Thursday, July 2, 2009

Much Love to My PLN

It was my intention to blog every day of the NECC conference, but for me Washington DC moved fast and late into the nights. I still want to write about the things I learned, but I am still processing. The thing I do want to talk about is my social network.

I was very excited to go to Washington DC knowing I was finally going to connect with my PLN face-to-face. I have met with some of my online friends before and am constantly amazed by how powerful the experience can be. This time was no exception. Sitting in my in-depth session on Sunday, I was watching the Plurks abound from my friends in the convention center. A large concentration of them seemed to be in one room and my session ended before theirs did. They told me to come on over. I was going to hang outside the door and wait for them, but one of them ushered me through the door and right into the group. I can’t even fathom how bonding can be that instant, but it was. We all went to the Keynote together, but during it I got a text from Audra, the Rapid City teacher and great friend of mine that had come with me. Her mother was in the hospital and not doing well. She was going to have to leave. I went back to the hotel to spend the evening with her. She took off the next morning. Normally, I don’t think I would like to be in Washington DC by myself, but I never felt that way. A core group of us seem to form and I was always included in the plans. We all checked in with one another and found we enjoyed each other’s company immensely! I think my greatest learning came from this group of incredibly creative and talented people. We are from South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Pennsylvania and New York. These people have a real love for students, education, and technology. Just being with them gave me the recharge I most certainly needed after a difficult school year. I love the timing of this conference because it is early enough in the summer to give me time to play with some new applications and plan lessons that are relevant and engaging for my students.

I got to see much history of the United States while in DC and I love that, but I think watching how people connect and network in this modern world is every bit as interesting. I have heard people complain about how the internet is ruining people’s communication skills. I find it to be absolutely the opposite. I have the privilege of communicating with people I would never have had the opportunity to before and we are exchanging ideas that I am sure would have been much slower to reach South Dakota years ago. I find that so exciting.

I know there are many people that are reluctant to connect with strangers via the Internet and with all the bad things that are out there, I understand. But sometimes if you don’t take some chances in life, you miss out on some amazing things. I think there are ways to take that risk and still be pretty safe and I am so glad I am connected!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Washington DC - Day 1

Today was my first day in Washington DC. A dear teacher friend of mine, Audra, came to NECC this year with me and we flew in two days early to do some sightseeing. It has been a wonderful but exhausting day!

First we found the Metro and headed for the Ford Museum. We were disappointed to find that it was closed. But they assured us it will be open tomorrow. We went across the street to the Petersen House, the house where Abraham Lincoln was taken after he was shot and where he died. You get to see the front room where people waited and the bedroom he was in. Being in the midst of that kind of history was amazing.

Next we headed for the National Archives. Being from South Dakota, we are not used to this kind of heat with humidity. I felt like I was melting. We had a rather long wait to get in, but it was worth it. We spent a great portion of the day in the Archives. They have an 11-minute movie that started us off and then we started in the exhibits. We went to the Boeing Learning Center and it made me wish I were still going to be teaching American History this year! At the end of our visit there we made it in to the Rotunda where we saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, among other primary documents. I can only telling you that it took my breath away! To be in the same room with the same original documents that this country was founded on was incredible!

We then headed to the Museum of American History. We grabbed a late lunch and then started at the top and worked from there down. Unfortunately, the lines were long. We saw the American Presidents’ exhibit and much more about Lincoln. We saw the war exhibit. We saw the First Ladies’ exhibit (which was a very long line) The 2009 Inauguration pictures were wonderful. Again, being teachers, we wanted to read everything at all the exhibits. So we also spent too much time there. We really wanted to make it to the Holocaust Museum, but it closes by 5:30. There was no way to have enough time there. We have decided to put that off until tomorrow.

We finally made our way back to the hotel. Our feet were hurting and we were sweating buckets. So second showers were in order before dinner. We have eaten at the same restaurant two nights in a row. I suppose that is bad when there is so much to offer, but the host at Rumors is awesome!!! He has lived here 41 years and is a wealth of information. He has helped us plan our days and we have enjoyed talking to him. Plus the food is great. A huge storm moved in at the end of dinner and we had to duck in a drug store part the way back to the hotel while the worst of it blew over.

Tomorrow is another full day and I can hardly wait. Washington DC is an amazing city! So much to do and so little time!

Today's pictures can be found on my Flickr.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

TIE Conference 2009

Today we started the TIE conference! It is an event I look forward to eagerly each year. I started with a four-hour in-depth session on Thinkfinity with Lisa McNeely. We started off a bit rough. The Internet only let a few of us in and never for any great length of time. It made it very hard for Lisa to do her presentation! I was able to get mine to connect (for a while anyway) so we plugged mine in to the projector and off she went. Lisa managed amazingly well, despite the technical difficulties.
I have heard a lot about Thinkfinity (mostly from Lisa) but have not had the time to explore this resource. I am thoroughly impressed with all the resources available within this site. They address all subjects and are set up with 21st century skills. I already found a lesson using resumes that I intend to use this year. There were a lot of things I wish I would have seen earlier this year!
This site also has amazing maps! I am going to spend hours looking at all the resources available from all the content partners. I am already pretty familiar with ReadWriteThink, but I even found new things from them.
Thanks Lisa for all the great help and encouragement. I loved seeing your favorites and exposing me to so many of the things that are available.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Five Changes to Education--A new Meme

A dear friend of mine started this wonderful meme and has made me really think about the future of education. You should check out Terry’s blog at We are hoping that this will create some thoughtful discourse on the state of education. There is much finger pointing, some of it deserved, buut let's dream of a world that we get to make decisions and where the learning and the kids are FIRST and all the real world of budgets and excuses are last.

List FIVE changes you would like to see in the educational system. Your responses should represent your perspective and your passion for learning and students.

Here is my list:

1. Technology would not be something that we strive to integrate, but something that is a natural part of the classroom, just as it is a part of the world today. Our students do and will live in a different world than most of us grew up in. It is imperative that we, as teachers, do our very best to keep up and prepare them for that world. We must help them learn how to think deeply and problem solve as they will encounter problems we can’t even fathom today.

2. Teachers should never have to move up to administration to make a decent living in the education world. I believe that tiered licensure is a great idea. Teachers should have the option to be teachers or to take on more responsibilities as master teachers helping mentor other teachers. Teaching should not be done in isolation and many of us have so much to offer to our fellow teachers.

3. Merit pay has a place in education. Why should a teacher down the hall make more money than another just because they have lived longer? Teachers should be paid according to the skills they have and the success they have in the classroom. The tricky part is figuring out who decides the pay. There are far too many administrators that have their own agenda and would not be able to make fair decisions. There are ways to do this fairly and the TAP program seems to have it figured out. And, yes, I work in the state with the lowest teacher pay in the nation, so I do believe we are underpaid. My pay may not force me out of the profession, but it certainly is impeding many districts from having quality applicants for many of their positions and that concerns me!

4. Teacher training would properly prepare teachers for the classroom and there would be support in place to help new teachers through those first few difficult years. We are facing a teacher shortage and we lose many of the ones we do get in within the first five years. Many of them come out of the university with stars in their eyes and are not rooted in the reality of just how difficult the job is. Good teachers work long hours prepping lessons, grading papers, and continually learning. The school day takes far more energy than they are prepared for and there are a lot of extra duties that they have no idea about. Too many college professors have not been in a K-12 setting for a very long time, if at all. It is one thing to teach theory and another to give them the tools they will need to survive!

5. Professional Development must be teacher-driven. The best professional development I have every gotten was the National Board process, but it was something I chose and something that was about my classroom and my teaching. I have also learned much from some conference I have had the great fortune to attend, but my principal is very good about letting the staff ask to go to conferences that interest them, although she will sometimes point one out to us if she thinks it offers something of value for us.

6. I am going to add one real fantasy wish. I wish that teaching would once again become the highly respected profession it once was. In some regards, this is our own fault. I have heard far too many teachers say, “I am just a teacher.” There is no just in what we do. We should be proud of the impact we have on our students’ lives and our role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. We need to be willing to publicly express our pride in what we do. But most teachers are humble and believe we are serving the greater good quietly on the sideline. We are not in the business to toot our own horns. We just want the respect to magically be there.

I tag the following people... All from a variety of perspectives. If you have been tagged, tag as many people as you choose, but try for a variety.

Kevin Honeycutt - (Tech integration specialist)
Karen McMillan - (Teacher)
Heather Burleson - (Teacher and Tech Integrationist)
Cynthia Garrety - (University Professor)
Sharon Elin - (Instructional technology integrater)
Kymberli Mulford - (Learning specialist)