Category Archives: Twitter

Possible: A Frame of Mind

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Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about the need for transformation in education. There are so many incredible educators out there – people who are building strong relationships with their students and making learning relevant in a variety of ways. My PLN is a wonderful source of support in this respect as they have so many tools, ideas, and stories to share with the education community.

Photo Credit: Pardesi* via Compfight cc

However, I can’t help but feel lately that we are preaching to the converted.

How can we broaden our circles of conversation to include more and more educators?

I think there are endless possibilities for how we can connect with others. Face to face within our schools has always been a possibility, district initiatives, and obviously connecting online through blogging and social media such as Twitter and Google +… and yet it doesn’t seem like enough. It is still a very small minority of educators that are working towards a new and different model of education.

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend the day with Will Richardson (@willrich45) as part of my district’s IML Innovators group. Although many people made insightful comments that day, one of Will’s has stuck with me. He said that it is not enough to focus on our practice; in fact, we should forget about changing our practice. Until we have dedicated the time to discussing the CONTEXT, the reasons for which we believe education needs to change, there is no point asking educators to change what they are doing in their classrooms. Students are not being harmed by anyone, so let’s spend some time understanding the why before we jump into the what and the how.

This was brilliant! It made me realize why I often feel like people think I’m nuts. Although I shifted my advocacy focus away from specific tools long ago, I still feel that tools are what most educators want to be given. They think it’s about the technology, that there are teachers who use tech and those who don’t, when really it is about improving students’ learning experiences. I want to transform education, not mass distribute new tech tools into our classrooms. But Will made me realize that perhaps it was bigger than I thought; maybe they don’t understand the context or the possibilities that changes could provide to education. Suddenly, the “problem” seems much more manageable. Although it may be time consuming, we must value reading, sharing, and discussing educational issues with our colleagues. We devote a lot of energy to building relationships with our students, but we often forget to do the same with our colleagues. Possible is simply a frame of mind; I want all educators to be able to envision what’s possible.

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Photo Credit: morberg via Compfight cc

So I urge you to ask yourself: Is possible your frame of mind? Because if it’s not, if we continue to look for faults in transformational ideas rather than strengths and possibilities, then I think we have already failed. The choice is up to us; we all have the power to put a little more possible in education.

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Powerful Connections

Plans rarely work out how we hope they will. I often feel defeated at this time of year as I reflect on everything I didn’t do for my students. So many wonderful plans have not worked out either because they were poorly executed on my part or because of a lack of time.

One of those plans up until last week was a science inquiry on the impact of humans on local ecosystems. We had developed inquiry questions but hadn’t really taken it anywhere. My goal was to have my students interact with the general public outside of our classroom either to interview an expert, collect data, or to convey a message.

This week, we’ve finally managed to get the ball rolling. It’s strange, really, as my kids were not initially enthusiastic about moving forward with a project so late in the year… But one tweet can make all the difference!

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The group quickly learned that their tweet would be more effective if they targeted a specific audience…

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Within a couple of days, we had responses from both the City of Surrey and the Vancouver Aquarium. How cool is that! Students are now interviewing a scientist about the ozone layer and sharing resources with the city about construction projects and population growth. When less enthusiastic groups saw that others were actually getting valuable information from Twitter, they decided to try it too.

Once we had made it through this learning curve, I threw out the idea of making Google Docs surveys to gather information that would help guide their inquiry. By tweeting to #comments4kids #sd36learn and #cityofsurrey, one group had several responses within 10 minutes. Now the students are starting to see the power of connecting outside of the classroom! They are also beginning to see that both French and English can be used to communicate with an outside audience, so many of our projects are bilingual.

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Photo Credit: ~Aphrodite via Compfight cc

Students are using everything from blog posts, poster campaigns, and public service ads for YouTube to understand and explore their inquiry questions. All are using Twitter to communicate in some way.

Students using Twitter is not a new concept, but for us it has been a very exciting week. I am most proud of those who are taking chances and trying new things even when they’re uncertain. It is so important to make learning meaningful for kids. At this time of year, many classes begin winding down, but this inquiry project is one way I feel we are winding up. Who can argue with excitement that is connected to learning?

Stepping Just Outside Our Comfort Zone

Last night, I moderated a Twitter chat for the first time. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, and it wasn’t really, but it was a new experience for me. As I sat there anxiously at 7:59, I was reminded of how vulnerable we all are as human beings. This was the first ever #sd36learn chat, and I was worried that people would be expecting something wonderful and that I somehow wouldn’t deliver. They would be wondering why my questions weren’t thought-provoking enough, or why I was moderating a chat anyway. For 10 whole minutes, I was shocked at how anxious I was about something so small. I’ve participated in lots of Twitter chats and I know how they generally work; however, I wasn’t prepared for trying to read everyone’s ideas and assess the conversation as it took place.

Having said that, I think it is so important that we do step out of our comfort zone on a regular basis. We need to be reminded of what it’s like to be slightly uncomfortable, briefly out of our element. It is only then that we can continue to develop as learners. It’s the only way that we can be genuine when we tell our students that risk taking is a critical component of learning. We need to model what we ask of them. It’s not about being terrified, it’s about slight discomfort and the right amount of challenge pushing us just a little more outside our box.

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cc flickr photo shared by gillicious

Thanks to everyone who joined in the first #sd36learn chat! It was great to see so many supporters of the work that we all do, both from within and outside of our district. I’m sure these weekly chats will lead to many more meaningful conversations. Join us for the next one on Sunday May 5th at 8 pm PST!

You can check out our conversations here.

Good leaders inspire leadership in others. That is what George Couros (@gcouros) did for me this past week, for which I am very thankful. We all need a kick in the butt once in awhile (especially if we’re still working on putting ourselves out there)!