The Art of Amazing

I’m currently working with some amazing middle school teachers as we prepare for our Partnership for Powerful Learning Pilot Project, set to launch in January 2011. This ambitious project will allow all seventh grade students to bring their own computing device to school. While that, in and of itself, is huge, we’re also determined to change the way in which we view learning in the process.

Anyways, we’ve begun conversations about how to ready the students and parents for this substantial undertaking, and in fact, I led a discussion just this week to plan for our Student/Parent Bootcamp happening sometime in November. After a whole lot of really good conversation, we left the room with a date and time, as well as a schedule and a list of topics we felt were important to address that day:

1.) Productivity Tools
2.) Presentation Tools
3.) Digital Citizenship
4.) Social Tools
5.) Organizing Yourself
6.) Nuts and Bolts-Pilot Specific

The enthusiasm of the group was incredible; I think we all felt as though we were venturing into something really transformational. Later, however, I felt something niggling at my brain; something I just couldn’t shake. When that “something” finally revealed itself, well, it was one of those wonderful AHA moments when you just know something significant has shifted; the words, “walk the talk” echoed somewhere in the back of my mind. You see, I am a living, breathing billboard for all of us to re-envision teaching and learning in the 21st Century, and yet here I was, functioning in 20th Century mode. If the guiding vision behind our pilot project was to empower students and encourage them to own the learning, shouldn’t the bootcamps reflect that thinking? Shouldn’t we model that for our students? In fact, shouldn’t we all become co-learners?

And then, as serendipitous as life can be, I happened upon Will Richardson’s most recent post, where he includes this quote by Erica McWilliam:

“Rather than teachers delivering an information product to be ‘consumed’ and fed back by the student, co-creating value would see the teacher and student mutually involved in assembling and dissembling cultural products. As co-creators, both would add value to the capacity building work being done through the invitation to ‘meddle’ and to make errors. The teacher is in there experimenting and learning from the instructive complications of her errors alongside her students, rather than moving from desk to desk or chat room to chat room, watching over her flock.”

Wow. Perfect timing which causes me to rethink this day; what should it look like in a century markedly different from its predecessor? Here are some initial thoughts:

–Let’s not focus on the tools but what these tools can do to help us learn, which begs the question, how do we do that within the context of this bootcamp? How do we frame everything around the learning…not the tools?

–What if we gave everyone a toolkit several weeks in advance of the bootcamp filled with resources complimenting each of the categories and encouraged all to explore as many of the resources as possible?

–Upon entering the building, all of us…students, parents and teachers, would be co-learners in this learning experience. There would be no sage on the stage but rather a collaborative learning community intent upon discovering and gaining understanding of the potential that lies before us. I envision powerful conversations, lots and lots of AHAs and a watershed of enthusiasm. (That’s the “glass half-full” part of me talking.)

–I don’t know what the structure will look like because if we’re doing it right, it would look awfully messy; and yet, I would want it to be mannered chaos.

–How do we leverage the technology to broaden the learning from one single morning to a before, during and after occurrence? How do we connect these learners to learners outside our building? What would the “cultural product” look like, showing our learning from the day? How do we authentically evaluate the learning that takes place before, during and after?

Okay, that’s it…that’s the thinking going on in my head right now. One of the greatest joys for me right now is becoming more aware of MY learning process and the importance of listening to that little voice inside. So, what do you think? What ideas do you have to help us create a deeply engaging learning experience? What’s your contribution? Because, I know for sure that when you and I (and Bob and Pam and Judy and Marcos) think collectively, amazing things are going to happen.

About charrod

I have been in education for 30 years. I spent the first nine years as a third and fourth grade teacher. The next 10 years were spent as a gifted specialist. From 2006-2016, I was the Instructional Technology Specialist for our district. Beginning in August 2016, I returned to the classroom where I plan learning experiences for my amazing students. Who's the lucky one here?
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  2. Some food for thought on the introduction of technology in the classroom: – this is a panel presentation we are offering up at SxSW (along with more than 2,000 other SxSW wannabes) – for the teacher who is afraid tech will get in the way of teaching – it’s not about replacing it – it’s about amplifying what is already working! And I also loved this TedX video that talks about the “game layer.” I think one of the keys to getting teachers – and students – involved in using technology may be as simple as creating incentives for “leveling up” – or simply checking in at a designated time, or collecting items in a tech scavenger hunt. It’s an intriguing notion:

  3. Wow; so you’ve just proven my point about collective knowledge, Jeanne. I knew nothing about SxSW…and now I do. (Thanks!) I just checked it out and I am beyond excited about this event.

    As far as the PPL pilot project, I appreciate the great idea of “leveling up”; we want this to be informative, interesting and fun but still ensure that the students walk away with a certain level of understanding about how the tools can support their learning. I want to maintain a sense of genuine, authentic learning…not “schooliness”. I’m off to check out the tech scavenger hunt idea…and to ruminate about what you’ve said a bit more. Thanks, Jeanne; I am so fortunate to have you in my learning circle!

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  5. Cary,
    In my opinion you work backwards, that is to say what is it you want your teachers to be doing with the technology. Then you model that in your day.

    For example, do you want to have ‘experts’ Skype into your classroom to have discussions? Then have one of your sessions be a Skype conversation (or a couple) with those outside of campus.

    Do you want to use the computers to have ‘fishbowl’ discussions in the classroom? Then have a session run like that maybe using CoveritLive.

    Do you want to have blogs set up for reflection of the student’s learning? Then have one set up for feedback after the day and have a brief example of how they will use it at the presentation.

    Are you going to use Diigo to mark up text and have discussions? Then maybe post your AUP or whatever policy you are going to have and have a session discussing the text in that manner.

    Are you going to try to use Twitter or some other ‘back-channeling’ tool in the classroom? Then have a session that does that.

    In my opinion, this should not be a day of teaching technology but a day of using technology. They shouldn’t just discuss bringing their laptops to school, they should bring their laptop and be involved. Not everyone will have a laptop that day or be signed up for everything but my understanding is everyone may not at school either, so they can be in groups and see how it will really work. And you should have online screencasts and training towards the end of the semester on getting signed up for the tools you will use that day.

    It will be a lot of work but it will make an even bigger impact. Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure.

  6. Cary,

    I have been truly amazed about the power of of having a standards-based program. By the end of last year we had all of our faculty and administrators select their individual goals for 21st Learning and Teaching (IP21). I have compiled them and tallied them in order to find some commonalities for our all staff inservice weeks.

    With this information in hand I have created and delivered two weeks of intensive I-Tech training at our school (with the help of our marvelous PLP team!). Making it personal, grounding it on the TPACK model and offering tailored training really makes a difference. Faculty are realizing that it is NOT necessarily about tech tools, it is about finding what works for each teacher in their particular subject. We have full support from the administration and that is really important too.

    Take a look at a sample of the collaboration going on at one of the sessions: (will be deleted by Tuesday but I have saved the transcript).

    Delighted to start a second year in the PLP journey with your teams!

  7. I think in order for this to work we need to find some passionate student leaders to take on a responsibility of learning and showing the capabilities of certain tools. How we go about finding these individuals is a good question. That would be something we could talk about at our next meeting perhaps. But I think that way we could really show other kids as well as any parents involved how capable these kids are of doing great things witht he Pilot project. Obviously not all six of the sessions would be able to work this way but some of the more hands on ones would. Just some initial thoughts!

  8. Jason-you mention many great tools we could “model” during these sessions with students. I love your statement, “…this should not be a day of teaching technology but a day of using technology.” I agree wholeheartedly! Where I’m still trying to get “unfuzzied” is the content; the content IS using the technology in powerful ways to organize, manage, learn, share, collaborate. What I’m thinking we need to do is keep the content but let the students and parents construct the understandings together. Instead of coming to a session “cold”, they would come with ideas, solutions and share those with others…young and old alike. I would love to bring in some folks from afar via Skype. (Hint, hint.) Thanks for your thoughtful response; as always, you push me to think beyond my initial thinking.

    Delores-I know you’re doing some incredible work in your school and I would love to have the opportunity to talk f2f (even a Skype call would suffice) about it in depth. I’m thinking how I can use your ideas in this particular endeavor; it will be students, parents and teachers. My bottom line is we need to all be co-learners and I want to empower the students to contribute their knowledge. Hmmmm…

    Brad-Twice you’ve offered some really good advice. I really am thinking outside the box b/c my understanding of 21st Century learning is all about giving students ownership over the learning. This means it can’t be us filling them up like the old proverbial vessels. I kind of imagine a variety of “products” at the end of the day that illustrate our understanding of what we’re trying to do. The projects could take the form of conversations, LiveBinders, Screencasts, blog posts…whatever, but the name of the game is collaborate and share…widely. I’m also thinking about what you said about finding passionate student leaders; do we put out the call and see who pops up? Again, I don’t want this to just be teacher-driven. You have got me thinking, Brad! Thanks much!

  9. I’m happy to help anyway I can. Just let me know what you need.


  10. Cary: Trust your instincts. Not just the way this post/project began, but the way you’re evolving with suggestions and re-thinking. You’re on the right path!

    Jason: Great comments. Lovely to read. Miss hanging out with you on the same campus, but I’m very glad that the network effect keeps us in the same conversation.

  11. Thanks, Christian. As always, you are succinct and right on target with your words. The re-thinking process is becoming more and more important to me.

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