Sitting here looking out at the snow falling, reflecting on the fact that just two days ago I was sitting in sunny Orlando!  The only nice thing is the snow led to a snow day.  What brought me to Orlando was the annual Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference. This is my second year attending this amazing event with attendees coming from across the globe.  It is intriguing to see all the technology that has infused into the field of special education.  My work in the field has always followed a diverse path from my early days volunteering in a pre-school rehabilitation program while in high school to experiences in just about every area of Special Ed while at Connecticut College.  I had even transferred from the amazing master’s program I was in at Northwestern that was solely focused on specific learning disabilities (SLD), to the program at George Mason University that was a more global special education degree.  I have always from those early years been interested in technology with regard to special education.  In college, I did an independent study, research paper that explores software and switches to meet various needs of children with special needs.  Funny though now I end up teaching kids with SLD, but attending such a conference today still catches my interest as to how the field of assistive technology (AT) has developed and grown to incorporate new developments in tech.

The devices and tools that are available for special education filled a massive room.  Communication boards that I recall making with paper and Velcro boards, now are incorporating tablets and other technologies that never existed before.   Tools used to enhance access to content for those with vision and hearing impairments are technological wonders compared to my experiences long ago.  Robots aren’t just for MakerSpaces, but tools to be assistive as well.  And let’s not ignore the apps, Chrome extensions, and websites that exist across the board of support for those with disabilities, their families and educators as well.

However, among all of this amazing technology, along with poignant sessions and conversations around special education, I am left thinking, what about those with specific learning disabilities (SLD) (i.e. dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing, executive function, etc..)?  Yes, there are a few companies that have apps/software to address the needs of these learners, but mostly it is up to educators to find and explore the apps/tools/sites that meet the needs of these learners.  Really the problem is that the conversation around the use, incorporation and engagement of technology for students with SLD is disconnected.  In my personal view, it does not seem to be fitting into the regular education world, and seems to be the quiet little sister of the special education world.  Part of this, in my view, is that the SLD is 1. Not fully understood 2. The hidden disability 3. Not being heard loud enough.

At the ATIA, there are only a select few sessions in the two and a half days that specifically address the use of technology with SLD. Yes, there were sessions that shared apps, Chrome extensions, and websites that incorporated all areas of special education, including SLD; however, how we incorporate those with SLD versus other disabilities I feel needs its own conversation.  As with all the disabilities that exist, the SLD has its own, broad scope of how and why to use technology to support, engage and enhance learning.  Even with the many strands of focus for ATIA, there is not one for SLD/Dyslexia.

I am one of those voices working to spread the idea of #DyslexiaTech.  I am continuously sharing ideas, thoughts, strategies, articles and the like with colleagues in the regular ed world.  I have presented at several conferences that are attended by regular educators on the apps we use at my school (Eagle Hill-Southport) to build learners who can help themselves while we help them build their skills. Sadly though what I hear from educators and parents is that getting these tools into the learning spaces of SLD learners is a challenge.  Some schools will not allow SLD learners to use the tools in school, despite some parents being willing to even provide the tool.  Other schools have them, but don’t have the information nor the training to truly support students using tech as an assistive tool.  Then there is the HUGE misunderstanding that using tech is “cheating” or giving “a leg up” to those with SLD so it isn’t allowed. At this conference, a parent who attended a session I ran, shared how her high school aged student was provided an aide, but not a device to help with reading and such. So rather than building this girl’s independence with technology, she is given a salaried adult to do this. What happens when this girl goes to college? And can’t this educator be then used in a more productive way? I was impressed with this mother for attending this conference to learn tools and strategies she could bring back to support her daughter.

This brings to a key point that I see happening in the SLD/Dyslexia world… the parent movement to make a difference.  There are many of us educators in the field trying to shout from the rooftops, but we are widespread.  The grassroots movement of Decoding Dyslexia is amazing and impressive.  These parent-run organizations that cross from “sea to shining sea” are doing an astounding job of bringing the low rumble of voices to a loud and proud shout!  Parent organizations are not new to this, with those such as Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities and Parents Education Network doing this for years.  However, it is the nationwide collective that has grown from Decoding Dyslexia that takes the amazing work of these organizations to a whole new level.

So my hope is that we can find a home for #DyslexiaTech whether it be in the regular ed world, special ed world, or on an island of its own.  With today’s technology, it is easier to do, and as I have seen with my students, is welcomed because it is everyday tech that is incorporated.  The word needs to be spread that the use of technology for SLD/Dyslexia just helps level the playing field for learners.  It allows them to access content and demonstrate knowledge utilizing their strengths while supporting areas of identified weakness.  So will you join in and share the fight to give #DyslexiaTech it’s place?

Posted by: iplantes | February 2, 2015

2 Teachers have 9 thoughts as iPad turns 5

iplantes:

Great thoughts and perspectives on iPads in education.

Originally posted on  IPAD 4 SCHOOLS:

I am very excited to be collaborating with the great Steve Lai again (@sly111). We decided to celebrate the iPad’s 5th birthday with a quick brainstorm of our key lessons from 5 years of iPad teaching. Education across the world continues to evolve in its understanding of how 1-to-1 student device learning can and will revolutionise the industry. Photo Credit

5 Years pic

We started predominantly with our 20th century mindset: “The teacher must be master.” This approach led many educators and schools to hold students back whilst they themselves struggled to master it first or feared the technology altogether. My recent evidence shows that a gradual development of this mindset has taken place and students are more often offered greater freedom to control how their learning might involve and benefit from an iPad. 

Teachers are now accepting that the very definite hierarchy that existed in the classroom has been dismantled somewhat and students are now able…

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Posted by: iplantes | January 14, 2015

New Year, New Adventures

This is the season of being thankful and grateful, and I am indeed feeling both.  I am excited to begin a new adventure and bring you resources for Learning Differently.  As a passionate educator in the field of special education, I know there are so many amazing resources out there in the many avenues that encompass this field.  With today’s world of connectivity I hope to bring them to one central location for you to see, hear, and hopefully collaborate with to better the world of learning for all students.  Embracing the idea that all learning is different can empower, engage and encompass all students to be come stronger and more confident.

The idea of this site, while new, is not without it’s own path and I want to acknowledge those who lead my own learning differently adventure. I first thank Mr. Goad for making me write a career report in 8th grade, my topic: Teaching the Deaf.  This paper, inspired by my mother who had taught the deaf, led to the first steps of my passion today.  I thank Mary Ellen Diana for allowing me to volunteer at a local hospital’s rehab program for preschool special needs students.  I am forever indebted to Professor Peggy Sheridan of Connecticut College.  She embraced my passion, and fostered my learning opportunities in just about every field of special education so I could experience and grow to work with all learners. I thank Sarah, who was a student I worked one-on-one with while finishing my masters.  Sarah had Angelman Syndrome, and made me work extremely hard but made me value the work I got to do each day and always could make me smile.  She has always held a special place in my heart.  To Rozi Khakpour, my final cooperating teacher, who gave me such guidance and advice that I knew I could embrace the non-categorical classroom challenges.  She taught me patience and persistence and led by amazing example.  To Dr. Judith Thompson, former principal of Garfield Elementary, who despite knowing the challenges of the non-categorical classroom, saw my work, and believed in this first year teacher to hire her despite herself.  (and thank you to both she, Rozi, Mrs. Ellis my classroom aide, and Julie Schwartzman for without you all, I would not have made it through that year.)  To Bret Busby and Reggie Wagstaff for your friendships helped me through the years of Westland High School.  And to Brian, who I had my first year there, who taught me the power of perseverance, for despite the learning and other challenges, succeeded with hard work in 1998 to become the first in his family to graduate high school.  To Dr. Mark Griffin and Dave Sylvestro for opening my eyes to the ways of Eagle Hill, to Len Tavormina for making it possible for me not to have to go back to public school, but to find Eagle Hill closer to home.  To Patti Provoost for reminding me daily of what that Eagle Hill way is.  To Ben Powers, Theresa Collins, and Jamie Martin, for helping me see that I wasn’t crazy to think remediation and technology could go hand in hand. To #PLN (Personal and Professional Learning Network) for through #edtechchat, #satchat, #sunchat, #atchat, #isedchat, #caisct, #BFC530 and all the other connections through social media, Edcamps, and interactions you all inspire me daily and provide the ideas, the discussions, the laughs and the motivations to move outside my comfort zone.   And to all the students  who I have had the privilege to grow with, work with and learn from…this site is for you.

I also thank my parents, for you may not always agree with me, you believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.  To my brothers who have been amazing sounding boards and inspirers.

Most of all to my husband who is on this crazy adventure with me, and is the most supportive person to my passion, and insanity. He is my rock, my cheerleader, and I couldn’t take this on without him.

Lastly to Errol St. Clarie Smith…for saying “hey I have an idea”…and to be that spark that finally put in place the path with the idea to create a podcast, that led to the idea of this site, a place that embraces learning differently, so that all students can be served in a way that is for them.

I hope you will find as the site develops, you will find the resources, the supports, the connections that will help you as parents, as educators, as learners, as people who care about the opportunity for students to learn as they should.

So I bring to you LeapIntoLD.com and Learning Differently Radio

Posted by: iplantes | December 31, 2014

“HOW WILL I MAKE 2015 THE BEST YEAR FOR MY STUDENTS?”

This is a question I ask myself twice a year…the joy of teaching is that New Year’s reflections and resolutions happen in September and in January.  It is key to take the time to do this not just for students, but for ourselves as teachers to ensure where we are at those points in the academic year are where we intend to be, and what tangents might have occurred for logical or illogical reasons.

It couldn’t be a more exciting time to not only be in education related to technology, but also for those who learn differently and those two concepts go hand in hand.  The increasing inclusion of “everyday” technology is huge for those who learn differently, which is truly all learners.  The power of tech to engage with learning and demonstrate knowledge in ways that work with various strengths and accommodate weaknesses is amazing. Tech can empower them to Show What They Know!

So how will I make 2015 the best year for my students…well at least the best year so far?

  • Continue to seek out and learn everyday tools that foster successes and engagement for educators and students alike
  • Continue to empower students to show how they can use apps, websites, and their hearing and voice to become active, confident learners
  • For all learners everywhere, continue to spread the word with other amazing educators so that kids in all learning environments can benefit from what we find in our unique experiences to be engaging ways to empower students
Posted by: iplantes | November 26, 2014

ClassDojo is an educational tool, don’t misjudge its purpose

Recently there has been a discussion around the usage of ClassDojo among educators on Twitter, but came to a head recently with a New York Times article about the company’s new policy related to student data storage. While the point of the article was to be focused on the fact that the company announced it would not be storing student data, it turned quickly into in my opinion, a harsh attack on an educational tool that was without full basis.  I speak up because the New York Times also included a snapshot of a Twitter discussion that I was part of without reaching out to me to explore further.

What struck me out of the comments, and subsequent posts related to ClassDojo, was the fervent opinions about it being humiliating, demeaning, and a “flashy colorful annoying waste of time” as one parent commented in the article. This shows me that there is a clear disconnect somewhere.

I love ClassDojo and so do my students.  For one, in my view it is not a behavioral tracking app, it is a reward system and reward systems are not new.  As educators, we are always using tools to mold and guide students to make good choices, participate, and find success.  I recall stickers on my papers, check marks and check minuses, reports of S, G, VG, and subsequently grades and reports that outlined what I was and was not doing well in class.

Since becoming a teacher myself, I am always trying to find ways to acknowledge my students success, while also making them aware of when they are making poor choices, so they can turn it around and meet the expectations of the class.  I used to use good old fashion sticker charts, also markings on desks, and then ClassDojo came along.  From the first moment I showed it to my students they were hooked, even the middle schoolers.  They love picking characters, they love seeing their gains and the acknowledgement for a job well done.  It’s an online sticker chart in their mind.  I do not share the data with parents specifically, but that is likely more in line with the what my school is about rather than anything else.  This is for me and the students.  Yes there are moments when I have to acknowledge students not being on task or not following directions.  Do they like that? Of course not, but don’t we always have to do that with students to help guide them to what is acceptable and what is not.  That is part of education.  However, I only use that for a moment, and then look immediately for an opportunity to reward a positive to help them see they can turn it around.  If a student is struggling with having a negative day overall, ClassDojo is not the place to address that.

I asked some students this week as part of a writing assignment what they liked and didn’t like about ClassDojo and if they preferred something else.  One boy made a list of positives and negatives, his only negative was the possibility of losing points, his positives had at least six items.  It led to a class discussion and they all of course didn’t like losing points at any time, but were also aware that losing points was in their hands, not the tool’s.  They expressed loving the fact it was more interactive, was reinforcing, was much more interesting than a sticker chart and gave them an opportunity to earn a reward.

ClassDojo is just a tool, just like any other tool we use in education to address an area of need.  And just like any educational tool, it needs to be utilized and implemented thoughtfully and carefully with good intent.  My students have had input on the behaviors that are acknowledged, good and bad.  They are pretty honest about those because first the rapport with my students was developed and the expectations clearly laid out.  ClassDojo is not for everyone, but it should not be personally negated without true understanding of what it’s intended purpose is and that they do have education truly at heart in what they are doing.

Posted by: iplantes | November 21, 2014

Let the laughter be the lesson

My 8th grade Tutorial class just left my classroom.  Know what we accomplished today? Academically not much…but I think that was the lesson today.  I had a whole lesson planned based on an article they had to read over the last few nights, on a topic we have talked about for weeks.  What was the lesson? Right now it doesn’t matter.

So they came in, we did the usual start of class routine then were ready to settle into the discussion when one of them, J, just starts laughing.  I couldn’t tell you why, but this student’s laughter is hysterical and infectious.  He was just cracking up.  The rest of us sort of giggle, but then settled back down.  Next thing I know another student has told J a joke that has him in more hysterics.  The rest of us just can’t help ourselves and all are in tears with laughter.  A student compares J’s laughter to Elmo, and of course immediately a Google search is done for Elmo laughing, which funnily enough turns out to sound like J’s laughter which prompts more laughter.  People are walking by, stopping in trying to figure out why we are all in hysterics.

Finally we settle in for class, and you know what, the lesson didn’t matter, couldn’t matter at that moment.  It’s three months into school, they have just had the end of sports, a Student Council food drive and Thanksgiving luncheon to coordinate, tests and more tests, school applications etc…today was about laughter, but more over it was about letting them take a breath, let it go and just enjoying 38 minutes conversing, not about Privacy, the 4th Amendment and posting online, about basic stuff such as how are you doing overall, and what’s up for the weekend.

The lesson today was about taking a breath and laughing a little (or in this case a lot), for sometimes as teachers we push so hard to get the academics in, we forget to see our students and ourselves as those who could use a day of less rigor and more rapport.  Rapport is so key to develop, for it is what we rely on when we need to push and when they struggle and we need to support them.  Rapport builds trust and trust is so key to helping students and teachers find moments of success.

So take a cue from J, and find some laughter today.  I know I needed it, and so did his classmates and they left feeling a little lighter to move ahead, which is sometimes just what is going to lead them to find a moment of success later on.

Originally posted on Dyslexic Advantage Blog:

juggler-working-memoryWorking memory is that short term memory that you use when we’re trying to keep information in mind just long enough to do something else, like writing down a telephone number, or the page numbers for a homework assignment. Working memory is often referred to as a mental juggler because it is what allows the brain to do many different things at once.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 5.23.34 PMDyslexic children and adults typically have lower working memory capacities, although their long term memories (especially for personal events) may be quite strong.

In the figure above (data from our dyslexia clinic), students’ WISC-IV IQ scores showed that verbal (VCI) and perceptual (PRI) reasoning scores were on average much stronger than working memory (WMI) or processing speed (PSI) scores. So that even though highly gifted students had relatively weak working memories, it didn’t seem to prevent them from excelling at higher order thinking and problem solving. If you didn’t know, there is a high…

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Posted by: iplantes | October 26, 2014

To BYOD or Not To BYOD: that isn’t the question

This is not a post that’s going to guide you and your questioning as to why or why not to go BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and is not going to provide you definitive answers as to the pros and cons. It is reflections of the BYOD process by some who have been through the implementation and truly what the answers were that it provided.  It is a collaboration of how educators led their schools to be #futureready in this time of flux and the need for leadership to benefit student engagement and learning.  For public schools, there is a movement to embrace the Future Ready Pledge….as an independent school educator personally, I think it is crucial for the larger education community, public and private, to come together to do what is best for our students through the modalities that best engage them. In this post, it is a refection on what the three of us have to share about our experiences in going BYOD to limit the financial burden, but realize the greater educational implications that coincide in part with the @All4Ed momentum.

Sharon LePage Plante @iplante

A financial, inventory solution, that was so much more….

Eagle Hill-Southport  is an independent school for students with language based learning disabilities.  As well as a classroom teacher, I have served as Academic Technology Coordinator and now Director of Technology.  Technology as a tool when I started there was for word processing.  Slowly but surely teachers and students learned the power of using technology to support skill acquisition as well as provide a path for students to demonstrate their knowledge through multi-modal methods that highlighted their strengths.  The challenge suddenly became that we did not have enough devices in the building to support regularly cross-curricular usage for the entire student population.  How to fund more device purchasing is a concern for public and private schools alike….my suggestion was go BYOD.

Despite trepidations and concerns from admins, January 2012, mid-school year, a BYOD initiative was launched.  By January 2013, 75% of students were utilizing their own devices, and currently it is even higher.  While it did solve the lack of inventory without putting a financial burden on the school, it led to greater solutions.

BYOD opened the door for students with learning differences to learn how to access content in differentiated ways, and gave them tools to organize, produce, and to grow.  For the students @EHSSouthport, BYOD gave them a path to own their learning within our walls, and empowered them to advocate for utilizing technology to support their weaknesses and show their strengths in settings beyond.  BYOD was a solution, that became an accommodation, that became a strong illustration of how while technology is just a tool, it can be a powerful tool for those with learning disabilities.

Ross Cooper @RossCoops31

Moving 88 miles per hour, both in and out of school….

As of last year, the East Penn School District – a suburban school district located about an hour north of Philadelphia – had experienced such progressive initiatives as project-based learning, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and makerspaces. The seven elementary schools contained a decent amount of technology: a few white clamshell MacBook carts per building, some primary level rooms with a handful of PCs towards the back, the occasional Windows laptop cart that was well past its prime, and some iPads here and there. However, despite all of these tools, there was a glaring need for the progressive district to do a better job of getting technology in front of its students on a more frequent basis. With so many of these students possessing their own mobile devices, BYOD was the obvious answer in order to assist students in moving 88 miles per hour, both in and out of school!

The BYOD initiative started at the elementary level, mostly because this is where (1) students are less likely to cause problems with their personal devices (2) there is more of an emphasis on effective pedagogy, and (3) teachers are more willing to partake. Throughout the majority of the 2013-2014 school year, two elementary school educators – a fifth grade teacher and a fourth grade teacher (me) – led BYOD classrooms in what was called a pre-pilot. The idea was for these participants to “work out the kinks” in order to help the initiative run that much smoother in the following years.

As of now, I can only speak to the effectiveness of the pre-pilot in my own classroom. As a teacher who had been teaching the same grade level for the sixth straight year, the program served as the catalyst for several exciting instructional shifts that I was able to make. Reflecting upon what took place, some of the lessons I learned include: students should always have their devices readily available as there is no such thing as “BYOD time,” students should constantly leverage the same devices and programs between school and home, learning should be redefined as students use their devices to accomplish tasks that would not otherwise be possible without the technology itself, digital citizenship must be stressed in both a proactive and reactive fashion, and classroom parents should be made aware of all of the above and a whole lot more.

Sandra Paul @SPaul6414

Industry standards coming to a school near you…

Sayreville is a suburban and a “blue collar” school district in New Jersey. Over the years, many school budgets have failed to pass and therefore the first thing that was usually cut was the technology budget. Over the past nine years at Sayreville I have been in charge of both the infrastructure as well as the instructional sides of technology. I initiated the “Sayreville Technology Academy” where teacher turn-key teaching other teachers on integrating technology in the classroom. But with all the purchase there never seemed to be enough technology time and devices for students and teachers to really integrate the use of technology in the classroom. The option was to go 1-1 but the community could never afford to purchase a device per student for the school district. At an Edscape conference, Lisa Neilsen, in her session, talked about students using their personal cell phones in the classroom. This sparked the idea that maybe if students use their own device in the classroom, then it would be like have 1-1 but students would be using their own device, BYOD.

I immediately began doing research, attended conferences, visited schools, spoke to other technology directors both in New Jersey and in other states about their implementation of BYOD. After two years of research, I presented my idea to the district technology planning committee. I distributed my research, sent emails and invited committee members and board members to attend conferences and session on BYOD. With buy-in from the school board and the community, we began the BYOD journey in 2012. Initially, I requested the technology policy to be re-written to include personal devices as well as responsibilities of staff and students using their personal devices on the district WiFi. Then requested the funding to upgrade the district infrastructure for implementing BYOD and completed the project.

The BYOD in Sayreville is primarily in the Middle and the High Schools. The teachers and staff are also given BYOD access. Many of the behavioral issues that teachers believed would be a problem with BYOD has not occurred. Teachers have stated that students are more focused on their lessons, students participate more in the class, the lessons sometimes take on a “life of their own”, and the teachers have been able to change from a teacher-centered lesson to a student-centered lesson. One thing that has happened that participating teachers believe BYOD has been effective in the instructional and learning process two years ago in the AP US History Class, that implemented the BYOD model of technology in the classroom. After the students took at AP exam and the results came back, it was the highest AP scores the district had ever seen. I have done several survey of the students and they love having access to the district WiFi on their personal device because it is what they are comfortable using. They also stated that they can do research at anytime, create a document for notes, create videos for projects, use the calendar for homework and after school club scheduling, etc. The HS has an app and now students can get announcements, schedules, grades, emails, student handbook, student code of conduct, etc. Also the district is GAFE, and students and teachers can collaborate using Google Docs, Google Classroom, Gmail, etc. At the Middle School students can BYOD except for cell phones. It was the only way I could approval from the Middle School administrative staff but the teachers that are doing BYOD love it. They create centers or groups of students in the class and the students share their projects, information, etc. with their other classmates. The equity issue for students is constantly on my mind but to assist, there are devices in the classrooms that students can use during class time. BYOD is not mandated for every teacher in the Middle or High Schools. A teacher can choose to participate or not. Even though there are a few that prefer not having students use their personal device in class, the amount of teacher that particpate in BYOD continues to grow.

For Sayreville it has been a positive situation so far and as more and more industries adopt the use of BYOD in their offices and business units, this practice for students of Sayreville will be one they will already know how to navigate.

I personally thank Ross and Sandra for collaborating on this post, as they are persons very passionate about making a difference in education.   It is truly through the connection and greater discussion of what is needed in education, in the public and private sector, that will impact learning and our students. The collective momentum of educators in online and face to face spaces, with the support of the @OfficeofEdTech across the 50 states, that will what truly going to make a difference for the individualized experiences of our learners, no matter what modality we chose to engage them with.

Posted by: iplantes | October 19, 2014

Connections make learning more impactful #edscape reflection

As always happens when I spend a day of learning and connecting at a conference, my head spends some time processing what I learned.  Yesterday was another Saturday, another day that my time was spent learning and engaging in professional development…it was awesome.  I spent the day at Edscape, a fabulous day orchestrated by Eric Sheninger that kicked off with an amazing keynote by Josh Stumpenhorst.  As my Twitter followers will attest, I couldn’t stop sharing out pieces of what he conveyed about pushing thinking around what we do as educators with, for, and to our students.  That was followed up by an impactful talk by Lyn Hilt that again filled my twitter feed with key points to consider on today’s face of in district/school professional development.

The drive home had my brain putting all the pieces together….but there was something different in my mind than just the content and concepts I learned.  It is something that I have noticed more and more of late after I attend conferences, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Then I just read two great reflections by educators I value, Chris Casal and Starr Sackstein and reflected back to a post I did after EdCampNJ and it clicked. Chris and Starr were sharing what I was feeling.  It wasn’t just about the conference, which in and of itself made the day so worthwhile with amazing educators sharing, it was about the connections.

After EdCampNJ and EdCampNYC last fall, I was able to meet in person people I had been connecting with on Twitter, and add a few more to that list.  It was truly amazing to meet these people in person….but as the months went on these people went from not just being an occasional connection, to people I truly call friends.  I knew the shift began when we all started not just connecting on Twitter, which for most of us is the professional space, but also on Facebook and Instagram.  I recall it being kind of funny when it started happening, but these people are amazing and I truly feel lucky to have them in my life.  So why does this matter with a conference?  It’s the connections that make the day even more impactful.

I used to go in a conference, know no one, quietly go through the day of learning, eat lunch quietly with others who were doing the same, and go home to put all the days thoughts together on my own.  Yesterday I got up early to drive eagerly to join Brad Currie, Billy Krakower and Scott Rocco on #satchat.  I walked in the door and gave hugs to Starr Sackstein, and even Ross Cooper (he was just glad I brought pizza!) They along with Sandra PaulElissa Elliott Malespina, Rob Pennington, Jared Wastler, Chris Casal and Amy Traggianese, along with all the valued educators I mention in this post, became key parts in my day as we talked, tweeted, threw in some snarky fun, and just connected in the live space, as well as the virtual space.  We discussed sessions to attend, what we wanted others to share with us from sessions we were not in, and lunch was spent in dialogue of what we had learned so far, what we were attending for the afternoon, what our personal/professional lives were up to. We attended each other’s presentations to engage, to document for the virtual world, and to support each other.  At the wrap up we engaged in #selfies just to document our fun and friendships.

All along the day conversations were had about sessions, about the greater extensions of that, about our own professional lives and how we can support each other in that.  Twice in the day a simple tweet had the very generous and kind-spirited Kyle Calderwood giving me things! (Susan Bearden he needs another TweechMe pin now!) It was amazing.  The impact of being a connected educator means attending conferences is so much more engaging.  I can talk with others to process ideas, collaborate on what it all connects to, and discuss ways to bring it home.  The day then extends with our tweets, posts, Voxer chats and such as we continue the conversations.  It makes a day of learning so much more.

Even at a post conference get together, the conversations were on what we heard, what we saw, what next conference would people be at, what book should they write, what presentation people could do together at another event…it was still about education, learning, students, and what impact we all could continue to make…and make together.

So thank you to all the amazing educators who are part of my PPLN (Personal and Professional Learning Network).  You all make me a better educator and make my life that much sweeter.

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Posted by: iplantes | October 14, 2014

Today was one of those days…

From the title you probably think I am going to lament on the woes of a weary day….so wrong.  Today was one of those days that solidify why I love being a teacher.

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman

My day began with an email from a parent, quite unusual for our school as each child has an advisor but the email began…”(my child) wanted me to email you directly since he feels most comfortable with you.”  The nature of what it was about and why is not the story…it’s not what made it “One of those days”… it was the meaning behind that first sentence.  I only came to know this student last year in class, where I had him once a day, and was a so glad to get back again this year, but again only once a day.  But apparently in all those once a days in his day of many interactions, I got to make a difference.

There is nothing more powerful than to find out that in the simple interactions, you make an impactful difference. Apparently all the while of working on comprehension strategies, building study skills and vocabulary knowledge, and work on executive function tactics, along with all the other academic dealings we had… there was a rapport building that was so meaningful to this student, he trusted me to help in this trying time get into his day and cope with a situation, and I had no idea.  This student knew that I would go to bat for him, support him, and guide him to get through.

I feel I have done nothing special with this student, I actually find days wishing I could do more, but I wasn’t looking at the right picture.  He didn’t need more strategies and skills (well okay he does but…) he needed someone he felt was in his corner.  That was not a lesson I directed or taught, but he has turned around and taught me.

So today was one of those days, when I remember why I am a teacher, why I do what I do…I teach reading, I teach writing, and all those other academic things teachers do…but in the end when you find out you have reached a student…really reached a student to make a greater impact, then you have done the job that matters most.

So while I got the thank yous from him and his mom, I truly thank them for making me feel so proud to be his go to person and his teacher. It is so humbling and meaningful.

“You really can change the world if you care enough.”~ Marian Wright Edelman

I add that I included quotes from Marian Wright Edelman for I immediately thought of her book today: The Measure of Our Success. For while receiving there recent honor from The Academy of Educations Arts and Sciences and definitely humbled by that….this incident today is more powerful. This day was a measure of my success and impacting students that I interact with each day.  So I dedicate my honor to this student, for he and others that cross my threshold are the inspiration for my dedication to education and the needs of students with learning differences.

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