Learning Together

fall-2016-headerThis week, our team held our 6th Convergence Learning Symposium at the McKimmon Center (NC State). This two-day conference is focused on digital learning, literacy, and libraries. We have a wide range of people who attend: school library media coordinators, instructional technology facilitators, technology contacts, principals, and central office staff. This year, we added our Teacher Leader Corps members as well as our Digital Portfolio Pilot schools. What an opportunity! Having teachers and media/tech staff attend together was such a learning experience. Several principals shared that their folks came back energized and excited to try new things. We will be looking to incorporate teachers more in the future!


We also invited staff from some of our neighboring school districts: Orange County, Wilson County, Chapel-Hill Carrboro City, Johnston County and Rowan-Salisbury.

We had two very knowledgeable, entertaining, and thought-provoking keynote speakers: Kevin Brookhouser and George Couros.

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Here are some of my takeways from their keynotes:

416rfwlw-vl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Kevin and the 20time project:

  • Mindset matters. We have to allow learners (adult and student) time to work through their functional fixedness. Thinking beyond what we know to be tradition or traditional methods requires the opportunity for failure as part of the process.
  • Students will not necessarily embrace the idea of a 20time project. As educators, we have done a great job at understanding and promoting school but not always empowering learning. We have to help others understand the why of this work and support them as they do it for the first time.
  • Students will always amaze us with the ideas and work in learning. We have to stop the “they can’t handle this” talk and understand that if we build scaffolding, they can accomplish anything (even kindergartener).
  • Failure is an option. Failure to deliver is not. (Still have the song in my head!)

George and the Innovator’s Mindset:51uo6sbasql

  • Isolation in teaching and learning is now a choice educators make. There are many ways to connect with others who do what you do and who love to share their ideas. If you are not connected, you are not trying.
  • Student engagement is a low bar. What we should be striving for is student empowerment. Students need to be empowered to learn – through wonder, prototyping, failure, and resiliency.
  • Relationships are the foundation for all successful learning experiences. As educators, we must connect with others and build a culture of learning.
  • Failure is ok but we need to teach students that it is part of the process…not the end goal. We have to help them see that they don’t have to like failure but they need to be able to learn from it.

They also provided three concurrent sessions each. George did a full session on blogging and digital portfolios. He motivated me (who doesn’t like to write) to start blogging again and share my experiences. As you may guess, this is my first post back!

During the day we also had 85 presenters who shared their experiences and learning with others. Included in that mix were faculty and staff from NC State University and UNC Chapel Hill. Big thanks to all of those who stepped up! I know everyone there has so much to give. If you didn’t present this time, please consider doing it in April!




Time to learn

It has been awhile since my last written post and I find that each day it becomes harder to take the time to sit down, think, and write. As technology advances in school, I seem to have less time for it and on most days, that is frustrating. You see, I preach to the folks in my office how it is important to spend a part of each day learning something new. I love to be on the cutting edge of new technology resources and yet that is something that doesn’t happen without some time management.

I say this in part because I have spent the past day and a half in a SMART Lesson Developer workshop for our district teachers. Last night (Friday) and today (Saturday), 14 teachers have been learning about best practices in developing Notebook files and incorporating the SMARTBoard in their classroom routine. They are talking and sharing and learning new things. Every few minutes you can hear someone say, “Wow” or “That is so much easier!” Teachers, like me, have less time for their own learning as the demands of the classroom increase. We had many more slots for teachers to participate and as the time has passed, the teachers here say they wish more people had taken the time to come.

I want to be creative and think outside of the box to give teachers that time that they so desperately need to play, learn, create, and share. That is difficult for me as I am not a school-level administrator yet at the district it is my job to do just that. How do we find time for such a valuable resource when time is already at a premium? I would love to hear about district and schools who have examined this problem. How do they evaluate the use of time and budget it wisely? How can you get the most benefits (student achievement) with so little? How do you prioritize?


(This was originally posted on the InTouch blog)

As our division works in schools to help train teachers and administrators on what it means to be literate in the 21st century, one of two responses usually follow:

1. Wow! I didn’t really want to come to this but I am so glad I did! This is cool and my students are going to love it!


2. I do not have time for this. Why are you wasting my time? You cannot possibly ask me to do one more thing…

My question is this: Can we afford to be technology illiterate in this ever-changing world? Can we afford not to use technology in our teaching? Our district is reviewing what we call our “non-negotiables” in curriculum and teaching. When will technology become a non-negotiable? Would our students put it in that category? Is it not an integrated part of their lives?

For the teachers who do not want “one more thing added to my plate,” I wonder why you do not see how technology can condense and simplify your lessons. Why can you not see what technology does for student engagement? Technology is not going away. It will only get more advanced and integrated into our lives. Please open your mind and begin to see the possibilities. Without it, you may lay victim to the latest education acronym: NTLB (No Teacher Left Behind). I promise you that the students will not be left behind. You will.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach stated last year at the NCaect conference, “Teachers will never be replaced by computers. However, teachers who do not use computers will be replaced by those who do.”

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/cgoulao/411835782/sizes/s/

Taking Care of Business

Today I had the pleasure of hearing David Warlick speak to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System Technology Facilitators. As always, I was inspired, amazed, and reminded that no matter how much I think I know, there is so much more to learn!

David was gracious and allowed me to pick from a menu of thoughts, ideas, and past presentations. The recipe made one heck of an overview of where we are, where we should be, and ideas for what others are making possible.

My takeaways:
– Knitter (like Twitter but without the joining and following)
– Machinima (creating movies/videos using Second Life/video games and video editing)
– Scratch (I had downloaded this programming software for kids recently but did not understand how to use it until today)
– Companies are already creating wearable technology

What is a network?

At last night’s ISTE Welcome Session right before the keynote, we were addressed by and introduced to several of the people on the Board of Directors and staff. As this was the third year I have attended this session, I expected to get the quick run down of NECC events and such-informative but dry. I was thrilled to be mistaken.

Although we did have some dryness at the beginning, the NECC conference hired Brad Mongomery to be the Master of Ceremonies. What fun! His light-hearted sense of humor put the crowd at ease and he was able to do something most people cannot: get a room of several hundred people to have authentic conversation with each other. Through a series of exercises, we formed groups of 5 or 6 and responded to several prompts. Even those who do not like “touchy feely” were participating.

But what had the greatest impact for me was how he described what a network is. He did so by sharing what a network is not:

  • It is not “Hi. My name is…”
  • It is not “Here is my business card.”
  • It is not “What can you do for me? What information can you give me?”

Authentic network is a relationship. It is finding about not only the professional but the personal aspect of other’s lives. We bring who we are (which by the way is EXACTLY what James Surowiecki talked about in the keynote) and to be part of the network we have to connect on all levels.

So Brad gave the audience homework. Instead of asking the “Hi, how are you?” when you sit next to someone, you should ask “Outside of work, what takes up your time?” You may hear the question a lot this year at NECC but I hope you take the time to ask and answer! Create your own wisdom of the crowds. Create a network.

Thanks to my group of new friends from the session: Claire, Angelita, Dave, Benjamin, and Jose. It was a pleasure!

Creating a Personal Network in Second LIfe (Live Blogging)

Group presenting is the DEN (Discovery Education Network) council in Second Life (SL). None of them had met in real life until this weekend. They work together regularly in SL. DEN in SL was born in 2007.

Next Wednesday they will have a newbie event in SL. They bring in various speakers to present including Steve Dembo (teach42). They had a Halloween party last year. They have hosted 65 formal events but that does not include the many informal events in the DEN. Events are posted in SL, they have a Google group.

2007- 56 events with 566 participants

Communication anytime/anywhere- 24 hour professional learning

Create a visual of your network- post them for understanding

Second Life has the possibility to help students who are homebound but presenter said that she personally does not believe SL is ready for students.

Book: A Beginners Guide to Second Life- can only order online; Second Life for Dummies also very good

Looking for Wednesday workshop presenters- think about volunteering

NECC: Opening Session (Live Blogging)

James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of the Crowds

Tap into collective intelligence

wisdom of the crowds + new tools = radical transformation

jellybean experiment- how many jellybeans in the jar?

  • no one person comes closer than the group guess
  • the more they do this as a group, individuals begin to get closer

Who wants to be a millionaire?

  • phone-a-friend
  • poll the audience (gets it right 91% of the time)

Racetrack example

  • prediction machine in action
  • look at odds- in the course of a season, crowd of betters can forecast the winners

Google- founders realized that there is a hidden talent beneath the surface

What does it take to make a crowd wise?

  • some way to group judgements (aggregate the information to get group decision)
  • diversity (the fundamental characteristic)-cognitively diverse in the way they approach and solve problems; best of the best group is out performed by the random group; other diversity (age, experience, culture, geography, discipline); less likely to make the same mistakes (homogeneous group: the more they talk, the dumber they become-echo chamber); appoint someone to become the devil’s advocate (originated in the catholic church)-cannot have the same person as the devil’s advocate all of the time
  • independence-want people to think for themselves; imitation works a lot of the time; have to get people to get beyond imitation; best group decisions come from conflict rather than consensus (differences of opinion can make us smarter-have a good fight; even if the answer is not your answer)

Technology allows more people to contribute and say what they really believe in their hearts.

Why change? Why now?

**This is also being posted on http://wsfcsintouch.blogspot.com

For the past several months, I have been preaching to district and school level technology staff that we must spend a MINIMUM of 15 minutes a day learning new information. This will not keep us ahead of technology and learning but it will help us keep the pace. Each day, I find myself spending more and more time (mostly at home much to my husband’s chagrin) and it does get my head “spinning” to quote Carol Grandy.


During my time last night catching up on my Google Reader and my Twitter feeds, I came across the video above on YouTube. Although I have used other videos to discuss change and the 21st century skills, this may be my new favorite. I have now watched it several times, stopped and started it, and written down a few notes…


“Every device turned off is potentially a turned off child.”

By school board policies, we ask our children to check their devices at the door. We worry about the cheating and the lack of attention paid to school work. As I read David Warlick’s post on AUP dated today May 8, 2008, I found myself cheering for a school who is thinking outside of the box and connecting kids rather than disconnecting kids. Here is what he said…

Then, taking a minute to thumb through the April issue of Technology & Learning Magazine (Welcome Kevin Hogan), I ran across six schools in Brooklyn who have given cell phones to their students — a total of about 2,500. Each phone is preloaded with with 130 minutes of talk time. Students can be rewarded with additional minutes for good behavior, attendance, homework, and test scores.

Kids are living in the “NEARLY NOW” It is not quite synchronous. It is a place to reflect, research, and repeat. It is a great world for learning.

Don’t we want this for our students? Don’t we want this for us? As educators, we need the time to process the information coming at us and then reflect on what it means to us. If that becomes part of our daily practice, we can model it for our students.

“We have a classroom system when we could have a community system.”

No matter what your politics are, we ALL know “it takes a village.” Our system is trying to focus on developing Professional Learning Communities. 21st Century Skills call for global awareness. We need to think big not small.

“If I want the students to make global connections, give the tools to the teachers first. Provide them with opportunities [for global connections].”

Our kids are starting to understand global connections. It is time to get our teachers to rethink the possibilities. As I moved from my classroom to a school-level position to a district-level position, my eyes were opened to my community and that allowed me to have a better understanding of my roles and responsibilities. Students and teachers will benefit from connecting with others. It can be the most powerful staff development/learning environment. A great example of this is Twitter. As I began to use Twitter, I quickly was in touch with educators from around the world. Suddenly, I heard about projects and resources being shared by classrooms from different countries, states, and systems.

21st Century Learning is not about memorizing facts. Do you know how to find information, validate it, synthesize it, leverage it, communicate it, collaborate with it, and problem solve it?

This became clear to me a little over a year ago when, at NCaect, Will Richardson spoke and posed the question, “Is it important to memorize the state capitals or know how to find the answer?” Karl Fisch states in his “Did You Know 2.0” video that by 2010 information will be doubling every 72 hours. How can kids memorize information (all new information) every 72 hours? Isn’t it more important to teach students how to harness the power of information, evaluate it, and communicate it?

“Teach a man to fish…”


How exciting! I want to be part of a community that is focused on learning for all. Why change? Why now? Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says, “Teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by teachers who do.” I plan on working for schools for a long time. Hope you’ll join me!

Multitasking or Just a Mess?

I read a great post today on Your Brain on Multitasking from Creating Passionate Users. It seems as if I am never doing just one thing at a time anymore. It seems worse when I am on the computer! I forever have multiple windows in Firefox (or IE at work), Twitter, Skype, and of course email. My Blackberry or office phone ringing. And people wandering in and out of my office to talk or ask questions. Yet, at the end of the day, I wonder why I accomplished nothing on my “to do” list! At times I think my multitasking actually keeps me from getting work done. In the midst of figuring out what to next, time slips past me. The post on Your Brain on Multitasking talks about being mindfulness. Being present to the task at hand rather than looking to the other things needing to get done actually saves time.

This will be my mid-year’s resolution…Hope I do better with this than my new year’s resolution!

NCaect now NCTIES (conference thoughts)

Well, as always, I had good intentions to blog throughout the conference. Instead, I spent time talking with board members, feature presenters, and conference participants. There was a great buzz throughout the 3 days of conference.

My first great experience at the 2008 NCaect conference was going to the Charlotte airport to pick up Leslie Fisher and Deneen Frazier-Bowen. These featured speakers had never met each other but in a matter of minutes had made several connections and were talking like old friends. These women are at the top of their field so it was an honor just to sit back and listen! Deneen spent the first 2 days of conference in character (Edy, Julio, Maria, and Joanne-their blog is http://learningconditions.blogspot.com) going around and talking with participants as well as a special trip to Concord Middle School to talk with students. Julio managed to surprise Leslie during her preconference– it was about 3 minutes into conversation before Leslie realized that it was Deneen. She was not the only one fooled!

A big thanks to Kevin Honeycutt for letting me take part in his preconference– a totally unplanned moment but fun! As he was sharing Twitter with the group, I sent a tweet in reply to him which spurred him to ask me to speak. I almost forgot how much I enjoy presenting at conferences.

Finally, the EduBloggerCon mediated by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and David Warlick was the beginning of a great conversation! I am amazed at the number of people who have decided to follow me now on Twitter. It really is about making the connections and building the network. These are people I would never have had the opportunity to bounce ideas off of or just talk shop. We talked about issues regarding students in the 21st century and how to get teachers to get on board.

Big thanks to all the teachers, administrators, directors, and vendors who made the conference a success. Scott Smith, the new NCTIES president, was awesome as this year’s conference chair! Only 363 days until the NCTIES conference in Raleigh!