Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

Facts or Faith

It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustain it – a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas do indeed offer what you promised. Genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to do. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe.

Annette Simmons

I found this quote in a book I am reading and as I have thought about it quite a bit over the past week I believe it has implications for all us in the cohorts as we move forward with our culminating projects. I have more questions than answers, as usual and here are some thoughts as a result.

Do we begin to look at professional learning as a leap of faith for those who resist pedagogical changes in classrooms especially if it involves the use of technology? In the above quote a this stands out for me  – a meaningful story that inspires belief that our ideas do indeed offer what is promised.

How often when professional learning is offered is it presented as a how to, not a why to? Would having a story to tell around the why be helpful? Incorporating our story of the tool, our story of our own changes as a result of use, and our students, help to instill faith – influence people enough to believe what we are asking is worth a try?

We want them to pick up where we leave off, do we need to change our approach to incorporate meaningful stories to inspire belief?

Image Source: Flickr user kodomut


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Thoughts on Mindset

I recently read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and want to share some key points and also get your views.
For those of you who are not familiar, Carol Dweck has a Ph.D. from Yale University, is a professor at Stanford University and a social psychologist. Her book and her work centers around theories of intelligence.  Fixed mindset and growth mindset, nature vs nurture.

In the first few pages of the book she discusses her own beliefs as she started her career in psychology. Prior to her research she believed human qualities were innate, carved in stone. Children are born “gifted”, have “natural talents”, one was smart or they were not, and failure meant you were not smart, it was that simple. This is the description of a “fixed” mindset: a belief in nature, the way you are born is the way you will always be.  Believing your qualities are set in stone, creates an urgency to prove yourself, over and over. When we praise children as being smart or brilliant, we boost their their sense of self and they like it, we all do, and don’t want to loose it.  In so doing, we don’t offer reasons why we believe they are smart, just that they are. Those with fixed mindsets begin to evaluate situations based upon whether they will look smart, whether they will be deemed a winner or a looser, and this may instill a sense of insecurity.  They feel they have to continue to prove they are smart. If they come across something that doesn’t come naturally to them, what happens? Avoidance of the situation, being uncomfortable knowing they may not appear smart.

Growth mindset emphasizes nurture, emphasis is placed on effort and hard work, not simply praised for being smart but why someone thinks they are smart. They are praised for time spent learning something of interest to them, praised for the questions they asked as they were digging deepre, the process they used in tracking down information or constructing something physical.  Those with growth mindset know how to create the outcome they are striving for, challenges are viewed as a good thing, because they feel confident through their perseverance and hard work, they have the ability to succeed, and they believe this about themselves. They enjoy learning, figuring out the answers, asking more questions, because they are not viewing situations as win or lose.

Is it important for adults to understand their own mindset and how it may influence our interactions with others, whether this is at home, in the work place? Whichever mindset you have, isn’t this the lens through which you view all others, all situations?  Can we change our mindsets, would you want to?

I really enjoyed this book, it has given me a lot to think about.

Gaping VoidAmazing

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Limits We Set

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about inhibition, what inhibits people from speaking up, sharing what they think, and why, especially in writing.  I find it somewhat ironic in respect to what we ask of students in our classrooms and I would venture to guess of our own children. We encourage them to voice their opinions, not to be a follower, stand up for themselves, take a risk, go out on a limb to contribute in life and in their classes. Yet, when we are asked to do the same with our colleagues we freeze, opt out, find a reason we have nothing worth contributing or say others have already said what we were thinking so we have nothing to add.  In essence we don’t do a good job of modeling what we ask of others.

Inhibitions are self- imposed, internal limits we set, why do we do it?
Why do we limit ourselves, what drives our reluctance to speak, act, and share? I know inhibitions are our defense against criticism; we don’t want to give others the opportunity to disagree, but why? Our inhibitions limit our thinking and without thinking we become stagnant, complacent. Aren’t our thoughts and ideas worth the risk, don’t we grow and gain confidence in who we are and what we believe through our interactions?  As Chris Lehmann has said “what is the worst consequence of your best idea?” Is it that someone will disagree and you will have to defend your thoughts, what is wrong with that? Through challenge and reflection we have the opportunity to examine what we hold dear, and through those same conversations we may be swayed to look at something from a different perspective, which may cause us to change our thinking, learning together, again what is so bad about that?
We give our students grades for participation, how we would grade ourselves?  Isn’t it time we begin to let go of our internal limits, begin talking, sharing ideas, and understand through ongoing dialogue we develop and are more apt to become the people we truly want to be? I know I am ready.

Flickr Source Melanie Milliken

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With the abundance of online communities and tools now available to all of us there has been a lot of conversation lately of how people use these tools, for what purpose. The conversations have mentioned the fact some are seen as using these tools for self promotion, followings, name recognition, which I admit I believe some people do, but this is no different than what happens in our day to day, face to face lives, is it? We all have the same ability online, as we do face to face, we may chose to ignore what we find offensive, or follow along, either way the choice remains with the individual.

I am, as Sue Waters used to describe herself, a reluctant blogger. I am not skilled in writing, and it is something that does not come easily to me. I feel blogging is a means of reflection, having an opportunity to talk out loud, and maybe have someone listen, and respond who is interested in the same topic, is experiencing something similar or have an opinion on. We are all attracted to content for varying reasons, we are all attracted to different writing styles as well. What matters is this, I have a mechanism to write, publish, and possibly engage in conversations that would not be available to me otherwise. In order for those opportunities to present themselves to me, I also understand I have to make the effort to do the same thing with others, to be a good virtual citizen as well. Making connections, participating in conversations, extending myself beyond my blog to cultivate relationships – just as I do in my life everyday.

I believe we all contribute, we all have a voice and we all make a difference, although not everyone’s contribution and or difference may not be evident through a blog or online. For me my contributions to the greater good may not be through this blog, but I feel my participation in OpenPD with Darren Draper, the presentations we have done together about our experiences in providing professional development in a way not possible before now, have been important, have made an impact on those who attended the classes and the presentations. I know too I make a difference in my district; I am able to learn from those in my network and in turn share that knowledge with those I interact with face-to-face everyday. My contributions may seem small to others, but it is relative, the contributions I make where I work may never be seen by others in the online world I participate in, but that doesn’t mean they do not exist, or I do not matter either. I believe the words on this image apply to all of us,”There are some things we cannot do on our own” and “a strong and cohesive sense of community is essential to expanding opportunity to all of us”, maybe EdubloggerCon in San Antonio will be a time for all of us to talk about our sense of community.

Flickr Image Source user opportunity agenda

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The presentation to public and non public administrators yesterday went very well. Thank you to all who participated in the VoiceThread, it was one of the tools that provoked the most attention, especially after hearing what many of you had contributed to the conversation. The majority of people in both sessions were not aware of the ability for anyone to join online networks, (other than students) but then again many had not heard the term Web 2.0 or Read/Write web either, so we spent time talking about the evolution of the Internet over the past several years as well. From my experience I have found administrators are more comfortable talking about what they don’t know when in the company of their peers, more so than when in the company of their building faculty. Yesterday, there were many questions which were great.


I asked all who attended to be advocates for teachers in their buildings or districts, teachers who may come to them asking to use a tool an IT department may have blocked. I asked them all to believe in their staff, really to go to bat for them, because I know many classroom teachers do not feel as though they could ever “win” against IT. And rather than make the argument themselves, they give up at the first “access denied”. We need to have technology literate administrators, just as Karl Fisch and Terry Freedman blogged sometime last year about it is no longer ok to be a technologically illiterate teacher; I feel the same way about administrative staff as well. How are classroom teachers to move forward without support and understanding of what they are trying to accomplish from their building leaders? If the people in decision making positions are unaware of the tools and the possibilities those tools provide for students and learning then I’m afraid any significant change is light years away.


I hope to be able to have administrative staff development in my district this summer, 300344706_bf2a918634.jpg and I hope as a result of yesterday’s sessions there may also be the possibility of offering something similar for all districts through the Intermediate Unit, as was done yesterday. I get impatient I know, thinking so many in people in leadership roles have no idea of the types of networks and collaborations we have at our fingertips. The resources we have available to one another and the sharing that takes place 24/6/365. I have to find a way to bring that awareness to my district.
Here is a link to a wiki I would like to use in the summer for any staff development I do on social networking, networked learning. Thanks to anyone who contributes.

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OpenPD is in its second offering, the course has been going very well, wonderful participation, all those attending engaged, tools working extremely well. We had an activity planned for this week as a review of what we had covered last week. The assignment was to create a Google presentation in groups; members of the groups would be mixed, face to face and virtual. All sounds good, right? Well it did turn out great; all groups were successful in creating their presentations and sharing them, working through editing. The downfall was the communication during the creation of the presentation. We decided to use Skype chat, all had Skype accounts, but not all were as familiar with group chats in Skype, myself included and I screwed up. I had difficulty adding people to the group chat, I didn’t have everyone’s contact information, and not all were logged on to Skype so when I tried adding them to the chat it didn’t work. I felt as I did the first night of class in the fall, clumsy with the tools, and rather than assist those in the class with what the assignment was I felt I had the reverse effect and proved to be a hindrance instead. I should have been better prepared, and I apologize for that, at the same time it was a true picture of what it is like for a teacher to be a student in their own class.

It has been suggested it may be in the best interest of my co teachers for me to step aside and let someone else take my place, someone savvier, and someone more literate with the tools. I know I don’t have a string of accomplishments associated with my name, not a blogger that is read or subscribed to, and not someone who falls into the category of any kind of name recognition in the world of education. I do believe strongly not all of us are made of that mold, but we all do contribute in our own way to challenge those we come in contact with to open their eyes to the possibilities we believe are relevant in the shifting landscape of education. I have felt being part of OpenPD has been a contribution I have been able to make, a time of collaborative learning for anyone interested. I have a lot to think about.

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The new administrators are settling into their positions in nicely. I have had a great deal of contact with all of them in the three weeks and I am happy to say I am optimistic with what I have seen and heard from them. One of the many committees in our district is our curriculum council; those looked upon as curriculum leaders in their buildings by grade level and content area. Our new administrators chair this council and we had our first meeting last Monday to give the members an idea of their vision and direction for the district. I lead two presentations with this group last year beginning the conversations of 21st century skills for students and teachers, learning in virtual environments, trying to nudge those in the room toward thinking of adding new tools into their classroom practice. Our meeting last week continued to emphasize those conversations. Meeting started with Karl Fisch’s “What If” which lead into a discussion of ISTE’s revised NETS for students. The group then participated in a World Café model discussion of the standards.

First course – Identify the four most important educational technology standards for students and indicate why you have selected them. Share your ideas and write them down on the paper on your table. One person from the original group stays at the table to share the thoughts behind the choices, everyone else moves.

Second Course – What are the two standards you would want your own children to demonstrate and why? Write them down. This time a different person stays at the table to share conversations of the choices.

Third Course – Which standard is the most challenging to teach students in our particular district and why?

The results from the third course are:
Standard 5 – Digital Citizenship
Standard 4 – Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making

They were also asked to take the NETS back to their buildings and find out from their colleagues if these standards are represented in their curriculum. I am awaiting the responses to this activity. We will compile all the information, the goal being to have faculty identify where these standards are, or are not present, then use the information as the basis for the work of this council. Unfortunately I am pretty sure they will not find representation in the curriculum which will be ok, because now that everyone is aware of the new NETS for students, pointing out the lack evidence in the curriculum will hopefully bring conversations of 21st century skills to the forefront. I know it is a round about way to get there, but I will take any help I can get.

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