Losing Our Minds

Everyone should read Deborah Ruf’s book, Losing Our Minds.  Not only does she do an EXCELLENT job of describing giftedness in many different ways, but she also describes different KINDS of giftedness and different ways of meeting those needs in the classroom.  She addresses push in and pull out models, the need for independent studies and when that isn’t necessary. She really makes the delivery of services for meeting the various needs of gifted kids just make sense.

I also love the book, “Young, Gifted and Black,” by Theresa Perry, Asa Hilliard III, and Claude Steele, as they describe the cultural and democratic aspects to be considered when looking at educating blacks in America.  They make the point that REALLY we have only been experimenting democratically with truly educating African Americans for a short period of time. MANY folks, as African Americans were “integrated” into society in the 1900s –and many still today–question the mental capacity, the intellectual competence of black people, looking at historical academic achievement as “proof”. This book argues that “since learning is fundamentally contextual, there are extra social, emotional, cognitive and political competencies required of African Americans precisely because they ARE African Americans.” (See Ira Socal’s recent post, Crossing America: An Education for a better explanation than I am giving here.)

BUT, what brought this topic to mind is a recent article, “No Gifted Minority Left Behind” in the Richmond (VA) Times that @JonBecker and @mwacker (Michael Wacker) posted.  Our county is currently (as many are) examining the discrepancy between membership group populations and enrollment in special programs such as Gifted, Special Education, Advanced Placement/Honors courses, technical programs, etc.)

So, I asked Michael and Jon: Do you believe that just because say, 70% of your student population is white, 70% of your gifted (or SPED) population should be?

Their responses included the following comments and questions:

becker@paulawhite no, but we should be within a much tighter confidence interval than we are now; extreme disproportionality is problematic.

Me-> 2 years ago our Gifted Advisory Committee did a study on that discrepancy, Jon, and my school was the ONLY one near to that tight confidence interval. However, it isn’t anymore, as I moved schools, and the GTs who came after didn’t continue ID of minorities. (I’ve now been gone from that one 5 years and the kids I identified are mostly gone.)

wacker@jonbecker @paulawhite agreed, its not that clean, but it is an issue, has anyone addressed cultural bias in the tests themselves?

becker@mwacker @paulawhite yes, and most LEAs have moved away from a single test for ID purposes, but that hasn’t made much of a difference.

Me->BECAUSE most people still look at the test score (no matter what test) as most important–behaviors and class work is incidental, and the one snapshot test “MUST” be more valid.

wacker@paulawhite @jonbecker do you use a triangulation data collection method for determining giftedness? Is it just one test or a B.O.E.?

So I responded:

Part of the discrepancy in identification IS cultural in that (and this goes back to my K blog) some cultures ENCOURAGE movement and calling out. Have either of you ever been to a southern black Baptist church? Calling out, responding aloud in group, NOT raising hands and moving is all part of their ritual–so ESPECIALLY kids with those experiences have to be indoctrinated to the hidden curriculum of school (sit down, be quiet and listen)–and teachers see those active, calling-out kids as “misbehaving” so therefore, they CAN’T be really smart. GTs often aren’t aware of cultural differences in behaviors, and most teachers DEFINITELY aren’t!

In fact, I go looking for those calling out/active kids cause it’s a GREAT sign of engagement.

I have a 5th grader right now (NOT minority)whose behavior has interfered with ANY teacher seeing his absolute BRILLIANCE…cause he refuses to “play school.” He wants to learn and he wants his questions answered–and he wants to know WHY he has to do stupid busy work, so he constantly challenges the teachers, which gets him sent to a safe spot. I’m trying to get them to give him a laptop AT the safe spot and see what he does with it. He recently embedded a WHOLE middle school math book on his wiki so others could read it and learn “as much as I did.”

I have another, a 2nd grade minority girl who did the most sophisticated sort of dominoes last year in a class lesson–when I pointed it out to the teacher, her response was “she must have copied.” This year’s teacher is noticing her novel responses.

Then, Samantha Melvin joined in:

melvinauthentic differentiated learning can only take place with authentic differentiated TEACHING –so glad you are sharing this!!

Me->Teachers have to understand that it is not about assembly line work or making everyone part of a melting pot, but separate and distinct individuals with specific strengths and passions. It’s not about conforming but honoring and providing opps for differences and personal strengths to be used and grow.

YES!  about process, not product! Amelvinre we giving them the skills they need to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways? (serving the individual learner)

Great question! Here’s where (IMHO) tech plays a SERIOUS part and meets a HUGE need!

So, when you read the article, what do you think?  ARE we leaving no gifted minorities behind, or are we losing our minds?

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.  🙂

Inconsistency and Cognitive Dissonance

Been thinking a lot about these two topics lately. When I heard John Hunter (a Gifted Resource Teacher in our division, known for the World Peace Game) describe 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” I thought, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone describe their job similarly to how I think about mine.

I talk about metacognition with my students.  I teach them about cognitive dissonance and tell them that if I NEVER cause them cognitive dissonance, then they aren’t learning with me, because it’s when we work our way out of confusion that we often ask the best questions, do the deepest thinking and have the most astounding “AH-HA” moments.

My students know that the questions I ask aren’t usually  yes/no questions and if one is, then they are going to have to justify or defend their response. My students also know that I sometimes deliberately lead them, through my questioning, down a “slippery slope” to see who really has deep understanding and who doesn’t. See my post from fall 2008 on scaffolding and an accompanying post about reading minds.

So when I saw a post the other day by Monica Diaz, that said:

monedays @JohnDMcClung @TalkDoc2 We are so wired to find consistency that inconsistency bothers us and takes us away from balance/learning9:31 AM Oct 10th from Tweetie

I sat up and noticed. The way Monica stated that, I definitely felt some cognitive dissonance.

Inconsistency DOES bother us, but that inconsistency is what makes us examine the situation/problem/facts more deeply so as to figure out WHY it is inconsistent, and then we try to bring whatever it is back into balance.  When we’re in that mode of trying to find balance and consistency, then we often acquire a deeper sense of balance, a deeper understanding of the learning. In my mind, it doesn’t take us AWAY from balance and learning, but leads us towards a DEEPER understanding.

So, I began backtracking the Twitter conversation to figure out the context and I found this response:

TalkDoc2 RT @monedays: @JohnDMcClung Good teachers create moments of inconsistency/lack of balance to inspire good learning.9:36 AM Oct 10th from TweetDeck

YES!  I thought, Mike thinks like I do. . . Creating that cognitive dissonance is a good thing for learning!

In reading more of the conversation (see my post about Following Followers and Thinking), I realized these folks were thinking and talking about the act of learning NOT being a dichotomy, not being black and white and not being a simple act of finding consistency. I was glad I had backtracked Monica’s statement so as to understand her–and the conversation– better.

Learning (and in context, teaching as well) is about leading,

and following,

and thinking,

and NOT being boxed in by our past or prior experiences.

It is about relationships, meaningful tasks and conversations, and hard thinking. If we don’t provide our students with opportunities to think, communicate and interact at deep levels of creation we are not giving them the opportunities to grow to the depths and heights they possibly can.  Some of us may romanticize our past education, but I agree with Candace (@iMrsF) that students need repeated exposure to some components/tasks/concepts/knowledge they may not even know they don’t know. And, I agree with @hrmason that when we teach, “we MUST find a blend of structured and teacher-directed, of freeform and self-guided with ALWAYS the student who is sitting in front of you in mind and not the student you once were in school.”

This past summer our county held a conference called “Reimagining Education.” Can we do that by  looking at our students as they are today, thinking of the talents they need to survive–no, to THRIVE–in our world, as it is right now?

Can the world around us BE any more inconsistent, uncertain and change driven? So how do we teach our students to deal with that inconsistency without giving them chances to experience it in safe situations first?  How can we help them cope with, understand and embrace the rapid world changes they will live through without giving them an opportunity to practice change, living it, looking at options and discussing potential actions and possibilities as well as consequences?

I Live LEARNING As My Doing, Too. (Chapter 3)

I also live learning as my doing.

Learning together is the most powerful kind of teaching, and I seek those opportunities all the time. I am a powerful thinker. I know I make connections that many teachers do not. (Mentors I trust have told me that–it took me a long time to believe it–and even longer to understand it.) I know I notice kid behaviors others don’t see as significant. I know I think about people, schooling and interactions in ways others do not. Why? Am I gifted? I was never identified in school, but then, I grew up before there was such a thing in the schools I attended, (I think.)

My mother used school data on me in her thesis for her Masters in Math Ed., and, because she had me (as an 10th grader) helping her organize and aggregate the data, I know I have an above average IQ (and we all know that doesn’t really mean anything), but I have never thought of myself as gifted or brilliant. I know I’m smart, but lots of my peers (especially on Twitter) are LOTS smarter than me! However, my whole life I have realized most other people don’t think like I do and wondered why.

I have often asked myself why I could NEVER shut off my brain, and why I couldn’t simply rest without thinking about something deeply. I have OFTEN realized others sometimes don’t want to be around me because they don’t want to deal with my constant questioning, thinking, asking, talking, reading, etc. I have been described by MANY people as incredibly intense. I learned early in my career to not talk in conversations, to not ask my questions, to not make my connecting statements, to hide who I am so as to be accepted.

It wasn’t until I began studying to become a teacher of gifted students that I recognized, in some of the research, that people who think differently need time and opportunities to be with and think with and talk with others who also think differently. I recognized that MANY powerful thinkers think there is something wrong with them because of their different way of thinking. At that time, I realized that thinking they are weird can be pervasive in people who are powerful thinkers. I connected with the research on social and emotional needs of gifted kids because I had been there and done that. . .

And that’s why I won’t back down from advocating for these powerful thinkers to have time together. It’s why I ask when they can have some time in my room, just them, to be able to have those lightning fast conversations that go all over the place and that they can see others follow. Let them LIVE LEARNING at THEIR pace. The connections they make, the feelings of being understood and respected for making those connections simply cannot be underestimated.

That acceptance, that understanding, that challenge of the conversation that is at the level where they THINK is crucial to helping powerful thinkers accept that they are NOT weird, that the way they think, the speed with which they make connections and the unusual observations they make may not be for everyone, but they are NOT alone in thinking this way. Giving those powerful thinkers time by themselves TOGETHER is like giving water to someone who has just run through a desert. It can be a lifeline. It can be an experience that feeds the mind for days. It can be a time that the child relishes and absolutely NEEDS to feel accepted.

So, please, teachers, don’t be offended when I ask questions about how you’re differentiating. I want to be sure kids on my caseload are being challenged, but mostly I trust you to do that academically.

Even more than that, though, I want our highly gifted kids to have opportunities to interact with others that think like them. I want them to have a chance to talk about their social and emotional needs and let them have the chance to make friends.  Really, really bright people often are loners because they are intense—and I want these kids to have the chance to connect with others and perhaps to make a best friend.

Please give them that opportunity and let me do my job.


I’m a gifted resource teacher in my division, serving one school. Our model of gifted services is 60/40—60% of my time should be spent helping TEACHERS develop their skills at differentiation through coaching, demo teaching, co-teaching, observing and giving feedback, helping create and share classroom units/materials/modules/lessons/assessments/resources and parent communications as well as support their PLC work. Forty percent of my time should be spent working with kids directly and that generally turns out to be the highly different learner—not just the Level 1 or 2 gifted kids who are fairly easily differentiated for in the classroom. (See Ruf Estimates Levels of Giftedness adapted from Deborah Ruf via Losing Our Minds.)

Our county has spent quite a bit of time and money in the past ten years helping teachers work with concept-based learning, and tying together Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction. We constantly talk about CAI, differentiation and our Framework for Quality Learning, along with our Professional Learning Communities work. As a support person, my role varies with each teacher and classroom, depending on a ton of variables, which often include the teacher’s skill at differentiating, the teacher’s ability and desire to collaborate, the number of kids needing services, how different those kids’ learning needs are from their classmates, how far ahead they are, what their specific strengths are, class size, and many others.  So what I do with each teacher and each grade differs, sometimes as often as daily.

Sometimes our collaboration works well and sometimes there simply isn’t enough planning time. What often happens when we plan together is that we jump right into the Instruction piece without looking at the C and A of the CAI. We don’t look TOGETHER at the deep understandings of the curriculum and pre-assess, but instead say, “These kids need something different because they are gifted.”  There’s no differentiation for the gifted kids because they all come out with me at one time, for one subject, OR they are grouped in the grade level, where they are paced a bit faster, or given more problems to solve, or the work is a bit more creative or fun. OR the teachers pre-assess and if a gifted kid misses 1 or 2, they say the kids need the grade level instruction, when in fact, the item MAY have been missed because the kid saw the task as unworthy of effort or quite simply, s/he didn’t try out of boredom.

Meeting gifted kids’ needs is NOT easy. . .and knowing how to do that is foreign to many teachers, especially when the kid is extremely gifted—s/he may present as unmotivated, unwilling or simply lazy, when in fact, they may truly be choosing NOT to play the game of school. My job is not only to advocate for the child, but to help the teacher gain a deeper understanding of how that particular child may think or learn.

I am very lucky to work with an extremely talented bunch of  Kindergarten teachers who are very adroit at teaching ALL kids. They differentiate, and meet the needs of all of their children within the classroom community they build. The collaboration with them is fairly predictable and, I think we all agree, very effective. Each year, my K teachers identify an area of the curriculum or a teaching strategy they would like to explore more and I then provide lots of resources and do some demo lessons/co-teaching. They run with it from there, generally on their own, talking about it at PLC meetings, sharing and collaborating about their experiences, just because that’s who and what they are, as individuals and as a team.

I wish each of my grade level teams were as cohesive and easy to work with, but they’re not. They are all individuals and need different things. Some push me to my limits supporting them and others need my pushing–and sometimes we both push and sometimes we both pull. Each teacher is different, each team is different, and I have to say I love the challenge of trying to set up situations where we all grow and learn. My goal this year is to help all of my teachers in ways that show them who I am as a teacher and as an individual, and in ways that impact upon their hearts and souls as teachers, so that the kids are the ones who gain. #evaluatethat!

Disconnected (And Feeling It!)

I have been off twitter for a while—a week? Couple of weeks?  I’m not sure, as I have been busy starting school. . .but even before that, I had sort of checked out–not been getting on as much as I had—perhaps I’ve been “sort of gone” a month. It doesn’t really matter how long it was, I just know I have felt disconnected, and I think that’s why I have been feeling unsettled and a bit grumpy, too. I’m now wondering if I was subconsciously preparing myself to return to school.

I’ve been sharing many good retweets last night and this morning—and gotten several “thank you for the RTs” DMs. When I RT’ed @taniasheko’s “Thanks for making the conversation happen about brainstorming. Please join http://bit.ly/FGNDO”, she then responded with a personal invitation, “Come on in. Have a say.” (I missed it, though, because I went to bed!) @Jackiegerstein said, “Thanks for that re-tweet, Paula! Appreciate it.” I responded with “My pleasure, Jackie, I learn so much from your tweets.” She responded back, “and me from you. I love this mutuality.”

Mutuality . . .connections. . .sharing. . .meeting new folks. . .learning how other schools (or systems) work. . .finding new resources and tools. . .learning to use those tools and resources. . .keeping abreast of world news. . .getting primary source reports of world happenings. . .collaborating across my state, my country and the world. . .being published in a variety of venues. . .being exposed to opposing views and having heated discussions. . . being challenged. . .being offered new opportunities. . .presenting with people I’ve never met. . .supporting folks from across my nation in applications. . .being supported by people as I apply. . .participating in a fast and furious exchange of info and questions. . . The list could probably go on and on. . .

My point is simply that I have grown and changed through the mental stimulation that social networking tools provide me as I engage with other educators, bloggers, thinkers and doers around our world. MY world has grown both larger and smaller at the same time, as I have found commonalities and friends online, and challenged my small town thinking by those interactions.

I went back to my small country school expecting sharing and honest exchanges because I experienced that kind of dialogue all summer. I forgot not everyone has experienced the power of growing through social networking. I forgot not everyone has had exposure to life and the world—and schools—and projects—and intellectually stimulating conversations outside of their own face to face network.

That’s a harsh reality to face, walking into a building wanting to engage in the hard work of educating our kids for the contemporary world they will live in when working with mostly people who use the same methods teachers have used for many decades in America. It’s fine to want to do well by the kids, but we have to first understand what our kids need in this day and time, and we all need to take the time to explore, to talk, to think with others—all over the globe–to figure out how best to prepare our children for THEIR world, not try to perpetuate our old one.

How do you do this in your schools?

(follow up blog coming!)

Twitter Makes Me. . . .

. . . look at crowds differently.   I now scan faces, looking for faces I know from an avatar.  I go out in the  world looking for friendly faces, instead of avoiding strangers’ eyes.  I especially do this if I am my way to a professional gathering where I know members of my PLN will be—like a conference or the Google Teacher Academy.

. . . much more helpful to my staff.  They ask me a question and if I don’t know it someone in my Twitter PLN does–and usually I get a response within minutes

. . .  not feel isolated in my own classroom.  If all my school buddies are busy and I have a break, I can talk with my Twitter buddies. I can ask questions, I can express joy or frustration or bewilderment, or anger or whatever and someone will probably respond.  I can even have a philosophical discussion in the middle of the day by throwing a statement out to the Twitterverse

. . . feel valued for being a teacher.  When someone shares a feel good moment they had,  I relate to those—because I’ve had them too, and for a moment, the shared humanity of being a teacher and the memory of seeing those “Ah-Ha!” moments, or getting that hug, or friendly note from the Mom or thank you from a family person, or a smile from that hard-to-reach kid makes my day.

. . . feel honored for being a thinker. I love it when someone disagrees with me or adds to something I said, or responds to it in a way that makes me see another perspective.  I’ve even had folks tell me they favorited something I said because they can share it or want to come back and think about it. That has value for me.

. . . think about the world in different ways.  I had my first realistic exposure to the world clock by seeing people in my Twitterverse say “Goodnight” as I got up in the morning—or seeing people say “Good Morning” as I was getting ready to go to bed. Time and the rotation of the earth becomes real in a very genuine way when you are “talking“ to those who live in a drastically different time zone than you.

. . .  pay attention to world news in a different way.  I’ve worried about Twitter friends when raging fires were nearing their homes—or a hurricane approached their house or the houses of their family members.

. . . feel differently about walking into my classroom each day because I teach in a school system that honors teachers, that values quality engagement in students and that respects differences in human beings. I know my county staff is proud of what teachers and students do in our schools and I am proud that our leadership is a thinking and learning leadership team.

. . . look to use words in ways that I didn’t before. When you only have 140 characters to share your thoughts, you learn to make them fairly succinct and you value each letter, each word, each nuance.

And, at that, I’ll quit. . . except to say that it’s not really Twitter that does these things for me–it’s the amazing, wonderful, thoughtful, smart  people that interact with me–and who teach me, and who help me understand the world better each day by sharing.  Thank you all for making MY world a better place.

The Only Things Filters Stop Are The Teachers.

My county is sending a team of educators to Alan November’s Building Learning Communities 09 conference next week in Boston, Massachusetts,  USA. The team consists of administrators, Instructional Coaches, Classroom Teachers, Gifted Resource Teachers and Media Center Specialists. We’ve met twice now to talk about how to open our experience to our folks back home.

This week, most of us are involved in the Edustat conference. We have people from all over the US AND some from India here. Most have been amazed we have Twitter open in our district–and that we have assigned Tweeters and bloggers for the conference. Many have expressed astonishment that they can get to social networking sites that are blocked in their district.

I read the title of this blog on Twitter last week and it floored me. . . it’s so simple, so true, but not recognized by IT folks in many school systems.  I’m just glad our “people in charge” believe in teachers learning this stuff as well. We have been encouraged to tweet.  We have been recruited to both blog and tweet about our experiences at Edustat.  Some of us, including our Sup’t, have been able to invite people we tweet with to the conference. MANY of our administrators are now on Twitter, and at least 20-30 people from our county have joined Twitter (or become more active) in the past few days, due to our Sup’t raving about her use.  The hashtag “edustat” has been extremely active on Twitter!

We have had people from as far away as Australia watching our live streams, and that has blown our IT guys away. We’ve had people who are not here adding to the #edustat stream with info they are seeing and thoughts they are having. It’s truly been an eye-opening experience for many of our administrators because they had no clue a social networking site could be this helpful or educational. Our administrators are now talking about cell phones in school (after learning about polleverywhere.com).  They’re talking backchannels and how to get tweetdeck on their machines. Our instructional coaches have jumped into tweeting. People are using twitter to find each other here.


while in many school systems, the filters keep out teachers. . .


in Albemarle County

our leaders open filters


teach the adults

what the kids (in many cases) already know.

A wordle made from the tweets on day 2 of Edustat 09.

Edustat Twitter Words Day 2

Oh, MY! Brilliant Thoughts–by others. . .

Recently, I opened Twitter to see Wesley Fryer, Clay Burell and Ryan Bretag talking about using web2.0 tools in a web 1.0 way. I tweeted them the link to my blog about Collaboration or Parallel Play and that began an interesting spate of responses, both on the blog and on twitter. Clay’s tweets always intrigue me, and his response to my blog was no different. Both Ryan’s response about how we set up collaboration in our classrooms and Angela Stockman’s thinking about our student’s engagement in the tasks we bring to the table have had me thinking pretty much all day. Then, Will Richardson shared his blog, where he quotes Ira Socol (whom I happen to think is one of THE most brilliant thinkers I know!) I’m currently reading “Schooling By Design” in preparation for Edustat and being the official tweeter during Jay McTighe‘s keynote.

So here goes my mashup of their thinking and mine. . .

One of the things that so engages me with my PLN is that I have connected with people who are interested in some of the same things I am.  I have connected with people who make me think and I have connected with significant others who may NOT have common interests, but who are passionate–and I have CHOSEN these people to be part of my PLN by following them on Twitter.  Some have chosen to follow me back, some haven’t, but that doesn’t matter to me.  I can still engage with the tweets, blogs and thinking though the conversations I have over Twitter.

The important piece here is that I have connected through MY interests, through MY passions, and through MY need to learn/engage/think/share/collaborate. When we set up collaborative ventures for kids, do they get to choose topics/activities of their interest, their passions, their need to learn/engage/think/share/collaborate?  I think not.

Ira says, “Educators often think that school is the point, when it needs to be the path.

WOW! How many of us ever think of school–or our classes as a path to something else? We have our grade level curriculum we have to “cover” and we have those end of year tests on which our students have to be proficient. In our PLCs, (just as the DuFours tell us to) we look at how kids do on the most recent assessment and we remediate those who need it so they can indeed pass the make up test. PLC work (as cited on the Solution Tree site) is all about “collaborative teamwork and interdependence among teachers and administrators is a great way to continuously improve your school or district.” It’s about the adults and their learning/teamwork/interdependence.  What do the kids learn?  Well, they usually, in this case, learn “school.”

We DO teach kids to “play school.”  WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD do you EVER raise your hand to talk? Can we not teach kids conversational turn taking?  WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD do you EVER walk in a straight line silently?  Can we not teach kids they need to be respectful in the hall without a straight line?  WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD does everyone in a group get punished (everyone put your heads down on your desk/recess is shorter today because we wasted 5 minutes getting quiet in the hall) because of the behavior of a few?  WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD do you need permission to eat, get a drink of water or go to the bathroom?

Ryan brings up how we often put pedagogy aside  when we bring a new tech tool into the classroom-we are so consumed with integrating the new tool that we don’t use what we know about cooperation and collaboration. Angela speaks to how she’s been thinking about passion and interest and how that engages students in learning. Will cites Ira’s statement “Educators often think that school is the point, when it needs to be the path.” Jay McTighe (and the other authors in Schooling by Design) talk about basing school experiences around enduring intellectual accomplishments, and teaching so that children SEE the connections between what they are doing and important work. EVERYONE knows we need to infuse and use technology in our classrooms, but do we do it thoughtfully, or do we grab onto those new websites/gadgets/tools and bring them in so that students use them, but don’t necessarily learn in deep and meaningful ways? When I was talking with Becky Fisher about what I was reading in Schooling By Design, her comment back to me was something like, “For me, it’s not about the curriculum.  It’s what teachers DO with the curriculum and how they approach it.”

How do we make our classrooms, our learning environments, our learning activities utilize the tools kids have at their hands today in ways that allow them to pursue THEIR passions, THEIR interests, THEIR needs, yet learn the state mandated curriculum at the same time? How do we use the pedagogy we know to leverage the tools of today for deep learning?  How do we make our learning activities more than just an activity? And how do we incite passion in our students, even in the face of that mandated curriculum?

I think we begin by looking at OUR work as the path. . . NOT to the end of year tests, but to supporting students being lifelong learners, learning habits of mind and dispositions that allow them to access information, apply that knowledge in real and meaningful ways, study some more and transfer that knowledge to a situation that is novel and that gives them a chance to use their skills and knowledge to create, to synthesize, to make a difference. That means making our work with students more open, more collaborative and connected, and, as Angela said, involving the students in work that incites their passions and interests.

Brilliant thoughts by lots of others. . . helping me along a path to more learning and deeper understanding. Let’s do that for our kids as well by allowing and supporting THEM to connect, collaborate and create, just as we do.