher a book or article in which you have highlighted specific chapters or excerpts that you feel this teacher will find interesting and intriguing. Something that they probably would have never read on their own. Seek out information that contradicts their worldview. Attempt to make them think differently. Follow up by engaging in a conversation and allow them to do ninety percent of the talking.

Cause Intellectual Discomfort
Encourage your teacher to do something they have never done before. For instance, sign them up for twitter and tell them how excited you are to think, learn, and grow together on tonight's chat beginning at 6:00 CT. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging. Follow up by acknowledging their willingness to participate and to put themselves out there. Once they establish a PLN, they will be spending more time with people who are always thinking and who invest much of their time in learning.

Invoke Change In Behavior
Learning is useless if it isn't applied. Reading a recipe book is not the same as picking up a utensil and cooking. Albert Einstein once said, “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” Simply studying the wisdom of others isn't enough, you must put it into practice. Follow up by asking the teacher how they can apply what they have read or what they have learned.

Sharing Is Learning
It's been proven that you learn what you teach. Make time for teachers to think through ideas, to mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a colleague. Talk to them about the importance of self-reflection and the many benefits of starting a blog. Follow up by talking with them about their new ideas and assist them in solidifying what they have learned. Be sure to comment on their blog and tweet it out to the world.

The energy generated when teachers take ownership of their learning can create a school culture that sparkles with collegiality, collaboration, sharing and a passion for learning. To instill such a gift will require much intentional planning along with personal follow up, but developing thinkers, problem solvers, and curious minds is ultimately worth it!