Monday, January 17, 2011

What if we shared?

What if we as educators not only believed, but regularly practiced this statement?

What if we shared not only our lesson ideas, but also our thinking?

What if we shared not only our knowledge, but also our questions?

What if we shared not only our successes, but also our failures?

What if we shared not only our joys, but also our sorrows?

What if we shared not only our hopes, but also our fears?

How would it change your life as an educator?

How would it change your school community?

You're invited to share your thoughts below.

Cross-posted to my blog

Monday, January 10, 2011

Brave New World?

Recently, much has been made of the fact that a large percentage of the jobs that our students will hold in their lifetime have not been invented yet. I don’t know about you, but this initially struck fear in my heart as an educator. How can I prepare my students for a future that no one has conceived of yet?

Then I took a breath and realized, that even though I am in one of the oldest professions (not THE oldest), it is not the same job that I had even 10 years ago and certainly not the exact same job with the same tools that my teachers had back in the day (really old school). We have all adapted and changed to learn new tools. And have survived.

The question becomes, how did we do it? The speed of technological change has accelerated and we haven’t all completely answered questions about the intellectual and ethical implications of the change. At the same time, my great grandma lived during a time when there were no cars!

My proposal is that—like the granny I’m quickly becoming—I believe that we all have skills to offer young people to navigate change. Yes, they have skills to offer us—how to program our smart phones, how to play the latest games, how to customize an internet radio station. But we have patience, problem-solving strategies, and emotional intelligence (on our best days).

Let’s harness everybody’s strength to tackle the unknown—the mystery of the future is not a new challenge. Stay in conversation. The sum is greater than the parts. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what each generation has to offer the other and what we all have in common.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Crowdsourcing: Going Global

In my last post I shared an example of how I have used crowdsourcing on a local level.  Crowdsourcing can be powerful on a global scale as well.

Back in February of 2009, through a mention on the A Year of Reading blog I learned of and joined the Elementary Teachers group on the English Companion Ning.  What's a ning?  A ning is an online social networking tool where members can post questions, replies, and share resources.  Teachers in the Elementary Teachers group were using the ning to ask questions about teaching poetry, seeking recommendations for persuasive mentor texts, and other literacy-related issues. 

At that time, many educators in my PLN were talking about the NCTE's 21st Century Literacies.  However, most were talking about what these new literacies would look like at a secondary level.  So I posted a question to the ning asking what they would look like at an elementary level.  As the discussion began and I shared my own thinking two mind-blowing things happened.  First, after mentioning a Choice Literacy article in my response the author of the article replied to my comment within the ning and shared her thinking.  (I still remember running to my wife after receiving the reply saying, "can you believe this?")  Second, because I had linked to a post on my personal teaching blog that I had made public the prior month, the first comment that was ever left on my blog was from a kindergarten teacher in Australia. 

The power of professional social networking was made clear to me in these two experiences.  By being willing to be vulnerable and express that I don't have all of the answers, I was able to learn alongside others around the globe that were asking the same questions.

Cross-posted to my blog

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Crowdsourcing: Staying Local

In her post on crowdsourcing, Jackie shared a few examples of how one could get started.  I'd like to continue the conversation sharing a few ways that crowdsourcing helps me in my role as a 5th grade teacher.

At a local level (let's say within ZPS), crowdsourcing can be as simple as sending an email.  When I have a question or a need for a particular resource, I often choose a few teachers from my grade group (and usually Shari Moore, the elementary literacy coach, when my question or need is literacy-related) and ask for some help.  Once my email is sent, I usually have what I need within a day, if not minutes or hours.

For instance, a few weeks ago I was looking for quality nonfiction mentor texts that I could use with my 5th grade students.  I shared this need at my weekly 5th grade team.  Shari Moore was present at this meeting and by that afternoon had given me a copy of a chapter on nonfiction mentor texts full of all of the great examples that I was seeking.  I was able to use the examples with my students and then began typing up a list of the texts in a Google Doc (a student who is a fast typist and hates recess finished the list for me).  I was then able to send the list on to the staff in my building where colleagues have told me that they have pulled texts to use in their classrooms. 

At the heart of successful crowdsourcing is the idea of sharing.  What could a colleague share with you today if you asked?  What could you share with a colleague?

Cross-posted to my blog

Making the Case for Crowd Sourcing, Part II

Part 2

Why Crowd Source?

1) Your voice matters. Whatever comfort level you have with the new stuff, your perspective on problem solving is essential. Additionally, your teaching style is unique. We need to hear from you! In fact, especially since you’re solving problems that all of us are facing each day in the classroom, we need to hear about the process. Share your story!

2) If we don’t share our collective findings, the journey is not only lonelier but also scarier. We are all charting new territory with the new stuff and the new approaches to learning that it will offer us. We are all thinking through ways to interact most effectively with students, colleagues and the community.

3) Things are changing at the speed of light, if we don’t crowd source, it is literally impossible to keep up. Harness the power of eyes and ears in different corners of the internet and also in our real-life. Somebody has that brother-in-law who rebuilds computers or an old college friend who teaches in that tech school.

How do you crowd source?

1) Build excitement face-to-face. Share your solutions with colleagues who are willing to problem-solve or ask a question of your own. Drop a hint in the lounge, “How do you make sure to always take afternoon attendance in Infinite Campus?”

2) Join an online conversation or start one. Ask a colleague to show you how to log into a social networking site like Edmodo or Diigo and start reading others’ questions and posting your own.

3) Start using Google Reader to subscribe to blogs or other resources that share ideas and solutions to tech integration issues.

Who knows, maybe we’ll see you in an upcoming flash mob! Anybody up for a holiday sing-along the Wednesday before break? There’s one planned at Roosevelt!! Flash mob alert!

Making the Case for Crowd Sourcing, Part I

What is crowd sourcing? Why would you care? And then possibly how would it work for you?

Here is a personal example of crowd-sourcing: Recently, I shared the following challenge with colleagues: I find the Lesson Plans and Gradebook in Infinite Campus a bit intimidating and clunky. Some teachers took time to discuss its benefits and limitations with me and I was able to better weigh my options when it comes to managing student assessments.

You also have been involved with crowd sourcing for years. Maybe you’ve been in the lounge and asked, “Does anybody know an easy crock-pot recipe?” and suddenly you have a week of slow-cooked meals at the ready. Or maybe you’ve seen those viral videos where people have all “spontaneously” begun singing the Hallelujah Chorus in a food court—even my parents told me they received this one in an email. I guess, that’s more of a flash mob, but the concept is similar.

Crowd sourcing is when you gather the resources of either colleagues or others you know well—and possibly strangers through a personal network on the internet, to collaborate to solve a problem or just have fun. If you are willing to be honest about what you don’t know—and also willing to take time to share your thoughts—anything is possible!!

As we consider not only handling new tech stuff, but more importantly re-envisioning what is possible through various communication devices, your role in crowd-sourcing will become even more vital.

Part 2: Why and How?