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Tag: collaboration

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Read Around the World á la Francais

"I think I'm like many teachers: most of us feel like we haven't yet arrived where we want to be in terms of what we're doing with students. I have so much further to go and I really want to do more work that infuses rigor and relevance in the curriculum and connects my students to both their communities and the French-speaking community."    Nicole Naditz

My search for student-centered learning environments led me to Nicole Naditz who teaches French at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks near Sacramento, California. Our conversation first started about flipping the classroom. She wrote me:
"I'm still a novice in terms of fully turning over my curriculum to the students, but I'm always striving to work more in that direction. In the meantime, I work hard to ensure that what their learning is put to meaningful use, is rigorous and engages them with the French-speaking community beyond our school. For the online projects with other countries, I have typically designed them in cooperation with the other teacher, although my students always have significant input. I tell the students to write a book encouraging children to eat healthfully. After that, they are free to create. The best books are sent to France or Belgium to be put in the waiting rooms of children's areas of hospitals or dentists.
That's when I knew Nicole was moving into the student-centered world even if she didn't realize it. Email after email, I received specific projects from Nicole.  
Preparing for Collaboration with Burkina Faso 
Burkina FasoFor their work with Burkina Faso (the village has no input), Nicole had an idea called 'Through their Eyes' about students in both California and the village in Burkina exchanging pictures of how they see their world and lives. Burkina Faso, in West Africa surrounded by six countries, was occupied by France up to 1960. It is currently a member of the African Union and La Francophonie.
 
The students ran with it from there, taking the pictures, explaining them in French, creating the photo album and selecting other items to send to the students and school along with their pictures. In the box with the photos, they also included some student work from French 3 (student-created "magazine" about French-speaking comic-book characters) and disposable cameras for them to use for their pictures. The students also wanted to send hot chocolate since no one in the village has ever tasted it except for the volunteer. French 4/AP is now matched with a new Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. The village where she works does not have Internet (or any electricity) but she can access Internet when she goes into town. One day, while she was in town, we decided to go onto Ustream and introduce ourselves to her. We recorded it and sent her the link because it wasn't possible for her to watch live. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17872769.
 
Nicole's students haven't yet received their cameras back to get their pictures. This is a very slow process without Internet!!!
 
Student-Created Museums
Two student-created museums were done by  classes at the Alliance Française de Sacramento. Hosting the museum at the Alliance guarantees they will get at least some other French speakers for whom to present instead of just presenting to the teacher in class. Nicole believes it is extremely important that students do work for an audience greater and more relevant than just for the teacher! http://studentmuseums.wikispaces.com/Le%C3%A7ons - Picture of student explaining show to guests.
at the Alliance Française de Sacramento of a student explaining her exhibit to a guest
 
African Tales by Solar Light
This was a community event held in cooperation with the local public library as a celebration of solar power before they sent the grant-funded lanterns to a village in Senegal so the families could stop using kerosene to light their huts and the students in the village could do homework and study after dark--students did all the research about solar energy to pick the lanterns and they designed a Web site about their findings.
African Tales by Solar light
 
The lanterns were funded by a grant from the local utility, SMUD (Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District). The students did such a good job researching solar lanterns to purchase with the grant money that they were able to get twice as many as were needed for the Village, so the class donated another 100 lanterns to the local Red Cross for use during emergencies when there is no electricity. http://burkinasolarproject.wikispaces.com/
 
"Une Nuit à Paris"
Her students are designing a community event celebrating francophone cultures. This will take place at the end of May or beginning of June this year. They chose the theme "Une Nuit à Paris", how they want to divide up the space (multipurpose room) with exhibits, entertainment, food, etc., and they will be the ones preparing all of the exhibits and food, and presenting all of the entertainment. They will also be the ones hosting the event and speaking with the guests in both French and English (because the audience will have both). This will feature food samplings, student work--possibly including books they wrote and published on Storybird (the class may pay to have them actually printed and bound for the class to share), entertainment by the students, and a few museum-style exhibits on topics of interest to the students.
 
UStream
Earlier this year, French 4/AP created their own inventions and presented them on Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/voil%C3%A0-le-fran%C3%A7ais This was very informal. It was a basic homework assignment rather than a "project". It went with the AP theme of science and technology. We were studying the role and responsibilities of scientists and inventors.
 
Interview and shot of live stream
 
French 2 was given free reign to show off what they could do at the end of the first semester. Here is a clip: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17835286
 
Nicole's class web site is http://www.sanjuan.edu/webpages/nnaditz. At the top are "links" and within that page are some of the tutorials. Her blog is http://3rs4teachers.wordpress.com And she's working on a new Web site featuring primarily google tools for education but it may expand beyond that: http://sites.google.com/site/classinthecloud.
 
Nicole NaditzNicole has taught French to grades 3 through 12, including AP French Language since 1993. Nicole is very active in professional organizations. A recipient of numerous awards, including the 2010 Jane Ortner Educating through Music Award, she serves as webmaster and advocacy chair on the FLAGS board. She also serves on the Leadership Team of the Capital Foreign Language Project and she served on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages interview committees for the first National Foreign Language Teacher of the Year in 2005 and for the Florence Steiner Leadership in K-12 Education Award in 2007. Nicole was invited to join the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Subject Matter Advisory Panel for Languages Other than English in 2004. She is the founder of the Read Around the World Program and organizes additional opportunities for students to experience languages and cultures outside of the classroom.   Nicole has presented on a variety of topics at local and state workshops since 1999 and has received several grants for study in France and Canada. She was named an Outstanding Teacher by both the Foreign Language Association of Greater Sacramento and the California Language Teachers' Association and was a finalist for the California League of High Schools Educator of the Year in Region 3. In addition, Nicole achieved National Board Certification in 2003 and earned her M.Ed in 2006. In 2012, she was named San Juan USD Teacher of the Year, Sacramento County Teacher of the Year and was one of 12 finalists for California State Teacher of the Year. That same year, she also became a Google Certified Teacher.   She has been a member of the FLAGS board since 2001. In her spare time, she enjoys figure skating, calligraphy, singing, crocheting, musical theater and travel.  _____   Can you see why I wanted to share Nicole's personal journey?
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Inquiry Circles in Action

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:
  • explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
  • profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
  • provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
  • offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
  • address characteristic management concerns.
  The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.
“Comprehension is about understanding...Reading is about thinking." (p. 27)
Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):
  1. “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
  2. “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
  3. "focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always."
  "The Gradual Release of Responsibility" has different stages (p.112):
  • Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
  • Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
  • Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
  • Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
  • Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.
"Kids' questions really matter." (p. 228)
I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities. The authors also created DVDs that support their work:
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Personalized Learning Initiative in Wisconsin

CESA 1 Thought Leader Interview: Jim Rickabaugh   Jim Rickabaugh, Director of the Institute @ CESA #1, shared with me their region's journey for the Personalized Learning Initiative. Southeastern Wisconsin is mobilizing as a region to transform public education through personalized learning for all students. The Institute @ CESA #1 was established to work with 45 member school districts on a unique regional approach to transform public education in Southeastern Wisconsin into a system that is student-centered and personalized for each learner. Almost three years ago, a group of superintendents in CESA 1 (Southeaster Wisconsin) discussed the combination of tight money, schools being blamed for things out of their control, and accountability that didn’t seem to make a difference. They all agreed "there's got to be a better way." Jim Rickabaugh explained, "It seems like we were dismantling the systems we were charged to protect and the children we were supposed to develop. We then started on a journey on what could be done with a system."
Turning from victim to action  - we have to save our system.
They did a lot of research and concluded:
  1. That the system we have educating our children is not designed to do what we need to do for our children. Our teachers are working harder than ever.  It is a design problem.
  2. As tight as money seems, there is a lot of money, yet it is tied up in a system that does not allow for flexibility.
Transforming Public Education   "We wrote a white paper that laid out the arguments that gave us hope how a system can be redesigned instead of reform work tweaking the old system. Our initial inclination that the cavalry was not going to save us. The states are so tied to national accountability programs." Read the white paper here. Excerpts adapted from the Institute @ CESA #1 blog: When significant changes are made to learning and teaching, the roles of students and teachers change. Organizations feel pressure as new ways of learning “bump up” against existing structures such as schedule, calendar, student groupings or grading practices.  Stakeholders involved in personalized learning clamor for the flexibility necessary to truly transform public education into a student-centered environment. Conversations about changing existing structures then begin to take place. These conversations may be difficult because changes to the status quo can be uncomfortable for those involved. However, because the models of innovation were fully explored and tested in the first two phases of change, a solid foundation has been laid. Those involved understand that structural changes are necessary in order to make the vision of getting learning right for all students a reality. Generally it is after structural issues have been addressed that policies are changed, since the strength and purpose of policy is to stabilize a system and practices. In this last phase we will see an innovative system, fully transformed. To help frame the work, the Institute has developed a change strategy to guide our districts as they participate in the Personalized Learning Initiative, based on our honeycomb model. This strategy is based on change in three areas: learning and teaching, relationships and roles; and structures and policies, to be addressed in three subsequent phases.
The model started with the honeycomb system with a variety of iterations where they invited small teams, designed seminars, and developed informal coaching with rubrics and tools to think about the work. There were 3 waves. Wave 1 started with 10 projects. Each group pulled pieces of the model together to take partial parts of the honeycomb. They are now on Wave 3. They created a virtual conference center for districts to collaborate around similar work, on demand video or audio conferencing, collaborative work on documents, face-to-face opportunities, and hosted convenings all around Personalized Learning. Thank you Jim Rickabaugh! We will be following you and looking forward to sharing the stories from your region and the Institute @ CESA #1.
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The Artist within Builds the New GroupThink

GroupThinkCollaboration is in, but it may not be conducive to creativity according to this opinion piece on the New York Times. The author, Susan Cain, states that solitude produces innovation and brainstorming sessions are the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity.

The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

The reason why this author states that brainstorming fials is that people in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure.

Then the author talks about electronic brainstorming and communication. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

So the new GroupThink takes individual artists and thinkers to share what they know and are learning. This is a good point but I believe that being in a room collaborating on an idea is not all bad.

You need a good facilitator for group work be it with teachers or learners. I also see how easy it is to turn a point with electronic brainstorming. There are individuals who alone can be very loud on the Internet. Cain ends her article with "Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time."

Cain's opinion made me think about personalized learning and why the world is moving to individuals on the other side of laptops and mobile devices are making a difference in how we learn now. Some of the loudest individuals on the Internet sit in their living rooms or at Starbucks all by themselves tweeting, blogging, curating, and doing so-called collaborating online. It's whoever has the loudest voice, the most Twitter followers, the most hits on a post that makes a difference now.

I see that each person can be an artist, inventor, and "out of box" thinker if they are given opportunities to work alone, brainstorm with others, and connect with the world online. Personalized learning is all about the learner -- starting with the learner -- and designing an environment that is conducive to them becoming the artist, the inventor, the writer, or whatever they are so they blossom and grow into who they are supposed to be.


Image by Andy Rementer from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2
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Rethinking 21st Century Skills

Most schools today are not able to make the necessary changes they need to make to be a 21st Century school. It's not just about technology, teaching, and learning.

Here's what I see:
    • Schools putting in wifi and maybe enough bandwidth for one device per user.
    • Training teachers on the specific devices and software with a few examples for the classroom.
    • A few schools going 1:1 at school. Very few school-home connections.
    • Very little community and parent involvement at the school.
    • Most funding for 1:1 is soft money with little available for ongoing support.
    • Top down mandates and decisions about types of technology allowed.
    • Firewalls and blocking software that do not give access to most Web 2.0 tools and social media.
    • Focus on increasing student achievement (i.e. raising test scores).
    • Lots of talk about student-centered learning with only pockets of best practices.
    • Cuts in arts, physical education, counseling, libraries, and technology.
    • In-flexible curriculum where students have no say in their interests or passions.
    • No emphasis on the skills and values employers are looking for in their employees. See post.
    • Most educational conferences still focus on testing, technology, and status quo and not on real change in the classroom. Talking about the future is sexy but teachers don't think it's doable in their classroom.
    • Teacher education programs are subject-specific silos and tenure-driven organizations. [source]
    • Collaborative planning time, if there is any, is mostly used for lesson plans tied to textbooks and tests.

Change is difficult. Everything is changing around us. Our children are not prepared for today. Just ask your neighbors who have their children who graduated from college who are not able to find work. This is a national crisis. Media and politicians point fingers at schools and teachers as the problems. This is not right. Everything is changing. All of us need to pull together and look at how society is changing. It is all children we are putting at-risk now. Teachers need to be valued instead of blamed for all the ills of society.

I work with public and private schools -- high poverty and wealthy schools around the country. Change is slow no matter what type of school.

High poverty schools keep trying different strategies. One year it's the technology. Another year it's professional learning communities. After that, something else. The problem with high poverty schools is bigger than one thing. Teacher retention is an issue. Social issues in that community play a big factor. Families in crisis is such a big issue that children get lost in the system. They come to school barely able to function. Teachers can only do so much. Class sizes are too large and many teachers are inexperienced to deal with many of the issues they children face.

With wealthy schools, the test scores tend to be high so parents and teachers don't see a need to make changes. In fact, there is a concern about taking some risks then seeing scores fall. The issue for these schools is not academic achievement, it's more of a social issue. The students from wealthier schools have issues they are not talking about: drugs, eating disorders, pregnancies, depression, wrong career choices, children graduating and not finding jobs, etc.

Nothing will happen if the school or district doesn't support change and talk about the real problems at hand.

Science Leadership AcademyI am looking for schools that really want to make change and address the real issues that are happening with their students, teachers, and the school community. I know a few making some amazing strides where students shine and show entrepreneurial skills like the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Duke School in Durham, North Carolina where the university, teachers and students design innovative curriculum together.

I'm going to look for examples, interview people, rant, yell, shake up some systems. It's all about our kids now. I challenge myself, you, and all of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It's time to plan and develop a vision for local communities so their students can be global citizens of the 21st century.

Are you ready?
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Explore Photo Safaris with Larry Anderson



When I heard that Larry Anderson wrote an eBook Lead your Own Photo Safari, I had to download it right away. Larry is offering this eBook free for you. I was blown away with the amount of work and collaboration that was put into this endeavor. I've known Larry for years and am so impressed with the research and information that he shares with the world. I asked Larry if I could interview him to find out a little more of the whys and hows that went into the development of this eBook. He graciously shared with me his answers to my questions (in bold text) below so I could share them with you:

Photo Safari
1. What is a Photo Safari?
From page 25 of the book:
The dictionary definition of “safari” includes these phrases:

a journey or expedition, for hunting, exploration, or investigation any long or adventurous journey or expedition

So, we can say that a Photo Safari is an adventurous journey or expedition during which people hunt for, explore, or investigate opportunities to write with light. To this, we can add the notion of creativity. That is, as people engage in this expeditionary activity, they apply their unique, individual creative traits so that the images they capture express accurately how they see the world to which they are exposed during the Photo Safari.

In short, my idea of a Photo Safari is an excursion, during which a collection of friends make photographs of locations, objects, or subjects that appeal to the photographer's eye.

2. Why did you write this eBook?
I have had such success and enjoyment during the Photo Safaris of which I have been a part, so it seemed important to share my stories with others, in hopes that they, too, could participate in the joy I have experienced. Also, I figured that, if I told my story, someone with more experience might read the book and share some secrets with me and my future Photo Safari outings would be even more enjoyable.

3. How did you get hooked on the Photo Safari bug?
I have loved photography for many years. I enjoy being with other people who enjoy photography. So, when I organized and led my first Photo Safari in Washington, DC, I found out, first-hand, just how fulfilling this could be. So, I have continued to expand my planning efforts with each safari. I was "hooked" upon completion of the first actual photo safari in which I participated (Monterey, CA with Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Vincent Laforet, and a team of Apple Distinguished Educators).

4. When and how did you start your first Photo Safari?
The National Educational Computing Conference (NECC--now known as ISTE) was held in Washington, DC in June 2009. Since I have traveled to DC many times and know the National Mall area quite well, I thought this would be a natural time to conduct my first Photo Safari. Another Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), Craig Nansen, and I collaborated on leading this safari. We had help from John Maschak (Apple Canada) and Gordon Worley (ADE from Florida).

So, we just announced the Photo Safari within the ADE Community and the registration limit was reached quickly. Then, we had a few other people beg to join us, so we accommodated them. When this safari was completed, we knew we had a winning idea. Of course, being in DC on the National Mall all day didn't hurt!

5. Why is it important to have a leadership team?
While it's true that a person can conduct a Photo Safari alone, it is just so much more fun when you can share the excitement with others who have amazing talents to bring to the experience. As the organizer of a Photo Safari, it makes the job much easier when I can engage in "division of labor" and ensure that the safari will be much more effective. A good leadership team is made up of smart people with significant talents and time that they give willingly to the event. So, why would I not use them? The end result is that the participants in the safari gain a much more meaningful experience when a strong leadership team is in place.

6. I know planning is essential but you emphasized pre-planning. Why does most of the work occur before the Photo Safari begins?
Any worthwhile activity necessitates good pre-planning. Examples abound of how we plan for significant events before they happen. Therefore, it's essential that we, the organizer and the leadership team, spend a great deal of time in delineating the details and working to make sure everything comes to fruition by the time the Photo Safari kicks off.

7. How do you choose the best site for a Photo Safari?
Reasons for selecting an ideal venue vary remarkably. The "best" site can be a local venue, as a group of townspeople embark on a Photo Safari to learn more about their hometown. Thus, the "best" site could be a variety of historical, cultural, or neighborhood locations around your town. Or, you may be conducting a Photo Safari in a major metropolitan area. The choices are many....will you choose a site that focuses upon architecture, history, gardening, civic locations, military settings, or any one of a host of other considerations?

Thus, the actual site is selected depending upon the type of safari with which I'm involved. Most of the ones in which I've engaged so far have been dictated by a particular location (Washington, DC; Monterey, CA; Denver, CO; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ). So, my leadership team and I selected particular locations because we felt that participants would be fascinated with a venue. And, we've had 100% success. We intend to continue this at ISTE 2012 in San Diego. We are already engaged in selecting from a "laundry list" of possible sites for an enjoyable, informative Photo Safari.

8. What are some of the technology tools that you include in a Photo Safari?
My response to this depends upon how one defines "technology tools." But, as I've engaged in Photo Safaris so far, I have used:
  • Email
  • Skype and iChat (for audio and video conferencing)
  • Group texting (to inform participants before and during the actual safari, as necessary)
  • Flickr and other photo hosting sites (as a "holding pen" for the select photos made by participants)
  • Google Apps (for planning tools by the leadership team, for registration by participants, for organizing transportation)
  • Google Earth (to plot safari tour paths)
  • Wikis (as sites to host safari information and resources)

It's possible that there are more, but these are the ones that come to my mind right now.

9. I have a Nikon D40. Is it important to have separate filters and lenses for the Photo Safari?
As mentioned in the book, "Leading Your Own Photo Safari," it is not necessary to have "fancy" equipment. Yes, there are situations in which your having special filters and lenses will be of great value. In those cases, we will attempt to notify participants that they can bring these accessories along with them.

For example, in the Rocky Mountain National Park Photo Safari, we encountered several mountain streams. The waterfalls and river flow were natural spots for using neutral density filters in order to help slow down shutter speed so the water would take on that "silky" look during long exposures. Also, at Bear Lake, it was helpful to have that neutral density filter to keep the details of the water on the lake while keeping the bright blue sky from getting blown out due to excessive exposure. In each situation, we used these situations as teaching moments. Even people who did not own these filters were able to use the filters on their lenses, provided that their lenses were of the proper size to accept the filters that screw on.

In some cases, it is helpful to have UV filters to help block out glare. We try to educate safari participants. Even if they come to the safari without such a filter, we will have the opportunity to talk about the filters and show them to all interested participants. Again, we leverage this into an educational opportunity. That makes the participant become a smarter consumer, should the time come when s/he wants to purchase a filter for this purpose.

In the case of lenses, we try to use our pre-safari communications to discuss the use of various lenses. Again, if participants arrive with a DSLR (either Canon or Nikon, since these are the most common), it's possible to share lenses and let participants try a variety of lenses. So, if the people come with two or three lenses, that simply makes the whole experience more valuable to everybody.

But, the basic answer is that it's not necessary to have a variety of lenses and/or filters. If you do, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too. Your D40 will be a valuable tool on our Photo Safari. We'll make sure of it! (Even if all you have is a point-and-shoot camera...or even just an iPhone or iPad, we'll still ensure you a successful venture.)

10. Why is communication so important during a Photo Safari? What are some of the tools you recommend?
It is absolutely crucial to plan for a mechanism that allows the safari leader to communicate instantly with everyone. You never know what kind(s) of situations may arise.

In Philadelphia, our large group of photographers divided into four teams. Each team went to one of four specified quadrants of Olde Town Philadelphia. After approximately one hour, each team would rotate to a new quadrant. So, as the safari leader, I sent out a group text to everyone, letting them know that it is time to rotate. Also, I needed to inform everybody when the time arrived for us to gather at the end of the Photo Safari for our debriefing session and to award the "giveaway" prizes. Again, Group Text (an iPhone app) came to the rescue.

I used a free app, Group Text, that worked like magic. It works beautifully with my Macintosh app, Address Book. I merely established a group in Address Book that included all members of the Photo Safari. During registration, I had asked them to indicate the cell phone number they would be using during the safari...and asked them to indicate if they can get text messages at that number. Then, the Group Text app just takes that Address Book group and allows me to send a text blast. Worked like a charm!

11. Is there anything you would like to add about Photo Safaris and your eBook for our readers?
Oh, there are a million things I would like to add. First, I want everybody to know that this activity is more fun than words can express! The advantages of conducting a Photo Safari are innumerable. Teachers can use this in amazing ways with classes of students, but also with parents and other community members. I hope many readers will strive to join us in San Diego at ISTE 2012 for our Photo Safari. Our plan is to conduct it on Sunday prior to the opening keynote....probably an all-day safari, as is our routine. Of course, since this whole idea came from the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) family, we will offer first registration rights to ADEs. But, we will take as many others as possible. I suspect our registration limit will again be held to approximately 50 people, due simply to logistical reasons.

I really want to encourage any readers of the book to please let me know of your successes as you conduct your own Photo Safari.

  • How did you get the idea?
  • How was your planning process different than what I have used?
  • What tips could you use to share with others?
  • What successes did you have?
  • How did you share your photos?
  • Who was involved?
  • What did you learn?
  • Would you want to hold another Photo Safari as a result of your experience on your first one?
  • How can you imagine that a Photo Safari could be used in schools?
  • Did you have any "Aha!" moments? If so, what were they? What problems did you encounter? How did you handle them?
  • Did you experience any discouragements? If so, how did you handle those?
  • What aids, resources, tutorials would you like to see developed to help you in the future?
  • Should I build a web site, wiki, or anything else that would give you and your colleagues a place to share ideas, experiences, resources, etc.?

And, one more note....there will definitely be an update to the book. Version 2.0 will have many more features. So, stay tuned.

Also, the book will be a central core to a "collection" that will appear in the new, soon-to-be-announced Apple Distinguished Educator channel of iTunes U, so we'll have more resources to go along with the book...and will give you a broader view of what it takes to plan and conduct a successful Photo Safari.

You can download the free eBook, "Leading Your Own Photo Safari" by going to files.me.com/adelarry/5rre64

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Thank you Larry for being so generous and sharing your passion with the world! Here is Larry's contact information if you have any questions. Please share any comments for Larry below:

Larry Anderson

Dr. Larry S. Anderson, Founder/CEO
National Center for Technology Planning
P. O. Box 2393 -- Tupelo, MS 38803
662.844.9630 (Voice & FAX) -- 662.321.0677 (Cell)
**APPLE DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR * CLASS OF 2000 **
Assoc. Prof. (Ret.), Mississippi State University
Web Site -- http://www.nctp.com
Blog -- http://nctpcast(dot)blogspot(dot)com
Podcasts -- Think Like A Leader
http://nctpcast.libsyn.com
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Your PLN helps your PLC become a CoP

Learning can happen anywhere at anytime from anyone and anything. Your connections and any information you use are learning experiences that can help you grow personally and professionally. I wrote this article for CUE in 2009 and felt it was appropriate to update it for the ISTE 2011 Conference in 2011.  I'll be there -- very busy but learning so much from the people in my PLN.

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

There is nothing new about PLNs. They are the people and information sources that help you meet your learning goals. Building your PLN means that you not only seek to learn from others but you also help others in the network learn. Anyone can make a contribution. Your PLN can be your most powerful learning tool no matter what the subject. My PLN used to be the people I met face-to-face: the people I worked with, classes I took or taught, friends and family, organizations I joined and the information was what I googled on the Internet, in books, textbooks, or periodicals at the library. Remember how long it used to take to find what you were looking for?

Now my PLN connects me to others and to information in ways I never thought possible a few years ago. I still use Google to search for information but now I can find trends, maps, and even literature reviews. Social networks connect me to friends, work contacts, and friends of friends. I can see what they are doing in Twitter, updates on their conversations and links to new information. Facebook not only updates the status of each of my connections, I can join groups set up by friends and learn from wall posts. Here’s a diagram of some of my PLN:

Personal Learning Network

Use a mindmapping program such as Inspiration or Mindmeister to diagram your own PLN.

So how can your PLN help you build your Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

Your PLN can help you meet your personal and/or professional learning goals. A PLC is where you focus on student learning. Your PLC focuses on a specific problem area of the students in your school. Richard DuFour shares three critical questions that drive the work of the PLC:

  • What do we want each student to learn?
  • How will we know when each student has learned it?
  • How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?

We know a teacher can make a difference to the children in their classroom. However, a school may find many of the children in the entire school are falling through the cracks. The teachers in the school as a PLC can collaborate to improve or restructure how they reach at-risk students. They can analyze student data reviewing patterns and trends. Each teacher can use their PLN to research background information about specific issues brought to light from the data analysis, to ask questions of others in similar situations, to connect with other classrooms for global collaborations, and to share the findings from their PLC.

The PLC becomes a Community of Practice (CoP)

The CoP is where you take what you learned in the PLC and transfer it to practice where teachers can work together to do action research and/or lesson study. The teacher can ask “What does it take for me to change my practice to include this new learning?” This is deep, thoughtful work involving modeling new methodologies, observations from another teacher or coach, reflections on the results and process by asking what worked, what didn’t work.

Your PLN connects you to other professionals and to the information that will help you with your work in your PLC and CoP. Not only will the PLN help you, you can use your PLN to share best practices, blog reflections, and post examples of student work.
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Meaningful Professional Development

On Friday October 8th, I was lucky to be invited to help facilitate professional development for Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Over 120 PK-12 teachers worked side-by-side in mixed grade-level groups to experience project-based learning (PBL). This approach requires 21st-century skills: collaboration, creativity, innovation, team work, and critical thinking. 15 Teams  of 8-10 teachers each created public-service announcements (PSA) to raise awareness about Mid-Pacific Institute. Teachers put themselves in the role of learners with a facilitator guiding the process in each team. So how did they do? Read more what Elementary School Principal Edna Hussey wrote about the process. The team I worked with consisted of MPI's director of education technology Mark Hines, associate education technology director Bob McIntosh, the three principals, and middle school tech coordinator Brian Grantham where we collaborated several weeks prior to last Friday to  plan the project experience. A meaningful day is effective if everything is planned well. I was so impressed with how the team worked tirelessly to pull everything together. The PSA concept was developed as a project that could be completed by day's end and which would entail the use of technology already available to the faculty. Check out the details and completed PSAs at http://mpi-psas.my-ecoach.com. Teachers completed reflections as exit tickets at the end of the day.

"I hope that this process will help me consider some of the challenges and rewards that come with building a project so that when I design this sort of thing for my students, I will understand what it's like to be them."

"I hope to get a better sense of how students think about 'open-ended' projects. If I enter with a student's mindset of being 'spoon-fed' what's required of me, what will work to engage me in this project. Often students feel lost when they get to make too many decisions. I hope to get ideas/techniques for helping students to get engaged."

There were 15 teams who focused on a theme and developed a driving question and supporting questions about that theme to develop the storyboard and script for the 60-90 second PSA.

"Everyone feels comfortable to share ideas and is respectful and listens to the ideas of others. We have been able to discuss differing ideas and come to consensus. Everyone is open to hearing everyone's ideas and do what needs to be done to bring the project together. Everyone also seems to understand the importance of the process, not just completing the product."

"The group is communicating very well. I'm proud that people are constructing their ideas based on the communication of a positively critical idea, from a teachers perspective, and for the teachers as an audience, keeping the assignment in mind. When there was a difference in opinion, they chose to go with the more persuasive/engaging idea that invites the audience to think. It is going well because we are focusing on the process, even though the worries of getting the PSA done came up, we acknowledged how this might be a crossroads for students, and how should we proceed."

We asked teams to pair with another team at the end of the day to share their PSA and reflect on the process. A spokesperson was chosen from each group to share with the whole staff. Everything was so positive. What an amazing group of teachers! Thank you Mid-Pac for including me in a very exciting professional development opportunity!