Never Overlook the Personal

A world of information is now available at your finger tips, however the content is only part of the picture. The richest experiences I had at the conference weren’t necessarily the speakers and sessions, although everything I participated in was very high quality. I have made notes in my program on particular speakers and concepts that I want to further research as soon as I have the time. The conference allowed me to get a look into some people, research, and programs I was not aware of before. This can happen in many ways and attending the conference is not the only way to do it. However, the dinners and conversations before and after the sessions are hard to replicate in the same way. Some of it can happen via a forum or blog such as this, but not in the same way. Specifically these opportunities, for me consisted of a dinner with ISTE’s Independent School’s SIG (SIG IS) group and the ISEnet Ning group.
I ‘know’ many of these people through online communications and have a sense of who they are, what they stand for and learn from them often. However, there is something very rich about meeting them face-to-face, having very informal conversations and getting a different sense of their personalities. Meeting face-to-face with these people “I know” will enrich the conversations we will continue to have online.
I had this same experience when I worked for Intel one summer as a Faculty Intern. We had a team that worked together from a distance. After we met through video/audio conferencing, our collaborations felt much more rich, personal and productive. The advantage of long-term collaborative work online is incredibly valuable, because it many-times cannot be accomplished any other way. Skype can help with this as you get to see a person’s personality more. It is important to build in the not-on-task conversations that happen spontaneously when we meet off-line if we are collaborating at a distance. We just have to be more deliberate about making it happen.
A last example of this was shared in our (SIG IS) Webinar for the Online School for Girls and our speaker “Clare”, a Senior from Holton Arms, who took a Genetics course. One quality of her teacher that helped make this class a success was the time she spent getting to know the girls personally. A movie night, where they all talked about the movie together online. A collaborative project with a student in Australia and how they are still friends, happened because of the personal discussions along with the project work. Relationships develop at a distance, but it takes time and deliberate effort. When teaching content, we cannot overlook the importance of the personal relationships! I think we all agree that this rings true for the ‘best of the best’ in our face-to-face classrooms as well!

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Khan – Wow! Wow! Wow!

Ok, so now I have been inspired, along with many, who listened to Salman Kahn this morning! I hope there is a YouTube or TED video of him explaining exactly what he did this morning! The resources, and behind the scenes tools, that his online resource provides are incredible. As he says, this content is ‘green’ it never gets stale. Furthermore, he has tools to see when viewers disengage so he can then improve the recorded lesson! Incredible.
A perfect companion to this is Educational Vodcasting. ISTE conducted a webinar with Jonathan and Aaron several years ago. To get a quick overview, I recommend this, less than 2 minute, Colorado Springs news station video:
Another perfect related tool is the free Screen-Cast-O-Matic website. Students can create their own videos easily and get this….no software needs to be loaded on the computer! Yes ‘cloudites’ this is a fabulous easy to use web-based screen/audio capture world!
I cannot wait to get back to share all of this with my colleagues!

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Defining the Dilemma

Another model, complimentary to Speed Innovating, is one that we used in our workshop on Wednesday. While in groups one person speaks about a key dilemma they are facing for 2 minutes, the listeners clarify their dilemma with questions for 2 minutes, listeners then talk in 3rd person about the speakers dilemma for 3 minutes (speaker stays quiet… this is the tough part!), then the speaker summarizes what he heard from the listeners to clarify the issue for 2 minutes. Many times, the problem to a dilemma is truly defining the dilemma. We received very positive feedback from our attendees about this exercise. (Thanks to Howard Levin for facilitating this activity!)
The key dilemmas that surfaced in our session are here:
We then responded to them as consultants, from each of our areas of expertise. You will find these resources and responses linked from our presentation in the NAIS Annual Conference program online in the next several weeks. (Wednesday 1:00-4:00 W17. Re-Thinking Technology Leadership)
I am confident most of us are struggling with the same dilemmas. What are some of your solutions to these?
Again, back to Heath and helping motivate each other through ‘bright spots’ and his story about asking the student who was getting in trouble, ‘When do you get in the least trouble?’. Let’s analyze what works, not the problem. Please share!

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Speed Innovating — may be the first step for change

The Speed Innovating session was wonderful to watch. A great way to share the tip of the iceberg for many great ideas. Attendees signed up to visit three tables, at each table the presenter covered their big idea/ project in 10 minutes. Obviously, one will need to follow up with more research and information to truly understand the breadth of the ideas shared, but this is a great way to find those things you want to learn more about without sitting in a conference room for an hour only to think, maybe I should have gone to that other session. This might be a great model for faculty to share their successful classroom experiences with each other. This way teachers can then pick and choose those project ideas that will work best for them. This relates back to Heath’s point about finding something that makes you feel something. The first step in the cycle of change.

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Share your bright spots. How do you support your faculty?

Dan Heath is a very polished presenter. Any afternoon keynote that keeps the attention of tired attendees is fabulous. After listening to his analogy of how the brain and motivation works, I wonder how to use this information to continue to encourage our faculty to integrate technology into their teaching. What is the emotional trigger that will engage them and what simple steps and plan can we provide to shape the path. We need to capture and share the bright spots. Then maybe these become the emotional triggers? Wow, we have come full circle! Those of us who work with faculty know that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Teaching is a very individual endeavor. Change in our schools happens slowly, one project at a time. Please share your bright spots? Help motivate us to continue on our path of supporting faculty.

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What teachers can learn from research about managers

NAIS made an inspired choice when they selected Sheena Iyengar to speak this morning! Some of her points, about leaders, that resonate with me can be applied to teachers leading learners. Sheena’s research suggests, as we all somewhat know inherently, that choice is an important component in engaging people. Based on what she said about employee opinions of managers, translated to teachers: if teachers give no choices; they are not good teachers and if they give too many choices; they are not effective teachers. This is so constructivist, guide on the side, student-centered… what other educational buzz words can we put here? The same philosophies always come back around and show up in different ways. Teachers have many, many choices. How they choose to delegate the learning choices to their students has profound impact on what they actually learn in the long-term. Another philosophy that always circles back is the importance of the individual and cultural differences. Sheena addressed these issues as well. I encourage you to read more about her and this fascinating research!

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Prove it to me!

This was a great question, related to integrating technology, that came up in our workshop and I was so thrilled with Curt Lieneck’s answer I asked him to email it to me. The attendee was asking, how do you respond when a faculty member says, “Prove it to me”.
Here is what Curt said, ” “prove it to me” is one form of playing whack-a-mole– forcing me to do something impossible: remove risk and the teacher’s accountability for a poor outcome before s/he will make a change– and a clever way to take control of the technology adoption conversation. Starting the conversation with “help me understand why my students might benefit” is a much healthier way to approach it.”
When I try to engage faculty in conversations about integrating technology;
I am not saying that technology should be blindly adopted by teachers. I am not saying that you are not a good teacher if I ask you to question how electronic tools might benefit your students. I am not saying that there are not ineffective examples of ‘technology integration’ that even hinder the learning process.
What I am saying is, if there is no willingness to explore, be uncomfortable or take risks, then using new tools to enhance learning in ways we have not been able to do before, will never happen. We owe it to our students to be a little uncomfortable!
Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?

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