Great Professional Development Resource

It’s been a couple of weeks since I was at the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference, and my head is still full of resources and information. Today, I got an email from them with a few statistics about this year’s conference.

“More than 17,850 educators and exhibit personnel attended ISTE 2011, held in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center June 26-29. Conference highlights included:

  • 13,336 registered attendees
  • 4,562 exhibit personnel
  • Dozens of workshops with more than 2,611 tickets sold
  • An exhibit hall the size of 5.5 football fields featuring 1,423 booths and 501 companies
  • 149 registered journalists from around the globe
  • 1,025 attendees sent more than 3,000 letters to the U.S. Congress
  • Among the attendees were 1,152 presenters and 940 international attendees from 63 countries”
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was daunting. Also in that email though, was a link to their ‘white paper’ on Coaching. ISTE’s webpage summarizes the details of the paper like this:
    • Situation: Effective use of technology is essential for teaching and learning in a global, digital age.
    • Problem: Many teachers do not know how to design and support technology-rich learning environments.
    • Solution: Coaching, combined with communities of learning, is a highly effective job-embedded professional development model
    • Result: Teachers experience technology as an effective tool for professional learning and develop the skills to powerfully use technology to improve student learning.
The paper’s content highlights include:
    • Introduction to three coaching models that provide highly effective professional development
    • 10 tips for leveraging technology, coaching, and community
    • 5 key benefits that result from the integration of technology, coaching, and community
    • Introduction to the NETS×C
You can download the whole paper here. It’s really a great read for all teachers/administrators who are trying to make changes in tech to better enhance student learning.

Technology Should Be Like Oxygen

The ending keynote at ISTE, Chris Lehman, did not focus his talk on technology,but on challenging us to dare students to do things with it. He said that technology should be like oxygen, “ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.” In the end, it’s not about the technology, it’s about the people using it and how they use it. As Chris said, it’s about “people, people, people.” What I enjoyed about the presentation was that he was introduced by his students from the Philadelphia Science Leadership Academy poetery slam group. Chris is the founding principal of that school and writes a blog called Practical Theory (yes, another principal who blogs). I was going to write about his keynote, but if you click on his blog you can see it for yourself. Both the words of the students poetry and ‘entire’ closing keynote, where he focuses on the ethic of care, citizenship and agency, and making learning relevant to students now, can be found at Chris’ blog. If you’re interested in watching the video of the keynote, I would visit his blog and start 32:20 into the video with his students’ poetry.

Another 8 Things Learned at ISTE

The final day of ISTE came fast and furious. To squeeze in more sessions, the breaks were shorter and there was no shortage of information overload. The ending keynote was given by the principal of the Philadelphia Science Leadership Academy (a public school working in partnership with the Franklin Institute), Chris Lehmann. Before he was introduced on stage, we were given three bits of advice: 1) Get it out of your brain (write about it, blog or old-style journaling), but organize and put it all somewhere; 2) Don’t wait to get started (try some of those new tools, reflect on how you’d use it with your class/school, etc.); 3) Share! I plan to do more sharing, but for now, here are 8 things I learned today.

8) I’d love to come back to ISTE and have others from my school to share the experience. It’s in San Diego next year, which might make this more feasible. Perhaps partnerships with nearby public schools.

7) We should take no greater pleasure than seeing our students eclipse us. (Paraphrased from Lehmann’s keynote.

6) The great lie of education is to tell kids, “You might need it some day.” Make it relevant. If they need to know it now, they will be motivated to do it now.

5) I understand resources cost money, but some companies are selling devices that no smart teacher would use if they knew the much much cheaper alternatives out there. There are document cameras at our school that cost over $600 (I won’t say who this vendor was). I found one for $75 from the company iPevo. Apart from no light source it’s a great simple to use document camera. The company had a booth and the people there were extremely helpful. When I asked about light source when lights are off, they offered a couple of solutions – one) a cheap desk lamp; 2) a small flashlight and some zip ties; 3) the exposure mode in the software (something new I learned). They were more about, “How can this tool help your kids,” and less about “buy this version now. It’s improved.” I know, different sales tactics, but if you start your pitch with my students, I will be more inclined to take the time to listen.

image from ipevo site

4) Jobs that are facilitated by tech are growing. Design, architecture, engineering, science, and in fact most jobs of the future will depend on the creative class (current trends, Daniel Pink, Richard Florida). Technology facilitates creativity. Those that can be replaced by tech will and should be (i.e. online math tutors in India for fractions of the cost). You cannot compete with price. This includes teachers who don’t see themselves as creative and aren’t learning when to use tech to facilitate teaching/learning. A teacher needs to matter to a student. If you look at Dale’s Learning Cone from 1968 or Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), they still hold true for how we learn and how important it is to focus as in the case of Dale’s Cone (the bottom) and in the case of Bloom’s Taxonomy (the top). With Bloom’s you cannot do the top if you don’t have the skills below it.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Dale's Learning ConeModified Blooms Taxonmy

3) A cartoon I saw that I loved had a boss yelling at an employee, “Get back to the cubical and start thinking outside the box!”

2) More early literacy resources at Readilicious (again, thanks to all presenters for posting their links, resources, etc.)

1) Don’t give your kids the answers. Let them grapple with it, predict, apply, be resourceful. A good metaphor was the horror movie: If there is a real intense scene and someone tells you, “don’t worry, the cops will arrive just in the nick of time,” that experience is lost. That is the same for kids’ learning. If you TELL them rather than let them DISCOVER it, you have just spoiled their learning experience/opportunity.

What an incredible 3.5 days! I have never before been this overloaded with information. Still the bottom line is this: No matter how much tech is out there. No matter how extensive your PLN is, you have to remember it’s all about relationships. The response you received from a question you tweeted didn’t come from a google algorithm. It came from an actual person. What a great experience to have met some of the actual people in my extended PLN. It’d be great to find educators public and independent elementary teachers who tweet locally. I’ll leave you with this: I am smart. My colleagues, students, parents of students, are collectively much smarter. My PLN is brilliant!

I will continue to share bits and pieces review the resources I’ve learned about and talk about a great book I’m almost through called The New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the  Imagination for a World in Constant Change  by John Seely Brown. The independent school group at ISTE has chosen this book as a summer book club book, and they’ve got the author to agree to a web chat sometime between mid-August and early September depending on the author’s schedule. I’m more than half-way through. It’s quick easy and thought provoking. If you’re a twitter user, Vinnie Vrotney will be hosting an #isedchat on July 21st. More details to follow.

If you’re interested on Chris Lehmann’s talk, you can get an idea of his philosophy through his TEDxPhilly talk.

8 Things I Learned Today

One of the sessions at ISTE that I attended was called Google to the Max: The Power User’s Guide by Dr. Howie Di Blasi. The title was not an understatement. After a nice introduction where he talked about 8 things he learned today, the speaker powered through example after example of incredible ways to utilize the free tools available through google that kids and teachers can use. One simply has to be creative. Thank goodness those resources and examples will be posted tomorrow, so I could sit back an actually learn a few things. Here are 8 of the many things I learned today.

8 ) There are so many resources out there that it’s extremely hard to sift through them all. Thank goodness others are sharing the wealth. An example, would be from a session I attended today called Resources for Emergent Literacy Teachers by Boni Hamilton. Here is her resource page on early literacy alone. Of these resources, I really liked the reading assessment database which gathers all available reading assessments for preK to 3rd grade, groups them into either criterion referenced or norm referenced assessments, tells you how much they cost, and what these assessments do and do not test. For example, you can see on the chart that the DIBELS assessment, one of the tools we use at our school, is a free resource that assesses reading comprehension (through retells), decoding, cipher knowledge, phoneme awareness, and letter knowledge (depending on the grade). What it doesn’t assess is language comprehension, background knowledge, linguistic knowledge, phonology, syntax, semantics, lexical knowledge, alphabetic principle, and concepts about print.  Depending on the age of your kids, you would look to other assessments then, to glean more information about the other areas or reading.

7) Collaborative writing is interesting, and I participated in a demonstration this morning using the tool MixedInk. This would have a lot of potential for teachers who want to create a shared document on school policies, beliefs about education philosophies, or other subject areas. Having said that, I tried a shared google doc with our faculty this year, but did not get any participation. I also think peer editing works for older kids and that younger kids aren’t ready to ‘critique’ their peers’ work without it becoming a popularity contest. Some teachers say they assign code names to their students, so only the teacher knows, but in the end many shared theirs with each other. I would also find it difficult to have 8 year olds deciding which of the different sources is best. The fact that this tool allows users to rate others worries me too.

6) I’ve never seen so many ed Tech vendors gathered in one space. You can tell who the big players are as their ‘booths’ look like full-blown stores. What’s even better is that many have their own sessions – and they’re good. Here’s an example. What I liked was that you obtained their schedule by snapping a QR code with your smart phone. No paper. It’s a tech conference. I do not want fliers, pamphlets, or google logo beach balls. As it is, the conference program is over 200 pages. I will however claim an ipad if my name is drawn – so far, no luck.

5) Tech Ed. does not belong to the young teachers. It belongs to those motivated to learn. I would say most here are over 40. Neither age nor gender seemed to play a factor in tech ed. Except that during the purely elementary school sessions I attended – males are still grossly underrepresented. Using tech in education is a mindset.

4) I love infographics. I attended a great session with Kathy Schrock. Again…resource/info overload. Thank goodness for a site she put together for this presentation with all the links.

3) Administrators need to play, explore, use technology to teach (hold meetings, reflect, share resources, engage in PD, blog, etc.) as well as teachers and students to really make change happen as better decisions on the type and implementation of tech is more likely to happen. This message was repeated by several presenters.

2) Tech seems designed to bring out the problem solvers in us. Let it bring out the problem solvers in kids. Kids in second grade or younger should work in pairs when on a computer. It’s not simply the tech that’s helping them learn different literacies, but the conversation they’re having with each other is even more important for development.

1) People from Philly are direct. Walking through the massive maze-like conference an attendee asked one of the security workers for directions. After giving him directions, the attendee started walking the wrong way. The security agent rolled her eyes, yelled at the gentleman and said, “Sir, did you hear anything I said? It’s that way.” As he reversed direction, she threw her arms up in the air and in a voice loud enough for all to hear she continued, “That’s a man for you!” I felt for the poor guy, but was so glad it wasn’t me.

Rubik's Cube solver made of Lego - I really liked this.

Mixing Work and Play

Philadelphia's City Hall (taken from the main entrance to the ISTE conference)

After three full days of fun in NYC, I arrived in Philadelphia this afternoon for the ISTE conference (my first). It’s overwhelming. For someone who is distracted by shiny objects easily, there’s so much to do and see here, Times Square would be considered tame. The opening Keynote tonight was John Medina (author of Brain Rules) who gave a different and thought provoking talk from the one I saw him give last year. I felt lucky that I got there in time. The largest conference room at the convention center (and it’s massive) couldn’t accommodate the attendees. I learned later that there was a large screen where people who were turned away from the conference room gathered to watch the keynote. I also learned that the sound didn’t work. Well, that’s the first lesson everyone should learn about tech: it doesn’t always work. Despite the hiccup, I have to give ISTE credit for having an app for this conference that has the entire program (it’s massive too) available at your fingertips.

Later, I joined a large group of independent school educators for dinner. I met people from New Orleans and Michigan, and people in that group came from as far away as Australia. It was an interesting coincidence that I ended up sitting next to a large group of teachers from a middle/high school that’s less than a 10 minute drive away from where I teach: Seattle Academy. I also noted that most schools sent their tech teachers, tech directors, CTOs, etc. Classroom and subject teachers, apart from me and the seven or eight from SAAS, were not well represented. How are schools going to get teachers to change and arrive at their own aha moments if they don’t send classroom teachers? I’m not a big networker, but I learn from others all the time. One of the best ways to do that is to read, see, hear, what others are doing (whether they be the teacher down the hall, or one halfway around the world). Another thing I noted was the age group. Technology and education isn’t an age thing. I’m 41, and I would assess myself among one of the youngest in the group.

Finally, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned about technology over the past few years, it’s learning how to turn it off and be present in the moment. I’m going to try and share as much as I learn here, but my posts and tweets will come either at the end of the day or between posts. There was a administrator at this dinner who is dedicated to maintaining 4 blogs on education. I’ll do my best to keep up with this one.



Last week, I posted a TED talk about the importance of play. If you watched the talk, the speaker said we have an education “that values rote learning, memorization and standardization, and devalues self-expression, self-exploration,questioning, creativity and play.” Play is universal, promotes creativity, mastery, and purpose. Current research in neuroscience supports this. The New York Times reported last week that principals are finally re-evaluating homework. At work, play includes going out with coworkers for lunch, doing something you love, being autonomous, and not being a prisoner to a schedule. Some of those things are beyond most teachers’ control. Ask a teacher when was the last time she went out for lunch with a coworker (even on professional days, the trend seems to be that most teachers are working through lunch). I’m lucky, since I love my job (lunches and schedules aside). It allows for some autonomy and creativity, gives me a sense of purpose, and I get to laugh with the kids a lot.

Of course, teaching has the perk of summer break. So what I have done these first three days of summer break? Spent it at work. Something I’ve been meaning to do for the past 10 years is organize materials better and purge old stuff (belonging to previous teachers) that could be better used somewhere else. Well, I almost did it, but I feel good enough that I can leave the room alone until August. Now, I can go play. Before the ISTE conference that begins Sunday night in Philly, I will get to spend some time in NYC and do some of the other things I love: seeing a couple of shows, trying new places to eat, discovering new neighborhoods, and some art.

In the meantime, the ISTE conference is shaping up to be overwhelming. I’m trying to narrow down my choices and just to give you an example, here are my already pared down choices for the concurrent session number 5 on Monday (there are twelve – some are two hours long). Yes, I managed to narrow that one down to seven. Maybe since it’s a tech conference, I’ll use a randomizer app on my phone. I wish I were more decisive.


Assessing Students Using Web 2.0 Tools [Concurrent Session; Lecture]
Location: PACC 107B

Integrating Digital Citizenship in a Web 2.0 World [Concurrent Session; Lecture]
Location: PACC 126A

A Leadership Framework and Instrument for Technology Innovation in Schools [Research Paper; Roundtable]
Location: PACC 105B, Table 3

Separating Truth from Fiction: Information Literacy for Elementary Students [Concurrent Session; Model Lesson]
Location: PACC 119A

Beyond Literacy to Information Fluency in the Age of InfoWhelm [Concurrent Session; Spotlight]
Location: PACC Grand Ballroom B

The Information Fluency Classroom in Action [Concurrent Session; Model Lesson]
Location: PACC 119B

Plan for Integrating 21st Century Skills in the Elementary Classroom [Research Paper; Roundtable]
Location: PACC 105B, Table 1

There are of course all kinds of other meetings in between, 3 keynotes, exhibits, demonstrations, people to meet, and for a fee, there are even evening workshops. Hopefully, I’ll be able to fit in a historical sight or two like Independence Hall, and write about some of the resources and learning I’m doing. As overwhelming as this conference appears, I’m very excited and can’t wait.

Should There Be Technology Standards (for teachers and school admin.)?

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) certainly think so and is a great resource if you’re interested in tech and teaching. I have to admit, it can be a humbling experience once you see how so many teachers are using technology in productive ways to enhance learning. They are also great role models on how technology (like it or not) is here to stay and can be used in so many positive, creative and constructive ways. Kids and teachers are not merely consuming content. They’re creating it, sharing it, and in many cases, using it to enhance what they are doing in the classroom. ISTE’s mission is to advance excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology. Their annual conference takes place next week. I’m very curious, but still feel that I’m lagging behind in my tech skills [maybe it's because I live in the land of Microsoft and have too many friends who have jobs somehow related to tech and always talk in TLA's (three letter acronyms)]. Nonetheless, I may put this conference on my agenda for next year.

I only began to get a taste of the internet in college. Most of the kids today carry a device in their pocket that can access the internet in seconds. What I find fascinating is that unlike many things I’ve learned, a lot of the technology I know about and use was self-taught (usually out of necessity). It’s true, we learn many things from books or experiences that do not involve teachers, but using technology has always seemed to be one of those things I’ve never taken a class for: keyboarding, email, word processing, spreadsheets, etc. This blog, for example, was just about pressing a few buttons here and there. Presently, I’m learning how to use Adobe Illustrator and after looking into various classes, I decided to get a few books from the library and use the wealth of available resources on the internet. Seriously, if you know how to search well, you can find out how to do just about everything online. Of course there are many cases where a live person or the actual place you’re learning is crucial. You cannot learn to ski by reading about it, but you can certainly learn a lot about it beforehand, so that when you get to the slope you have a much better idea of what the instructor is saying. For me, that means that educators have to make sure the experiences students are getting are important enough for them to be there.

Getting back to ISTE, they not only have standards for students, but tech standards for teachers as well as for school administrators. Looking at the teacher’s standards, I guess I can say I meet most. There are a few though that I could improve on quite a bit. For example, standard 3c) communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers, using a variety of digital0media and formats; I use email and the telephone, but that’s about it. My school is progressing towards teacher pages on their website, and I’m still holding off on twitter, but I still don’t use video in my classroom. I believe my school has one video camera (of course this will be on my next phone, so I’m not too worried). There are a myriad of web 2.0 tools, but it’s difficult to find the balance and know what will be useful. I balked at blogging (who wants to read what you did last night), but then I started reading other teacher blogs, learning tons from them, and got inspired by their willingness to share what they were passionate about. And so, what started out as a way to share what I learned at a conference in February with the rest of my faculty continues on. This is my hundredth post. Thanks to all who visit.

Early Technology in Aviation