Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Ning Approacheth . . .

A group of 5 educators from our school has been participating this year with Will Richardson's and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach's Powerful Learning Practice consortium. Many things have come about as a result of our work there but our big project is to build a Ning network for teachers at our school.

Our school has experienced tremendous growth in the past ten years. This brings about "growing pains" when it comes to issues like communication and collaboration among colleagues. We have been looking for something that would increase the opportunities for sharing among our faculty without requiring significantly more time in meetings. We believe the Educational Network that we are starting in Ning will provide just that.

Why do it?

To effectively provide for sharing, collaboration, and communication among GACS faculty.
To streamline our resources into one portal.
Provide an avenue for discussions on school improvement efforts identified through research.
To work together on issues that impact teaching and learning daily.

What's on it?

Modeled after the PLP network on Ning
Delicious bookmarks
Resources, including videos

Important departmental discussions
Continued conversations from PLU classes
Modeling 21st century skills through staff development classes
Portal for all Web 2.0 tools

Groups, like Tech Guides, can have designated space
Faculty book discussions
Interest area groups

This week we began a "campaign" to educate our faculty about the Ning. Most have never even heard the word "Ning" before. This will be a whole new experience into the world of social networking for a lot of them. Our idea is to send out email messages that pique their interest and then send out an invitation outlining what to do to get going on the network. After one of our consortium members sent out the first two emails, she received some great feedback.
This is what the email looked like:

One of our teachers replied to it with, "Yes, yes and yes. I can't wait!"

This past Thursday I worked with a group of 5 teachers on different web 2.0 tools. We spent our time together discussing the Ning, getting registered on it and exploring it. One of the participants started his own group. Another kept saying, "This is great! Look at all of these great resources!"
This week has been very encouraging. The hope is that this new tool will make a difference not only for our connections with each other as teachers but also for our students' educational experience.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Personalizing Learning

I read David Warlick's post entitled "What Place Personalization." He asks a good question in his post, "So what is it in the learning experiences that we maintain for our students in our classrooms that calls on their uniqueness, that asks them to personalize? If, rather than expecting them to turn in work that is the same as everyone else, we expected them to express what they are learning in a way that is unlike anyone else, might this be one way of starting to integrate, among other things, the Creativity and Innovation that the new ISTE NETS are calling for?"

Reflecting on my own classroom, I am wondering if I scaffold the learning in ways that provides for students to express their uniqueness while achieving academic standards. It is a balancing act. I have seen teachers who foster a good bit of creativity but the students don't always achieve the academic goals. In other words, the creativity is fun but lacks substance. I have seen other teachers who seem to bring students to great heights of academic achievement but don't necessarily provide for a uniqueness to be expressed. So how do we bring the two together? Foster creativity while achieving substance?

Many of us have been working on developing educational experiences that are differentiated. I think this is a good first step. Is the key to learning experiences that call on our students' uniqueness, asking them to personalize, inside our students themselves? Do we need to some extent take ourselves out of the equation?

For now, I have no answers just questions. What do you think?