Monday, July 28, 2014

My Best Thinking Right Now

When I was taking my first class for my Masters' degree back in 2004 or so, our professor, Dr. John Van Dyk, asked us to craft a concise, personal faith statement and philosophy of education. This was a challenging task for me at that time, but it was so valuable. I eventually posted it on my school website as a way of helping parents understand where I was coming from.

John invited us to share our statements in class if we were willing. I was thankful that he also shared his own, and I especially loved the title he gave to his. In fact, I loved it so much, I asked if I could borrow it as a title for my own:

"My Somewhat-Tentative, Though Pretty-Sure-Most-of-the-Time, 
Open-to-Revision, and Somewhere-on-the-Road-to-Sanctification 
Statement of Faith and Philosophy of Education"

That seems about right, doesn't it? I love this because it acknowledges three truths:

  1. I am striving to continually learn and (hopefully) grow, so my thinking and beliefs might change over time.
  2. That said, I am quite confident of my thinking at this point, even though it may change in the future.
  3. I will never have it all figured out on this side of glory...but that doesn't mean I shouldn't keep working, learning, and developing.
And honestly, that's what I'm trying to do with this blog. The intention is to share "my best thinking right now" with an audience that can give me feedback, encouragement, pushback, and affirmation in turns.

So I finally got around to creating an "About this Blog" page that hopefully acknowledges and explains my purposes for the writing here.


As a final note, and in case you are reading this, John:

I am so thankful for John's influence in my professional life. Certainly there have been a great number of educators who have left fingerprints on my teaching practice, but if I had to choose one person who has had the greatest impact on the way I think about the integral nature of faith and learning, it is Dr. John Van Dyk. His influence on both how I understand the craft of teaching as well as how I carry it out in my classroom is pervasive. Thank you, John, for your encouragement to teach well! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#GreatTeachers are #alwayslearning

Over the past year, I've been working to build a new hashtag on Twitter that I may or may not eventually try to launch into a chat. (My Twitterfriends Rik Rowe and Jim Cordery have been very encouraging in this regard!) The hashtag is #GreatTeachers, and I use it to post pithy descriptors of what I view as great teaching. (Tricky, because I am not so big-headed to think I'm a "great teacher"...but I do think I'm a good teacher--maybe even with moments of greatness--and I am always trying to learn, and get better, and hopefully get closer to being "great.")

It is in that light that I tweeted the following earlier today:

I had some retweets, favorites, and comments in response. (That is always so affirming!) The best comment? One from my chemistry-teaching Twitterfriend, Safia. In a series of tweets, she shared this in response:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

10 Ways to Use Social Networks as a Teaching Tool

In my last post, I shared a story as an example of how I learn from my PLN. I use Twitter as a key part of my PLN--I'm there to interact with other educators, to share ideas and resources, and to learn. Twitter (and other social networks) seem like a perfect fit for learning, but perhaps best for informal, personalized, just-in-time learning. This has me thinking and wondering about how well social media fits as a teaching tool. Can social networks be used for formal, whole-group, structured learning as well?

Image via Garrett Heath [CC BY 2.0]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Using Social Networks as a Learning Tool

I love Twitter. If I had to pick one tool as the linchpin of my PLE, it would have to be Twitter. It's such a great way to learn about topics you find personally or professionally interesting--as long as you can find a hashtag to follow. It's also a great way to connect with other educators who share your interests. I--like many thousands of other educators--use Twitter for my own learning. But how can social networks be used as a teaching tool? Twitter seems ideal for informal, self-directed learning. But how well does it work as a formal, teacher-directed learning tool?

 Since I love learning via Twitter, I put this question to my PLN:
I also tweeted the request specifically to some thought leaders in EdTech and innovative education whom I thought might have some ideas and resources for me, including Scott McLeod, Kevin Honeycutt, George Couros, Wesley Fryer, Alice Keeler, Rick Wormeli, and Eric Sheninger. Some of these wonderful people had specific examples off the top of their heads and shared links. Others referred me to colleagues on Twitter who had stories they could share. Most retweeted my request to their own huge followings. What happened next was fantastic.

Honoring Orville

I am a bibliophile.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who uses the Kindle app on his iPad for almost all of his reading today. You would think that I might too, given how techie I am.

But I don't.

Give me a real book. In fact, give me a stack. Give me a library.

I actually have a stack of new books sitting here in my office that I intended to read this summer, but now that summer is half over, it's looking unlikely that I'll read them all.

But I did grab one, just to get started. It was the smallest and shortest book in the stack. The title? Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon MacKenzie. I read it in one evening.

My summer reading stack, and the one I chose to read first.

It is a lovely book.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Meaningful Learning

I just came across this image in a SlideShare presentation by Catherine Cronin:

This image is a screencap from a presentation by Catherine Cronin (@CatherineCronin.)
Used with permission.
As I reflect on how I conduct my teaching practice, this is so much of what I'm striving for with my own students.

Yes, there are still facts students need to commit to memory.

Yes, there are basic skills students need to practice toward mastery.

Yes, there is a time and a place for drill and practice.

But overall, I think learning is more meaningful when we get beyond these "just the facts" approaches.

Think about your own learning preferences, teacher. Do you learn the most from sit-and-get professional development? Or are you more engaged when you have the chance to discuss and interact with fellow learners? Collaborate in working toward a goal? Thoughtfully reflect on readings and conversations?

Recognize that your students may have different needs than you do as a learner because of their age...but how satisfied would you be with learning if it was always...
  • reproducing someone else's ideas, 
  • receiving other people's thinking about ideas, 
  • repeating the same tasks over and over, 
  • driven by competion with fellow learners for attention, for opportunities, for grades, or 
  • prescripted learning with no choice for what or how you learn?
How meaningful would that learning be?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Examining your PLE

In this wired (wireless?) age, every educator can and should have their own personalized professional development plan. The sources of information you turn to--whether a colleague down the hall, or a colleague half a world away that you only meet up with online, or a library full of resources, or any online resources you rely upon--make up what might best be termed your personal learning environment (PLE.)
Your PLE is not the same as my PLE. We are unique individuals. We have different needs, different specific interests, different strengths and weaknesses.
That said, we might connect using the same tools, and you might share resources I find valuable, and vice-versa.
In the online learning space, there are a great many sources of information that can make up your PLE. You probably use a wide variety of tools as elements of your own personalize learning, right? Here is how I mapped out my own online PLE: