Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Edublog Awards

My nominations for the 2010 Edublog Awards:

Best student blog
Christopher Ponners

Best individual blog
Silvia Tolisano

Best group blog

Best resource sharing blog
Richard M. Byrne

Best librarian / library blog
Buffy Hamilton

Best school administrator blog
Jonathan E. Martin

Most influential blog post
By Tom Withby

Best individual tweeter

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion

Best educational tech support blog
Wesley Fryer

Best educational use of video / visual
Tony Vincent

Best educational webinar series

Lifetime achievement
Will Richardson

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

IP21: Taking Ownership of Professional Development

How can a Standards-based Professional Development program using and implementing 21st Century skills have an impact on teaching and learning at our school?

Most schools require that their faculty create personal and/or professional goals for the school year. Our faculty and administration used the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) NETS-T and NETS-A as a basis to select their goals. We called these goals our IP21 (Individual Plan for 21st Century).

At the beginning of the school-year, during our staff development days we held sessions to review the IP21 PD model and to allow faculty to create their own pages on their respective Division Sites.

The IP21 faculty pages are used to document:
  • Plan(s) for integration of content into standards
  • Pedagogical strategies
  • Request for instructional technology support as needed
  • Evidence: description and link(s) to activity that demonstrate standard
I have set up notifications on each of the sites so that I get an e-mail when one of my colleagues posts something on their pages. This gives me an opportunity to give them suggestions and/or arrange for sessions as needed. Moreover, since all the IP21 sites are wikis, teachers and administrators can easily collaborate with each other not only within their own department but also across divisions.

Our faculty has been very receptive to this model. They like having ownership of their professional development.

Being able to decide what they want to do based on their own subject, grade level and technology proficiency makes all the difference!

IP21 logo: I created the logo with LogoSnap. The logo represents 'student and teacher', 'faculty and administration' and 'teaching and learning'.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Leaders Among Equals

Administrators are Leaders among Equals. As teachers, educational administrators share the same goals about the students they serve: to provide the best learning environment that will allow students to grow as informed, creative and responsible adults.

How do administrators as Leaders among Equals model themselves to enrich the lives of other educational professionals in a collaborative environment?

It's all about the BE's:

1. Be Available
Leaders are available to listen and to help solve problems. Using multiple channels of communication through a blog, twitter or a social network platform makes administrators available anytime to faculty, students and parents.

2. Be Enthusiastic
Teachers will get onboard if leaders demonstrate excitement and expertise in the use of digital tools. Teachers should look up to administrators to reignite their passion for a subject and the possibilities that technology offers to facilitate teaching and learning.

3. Be Supportive
Administrators demonstrate their priorities by providing a variety of opportunities for professional growth. As leaders, they tap into resources to provide time and funds that allow their faculty to participate in educational conferences.

4. Be Gracious
Leaders do not expect instant success. They celebrate small gains and demonstrate that failure is not the end but just another opportunity for growth.

5. Be Creative
Leaders are aware that creativity is at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy. They foster and model creative thought and innovation.

6. Be Yourself
Leaders are true to their identity as educators and don't make excuses as having to wear too many hats.

Our administrators are demonstrating being Leaders among Equals at my school by joining faculty in the creation of their Individual Plans for 21st Century using the NETS for Administrators. 

It is by being a community of Leaders among Equals that we will succeed!
Scott McLeod (Call to bloggers to participate.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Professional Development: IP21

Over the school year, a team of 5 faculty members (Michelle from UE: Emma and Sherie from MS; Dave and I from US) participated along with 200 educators in a professional cohort called Powerful Learning Practice (PLP). Through face-to-face meetings, virtual sessions and ongoing conversations we gained a deeper understanding of 21st century teaching and learning. As a team we developed a Professional Development program.

Why are we so fervent in our desire to create and continuing to improve a rigorous, student-centered learning environment? Because we know that we must prepare our students for a future incalculably different to the past we have known.

Schools are slowly shifting from traditional teaching and learning models to dynamic models that take advantage of opportunities to energize our interaction with one another through technology. And it is already quite clear that technology will impact not only the amount but also the quality and character of that interaction. Students like to learn in the environment that is already so much a part of their lives outside of school.

The cognitive domain as illustrated by Bloom's Taxonomy has also been modified to the new behaviors and actions emerging as technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous.

Faculty and staff professional development needs to be designed taking into account these paradigms.

True technology integration can only happen in a context where subject-specific content is taught with pedagogical methodologies that include technologies that enable students to achieve their learning outcomes.

The TPACK model provides an essential context for our Professional Development plan: content and pedagogy drive the technology, not the other way around.

The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) model attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching.

At the heart of the TPACK framework is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK).

Content Knowledge (CK)
As faculty members we assume knowledge about our subject matter.
Pedagogical Knowledge
As faculty members we assume knowledge in pedagogies of student learning, classroom management, lesson plan development and implementation, and student evaluation. However, in the context of 21st century teaching and learning, there is a need for deeper pedagogical knowledge on a variety of instructional methodologies such as problem-based learning, inquiry instruction, critical thinking strategies, creativity, and differentiated instruction among others.
Technology Knowledge (TK)
It is essential for faculty to be knowledgeable in a variety of technological tools such as:
- Productivity tools (Office, Google Apps, etc.)
- Digital tools for communication, collaboration and creation (web 2.0)

Our Professional Development plan is standards-based. We selected the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) as our criteria for 21st Century Teaching and Learning.
The standards provide a common set of expectations for faculty, administration and students.

The Professional Development Action Plan consists of 4 strands. At the core of this plan is the understanding that for Professional Development to be effective, it has to be meaningful and relevant to our own teaching.
PDA1. To achieve this relevance, each of us will create an Individual Plan for 21st Century Teaching and Learning. This will referred to as the IP21.
PDA2 and PDA3. There is a minimum requirement of six training sessions to acquire and/or refine the selected competencies. Three of the sessions will occur during Staff Development days.
PDA4. It is expected that all of us will demonstrate the acquisition of such competencies. The Instructional Technology team will be available throughout the school year for individual and group training sessions.

Over the past two days we have presented our PD plan to over 150 faculty and administration.

In order to facilitate the creation of the individual plans, we showed each of the standards along with relevant examples of what each standard looks like at the different levels: Early Childhood (EC)/Upper Elementary (UE), Middle School (MS) and Upper School (US).

We created a wiki IP21 with all the links to the different examples. During the summer our faculty can explore the site in more detail. When we return to school in August they will be able to modify their plan as needed. The wiki also includes proposed training sessions correlated to the TPACK model and the NETS-T,

Each individual plan has been created as surveys using Google Forms for the different divisions and the administrators. The results will be analyzed and each faculty member will receive a customized plan with suggestions for training.

So far, the response has been very positive. Our faculty feels that this plan gives them ownership and control over their PD needs instead of being forced to attend "one-size fits all" sessions.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The PLP Experience

Just about a year ago I attended an ISAS Technology Directors conference at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth. The speaker was Will Richardson. I have to confess that I had never heard of him (in what planet did I live on, really?). His presentation was like lightning!

As soon as I got back home I googled PLP and filled the form requesting more information. I invited some colleagues to attend a virtual session with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and at that moment we knew that we really wanted to join .

We formed a school team with Michelle from Upper Elementary, Emma and Sherie from Middle School, and Dave from Upper School. At our first face-to-face meeting we registered as members of a Ning and created our profiles. When we came back to school after the kick-off event, we were inspired to make the most of our PLP adventure.

Truth is, there was a little catch in our decision to join PLP. A year ago we had an accreditation visit, and the first item in the report concerning technology said, "The School should look into providing leadership for academic technology. This leadership can explore ways to develop and implement a school wide vision for academic technology, investigate professional development opportunities for both academic technology and all other classroom teachers." As a first step, I was appointed Academic Technology Coordinator to lead the school in addressing the accreditation report. Big task! I started gathering resources to create a LoTI survey that was completed by faculty in all divisions. After analyzing the data I knew I was going to need more guidance than just relying on my searching abilities!

PLP has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities.  All of a sudden I am supported not only by the top leaders in education, but also by a group of colleagues that are walking the same path and have the same expectations and concerns that I have.
My professional growth has been amazing to me. Through virtual sessions and ongoing conversations I now have a deeper understanding of  21st century teaching and learning. I have learned how to use several digital tools and, most importantly, I have expanded my learning network. On July 1st I joined Twitter, and as of this morning, I have over 300 followers. By the end of September I had created this blog, and in November all of my Honors Physics students had their own active blogs!

The professional development plan that I originally crafted back in November has been transformed into a well-defined program that already has had a tremendous impact in the school. All we had to do was to dig deeper into the myriad of resources received through PLP.
With creativity, passion and collegiality our team and technology instructors have been very successful in motivating and supporting our colleagues as they implement changes. After the culminating event this past Monday, we have renewed our commitment to move our school not only to address all of the accreditation report recommendations but much, much farther!

As I reflect on these past months, I'm reminded of Newton(*) when he wrote "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." I say this because one thing is clear: we wouldn't be where we are, without having joined PLP!

Here is our PLP Project Presentation:

Enlarge this document in a new window
Online Publishing from YUDU

(*) Quote originally attributed to Bernard de Chartres

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Innovation in Learning: Student Voices

I often wonder what is the key to success on developing an innovative project?

This is my second year using wikis and my first using blogs in the Honors Physics class.  Some of my students have made insightful remarks in class and some of them have written on their blogs about the impact these digital tools have on their learning process. I decided to ask them some questions which lead to the production of the video below.

Here is the transcript of the video with relevant links on the wiki and their blogs:


Q: How do you see using the wiki for discussing problems a useful and innovative solution to get help and/or feedback with questions?
The wiki has undoubtedly been one of my best physics friends. It is a time-saver, giving me the option to ask a question when I have the time to ask it rather than having to go directly to the teacher wasting precious time.
It provides almost instant feedback to help us solve a problem or answer a question. Although Mrs. Gende always answers the questions, other students can also read and answer questions. Collaborating in the wiki has helped create a sense of unity in the classroom as we all work towards a common goal of better understanding physics concepts.
By helping other students with problems and asking for help on assignments I think that our class community has done a good job not only by supporting each other grasp concepts but also by explaining concepts in new ways.


Q: You have said that reflections are valuable. Please explain why you think they are helpful.
Reflections are very helpful to me especially before a big test. Reflections help me go over exactly what I have recently learned with a fine tooth comb. By this I mean in my reflection I do not try to generalize what I have learned or to any situation. I try to be as specific as I can, explaining how situations are different and when one thing might apply but in another case it wouldn't apply at all.
In every reflection I have to answer the question, "What you have found difficult is..." When answering this I have to be honest with myself. I can't lie, so as to make myself look like the next up and coming Einstein. In reality I usually find everything in that unit difficult at first. But as time goes on things clear up and I began to understand what the concepts are especially the more challenging ones. I force myself to reread the notes, look at the problems solved, and do extra research if needed.
This is especially good before a test, because I am reviewing not the problems and how to solve, but what to do when I am given certain information and asked to solve for a specific thing. This question allows me to ponder what I have found hard and use the reflection as a way to make it clear because I have to explain to the reader what I have not understood. This has also been a place where I remind myself of past mistakes.

Q: Why do you think it is helpful to write your reflection about what you learned in your own words rather than just summarizing the notes?
The first time I wrote a reflection, I summarized the class notes. I had a hard time figuring out how to put everything we had learned into my own words because I was trying to make it perfect. I then realized that summarizing the class notes wouldn't do any good for me or my peers who read my reflection. By writing the reflection in my own words has helped me to further understand the concepts and how they connect to the real world. The reflections help me to dig deeper into the topic and discover new ways to understand what we have learned more clearly and thoroughly.

Q: Have you seen a change in your problem-solving skills as a result of doing reflections?
My problem-solving skills have improved since I have done reflections. I think I have put more effort into understanding the material and the homework assignments. I have made my learning of the material rather than completion, a priority.


Q: You use a variety of digital tools in your projects. What motivates you to go the 'extra mile' with your creativity?
Creating a blog has helped me to learn the importance of preparation and presentation for school projects. Learning about different tools has also helped to enhance my artistic and creative capabilities.
By going the extra mile, I reach my potential with my creativity as well as my learning experience.
Pushing myself as far as I can go sets a good example for my peers as well as helping me create an awesome finished product.
I like the freedom of choosing my own tool over being told with specific guidelines what to use in a certain project. By having freedom, I can express my own individual creativity instead of the mandatory class guidelines which can often be bland and uninteresting.
Experiencing and learning with these tools, helps me by developing a diverse knowledge of how I can create the best possible project in any class with the help of online digital tools.

Q: Here are three questions for you: What sparks your interest in science, why do you think having 'open-ended' projects is better than 'assigned topics' and why do you think using digital tools is relevant to your learning?
Having grown up in a family that is very math and science oriented (both of my parents are engineers), I have always been interested in those fields of study (math and science) and have always tried to expand my knowledge as much as possible.
For me, being able to peruse personal interests within school activities is an amazing opportunity.
Having "open-ended" projects are better then "assigned topics" because they let a student relate a topic that is currently studied in a class to anything a student wants, whether it be a random connection that the student makes or a connection to something that they have learned about for a long time and have great interest in. Letting students make connections like these, at least for me, makes the whole process more interesting and enticing and can let a student truly understand the subject, not just memorize the facts.
For me, the use of digital tools is a great way to do projects because it promotes three different traits of learning: it promotes and develops computer skills, lets a student express a topic that is being studied, and also lets a student use their artistic side to design something. Whether it be a "Prezi," "Glogster," "Extranormal," or any other medium, letting the brain multitask seems to make the whole process more enjoyable and boost the whole learning experience.


Q: You did a great project about skateboarding. If it had been a regular project perhaps you would have gotten a bad grade, however, you had the opportunity to redo your project by revising your model. Explain why having people write comments on your blog was helpful.
A feature of blogs that I find the most helpful is the ability to write and receive comments. We do this on a regular basis by writing on our peers blogs.
For our last project, our class got involved in global collaboration with other schools in Texas, Arkansas and Hong Kong. Each student in the class had 4 high school senior partners that wrote constructive comments in our blogs.
I had a great experience with my project since I had the opportunity not only to improve my skateboard project but to learn first hand how real science is done.
Blog posting before and blog posting after

Student produced and directed. Credits at the end of the video. Enjoy!

Attribution keys photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65919269@N00/172151897

Friday, February 26, 2010

Leading for Change. Part I

On my way to Philadelphia to attend Educon 2.2 I read John Kotter's  "Our Iceberg is Melting. Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions"; a neatly illustrated book that uses a fable to discuss change in organizations.

How can I apply the Eight Step Process of Successful Change to our school?


1. The penguins in the change committee create a sense of urgency in the colony by helping others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.

I see a need for change in our school, a need for transforming our culture into a learning community that effectively addresses the challenges of teaching and learning in the 21st century. 

We are fortunate at our school to have not only administrative support but a solid technology infrastructure with interactive whiteboards, access to computers throughout the school and a great IT team. However, at the end of the school year we conducted a survey and we found that a majority of teachers do not understand how to integrate technology in an effective way.  There is little evidence of awareness of the pedagogical implications of teaching 21st century literacies as some faculty believe that showing a Power Point on a SMART board represents a high level of integration. Moreover, at the beginning of this school year only a couple of teachers were using wikis and very few knew the meaning of Web 2.0 and the educational value of social networking.

2. The penguin's change committee puts together a carefully selected group in charge of guiding the change. 

Our school made it possible for a group of five members of faculty to participate in a year long professional development model called Powerful Learning Practice (PLP). We have been immersed in a transformational experience by being part of a virtual learning community where teams from 20 schools participate in learning and sharing about 21st century literacies. We have learned that teaching and learning in the 21st century is not only about technology but about pedagogy and an understanding of global changes.


The change committee then finds a vision of a better future and crafts a strategy in line with that vision. It is important to be able to see how the future will be different from the past, and how to make that future a reality.

Our PLP action research project consists in designing and implementing a sustained, standards-based (NETS) professional development program. We are striving for a five year plan with yearly evaluations.


4. The penguins communicate for understanding and buy in. In order to get the message out, the head of the change committee calls for a meeting involving the entire colony. 

I have conducted separate sessions will all faculty from three divisions to introduce 21st Century Teaching and Learning frameworks. Teachers have responded very enthusiastically and I have the impression that the message of pedagogy driving the technology and not the other way around has been conveyed.

5. The guiding team empowers others to act by removing as many obstacles to action as possible.

We are conducting hands-on training sessions in two modalities: group and individual. The positive effect is that the teachers are actually doing instead of just listening or watching a presenter. This knowledge empowers them to focus on the best way to integrate the tools into their teaching or student projects.

6. The penguin committee is aware of the need to create short-term wins.

This is an important step as it has the potential to create a ripple effect. I can relate two examples:

a. Back in January we had a faculty professional development day with a variety of sessions.  Throughout the course of the second trimester we have seen teachers in all divisions taking risks in applying what they learned in the sessions.

b. A couple of weeks ago I invited our head of school, the PLP team, our upper school librarian, and other members of faculty to participate in a Blog Posting Reading Challenge. The project was a success, the comments were very stimulating and thought-provoking. PLPers will be able to use several of the points addressed in the crafting of our research project. 

7. Don't let up until the new penguin colony is firmly established.

We have a very clear vision of the change we want to produce but keeping the momentum will be essential!
After we assess our first year of implementing our program we should take time for reflection to go back to the drawing room and prepare for the following year. The good news is that our head of school will support our joining Year 2 of PLP!


Finally, a new culture is created to ensure that the changes would not be overcome by tradition.

I do not think that there is an end to our reshaping our culture, this will be an ongoing process.

As new technologies emerge there will always be opportunities for learning and teaching, and that is exactly what makes this journey an exciting one!

Expedition to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands by John Dalkin

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Faculty Learning: Scoring a Basket!

What are the barriers that impede teachers growth as learners?

The most common answer is usually a lack of time, unfortunately in some cases I believe that there is also a lack of motivation.

On Monday, we had a Staff Development day and the administration required faculty to attend at least one technology session.

I was thrilled with the opportunity but I realized that some of my colleagues would not have attended otherwise; that left me with several things to consider about professional development.

Among other things I wondered:
1. How do we make the sessions meaningful?
2. What is the best way to present a new digital tool?
3. How do we engage and keep faculty motivated to integrate the tool?
    Here is my take at possible answers to the questions:
    1. In order to make a session meaningful to teachers it has to be a hands-on session. Teachers should have the opportunity to create during the session. The topic has to be relevant to their subject area and applicable to a lesson.
    2. One good way to present a digital tool is to show an application of that tool. I've seen lots of great presentations at SlideShare that show a particular tool with bullet points about possible applications but rarely linked to an actual example. If I am able to show how I integrated a tool into my own curriculum and demonstrate it's usefulness for student learning I am sure that it would be easier to convince teachers to give it a try.
    3. Once a teacher is engaged it is very important to follow-up their progress. Sometimes a teacher is willing to try a new tool but when they are alone in their classroom and stumble upon some difficulties they might be tempted to drop it. If the mountain doesn't come to you, you have to go to the mountain!
      I like to document ideas that people have shared with me about a particular project and then after a few days  e-mail them or stop by their classroom to ask them about their idea. With this method I've been successful in reigniting the fire.

      How did our Staff Development day go?
      I think it went really well! We had 8 presenters for a total of 11 sessions. The requirement was to attend one session but 50 out of the 108 teachers attended two and some of them three sessions! All of the sessions were hands-on and the faculty had an opportunity to select which session to attend.
      For the past two days we've had requests for installing Google Earth, help with advanced features in Google Sites, troubleshooting Prezis and the best of all: two of our administrators have started their own blogs!

      So what is the secret to score a basket with faculty and their own learning?
      I don't believe that there is a definitive answer to this question but I will certainly keep trying different strategies!