Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Session I Facilitated at Edscape

First of all, words mean things, and I was purposeful in titling my post. One of my goals, for better or worse, while at Edscape, was to facilitate a session instead of talking for 50 minutes. I believe that folks that present at conferences are often fearful of allowing the maximum learning to take place in sessions when the room has much more collective wisdom than the person in the front of the room. Even if the presentation fell flat, I was dedicated to doing it the right way.

The results were incredible. I spoke for 20 minutes, sharing some stories, ideas, and general thoughts about classroom engagement, and the importance of having choice, voice, and authentic audience in classrooms. Then I turned it over to the group to discuss in depth the importance of each of these areas then produce a visual representation about how these elements impact learning. The results in 20-25 minutes were incredible.

There are three examples below:

Authentic Audience



Here is one more example of what the brilliance of the room can produce.

One Group Learning During My "Presentation"

I would encourage all of you presenting in the next few months to think about doing things a bit different. Don't talk for an hour. Facilitate the excellence in the room. Allow real conversations. Challenge the minds in the room, and most importantly, enjoy the beauty that emerges. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Milford Uncovered

There have been a thousand stories about the journey of New Milford High School toward being a connected school. All of them contain nuggets of truth that are worth exploring if you are an educational leader searching for a road map to a more dynamic, connected school, but I think that there is a larger story at New Milford that gets less attention, but most likely is the driving engine of change that allows for excellence on a daily basis.

Recently, New Milford High School hosted their annual edcamp-like Saturday learning conference called Edscape. Leading into this Saturday, I had an opportunity to spend most of Friday in the halls of New Milford with students and staff observing the climate and learning throughout the day. My greatest take away from this informal time at New Milford was the deep sense of trust in the building. The principal trusted his administrative team. The staff trusted that the principal was supporting their work. The students trusted the teachers. The teachers trusted the students. The maintenance crew trusted building leadership. Trust. Trust, Trust. It was everywhere to be seen. From the evacuation drill that had students walking through the community, to the senior flex period that gave them more freedom, to the decisions that teachers were making with their instruction. Buried behind the headlines was this organic sense of trust in the building. I'm certain that there are some teachers in the building that aren't completely feeling this trust, but it is there in a way that is magnified beyond most buildings.

The second piece of New Milford that sits below the surface, beyond the television coverage, blog posts, awards, and energy of its dynamic principal, is the diversity at New Milford. This building was filled with an incredibly rich group of students. I had the opportunity to talk with three incredible students about a project that we are working on together, and they were amazing. I saw diversity under the Friday night lights on the football field, and I saw diversity in the cafeteria. New Milford isn't a sterile environment with a homogeneous population that can succeed no matter the inputs. It is a real school with real problems and real struggles to make success possible. The diversity also breeds a need for innovation. There is a sense of urgency to serve this diverse population, and there is an empathy for the needs of the students in the building.

Edscape was an incredible learning event for me. Getting a chance to meet old and new friends, finding new resources and ideas, and presenting about some of the things in which I'm passionate, but the story of my trip to New Jersey was that success for New Milford and most schools lies below the surface in the deep roots of the school, the roots that honor diversity and the roots that foster trust.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ideas- The Core of Connected Educator Month

It has taken me a few days to figure out the thoughts that I wanted to share about Connected Educators Month. I get so excited about being a part of a connected network of passionate educators that the words flow very quickly, but I believe that so many others have already been able to articulate the core and essence of the month, so I went searching for the wisdom in the niches.

As I dug to the core of the my energy surrounding being a connected education, I found that ideas were at the core. I know for others it's about the people as it brings a strength from having allies in the battle to change the world through education, and for others, it is about the resources as the release of trapped wisdom into the marketplace amplifies the best ideas and allows them to infect additional learning spaces, but for me, it's the ideas.

Connected educators and and so many others bring fresh ideas and thinking into a system that has a record of lagging in the inspiration to change and holding tight to legacy ideas and practices. We need ideas. We need a fire hose of ideas to bathe the learning of all adults and students. Connected learning provides this opportunity. Blogging, online conversations, and the sharing of the trivial bits and bytes of our days spawn new connections, new schema, and new action. To me, this is the true engine of connected learning.

To allow this to happen to its fullest, connected educators have to pledge to not allow their personal learning network to become an echo chamber where the same ideas are bounced around and confirmed without thought, but instead, we have a responsibility to search for a broad and diverse set of ideas. We must also look for thoughts quite different than ours to ponder and give deep consideration. Finally, we must look for ideas outside of education that can be molded in a sensible way to work in our system as it is transformed into excellence.

There has never been a better moment to be in education. Our opportunity to truly change the world is more robust than ever, so encourage everyone to connect for the people, the resources, and especially the ideas that can power our mission for kids.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Window into Struggle and Opportunity

Do we really get how hard it is for so many of our kids? Can we have empathy without having experienced this reality? Are we willing to talk openly about the full solution? Do you have the energy to be a part of the whole solution? Watch this video and sharing the conversation that emerges.