Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Edu-Amazing Sketch Notes from @jgough

This past weekend, I had the tremendous opportunity to learn alongside 50 fabulous learners and David Jakes in my session at Educon about reimagining professional learning.

Presenting with David was a real treat. We have complimentary styles, and he's masterful at framing and sequencing provocative discussion questions. Given that we had some of the most talented educators in the nation at the session, it was a recipe for deep learning.

We began by asking the educators to describe the current state of professional development in their schools. From there, we entered a 5 question sequence to craft a new vision for professional learning.

1. Student achievement is most influenced by classroom practice, and classroom practice is most influenced by teacher learning. Do you agree with this? Do you have evidence to support your belief?

2. Are teachers learners? Are teachers encouraged to be learners?

3. Does the typical model of PD support learning?

4. What if the only PD ever offered by a school was "How to Learn Something When You Want to Know Something?"

5. What do well designed learning experiences for adults look like?

The discussion around these questions sparked many new visions and next steps for changing the way that learning looks for everyone in a school community.

Some of the biggest takeaways were:
Learning how to learn is more important than learning "things."
Schools should focus on creating healthy conditions for learning instead of the instruction itself. Let the adult learners drive the instruction.

White space fosters creativity and curiosity.
Providing a defined, empty space allows people to rediscover their creativity and curiosity. Mentors can guide and support this process as well.

Ask more than you tell.
The questions you ask often communicate more than the mandates you dictate. So, ask a lot of questions.

As always, thank you to the entire #Educon team for a fantastic experience!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Inaugural #Edcamp Express

#Edcamp Express?

Photo Courtesy of Rachel's Awesome Fiance
What in the world is that?

An #Edcamp Express is a short (2 hours or so) Edcamp event on a weeknight or morning. It brings small groups of people together to dialogue on best practice. It's a great way to keep the connection going between Edcamp events.

After brainstorming this idea with Karl Lindgren Streicher and Bill Selak a few months ago, we decided to try it. Clara and Rachel from Remind proved to be incredibly gracious hosts for the event, making the planning a breeze.

Last week, we hosted the very first #Edcamp Express event with great success. It was wonderful to have a wonderful burst of professional learning in the middle of the week. When it comes to logistics, here's what we did:

  • No significant planning or swag
  • Only 2 hours long with 2 sessions and a short final share
  • On a weeknight or early morning
And here's what we found:

Having a weeknight event was actually pretty convenient - Getting everyone together on a Thursday night allowed us to socialize and learn without giving up an entire Saturday. It was the perfect event to sandwich between our regular, annual Edcamp events.

Keeping the planning minimal allowed us to focus on the conversation -  We did very minimal planning for this event. We simply updated our existing website and sent out a few emails. Since we weren't focused on "running the event." Instead, we got to fully participate in the learning and sharing as organizers.

A smaller attendance rate was more intimate -  We only had about 25 folks at the event, and it was great to connect with people in smaller groups for longer periods of time.

I definitely recommend trying to fit in an #Edcamp Express event between your regular Edcamp events. If nothing else, it's great to see amazing colleagues who have become friends.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Need to Document Learning

My Moleskine Notebooks by mrbill, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  mrbill 

A few months ago, I hosted the inaugural Research Institute at BrightBytes. During the deep discussion of teaching and learning, Hazel Mason recommended a great book: Visible Learners by Krechevsky, Mardell, Rivard, and Wilson. The book comes out of Project Zero at Harvard.

Throughout the text, the authors paint a detailed picture of authentic learning. There are stories and data that clearly describe the types of learning experiences most likely to produce deep, meaningful learning.

And while all of the pedagogical recommendations were valuable, there was one that really stuck out. It was the need to document learning.

As an educator, the documentation of learning has always been something secondary to me. (i.e. an add-on after the process was complete) I could see the learning process as it was happening, right? Wasn't that enough?

However, the authors reminded me that recording the learning actually deepens the learning process. Consider their words here:
The practice of documentation involves teachers and learners observing, recording, interpreting , and sharing via a variety of media the processes and products of learning in order to deepen and extend learning.

Because this idea of deepening the learning through documentation made sense to me, I decided to give it a try. I dedicated time each week to journaling the core components of my work. After just a few weeks, I could already notice patterns and observe noticeable changes in my thinking.

It's important to note that, for me, the process happened in a physical notebook. This was important because it allowed me to see a variety of projects as they progressed chronologically. And while everything wasn't quite as searchable as my favorite digital tool, the singular narrative of thought really spoke to me metacognitively.

So, this year, I'm going to document my learning. I'm going to ask others to document their learning as well. Let's see how much we can grow. Thanks, Hazel!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teaching Teachers: The Single Criteria for Effective Professional Learning

As educators, our goal is to empower every learner to reach his or her potential. The best way to realize this goal is by providing all learners with a highly effective teacher.

Regular, high impact professional learning is needed for teachers to succeed. Professional learning is one of the best investments we can make in our K-12 schools.

While we spend significant amounts of time and effort measuring the learning provided to students, we spend much less time measuring the quality of learning experiences provided to our teachers.

If our teachers aren't growing and progressing, then they are less likely to change and augment their instructional practice. In short, if the teachers aren't learning, then it's likely that the students aren't learning either.

Consider the following passage from Katz and Dack's book Intentional Interruption:
Yes, teachers often need to learn something new about the particular content area in order to be able to change their practice, but it is knowing how to learn that is the transferable skill. In essence, teachers, like all professionals, must learn how to learn something new. This will be applied to learning about fractions, as well as every other content area in which the teacher has a learning need. The investment in learning how to learn is the one that will yield the greatest return.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that there is ONE criteria for determining whether or not professional learning is effective.

Effective professional learning answers the following question:
Does it help a teacher LEARN HOW TO LEARN?

If the answer is no, then go back to the drawing board.

Everyone in our schools must be learners.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why GOOD Professional Development Matters: A Simple Math Equation

We've all heard the mantra: There's just not time for additional professional learning.

We all know the reasons:

  • We're too busy.
  • We've got mandates to meet.
  • We've already used all the district-provided days.

And, although I've used some of these excuses myself from time to time, I urge you to deem these excuses unacceptable this year.

Consider the following equation:

You create 3 one-hour learning experiences for a group of 15 teachers. Let's say that you spend 3 hours planning each session. That is a total investment of 9 hours of your time as an instructional leader.

These 15 teachers will spend about 13,500 hours with kids this year. If your professional learning experiences improve their teaching effectiveness even by 2 percent, then you will gain an additional 270 hours of impactful learning over the course of the year.

270 hours of impactful learning in 1 year for an investment of 9 hours of your time.....

How can you say no?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Join Me for a Free Webinar on Unleashing Student Superpowers on 1/20/15

On January 20th, I'll be joining NEISTE for a free webinar on Unleashing Student Superpowers.

You can register at this link.

Here's more information:

Hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

#EdcampGift Recap 2014!

Happy Holidays, Edcampers!

Last week, we concluded the 10 Days of Edcamp as a way to celebrate Edcamp organizers, amazing Edcampers, and Edcamp events all over the globe.

It was a roaring success (mostly because Edcampers are #eduawesome), but here are some of the stats:

  • Over 1,300 tweets were added to the #edcampgift hashtag over the 10 day span
  • Our conversation appeared in people's Twitter feeds over 3 million times
  • Our tweets reached 820,777 people
  • Over 230 links and pictures were shared during the 10 days
Thanks to Remind, the following Edcamps will get a little extra boost for their planning next year:

  1. Edcamp PACS
  2. Edcamp Idaho
  3. Edcamp STL
  4. Edcamp Long Island
  5. Edcamp South Florida
  6. Edcamp SF Bay
  7. Edcamp Birmingham
  8. Edcamp Baltimore
  9. Edcamp Maryland
  10. Edcamp Fox Valley
Thank you for all you do to support the Edcamp movement. I am honored and blessed to collaborate with all of you each and every day. So, thanks.



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