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!




Defining 2011

2010 was an interesting year for me both personally and professionally. Those who know me know why (probably more than they need to) but the thing I am most proud of is actually accomplishing my New Year’s Resolution. This day last year, I decided that I would do the impossible. I would run a 5K. Now for most people, that may not seem to be much but for a lifelong asthmatic and non-runner, that was a tall order. Thanks to my good friend and coach, Jackie Allred, I ran my first 5K in May 2010 and completed my second in September 2010.

As I talked with friends and family today, everyone wanted to know what my resolution was going to be this year. I did not have a response for anyone. Now that my house has gone to bed, I sit here wondering what 2011 will bring. How do I want to define 2011? I am a HUGE fan of Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. Recently on her blog, she wrote a post about choosing a one word theme for the new year. I have been thinking about that for the past couple of weeks. Here are some of the thoughts I tossed around:

  • COMMUNICATE: do a better job keeping in touch with friends and family, develop a better method of follow through at work, email/text on my cell less, talk on my cell more, etc.
  • BREATHE: enjoy the little moments more, take time for me/my son/my husband/my family, get angry less, be more patient
  • GIVE: find ways to give to others in less obvious ways, be more present, be less self-absorbed, be a better mom/wife/boss/friend/co-worker

But after debating this, I find that there is not one single path I need to be on. So in the spirit of Gretchen Rubin, I am going to develop my own personal commandments (Gretchen’s are here):

  1. Be present.
  2. Laugh often.
  3. Forgive yourself daily.
  4. Take deep breaths.
  5. Dream big.
  6. If it won’t go, let it go.
  7. Follow through.
  8. Keep focused.
  9. Don’t wait.
  10. Give all you have all the time.
  11. Show you care.
  12. Write it down.

These may not make sense to others but I am hoping they will help me have a great year. Do you have a list of rules or ideals that keep you focused? Would love to hear your ideas!

Time flies…when did I get old?

Today I feel as though I am officially old. At 6:00 p.m. today, my favorite class (1st grade) graduated from high school. Our flower girl was part of that class. As I watched each of my former students walk across the stage, I could still see them as a first grade student. Some look the same only taller. Others were unrecognizable.

As the ceremony drew to a close, I thought to myself…how different is their first grade classroom from the first grade classroom of today? Sadly, I would say not much. Yet, as you stand outside wading your way through the graduates and their families, you can see all of the different ways these students are communicating. But we are not using it in most classrooms.

To the Western Alamance High School graduates of 2008, I salute you. To those who were in Miss Hamilton’s (I wasn’t married then…) first grade class, I am so proud of you. You are the best!

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!