Learning Well

Last spring I saw a tweet about a collaborative venture called “Teaching Well” that was part of the work Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa) was doing with facilitating PLP work. Basically the idea was that one person started a metaphor/contrast about teaching and the other person finished it. There were some amazing contrasts and pairs of slides that not only showed the creativity of the teachers involved but also the philosophies and thoughts they have about teaching. I wasn’t officially part of the PLP, but Darren let me submit a slide anyway. (See the idea with many links explained here by Tania Sheko.)

Here’s mine.


It clearly shows I believe teachers have to be learners, and in rereading it, I think that it pretty much encompasses all that I believe about teaching.

Teachers can teach shallowly, to simply pass the tests or we can teach for deep understanding that allows students to ask new questions and thirst for more; we can do it alone or we can collaborate and share with our colleagues; we can do it because we want to make a difference, we want to help kids, we relish the AH-HA moments in our students, we enjoy deep conversations, we like the challenge of crafting questions that scaffold students to new understandings  or we can do it in a way that simply meets the requirements of the job to bring home the paycheck; as we teach, we see knowledge as simply a gurgling up, a beginning that leads to more questions, perhaps different questions and deeper learning as we make connections, synthesize, analyze and use that knowledge to create.

So many of us lament, day after day, that we have no time to talk to our colleagues, that we have no time for reflection, no time to build the lessons we have in our minds and hearts that go well beyond the state standards to the passions we have in our field.  Milton Ramirez (@tonnet) recently responded to another of my blog posts, saying, “Twitter really changed our way of connecting to educators and other professionals. I can not foresee other applications that can bring together so many interesting people at once.” While I’m glad to hear another person say Twitter is as powerful for them as it is for me, I think we have to go beyond 140 characters and commit to having deep conversations, critical questioning and more co-creations that tap into the incredible brainpower of the educators  sharing in the Twitter stream.

We not only have to share our strategies, our finds, our projects, and our methods of using the web with our students as we talk about teaching well, but we also have to have the conversations about how our students LEARN WELL. Let’s challenge ourselves to change the conversation from centering on our teaching to our students’ LEARNING WELL.

I’m wondering what my slide would look like if I borrowed Darren’s idea and changed the phrase to “Learning Well.”  Interested in thinking about what YOUR slide would look like? Want to play?

Learning Well


Please be sure to cite your source on the last slide.



I stole that title from this post: http://jonorech.blogspot.com/2008/12/tools-schmools.html Jon wrote this post a year ago, and it is one we need to keep in front of all of us educators at all times.  It’s not about the tool, it’s about the learning!

So, in that vein, let me say that I have really, really been wanting to engage in conversations about important learning episodes where technology is used/needed, but is also simply a tool to support the engagement, learning and skill improvement that is occurring. Too many times we find a cool tool and then force the learning into the use of the tool.

As @bengrey says (http://bit.ly/z5iMg),

bengrey We absolutely must stop focusing on teaching technology and move instead to learning through it.10:09 PM Oct 2nd from TweetDeck

So, does it help to have sites like “iPod Ideas” or “Ways to use Wikis”?  Or should  we instead be talking about and sharing specific ways to teach fractions and decimals or quotation marks or the seven continents? Okay, maybe that’s too skill-driven–too centered on minute discrete skills…

So,  would it help for us each to post a favorite/best carried out/most-learning-happened lesson for others to see and learn from? Okay, maybe that’s too activity driven…

Do we want to share websites that help us craft amazing essential questions, or enduring understandings or desired outcomes?  Or is working on those too cerebral for many of us? (Do we use those in our lessons?)

We do a lot of “just found this” on twitter, and people have bookmarked and favorited THOUSANDS of websites on social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Diigo–but how often do we go back to those? (I’ll be honest here–organization of things like this is NOT my forte–I learned a LONG time ago I could just ask my colleagues things like, “What was that site that allowed you to put text in and then it would turn the words into a visual representation of the words used in that text?” and 5 people would respond “wordle.com” within 24 hours or shorter. . . so why spend my time maintaining a website of links, when there are people who enjoy doing that?) Instead, I remember the names of people who do that well already–@jacatlett, @kellyhines, @keisawilliams, OR I utilize the brain of all brains, IMHO, @mtechman, who, if she can’t immediately name it and the URL or doesn’t know exactly where to put her finger on the resource you’re asking about, will hunt until she finds it, because she enjoys the SEARCH and the joy of being successful at finding it!!

For Melissa, It’s not about power–or getting recognition for being the one who found it for you–it’s about successfully providing a service she sees as necessary and that a teacher/librarian does for people. It’s about using the technology to do her job and do it well, and be helpful at the same time. She’s intrinsically driven to help people find what they need. Melissa does what Ben talks about–she learns through the use of technology ALL the time, and then shares that knowledge with us all on Twitter.

So if I really, really want to engage in conversations about important learning episodes where technology is used/needed, but is also simply a tool to support the engagement, learning and skill improvement that is occurring, I guess I’ll start by sharing some of MY stories and seeing if anyone reacts to them. Anyone want to share theirs, too? If so, tag it with #sharing on Twitter.  🙂

World Peace Game-And An Example Of Big Picture Thinking

Week before last I listened to an interview with a teaching friend, John Hunter, about the premier of a documentary being made around him and a game he invented called World Peace. (See the You Tube Video here: John Hunter explaining his World Peace game. ) John is  a gifted resource teacher in my division and he described his job as one where he “sets up a situation so students have to stumble through the unknown and discover for themselves how to do it.”

His game is one that has evolved over the 30+ years he’s been teaching and he clearly is a teacher who doesn’t mind the students being in control of their learning. Heck, he even talks in this interview about supporting that, and that once the game begins, it is out of his hands. John is an amazing teacher, thinker and colleague and it’s a great pleasure to work in a system where I have relatively regular contact with him, even though he’s in a another school. If you are in Charlottesville, VA on February 21, 2010, please attend the premier of this documentary at the Paramount Theatre. I guarantee it will amaze and astound you and give you food for thought.

In this interview, John also speaks to the ease/relief/ability to be this creative because he works with kids who have already learned the minimum state standards, so they can explore these bigger questions of life. I think all gifted teachers have some of this feeling in us. Because of the students’ abilities with whom we work, we DO have more latitude in what we teach in many situations. That’s both a good and a bad thing.

It’s good because we can meet these very, very bright kids at the level at which they think without them being slowed down by thinkers who may not make the intuitive leaps they do, who may not have the background of information they do, and who may not have the confidence to challenge them as they think aloud. This experience isn’t about elitism, but about allowing students the opportunities to think with others who think at their speed, at the depth they do, and who question the world as they often do.

It’s bad because all teachers do not feel they have the latitude to teach this way with all students–to explore big questions of life and tie their lessons into essential questions that support students making those connections between topics, between concepts and between understandings that are universal and that deepen their understanding of the world.

I have a teacher in my  school, though, who is attempting to teach to that level with ALL of her students in math. This teacher has developed a structure that is based on the ideas behind the “Daily Five” in literacy. She has created a pie, divided into three pieces, which, after brainstorming with several folks, she decided on the categories Becky Fisher (@beckyfisher73) suggested, which were strategy, fluency and numeracy.

Of course these overlap, but by looking at each of these each day, and helping kids thinking metacognitively about these skills, they become more aware of their mathematical thinking and in turn, become better at it. She devises a set of three problems that revolve around big ideas in math and then the children self-select which of the three problem solving tasks they will work on for the week. By Friday they create a poster describing their thinking and explaining the way the solved the problem. That’s the numeracy piece of her pie.

The fluency piece is the arithmetical part of math–direct teaching and practice of basic skills, based on the Virginia Standards of Learning for 4th grade.

The strategy piece of her pie is worked on in several ways–through the posters the students create to show their thinking, the work they do as the week goes along and the classroom conversations that occur around their work. Students love the structure, they are free to develop their own strategies to solve the problems, they talk about the connections between the various problems and they self-select into the groups that sometimes stretch them, sometimes allow them practice and sometimes allow them to lead the problem solving process.

Big picture thinking and teaching and learning–why doesn’t it happen in more classrooms? How can we restructure our schools so that it can be pervasive and the norm rather than the outlier?

Following Followers and Thinking

Yesterday, Milton Ramirez, (@tonnet) re-tweeted a comment about inconsistency that intrigued me (which he often does), so I began tracing the conversation back to see the context.  Through doing that, I found @monedays, @TalkDoc2 and @JohnDMcClung having a conversation that was right up my alley–but I came late to the party due to my wonky  nTelos air card, so wasn’t in time to join in. However, I filled a whole page marking many of their comments as favorites!

I think these folks MUST have read the book, Lift, and they live it. . . their tweets are inspiring and thought-provoking. I know these favorites will give me much food for thought.  Hope  they do for  you as well!

(I just copied them from my favorites, so read from the bottom up if you want to read them in order.)


  1. JohnDMcClung RT @MarkOOakes: Everyone 1 of us is called to LEADERSHIP, whether to lead ourselves, a great cause or lend a helping hand to just 1 person!9:44 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck

  2. John McClungJohnDMcClung RT @TalkDoc2: @JohnDMcClung There actually would be more peace in the world w/o dichotic thinking. Good sometimes, but not usually.9:36 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck

  3. Monica Diazmonedays @JohnDMcClung @TalkDoc2 If there is truth, we cannot grasp it, only our perceptions of it. So comparing notes, gives us a broader pic!9:29 AM Oct 10th from Tweetie

  4. John McClungJohnDMcClung @TalkDoc2 Too many times we work on the assumption that because “X” is true, “Y” cannot be. Both could co-exist as “truth.”9:28 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck

  5. John McClungJohnDMcClung @TalkDoc2 Hypothesis testing in debate theory allows a “truth” to be examined on it’s own merits. It’s “truth” doesn’t discredit others9:26 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck

  6. Monica Diazmonedays RT @EdieGalley: Your past can be used as a great foundation of learning….just remember it is not a box to get trapped in.9:25 AM Oct 10th from Tweetie

  7. John McClungJohnDMcClung RT @TalkDoc2: @JohnDMcClung There are many “truths” that evolve over time…thankfully. <Exactly! Why hypothesis testing is appropriate9:24 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck

  8. Mike MorganTalkDoc2 RT @JohnDMcClung: @TalkDoc2 To get at truth, you need to look at an issue from all angles, not just fully support from one. – True9:20 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck

  9. Monica Diazmonedays RT @JohnDMcClung: @TalkDoc2 To get at truth, you need to look at an issue from all angles, not just fully support from one.9:15 AM Oct 10th from Tweetie

  10. Monica Diazmonedays RT @thehrgoddess: RT @wallybock “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” ~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan9:13 AM Oct 10th from Tweetie

  11. Monica Diazmonedays RT @LeadToday: People in leadership positions that don’t care about their people forfeit the opportunity to truly lead. #BeOrginal9:13 AM Oct 10th from Tweetie

  12. Monica Diazmonedays So true! A challenge to attract them! RT @TalkDoc2: Deeper truths are discovered through open discussion with others who are not like you.9:09 AM Oct 10th from Tweetie

  13. Mike MorganTalkDoc2 Deeper truths are discovered through open discussion with others who are not like you.9:07 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck


  14. Mike MorganTalkDoc2 You cannot fully receive the gifts of love and laughter unless you give them away.9:04 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck


  15. Mike MorganTalkDoc2 @LollyDaskal Good friends expect genuineness, not perfection. Good morning Lolly.9:02 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck


  16. Monica Diazmonedays RT @MarkOOakes: Leadership Skills Inventory: Listening, Empathy, Attitude, Vision, Effectiveness, Resilience, Purpo (cont) http://tl.gd/kupo

LOTS to think about here! If you read one of these and a story comes to mind, would you share it with us, please?

Thanks again, Milton, for helping me find these folks to follow! When I tweeted Milton yesterday, I sent @tonnet Thanks for the new people to follow this morning. Will blog later about the conversation I followed thanks to your RTs! :-),  he responded with these tweets:

tonnet @paulawhite I try to catch up with the immensity of information we have to deal with on a daily basis. Thanks 4 your kindly words & support

tonnet @paulawhite@celfoster @ ritasimsan @Katjewave @Mrs_Fuller Read this piece and it will show u why I appreciate ur retweets

which led me to Bit Rebels. . . another great thinking resource for me.

Meeting People, Sharing Stories

Okay, so this afternoon I have been working to figure out what I have to say and after about three hours, I think this blog may turn into two or three like several others have.  It’s not that I deliberately wait until I have several to write, but that in thinking about writing one, I find I have several blogs to write.

Chad Ratliff (@chadratliff) has had an immense impact on my thinking, and he doesn’t even realize it, I don’t think.  I began following him on Twitter sometime this year, and started following some of his tweeple as well from tracing back his conversations. He is an entrepreneur, an educator, a thinker and a friend, not necessarily in that order. ( I suspect all of those take back seat to his roles of  Dad and Husband MUCH of the time!) Anyway, Chad and I started talking on Twitter, he began following folks from Albemarle Schools and to make a long story short, he attended a conference with us (where I had the honor  and pleasure of introducing him around) and he wound up working in our school system. (I’m not taking any credit for that–he is an amazing person we were lucky to have join us!)

Before that, he was taking classes, running a business (or maybe 2 or 3 of them), keeping his hand in education and tweeting to people in all of those endeavors. How we connected I don’t remember, but what I do know is that I started following some business people from all over, which I never would have said I would do. Through Chad, I found some educators in Iowa (like @RussGoerend, whom I have an ongoing competition with about whether VA or Iowa has more notable tweeters) and from Russ I got to some other amazing thinkers, and it goes on and on. . .

But, really, what this blog post is about is the importance of social networking: We participate and connect with people who think like we do. We interact, and sometimes argue with or question people who think differently.  We sometimes watch and “lurk” on conversations others  have, watching the stories unfold in front of us.   We come back to our online connections, to the people we have met and come to know online because of the power of stories–the connections we make through sharing with each other the thoughts, questions, strengths and weaknesses we have–and sharing the struggles and the solutions we find.

See I Finally Get It–Why Social Networking Is So Important for another insight into social networking as story.

So, back to why I started by writing about Chad:

I haven’t seen him since he joined us.  I’ve tweeted very little since then, as a matter of fact, because it’s been the beginning of school and I’ve just been darn busy. When I have been on Twitter, I’ve been furiously reading, trying to catch some of the nuggets my PLN shares. Chad’s tweeted me a few links and DM’d to make sure I was okay, but mostly since he got here, I haven’t been in contact much.

That doesn’t matter.

I follow his conversations still and have followed some amazing thinkers because of him–and I constantly learn through their tweets as well. Twitter–and the connections people make on it– continues to amaze me.  I am learning from so many people all over the world because thoughtful practitioners are willing to share and give so much.

I am so appreciative of all the people who share with me online–I thank you all for sharing the stories in your life.

And, thanks, Chad, for helping me follow some people who have certainly stretched my thinking through the stories of their lives.

Tips for Presenting

All of us have sat through great presentations by the keynote speakers (I hope) and some of us (I hope it’s only some) have sat through not-so-great ones.  Recently I found out  several friends are keynoting for various conferences in the next several months, so I thought I’d ask my PLN for suggestions I could share. These folks are not inexperienced presenters, nor am I, but I recently sent in a proposal for the K12online conference  and am currently writing one for ISTE2010 with Michael Wacker (@mwacker), so have been thinking a LOT about presenting in this day and age.

So, I tweeted: If you could counsel a keynoter in what to do/not do, what would you say?

and got these responses VERY quickly!

* You have 30 seconds to engage your audience and set the tone. 1st 30 seconds crucial-audience has short attention span. via @chollingsworth

* Don’t talk too long w/out visuals/multimedia. Tell stories. Use humour. B engaging. Don’t pretend 2 b an expert unless u r one. via @erringreg

* speak slowly and clearly; many folks speed up the word count if they are nervous (and perhaps a shot of tequila immediately before? ;-P) via @unklar

*  Don’t read a powerpoint to audience. Be funny. Have GREAT examples. via @aldtucker

*  eschew the “uhs”; nothing wrong with small periods of silence Via @Unklar

*  I’d say, change your preso from time to time. We’ve probably seen you do this one before. via @teachakidd

* ditto the one above: Big ideas might say the same but new examples and anecdotes/research keeps it fresh and current. Via @shareski

* found it critical to build into keynote time for audience to turn and talk.process what has been presented.have done with 3000 via @stevebarkley

* What not to do: be late, read us the ppoint, tell us teachers over 25 r ignorant digital immigrants & libraries are wasted space via @turrean

* Funniest speaker ever chided audience for using old-fashioned face-to-face networking…at a conference of over 1000 teachers… who had all paid money to hear him speak in person. via @turrean

* Check your ums, have a plan, have vision, change it up, humor, believe in what you are talking about. Via @mjkrugerross

* don’t read the slides; presentation should be ‘text light’; look @ ur audience; have fun! Via @Nsharoff

* Don’t lecture! Don’t have ppt slides full of stats that no one can read! via @JoHart

* Look to the Presentation Zen work of Garr Reynolds 🙂  Via @Digitalmaverick

I also got a very thoughtful email response from a local principal, Bill Sterret, (@billsterrett) who shared some specifics from one of his planned keynotes that included involve the audience and end five minutes early!

In thinking about successful Keynotes and/or presentations I have seen, the ones that resonated with me included some of the following elements:

*   a backchannel that was projected so the audience could see what others found interesting in the talk as it was happening

*   a website where resources relating to the presentation are posted

*   the presentation posted on that website

*   funny or touching personal stories that helped me connect with the presenter and/or the materials being presented

*   real life examples of the points the presenter was making

*   opportunities to extend my understanding of the presenter materials though quick checks (think/pair/share, turn to your neighbor and. . ., respond to this poll, etc.)

As always, I appreciate my PLN’s support and help and the suggestions were great!  Do you have any to add?

“I Live Teaching As My Doing.” (Chapter 2)

I live teaching as my doing.

Been thinking about that a lot this morning, as there is a team of teachers at my school that I am working with to understand just what my job is as a gifted resource teacher, and that I am struggling to find a happy medium with as we try to meet the needs of the gifted kids in their group.

These teachers are all very good, if not great, teachers.  They work hard, care about the kids, constantly seek out new learnings for themselves, and thoughtfully implement plans they believe will meet their students’ learning needs. These are NOT worksheet driven classes; they are active classrooms where kids learn and teachers know what their kids know and what they don’t. The kids are happy, the parents are happy, and they have great track records with state tests as well. Lots to celebrate with this team and their work.

However, there are some highly gifted math thinkers in this group that I worry about, and my worry seems to offend the teachers. What they don’t seem to get is that it is my job to worry about those kids and to advocate for their thinking to be highly challenged regularly. When I ask questions, it’s not to be critical, but to make sure the gifted kids’ needs are being met, AND to help me know more about how the teachers are differentiating for them.  It’s not because I think I can do it and they can’t. It’s not because I think they’re not meeting the learning needs. It’s because I want to learn from them and think about how we can all get better at this differentiation thing. My job is to help them differentiate better—not to do the academically challenging work with the kids for them.

For me, teaching IS learning.  I don’t know how many times I have been questioning kids, discussing a situation or problem or describing mathematical thinking and strategies and when finished, I realize that I learned just as much, if not more, than my students. Yes, I can say, as Jackie Gerstein does, that “I live teaching as my doing.”

I also live learning as my doing.

“I Live Teaching As My Doing.” (Chapter 1)

I live teaching as my doing.

What a great statement.

It came from a Twitter buddy’s bio—her name is Jackie Gerstein.

I have only met Jackie Gerstein briefly at a tweet-up at NECC in DC. I know she has a doctorate in education, I know she is an educator, but I don’t know where she is or what she does daily as a job. What I do know about this lady, though, is that she is a thinker, a believer in children’s abilities to make decisions, an advocate for realistic and meaningful education, and that she shares thought-provoking tweets regularly on Twitter. Her bio there says, “I don’t do teaching for a living, I live teaching as my doing, and technology has AMPLIFIED the passion.”

I live teaching as my doing.

What a great statement.

And what I know about myself is that at ISTE2010 in Denver next year, I’ll be looking for her, because I want to have a face to go with this name I see daily on Twitter. I want to talk with her and find out more about what she does and where she works and how and why she finds and tweets the thought-provoking links she constantly puts out there. I want her to know the impact her tweets have on me and the people I share them with, and I’d like to have some face to face time to listen to her and question her and have a real conversation with her. She’s one of my twitter friends that I would count as a MUST FOLLOW. . . because she makes ME think, and what she shares resonates with me on a regular basis. As a deep thinker myself, I have connected with this lady in ways I don’t connect with folks I see everyday because of the topics she chooses to read about, think about and share.

Thanks, Jackie! I am looking forward to TALKING with you!

(By the way, I could write this post about a BUNCH of my Twitter friends. You folks simply don’t know what a lifeline you have given me!)

Response to “Badge of Honor”

Lee Kolbert (@TeachaKidd on Twitter) makes me think. She makes statements or shares links or asks questions that get me going.  Thanks, Lee, for pushing my thinking on this issue!

First off, let me say that I think David Jakes is a very smart person and I respect him and what he usually has to say a LOT.  I enjoy following him on Twitter and deliberately attend his presentations when I can to learn from him. However, in this case, he and I may need to agree to disagree.

David recently wrote a blog (http://strengthofweakties.org/?p=297) that said get rid of the badges you have been given.  His statement about why is that “they send a bad message” and to back that up, he says what bothers him is the “have-have not mentality that they promote….and perhaps the false sense of accomplishment that goes along with their display.”

I disagree.

I believe teachers who get recognition, whether they apply for it or not, should show the honors they receive—for it IS an honor to be selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator, or a Google Certified Teacher, or a STAR Discovery Educator or a Golden Apple recipient, or a presenter at k12online conference, or NECCunplugged, or Edubloggercon, or any of the other badges teachers display. I believe, beyond the have/have not mentality, that it shows teachers who go beyond the classroom, who look for connections to other educators and who share and probably revel in being a lifelong learner.  What David doesn’t explain is that being part of these communities is just that—being part of a larger community of learners, of thinkers, of doers and movers and shakers—and the coolest thing to me is the INCLUSIVE behaviors of these educators through these programs.

I KNOW Apple Distinguished Educators mentored others through the application process in 2009 and spoke for them to Apple.

I KNOW Google Certified Teachers did the same.

I KNOW DEN STARS are always telling others—“You should become a DEN STAR!”

I’ve heard these things, seen them and experienced them.

DEN STARS are always offering tips and tricks about Discovery Education, streaming video, digital storytelling, and sharing the incredible resources available on the DE site.

At the July 09 Apple Institute, ADEs were streaming it and sharing the videos being created as soon as they were made.

At the August 09 Google Teacher Academy, the agenda was sent out publicly and tweets shared the learning throughout the day. I virtually attended the previous two through the notes docs being shared and the agenda and the incredible resources there.

At the conferences mentioned, the presentations are streamed (and often archived) so others can attend and learn virtually.

I, and many others, I am sure, have learned about these opportunities through those badges—seeing one and saying, ”What is that?” It’s NOT about having or not having a badge—it’s about sharing the opportunities to learn, sharing the knowledge one learns through those opportunities and encouraging others to apply the next round. It’s about making the world—and various types of learning—more accessible to a larger group than a company can accommodate. For me, those badges aren’t about exclusivity, but about sharing and learning and growing, and when I see one I see that person as someone I can ask about that opportunity.

What do YOU think?