Posted by: iplantes | August 7, 2014

Teacher Leaders at #EdcampLdr 105:365

iplantes:

I thank Brian for being such an integral part of the conversation Billy and I set out to facilitate at EdCampLeadership.

Originally posted on Teach Between The Lines:

This was the best open conversation session I took part in during the day.  It was inspiring to see and hear from so many leaders working at different capacities in the school.  It was equally exciting to have a handful of teachers stepping up and sharing their experiences in being leaders and the obstacles they face.

I have interacted with Billy Krakower and Sharon LePage Plante via twitter a few times before this day.  I knew them as intelligent, passionate educators.  Having this conversation with them in person built that greatly.  Talking about teacher leadership with them and others made me feel a connection that I had not experienced with other teacher leaders before that day.

Being a teacher leader often puts you in the middle.  On one hand you were working closely with administrators to develop and implement ideas that make the school better or fill needs, on the…

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Posted by: iplantes | July 13, 2014

Twitter is Google for Educators

I know many of you read the title are were thinking, “Huh? I don’t use Twitter the same ways as Google.”  Courtesy of dictionary.com, consider the following definition:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 1.15.27 PM

 

Amazing how a company name, is now an action verb, and one that is part of common culture.  We google anything and everything.  I google solutions to tech issues, hiking trails in the area to try, and what to make for dinner with what is left in the refrigerator.  It is so easy to find answers to so many different things with just a few clicks of the keyboard.

However, on Friday Nancy Blair (@blairteach) inspired my thoughts for the focus of this post:Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 1.27.11 PM

I saw this post and responded with a few tips from my personal experiences recently with Bluetooth connectivity issues.  Luckily, these ideas helped Nancy solve her problem.   This interaction is not unusual I realized.  Just a day before I had posted:

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Within minutes, I heard from Robert Kelly (@robertk600) who was willing to connect and share his experiences.  Later that night during #isedchat (Independent School Ed Chat) with Lorri Caroll (@lcaroll94) a per chance side conversation led to Mark Crotty (@crottymark) also becoming a great resource to my call for information.

Daily there are questions and requests going between the wonderful educators that connect on Twitter.  There are calls for study participation, Mystery Skypes, global classroom collaborations, and reply tweets to show the worldwide scope of Twitter.  Educators answer without a further thought, but to be helpful, just as we would for questions from students in our schools.  That is who we are and what we do.  What I realized is that Twitter is that place to search for answers just like Google.  Getting answers and information is one of the powerful components of Twitter, along with the power that a #PLN (Personal Learning Network) can provide to discuss and collaborate solutions.

On Twitter we are all experts and we are all learners.  There are people who have experiential knowledge, areas they have explored to build their own learning, and there are those that have studied and built their base of information.  However, none of us has all the answers.  What we do have in the connected education community is the power to share and learn from each other for the betterment of our students, our colleagues, and the education field as a whole.  So next time you have a question or need some inspiration don’t “Google It”, but rather “Twitter It”!  You will not only find a supportive base of information, you will likely make some wonderful new connections.

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Posted by: iplantes | June 21, 2014

Educators Field of Dreams: will you come?

“If you build it they will come”

Funny watching a piece on the 25th anniversary of “Field of Dreams” this week, how iconic that phrase has become. In today’s education field there is a lot of building going on…for teachers and for students. Not necessarily in the physical brick and mortar sense, but technologically. There are networks, access points, BYODs, 1-1s, acceptable use documents, and academic integration projects just to name a few. These are built to engage and enhance learning and instruction for all learners. Differentiation and accessibility are more easily addressed, with common place, everyday tools becoming the way to bring #UDL (universal Design for Learning) back to a forefront of conversation. We are building the face of today’s education, and the students come everyday to find their dreams.

With Edcamps, Twitter chats and Google Hangouts, the new field of professional development is being built right in the dugout. Educators are building teams of #PLNs (Personal Learning Networks), weekly Twitter chats and @voxer groups to chat and share! They are connecting in 140 characters, over wifi, over hills, mountains, seas and time zones. Just see the list of chats complied by @cybrayman. Educators taking to the field to build their own professional development and they are building for others. But do others dream to come?

A common theme being discussed is how to get others in our buildings to come to this dream of the future for students and education. The field may be right outside their door, but they do not come, they do not engage. The glove, bat and ball may be put in their hands as they had hoped, but they still want someone else to do the catching and hitting for them. Daily teachers hope that students will find the personal motivation to want to learn and grow, but are they modeling that? Technology is making it easier to make it around the bases for students, but is doing the same for teachers too.

I am continually amazed to see and hear about educators who have it built for them, but do not arrive. It is hard to learn and grow, but no learning can happen if you don’t even take the field or come up to the plate. The amount of opportunity to find professional development is today’s field of dreams…are you coming to it?

Posted by: iplantes | May 27, 2014

End of Year as the LD Teacher

I have spent the last 2 weeks or so prepping for the end of the year, writing reports, organizing papers, giving assessments, reflecting on the year and prepping what I will say to each of my students’ parents at conferencing. It’s a hard time of year.  I am looking at work from the beginning of the year as compared to now, I am looking at assessments, I am looking at my studentswhat do I see?

I see those scores that don’t show enough or any gains, I see the things the parents will wonder why there is so little progress for, I see a line of development that seems minisculeI see my failure as an educator.  This is what paper shows me.

Then I enter my classroomthen I engage with my students, I see confidence, I see hope, I see the progress that while small, is monumental to them.  I see the desire to keep fighting the good fight that all students with learning disabilities need to maintain.  I see the growth that paper and pencil can’t show.  This is what I need to write in those reports, this is what I need parents to hear, but is it real?

If you are an educator working with kids with learning differences, I am sure you can relate.  We see it, we feel it, but we know that the data does not show it.  Is it wrong to find excitement and purpose in those anecdotal and informal moments of learning? To me, those are poignant.  My students have learning disabilities, no doubt about it.  Learning for some will always be a monumental struggle and that is the nature of the beast. But is that enough to say I have done my job for the year?

I can’t answer that, and I am not sure anyone can; however, it is my job to highlight the successes, even if small for my students.  I need to be their cheerleader to the fact that while paper may deem them disabled, I deem them as rock stars for all the hard work and dedication they put in each day to struggle with what is beyond their control.

While every year I am left beating myself up thinking there was more to be done, I need to truly see where my students began and where they ended in real time.  Learning disabilities are not something to be fixed, they are the nature of who my students are, and if I can help them feel even small success in a learning space that for them seems like Mount Everest, then maybe I have just done my job.  They need to be LD proud and I need to be proud to have a time to interact and impact them, and accept what I cannot change to the grandiose measure I would like.

Teaching my students is a choice, a conscientious choice, that while at moments leaves me beating myself up, more often, leaves me proud and heartened that I can know them, be part of them, and hopefully make some difference in their lives.   At the end of this year, and every year, I can hopefully get others to see, what I see, that they have done the work, they have put in the sweat and often tears, and that they should not be seen as numbers, nor as their disability, but amazing kids who work hard everyday to find their path.

 

 

Posted by: iplantes | May 23, 2014

#edrev reflection

So I was sent on this adventure from Southport, CT to San Francisco, CA with six eighth grade students to experience #edrev on our headmaster’s recommendation recently.

#edrev is a conference designed by @SAFENational  and @pensf

“EdRev, conceived of and brought to life by PEN in 2009, provides a unique day of interaction among students, parents and educators, exploring ways to create new educational environments that fit the individual, instead of making the individual fit the environment. Everyone learns in a different and unique way; learning environments where this is appreciated and supported are the key to successful learning.”

I truly didn’t know what to expect out of this experience and it has taken me some time to put it all to proper words.  I can only imagine how our students feel about this experience.  I could detail all that happened, extract the moments of key poignancy, or write an draggingly long post that will ramble to one point.  Thus I have held on how to craft a post about the meaning of this event.

Then this week, it hit me…rather a student formed the focus.  One of the students we took on this trip is a fabulous young lady I will call M for this post.  M is a student who came to our school about six years ago, a shy and timid little girl.  M is leaving us this year to enter the next phase of her schooling.  She is a dyslexic young lady who has a heart of gold and a timid voice, yet found a way into my heart.

I have never had M in class, a rather funny joke she and I have had going on year to year, and yet she and I have this amazing rapport.  M is timid, she is shy…trying to work on utilizing Siri for dictation this year with her was a challenge due to her sweet, kind, soft voice.  Yet, at #edrev M found her voice.  During the student focused conference, she tried speaking out to the large group…her voice timid and shy…hard to hear yet I gave her such kuddos for taking such a chance to speak to a such a large group of people she had just met.  But as the day went on, the activities went on to empower these students to speak up, speak out, and be proud…M had another opportunity to try to speak…she took it…she was heard loud and clear.  I had tears in my eyes listening to her.  It was the same message she had presented earlier in the day, but to hear her speak up and speak out, it gave me that moment…the moment I knew she was ready to fly.

M is my focus, but really she represents what I hope for all my students.  Why M? Well this week, M gave me a gift.  The gift was a bracelet that represented the path of life….but with the gift was a note.  In this note, the true part of the gift for me, M recounted a memory….that on her first day of EHS 6 or so years ago…this shy, timid, little girl wearing a headband exited her car where I encountered her.  I embraced her with a welcome and a hello and guided her to the first day steps of getting a name tag and finding her locker.  I do this every first day of every year…yet for M as she retold me, was a moment in her schooling that was of impact, the path that allowed her to open to this new phase that she could embrace and grow.  I never had M in class, but the few moments of her first day left a memory in her that enabled her to move into her new learning space.  I was so taken aback by this thought and that she thought back to this moment as poignant to recall as she was ready to move on.  Over the years M and I have always had fun banter in the halls and other moments, but I was never her teacher.  Yet, she showed me in this note that I was her teacher.  It explained to me why I was so impacted by her steps at #edrev…watching all our students at EdRev.

Whether or not I have our EHS students in class, they are all my students, they all matter.  Also I don’t think I realized what all those moments in our day have on them.  We all have such an impact on these kids that enter our space for whatever time we have with them, and the power in that is greater than we think.  I am left humbled by the words M wrote to me, for I am left feeling I could do more.  However, it takes a village…my school is a village, and we are all citizens who are there to do what is best for our kids.  It cannot be taken for granted what a simple hello, a simple gesture of welcome can do to a student.

#edrev left me knowing that my students have a voice and that as an educator I have the charge to help them “Speak Up and Speak Out”, which guiding them to accept themselves, respect themselves, and highlight themselves.

 

Posted by: iplantes | May 15, 2014

Inspiration to rethink

I am lucky to be part of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Commission on Technology #caisct. My first experience was three years ago attending the academic technology retreat, an event that I definitely hold near and dear to my professional development and personal sanity. This amazing group of educators from various schools and with various roles inspire and collaborate for the betterment of faculty, students, parents, and education as a whole.

This year the keynote to the academic retreat was @DonBuckley, an innovative thinker who focuses on utilizing design thinking implementation in education. It was the perfect way to start out the retreat as at this current time we have some exciting prospects with the use of educational technology to impact learning. Don empowered us not only to think about how to redesign the learning that is happening currently, but to overall consider how learning takes place, where it takes place, and how it could look differently.

The retreat is always an amazing two days of educators sharing their experiences, asking questions to learn from others, and to discuss together areas that we can impact a more global community. We all teach different ages and different subjects, have different communities, and have different learning environments yet we all have a common goal to impact students. To bring together people who want to learn and whom are often considered the forward thinkers in their buildings, to be presented with the idea to reimagine education beyond our current scope, was a mind expanding concept. Yes, it was an important one for us who often speak to say technology cannot be the replacement of what we currently do but is the tool to reimagine what we are currently doing.

One of the last sessions of the first day was run by Don who empowered us in groups to consider current problems in education and to develop a tool that could be produced to address that issue. In my group, we began with very traditional concerns and considerations. Then Don prompted us to think outside the current form of education. He empowered us to consider what if education didn’t look like it was today. We then had the path to think outside the box. It was eye-opening to sit with five other technology education professionals and find that we were struggling at first to think beyond what is current practice. With Don’s guidance, we opened our minds and it was exciting, invigorating and challenging to consider what could we create. When the groups came together to present their ideas it was inspiring to think that here was a room of educators could really change the face of education.

So my take away is that no matter what environment you’re in, we all need to step back and be creative, and really step outside the box to reimagine education. It is a takeaway I always take from this retreat; However, my takeaway is how can we bring innovation into the current practice. What I’m now thinking is how can I re-create the overall face of learning in my environment. These are not ideas that can be fixed over the summer or over the next year, but gives thought to how can learning be redesigned from our traditional methods to address needs of all learners and to the needs of today’s world of education.

Just because it worked in the past, just because it works in the present, doesn’t mean it has to or is going to work for the future. We need as educators to step out of our own way and reconsider the possibilities that exist for learning. All of that came from Don Buckley giving us the task to open our minds and then play with clay.

Posted by: iplantes | May 11, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons….

Spring is a hard time of year in schools across the country.  Kids and educators alike have the eye on the prize for the last day of school, with dreams of the culmination of an active academic year.  However, there are projects to finish, lessons still to learn, tests to tackle, and patience tends to be on its last leg.  Throw in some spring fever and you have a recipe for potential disaster… lemons abound!

Recently my head gave us a great example how a moment of potential chaos recently, turned out to be awesome because some people took lemons and made lemonade.  It led to an overall theme as to how in schools, we have the ability of doing this on many occasions.  It got me thinking about how this is a thought for my spring sprinkled classes.  Friday, last period, the class another teacher and I combine for, was crazy.  Right after dismissal, half of our students were going to one of the boy’s birthday party.  The excitement could be heard throughout the building, and you can guess that engagement to the lesson was a bit of a challenge.  These “lemon” moments are not unusual in many classrooms… but it’s where you go with it as a teacher that is what matters.

Lemonade in teaching is taking those instances when things are not going as you planned, when the lesson is not achieving its intended purpose, the attention of students is not where one would hope, and making them work.   This is not through punishment, through yelling, through means that lead to discord, but rather finding the place to add some sugar.  It can be hard as a teacher to step back right at that moment and see where you can sprinkle something in the mix to turn the sour into a moment of savory sweetness.

As educators, we need to remember that on a daily basis, we are making lemonade. Some days the flavor varies, and others require more stirring, sugar or ice, but all are moments that bring a glimmer of sunshine to the future of each student.  So at this crazy time of year, don’t forget that learning is about the lemonade, and don’t pucker up when all you see are lemons.

The Common Core is a hot topic in education. I recall two years ago in working on my administration certificate, it was just beginning to gain momentum with high hopes for education. Now the conversations center around an initiative that is yet again missing the mark, especially for student with learning differences.

There are many aspects of the Common Core that misses what these students need, most currently in discussion is high-stakes testing. Testing for students with learning differences is a defeating process. Learning is challenging on it’s own, yet to perform with an avenue that does not account for their needs is daunting and frustrating, likely not garnering true results for performance. I am lucky to teach in an environment where we do not need to engage with this testing, but I keep an ear to the conversation for our students who come and go from these learning practices.

Most poignant for me is hearing from public school educators with regards to testing, use of accommodations is not clear. This is sad. I currently am working to embrace today’s readily available technology to support and engage students to demonstrate their true knowledge in whatever manner makes sense for them. It is an exciting time to be doing this with common usage of technology by all learners, leading to not seeming different with assistive tech, but just using whatever suits their learning needs. Why wouldn’t these be allowed in high-stakes testing? If the testing is to garner what students know, and they aren’t allowed to demonstrate that in the manner that will give the true picture, what does the outcome show?

There is a misconception that providing assistive technology is giving students an edge. Assistive tech does not give knowledge, it does not produce knowledge, but is simply a tool to allow true demonstration of and engagement with content. I think of my writing class, who have been introduced to using speech-to-text (STT), text-to-speech (TTS), and word predictability to engage in their written expression. The pieces are crafted from the ideas of these students, the technology just provides the avenue to get words from their heads out. With challenges in verbal and written expression, forcing students to work without the tools to formulate thoughtful pieces is putting their disability as an after thought. Their learning struggles should be at the forefront when asking them to engage in learning, to ensure that they are being met where is best for them to be as successful as they can.

I have a student with a hearing impairment, who requires tools to ensure he receives the content being presented..hearing aids and an FM. Is this assistive technology any different? We certainly wouldn’t require the student to take off his hearing aids during testing. Tools are just that…tools, they cannot perform tasks for students.

I think back to my own testing for graduate school. Taking a class to prepare for my comprehensive exam, we formulated many written pieces to practice. Initially, I hand wrote them, for technology was not as common. These pieces did not get favorable feedback. Then one week I decided to bring my laptop to class, and formulated the assignment through typing. My professor could not believe the difference. There was no wifi, I did not search for answers on the internet. I didn’t have any answers on the laptop, for these were scenario based, I could not have prepared ahead of time. It was simply that my fingers on keys vs with a pencil allow for a better flow of language from my brain. Additionally I could edit, move, cut, paste…as my ideas developed. This is one of my learning differences, but the computer enabled my disjointed thoughts to be reorganized real time. Typing just makes written expression easier for me, not because the ideas are on the device, but the tech is just my glasses, my hearing aid, my accommodation to success. It does not do the writing for me, I still have to pull the thoughts from the recesses of my brain.

If we are going to create success for students through the use of assistive technology in the classroom, then we need to ensure that they are able to utilize it when demonstrating their knowledge matters most. Lawmakers, please realize that by not clearly allowing assistive technology for those students that need it is doing them a great disservice. It needs to be clearly outlined that tools a student uses daily in their learning to achieve beyond their learning challenges can be used on high stakes testing or whatever moments we are seeking to have them demonstrate knowledge.

Posted by: iplantes | March 27, 2014

Connect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

iplantes:

I admire Brad Currie (@bcurrie5) greatly for his thoughts. This post from over a year ago, continuously resonates in my head….more edus need to embrace the larger world of edu conversation that is happening

Originally posted on Engaged and Relevant:

Believe me, I know the title of my latest post is a bit 1990’s, but I am trying to get an important point across. I am a big hip hop and R&B fan, which is why I selected Ice Cube featuring Das Efx’s song “Check Yo Self” as the theme that would support my thoughts. To me, being a connected educator is paramount in a variety of ways. One being that you can consume a wealth of ideas, educational resources, and best practice techniques. The other is that you are able to share out with other like-minded educators what matters to you and in turn have an impact on student success. This is why educators need to become and remain connected in order to stay on top of their game on a consistent basis. There is no better way to stay connected than through Twitter. Below you will find my…

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Posted by: iplantes | March 1, 2014

Twitter the Great Equalizer

A few weeks ago during #satchat and their live presentation from the Penn Graduate School of Education, I recall a particular comment made by Billy Krakower (@wkrakower) that really resonatedhe commented how he as a teacher, was part of a Twitter team made up of a principal @bcurrie5 and now superintendent @ScottRRocco, and yet at the #satchat table, they were all on a level playing field.

As I was crafting an email to send to my staff about a special visitor this week to our school, Marty Keltz (@martysnowpaw),  I was really hit by the amazing resume I was sending out.  Here is an accomplished individual, an Emmy winning producer as well as company co-founder, whom I love engaging with regularly on chats and ideas, and here he is asking to come for a visit to my school.  I, of course, was truly excited to welcome Marty and I find him fascinating, yet when I step back and think about it, how astounding it is to have this marked individual seeking to come to us. Additionally adding a Google Hangout with author Jena Ball (@JenaiaMorane)

This is what is amazing about Twitter….it does not matter if you are a first year teacher, 20-year veteran, or an administrator at the building level or district levelon Twitter we are all just people who think the education of student matters.

When I think of my own Twitter chat team, #edtechchat, I am so privileged to be part of such an illustrious team of educators.  They are accomplished in ways that I only yet strive to be, and yet we are a team, and I respect them immensely.  With my team of @thomascmurry, @s_bearden, @katrinastevens1, and @ajpodchaski, we are such an eclectic mix that meets many avenues of educational technology, which is what makes us so much fun if I do say so myself.  Yet, no matter our path or position, we all have the same passion and that is what fuels our chat and desire to engage others in conversations about #edtech to support students and teachers.

Twitter has been an amazing path for me professionallyI am finding connections and opportunities that continue to astound me.  When I stop to think, I really don’t think it all I would be on my path without Twitter.  I converse with so many amazing people with so many fascinating backgrounds and positions, and yet we all feel the same connected respect.

So for any educator, newseasoned, classroomadministrator, come to the level playing field of Twitter.  We welcome all, we want to engage, share, collaborate and learn with and from you.  You have a voice, and it is just as important as anyone else’s.  Come join the Twitter adventure for yourself.

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