Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Designing PD this year? 3 Things You Can't Afford to Forget

As the school year gets off to a running start, stressors are everywhere. Even things that delight us (Back to School Night, First Day of School, Fall Fun, etc, etc, etc), add extra things to our plates and change our routines.

How we cope with this stress often defines two things:

1) Who we are as people

2) The capacity we have to innovate personally and professionally

And while these two things may not seem related on the surface, every successful innovation usually relies on a set of connections and personal networks that inspire, push, and scale our craziest ideas.

So, if we plan to innovate this year, we need a lot more than good PD. We also need strategies for coping with stressors. Not only will this keep us all healthier, but it will also free us up to take risks in all aspects of our lives. Consider this chart published by NPR from the Harvard School of Public Health:

WOW! Social interactions are the most effective method of reducing stress! This study serves to remind us that designing social interactions around transformative change can serve to reduce the impact of the stressors surrounding the learning, risks, and innovation.

So, as we prepare to design learning experiences and implement change in our schools, what should we do?

1) Make sure that every learning experience has a social element. 
Don't just ask staff to read a book or journal article. Host an informal book club with casual conversation, snacks, and new faces. This will provide people with new ideas as well as increase their retention of the ideas. If a face-to-face meeting isn't possible, try VOXER to bridge the gap between learning and social conversation.

2) Acknowledge and value social connections that teachers make beyond your PD.
Are your teachers connecting with other educators at social events? conferences? Edcamps? If so, acknowledge this behavior as one that creates a well-rounded, productive learner. Share information about social meet-ups for teachers in your area and model this practice yourself.

3)  Explicitly share the purpose underlying your social designs.
Sometimes, educators will balk at social learning activities. (Why do we have to do this? Can't I just go back and work in my classroom? etc etc etc) Make it very clear to all the members of the learning community that social activities reduce stress and make us all better prepared to serve our students. I've never met an educator that said they didn't want to help kids. By explaining that taking better care of yourself makes you better able to help kids, you build a strong argument for your methods!

I'd love to hear what you're doing this year to navigate the stressors of change by using social design!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hack Your Notebook - #EdcampSFBay

Photos from #EdcampSFBay

#Edcamps are about HACKING professional development, and this Saturday's #EdcampSFBay was no different.

Organized by Karl Lindgren Streicher, Elana Leoni, and many other amazing educators, the day was designed to maximize the time actually sharing and learning. This type of hacking is growing and spreading to every corner of our great country, and it couldn't be more exciting.
Debating Social Media Use in Schools
For me, I spent the day exploring different ways to HACK MY NOTEBOOK. I'm a meticulous notetaker, and my note taking "weapon of choice" is Evernote. However, I've noticed that a screen can sometimes distance me from the conversations and relationships at my fingertips during work and PD.

So, I learned about 2 ways to write to learn instead of writing to remember. (If I need to remember, I can just pop the "record" feature on in my Evernote!)

My #EdcampSFBay Sketchnotes

In his session on sketchnotes, Moss Pike explained that visual thinking not only helps you synthesize what you experience but it also helps you share it. Citing inspiration like Brad Ovenell-Carter and Mike Rohde, he shared that drawing and sketching can be a part of the learning process.

Even if you don't consider yourself an artist, sketching the big ideas can help you synthesize relationships between conversations and ideas. It engages your whole mind, especially the visual and verbal parts.

And, sketchnoting isn't just for grown ups. It's great for kids as well. Put some paper out, cue up an interesting TED talk, and have kids practice visualizing the most important ideas, using specific details from the film.

Try it at your next faculty meeting. Or keynote. Or Edcamp. Or SOMETHING.

I'm planning to sketchnote at every meeting for at least one month. I'll let you know how it goes...


The National Writing Project has taken hacking your notebook to a new level. The expertise of Paul Oh and others forged a session on building circuits to light up your notebook (literally). As I played with conductive tape, LED stickers, and batteries, the time whizzed by. It felt so good to create something with my hands and to manipulate new, exciting materials.

Kids would LOVE this and it would teach them so much about the facets of literacy. How do words, lights, and materials combine to tell a compelling story?

Here's my first notebook light:

And, here's what's possible:

Interactive Light Painting: Pu Gong Ying Tu (Dandelion Painting) from Jie Qi on Vimeo.

What can you HACK in your classroom this week?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Calling All #Edcamp Organizers - Join the #EdcampChallenge

Calling all Edcamp Organizers!

We want YOU to participate in the #EdcampChallenge !

This week, the Edcamp Foundation Partner Program had a great meeting. In the session, we wanted to put together a challenge that would allow Edcamp organizers from across the country support each other by sharing their best tips and tricks.

Here's how it works:

Step 1: Think of your BEST TIP for organizing an Edcamp.

Step 2: Record a simple 1 minute video of yourself explaining the tip. (No fancy editing required!)

Step 3: Tweet that video to #EdcampChallenge and tag another Edcamp organizer in the tweet to pass along the fun!

Here's the first one:

Join us in our quest to amass 100 organizer tips!
The TOP 5 TIPS will receive a copy of the new Edcamp book! Yay!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An Egyptian Puzzle - Fire Up Inquiry in Your Classroom

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at eduIMPACT about redesigning professional learning. As the SCOE family was one of the groups of people that welcomed me with open arms when I arrived in the Bay last year, going there is like "going home."

So, when Judith Martin walked up to me with an amazing piece of history in her hands, I was overjoyed and overwhelmed. Since Judith knows I love Egypt (and hope to visit one day!) she shared this picture of her Great Aunt from World War I in Egypt:

We also know that her Great Aunt received some accolades for her work in World War I. Check out those here:

As you can see, we only have a few of the facts in this amazing, real story. However, this certainly makes a tantalizing mystery for kids to solve as they return to school in September.

Here are some angles to this inquiry starter:
  • Use creative writing to explain these artifacts.
  • Use research to write "the real story" about these artifacts.
  • Use research to determine why this photo was taken (as saved) for all of these years.

Judith and I would love to crack the code on this mystery. Are there any classrooms out there willing to help? We'd love to Skype with you and share what we know!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Edcamp Model - A Book/Fundraiser for the Edcamp Foundation

Calling all Edcampers!

The Edcamp Foundation has some very exciting news! The Edcamp Model is now available for pre-order for 10 dollars.

The books are expected to be shipped on August 19th, and we couldn't be more excited about this vehicle for teaching others about the Edcamp model.

Here's what you can expect from the text:

  • A practical "how-to" guide for organizing both regional Edcamps and Edcamps at your school
  • Some documentation on the impact that Edcamp has had on teacher and student learning
  • Research that can help convince a school leader to have an Edcamp
Every penny of profit will go to funding Edcamp events. 
So, not only do you get to own an awesome book, but you also get to make a huge impact on Edcampers worldwide. 

And of course, here's what some #eduamazing people had to say about the book:

Peter DeWitt
"In this era of accountability, educators feel as though professional development is something being done to them, and then Kristen Swanson and the Edcamp Foundation came along. Edcamps are exciting, engaging unconferences that put the learning back into the hands of educators, and in this book Kristen Swanson provides step-by-step directions so educators can create their own in their building, district, county or state. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to put the professional in professional development."

Tom Whitby
"This book, written by members of The Edcamp Foundation, is a first-hand account of the Edcamp model for professional development from the people who were with it from the very beginning. Dr. Swanson’s insights into how the Edcamp Model meets the needs of educators in their pursuit of personalized learning for professional development is founded in the experience of designing and supporting Edcamps since the very first one in Philadelphia. She provides the information necessary for any educator to plan, execute, and reap the benefits of this most relevant form of personal, professional development for educators in a profession that relies heavily on relevance in order to be effective in a fast paced, rapidly changing culture. This book provides simple and intelligent answers to: why Edcamps work, how they are effective, and how to deliver one to a district or school. This is a book for teachers and administrators alike."

Robert Dillon
"The leadership of Kristen Swanson and her collaborate professional network has nurtured a growing community of learners through the power of the Edcamp model. This book provides the energy, urgency, and resources to continue to spread Edcamp-style learning into classrooms, schools, districts, and collaborative networks around the country. Anyone looking to take control of their learning, lead next generation adult learning, or build new energy surrounding the ways that kids learn each day should make this book a part of their learning today. Kristen writes in a way that all can access and provides step-by-step ways to make Edcamp-style professional development in all learning spaces a success."

Vicki Day
"Swanson outlines a new kind of professional development that is sure to revolutionize how educators improve their craft. This step-by-step blueprint for success demonstrates PD that is remarkably simple and brilliant. I don't know an educator who won't love The EdCamp Model."
Mark Barnes, Education Consultant and Corwin Author, Teaching the iStudent
"This book is the ultimate "how-to" guide to plan and design your own Edcamp, whether it be within your district or in your region. It gives you "how to's", guidance on getting organizer's feedback, and data on the successes of the Edcamp models. It is a "must" for all leaders who are in the process or idea stage of organizing and running a successful Edcamp. This needs to be on your shelf!"

Dr. Chris McGee
"Professional development today is in intensive care. Trainings and workshops are boring and lifeless. What professional development needs is a jolt. Edcamps are the defibrillators that are going to bring professional development back to life. Kristen Swanson and the Edcamp Foundation have authored an amazing resource to put a charge into your professional learning. Use this amazing resource to put learning into the hands of those most affected--the teachers. No more life support, no more boring meetings. Edcamps are shockingly awesome!"

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ready, Fire, Aim - An Important Note About Leadership

On Target by viZZZual.com, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

"Ready, fire, aim" is the more fruitful sequence if we want to take a linear snapshot of an organization undergoing major reform. Ready is important; there has to be some notion of direction, but it is killing to bog down the process with vision, mission, and strategic planning before you know enough about dynamic reality. Fire is action and inquiry where skills, clarity, and learning are fostered. Aim is crystallizing new beliefs, formulating mission and vision statements, and focusing strategic planning. Vision and strategic planning come later. ~Michael Fullan in Change Forces

This quote from Fullan reminds us that, while planning is critical, it can also be a direct impediment to action. Over the past year, I've been working closely with a group of volunteers to think about teaching and learning. Although all of us care deeply about this work, I believe we've become embroiled in endless planning. To be frank, there's so much "ready" that we've never actually "fired."

How does this happen? 
How do passionate, smart, individuals become paralyzed by their own ideas?

There are likely many ways that this phenomenon can occur, but my reflections on my own experiences helped me identify 3 clear signs that you're stuck in a ceaseless "ready" mode.

1. When everyone comes together to discuss the topic at hand, no one remembers what happened at the last meeting.
This is a clear sign that you're stuck in "ready" mode. This is because no one actually moves forward with action items between meetings. Instead, everyone implicitly believes that attending the meeting is the actual work. (Uh, not so much...)

2. People are chronically afraid of what others will think when action is taken.
Leadership requires taking risks. Sometimes, these risks will not go as smoothly or perfectly as everyone would like. In fact, any deep change will likely cause some serious feelings of loss among the masses. However, real change requires everyone involved to experience a bit of discomfort. Constantly wondering "what others will think" is a strong sign that you're not doing as much as you could.

3. The group lacks internal trust or support structures.
Taking action can be scary. Really scary. Immense trust is needed between all of the members of a group to weather the difficult times of change. If members of a group don't trust each other, then most of the time will be spent attempting to prevent each other from making decisions or taking action. Of all three signs here, this one is the most draining and difficult to remedy. However, without trust it's unlikely that you'll ever accomplish ANYTHING. PERIOD.

As you go into the upcoming school year, be on the lookout for these signs. If you sense these signs may exist in your grade level or department teams, share Fullan's quote with the team at the beginning of the year. Simply naming the problem is often the first step towards a real fix.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Unleashing Student Superpowers on Classroom 2.0 - Recording Link

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining Hadley Ferguson on Classroom 2.0 LIVE! Peggy George was a wonderful host, and the audience was filled with rockstars such as Paula Naugle.

Although you can only scratch the surface in 45 minutes when it comes to student superpowers and learner empowerment, Hadley and I did our best to share the key elements of each superpower for 21st century learners.

If you're interested in checking out the entire session, you can watch it here:

Also, Peggy put together a LiveBinder of all the links and resources shared during the session here.

Are you planning to turn your students into superheroes this year? 
I'd love to hear how!


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