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Monday, March 19, 2012

Personal Learning Networks (part 2)

Following up on my post about PLN tools from last month, I wrote a long description about "making the most of personal learning networks" for my presentation on this topic at the 2012 NAIS conference that took place in Seattle at the end of February. The NAIS conference attendees are primarily school leaders, so I framed the discussion for this audience, describing what PLNs are, why they are important, and how to grow one's own.

 I encouraged participants to take the following steps to start, and to grow, their networks:
  1. Get on a list-serv.
  2. Start blogging.
  3. Try using twitter.
  4. Use Google Docs.
  5. Start using social bookmarking.
The full post has a lot more info on each of these, as well as the description and rationale.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Leading Change in Changing Times

This past Saturday Megan, Svetlana and I attended the EdTechTeacher Winter Conference at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge. The focus of the conference was "Leading Change in Changing Times" and the sessions attempted to answer the following questions:
Why change?

How change? What systems need to be in place?

Did we change? What are the impacts of technology investments we've made?

The tone of the keynote address and the morning sessions I attended was, as one presenter stated, that "learning is not in the computer" and that our focus should be on
"educating for the unknown. We should be teaching with the goal of developing wisdom, knowledge, critical thinking - the higher-order skills which students will need."

The presenters I heard outlined different educational frameworks designed to meet these goals. Chris Dede, the keynote speaker from Harvard University, talked about Blended Contextualized Learning Environments and showed us an example called EcoMUVE, a biology unit that uses technology to meet those goals. Martha Stone Wiske, also from Harvard, talked about TfU (Teaching for Understanding) and her co-presenter, Katherine Gaudet, showed us how TfU had transformed the educational experience for students at Friends Academy and for the teachers. The final presenter I saw in the morning sessions was Annamaria Shrimpf, from Winchester Public Schools, and she outlined LOTI (Levels of Teaching Innovation) and she talked about a rubric for assessing teachers and lessons that would help students achieve. There were four parts to the rubric:
Higher Order Thinking, Engaged Learning, Authenticity, and Technology.

While the frameworks each presenter outlined were different the themes that stuck with me were constant:
1. Our focus as teachers should be on providing an environment where students are engaged, actively learning and developing higher-order thinking skills
2. All participants (teachers, students, parents, administrators) need a common language to describe the learning process and the goals and the everyday language used in the classrooms, whether there is a particular framework adopted or the school develops its own language.
3. Technology can make achieving these goals possible. It is not required in every lesson, but technology has an important role in the classroom/school.
4. Achieving these goals requires all participants to put into action the words "lifelong learner", to learn and to work together.