New and better. Some more.

Oh you know, just sitting here learning stuff, using Tweetdeck.  Happened to be following an event at the White House focused on #nextgenpl and caught, out of the corner of my eye, a worldwide professional learning event called Education on Air: It Takes a Teacher.  Well, thinking in terms of old style professional development…this ain’t it.  No ‘expert’ person is winging into develop us.  We aren’t paying for airfare and hotels somewhere.  We are joining in a conversation and learning based upon our interests and our choices from the comfort of our homes.  On a Saturday, at our convenience.

If innovation means making something that is ‘new and better’, I believe this is a powerful example of an innovative mode of professional learning.  I also believe there will continue to be more and more professional learning just like this.

I can’t wait!

Brave teachers.

Just have to throw a lot respect and admiration to some colleagues this morning. A dedicated group of math teachers is reading Jo Boaler’s book Mathematical Mindsets.  It is definitely challenging our math thinking.  As teachers, we, ourselves,  are products of old style math learning. Cemetery learning.  Rows of kids, sitting in silence, doing worksheets.  Very few collaboration opportunities.  Very few opportunities for creativity, critical thinking, or communication.  These 4 Cs, are of course, critical skills for our students.  Creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.  The cool thing is that our teachers are already destroying that type of learning because they know it’s terrible for kids.

We get help from Jo Boaler.  Dr. Boaler flat takes on that old style of learning for kids.  In fact, she likely wouldn’t call it learning.  It’s the study of algorithms for their own sake. No understanding of why one is learning the algorithms or how one might ever use them.

Anyway.  Thank you colleagues.  I know it’s hard to bust through old ways of thinking and doing things, when we come from those very things.  But if we believe we can do better for kids, and research is on our side, we probably should try to better.  Your bravery and willingness to engage in a challenging study of a book is fantastic.  Your students will thank you!

Check out Jo Boaler’s website for more information.

What’s the deal with ants?

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?” -Henry David Thoreau


I love this question.  We are all professionally busy.  What are we professionally busy about? Are we busy about the right professional things?  Have we taken the time to look at our full professional plates?  What might be scraped off the plate into the trash because it’s not really that important?  Is it simply sitting on the plate because it’s been on the plate for a long time and we haven’t thought about dumping it?

“When we know better, we should do better.”  As professional educators, it is our responsibility to continue to grow and learn.  Just like we want our students to do.  When we learn about better ways to do educational, learning type things…we should do them.  To say ‘we don’t have time’ should be appalling to us.  We wouldn’t accept this from a doctor when working with one of our own children.  If the doctor hasn’t moved her/his professional learning ahead after graduating…and there are clearly better methods and treatments to treat our children, we would never buy, “I just don’t have the time.” We’d find another doctor.

Let’s check to see what we are so so busy about.

Thanks Henry!


The advantages of time travel.

Lots of educators, in their early years, might have had to fly by the seat of their pants.  At least lots of educators I know that started out in the classroom when I did.  Mid 80s.  Our college preparation, with all due respect to my beloved alma mater, didn’t do a whole lot to prepare us.  I could pull together a whiz bang bulletin board.  We learned how in a college class.  I read some pretty good young adult literature in another class.  Otherwise, once hired into a job, we lived and survived with on the job training.  It was literally, “Here’s your room, a key, a book, and we’ll see what’s left of you in June.  Good luck.” Isolation was a professional given.

My first principal, one of my educational heroes, firmly told us rookies to not say anything at a staff meeting for 7 years.  We wouldn’t have anything to add and wouldn’t know what we were talking about until then.  At least I think he told all the rookies this.  I know he told me.  I also distinctly remember when he told me it was ok now to speak. He was pretty darn accurate in his timeframe.

Upon reflection, I would have had a lot more to say if I had read, studied, and discussed WAY different things prior to being hired or as part of continual learning after being hired. We didn’t have continual learning.  We had a law that said we needed to get a master’s degree to maintain our certificate.  I got mine in Educational Administration, never intending to use it.  That theory held for 10 years.  It would have been helpful to make use or even have knowledge of our current instructional framework (CEL 5D+), grounded in research based effective practice. It has provided lots of opportunities to grow and learn. Twitter has provided an abundance of learning opportunities.  EdCamps weren’t a thing in the mid 80s. We were ‘developed’ based on someone else’s idea of what we needed to know, regardless of interest, background, position, or content.  Reading great books by gifted educators like George Couros, Jo Boaler, Carol Dweck, Ken Robinson, Will Richardson, Matt Miller, Brad Gustafson, John Hattie, Eric Sheninger, Yong Zhao, and Vicki Abeles, just to name a few, wasn’t an option.  Sure wish I had even heard of them somewhere along the line.  I would have been a math teacher rather than an algorithm teacher if I had read Jo Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets, for example.  But, I didn’t.  I read them all after I left the classroom and then the building.

Well.  In a new role, I can do something about continual learning being a must.  I can read all the above.  Share gently from the above.  Model twitter as a PLN.  Host an EdCamp. And throw out offers for book studies with actual, current, dedicated hero educators.  And guess what?  Educators are taking me up on the offers.  For example, we bought multiple copies of Jo Boaler’s book….and they’re all in educators’ hands, hearts, and minds right now.  To quote George Couros, “Today, isolation is a choice educators make.” Our educators are choosing not to be isolated.  We use our framework as a basis for ongoing discussion.  We have more and more educators launching out in the Twittersphere.  In fact, we’re currently doing our 2nd Twitter Smackdown, with daily prompts.  We’ve hosted a districtwide EdCamp.  And we’re reading and talking to each other about that which we’re reading and learning.

On we go into our kids’ futures.

Gathering scattered thoughts. #immooc

So we hosted our first ever districtwide EdCamp on October 14th.  At the same time, I’m winding down the MOOC based on Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  #IMMOOC. Seems like a good time to pull some thoughts together.

Rereading Innovator’s Mindset now for the 3rd time has created 210 highlighted passages and 11 different notes.  More importantly is the impact its had on my thinking.  It’s become foundational for other reading and thinking I’m doing.  I’ve had the opportunity to read and think about a lot of different things, most are, on the surface at least, unrelated to each other.

However, the dominant thought I’m having is succinctly stated by Couros as he is wrapping up his book.

“When we know better,
we should do better.” 

Here’s a fear when educators gather.  We become excited and motivated. Then sometimes or often…go back to what we’ve always done.  How do we keep the enthusiasm, to continue to grow and learn…and ultimately ACT on what we have learned? One. Step. At. A. Time. Find the courage, a buddy, a colleague, an idea…and do it.  When we know better, we should do better.

Later today or this week, we’ll send out our official post EdCamp survey.  We want to learn from our colleagues.  We want to do the best job we can as supporters and leaders for each other.  I think the graphic below is a good representation of the atmosphere at our EdCamp.

Here’s hoping we can Do Better.  Because we know better.


New and better.

George Couros (@gcouros) defines innovation as something that is new AND better.  It’s a great and clear definition.  I was thinking about this definition this morning in terms of an individual educator.  Does something stop being innovative after the first time it exists?  Is it rendered as non-innovative to others thereafter?  Or is is possible that it can be as innovative for the next person because it is new and better to or for them?  I think so.

Twitter is an example.  Twitter probably isn’t viewed as particularly innovative anymore. However, when an educator decides to use it as way to enter a professional learning stream, to join a larger community of learners, to explore topics, to engage in rich conversations with other seekers….that is a new way to use twitter and certainly makes professional learning better.  The use of twitter in this regard is, by definition, innovative. When an educator makes the brave decision to venture out, create a twitter account, follow a hashtag, join a chat, add followers, tweet, and so on…for that educator the use of twitter is innovative.  It’s new to them and makes their professional learning better.

And it will for the next educator to try it as well.  And the next.  And in fact, the next.

Curious what others in the MOOC think.



Whoa. How’s this for a conversation starter?!

“What if your school didn’t have a copier?” 

Wow.  I don’t know why, but that simple question just sticks in my head.  What a cool and intriguing way to start a conversation in schools, a meeting, a learning opportunity, a training, an EdCamp.  What if your school didn’t have a copier?

Thank you Matthew!


Choose Messy

I have reread this blog post from this gifted principal 3 times. It’s just too good not to share. Actually I didn’t know that something called ‘reblogging’ was a thing. It’s a thing. So let me click ‘reblog post’. Here we go! And thank you @laura_jennaro for this!

Hearts and Minds Learn

life.jpgStudents joined staff this week to kick off the 2016-2017 school year. The energy in the building was palpable! Teachers shared a little bit about who they are as a person and a learner with their classes. Students worked through ice breakers and team-building activities, setting each group on its unique journey to becoming a team. Students high-fived me in the hallways. Smiles were infectious. Positivity strummed through the building.

I know the beginning of the year is shiny and new, but I started wondering how we can we ride this momentum into the best year yet? What was it that made these first few days special?

Was it the focus on relationships first, knowing the rest will come?

Was it the staff community joining forces to share a unified message?

Was it the fact that everyone stepped out of their comfort zones to do what’s best for kids?


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Isolation is a choice.

As part of a MOOC, I’m revisiting The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, by George Couros.  (#immooc).  Our first assignment was to reread the introduction and comment.  I’ll be all over that assignment, but for this blog post, I’m going to jump ahead in the book a bit because of what happened this weekend.

Consider these two passages from Innovator’s Mindset:

“Now, I am not saying that if you are not on Twitter, you are ineffective. Being on Twitter doesn’t make you a great teacher any more than not being on Twitter makes you ineffective. There are a lot of great teachers who do some pretty amazing things despite choosing not to connect online. That said, having 24/7 access to great ideas and forward-thinking teachers through Twitter and other social media increases your interactions with others and provides access to new ideas. A network helps people become better. How could it not?

Today, isolation is a choice educators make.

Our connectivity and learning opportunities have changed in recent years, and, thankfully, many teachers are taking advantage of those changes to benefit themselves and, more importantly, their students. We have access to information and, equally valuable, to each other. We need to tap into that.”
This weekend, I was messaging with one of our experienced teachers.  She has made the professional decision to challenge herself to grow and learn.  She has made twitter part of her professional learning network.  I mentioned that NCTE was having a twitter chat.  So, she checked it out.  She then sent along this message,  “There’s a secondary ELA chat tomorrow at 8 that I’m going to check out. I also love the Edtech videos. I’ve become a Twitter fanatic!”  This veteran teacher has made the decision to not be isolated.  She is learning about what she wants to learn about, on her own schedule, based on her own professional interests.
Back to the introduction assignment.  This quote, from the introduction,  has gone bone deep, “We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”  Searing in its truth. But you know what?  That same idea holds true for teachers.  If teachers leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.  Let’s keep that curiosity alive.  Let’s do all we can to knock down isolation. Let’s light the fire.