Monday, July 16, 2012

Champions Are Made In The Off-Season!

Ask any coach what it takes to be a champion and the answer will more than likely sound something similar to the title of this post - Champions Are Made In The Off-Season. The time to work on sport-specific skills and fundamentals is not in the heat of competition season. The time to improve skills and fundamentals is, yes you guessed it, the off-season.

Most educators work officially on the 185-day school year which runs something close to August through May or September through June. During my summer off-season, I have observed educators from around the world connecting, sharing, and learning from one another. Many others are attending workshops, reading professional books, and finding ways to improve their craft. 

We began a weekly tweet chat to stay connected over the summer using a unique hash tag (#10TuesTweets). We meet every Tuesday, at 10 am CST for ten weeks in the summer to discuss various initiatives and topics related to our school. The response has been very positive! I can't imagine a more convenient or powerful way to connect and learn with other professionals. Week 8 discussion will be a time for anyone who wants to join us to share and reflect on their own off-season preparation for the 2012-2013 school year. 

Just for fun, here are a few things I've learned during my own off-season:

  1. Pinterest is not just for soccer moms. Not only can I get the latest crock pot recipe, I can learn about the best iPad apps for educators or read an educational article. It's another tool to connect and learn with and from other professionals.
  2. I can attend national conferences "virtually" by following a unique hash tag on Twitter during the "live" conference.
  3. I have found numerous web and social media resources to share with teachers.
  4. Twitter is a "game changer" - try it - you'll be hooked too!
What did you do in your off-season? I would love to hear your comments!

Monday, July 2, 2012

"5 + 1 Things Twitter Has Taught Me"

I wrote the  post "5 Things Twitter Has Taught Me" (see below) as a self-reflection. But more so in hopes of persuading others to engage in the endless professional possibilities that Twitter and social media offer. I still think it's a decent list of things I've learned. But, this week I need to add another. And, it's perhaps the biggest one. If' you're not a professional development junkie like myself, I'll summarize in one sentence and you can stop reading.

I attended three national conferences (one still in progress) at the same time and from the comfort of my own home (or my son's baseball game, or riding in the car, or in line at the store...). 

For those of you still reading, here is my list:

Through the miracle of the hash tag (#), I "attended" the 20th Annual Model Schools Conference held in Orlando, Florida. (#20thMSC). The International Society for Technology in Education Conference held in San Diego, California (#ISTE12). And, finally the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Summer Conference held in St. Louis, Missouri (#ascdsc12).

Here are the highlights of what I learned and am still learning through Twitter and the conference hash tags.
  • Hundreds of conference attendees (in the flesh) tweet their favorite quotes or summarizing comments from key note speakers and presenters.
  • I get the same feeling of anticipation and excitement when everyone is waiting for a keynote speaker to arrive on the stage like Sir Ken Robinson at #iste12. (I said I was a junkie..)
  • Attendees and organizations will tweet links to archived videos of presentations and speakers such as; Dr Robert Marzano, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Willard Daggett, Ray McNulty... and more!
  • I linked to, read, and learned about topics including (but definitely not limited to); flipped classrooms, Diigo, problem-based learning, Bring Your Own Technology or Device (BYOT(D), game-based learning, common core standards and strategies for implementation, tablets and apps, and many more I'm sure I'm forgetting to mention.
  • May sound silly, but take my word for it - is great to slow down the "refresh" speed of tweets using a unique hash tag. #iste12 logged nearly 5,000 tweets over the course of the conference.
While all of the things listed before are awesome to add to my "educator tool belt", the most powerful thing of all is the connection to other professionals. Tweeting in and chatting with all of the professionals in attendance online or in person, helped build my network of experts and professional friends. I can't lie and say I wouldn't love the opportunity to meet and work with many of these people in San Diego or Orlando or St. Louis. But, Twitter and the use of conference hash tags was the next best thing. Without a doubt!

Original blog post - 5 Things Twitter Has Taught Me:

1. Professional learning is available when you need it, 24/7.

After hearing Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt), I was convinced I needed a Twitter account. Although I signed up immediately, I didn't really use it for more than an avenue to track celebrity gossip and breaking news. Then, I discovered FlipBoard and began finding legitimate professionals to follow. I rarely forget to eat or sleep, but Twitter  for professional development has caught me wondering why my stomach is growling or I am yawning . Any time, anywhere. I can be reading professional journals from my iphone between innings of my son's ball game! If there's 12-step program for addicted Tweeters, I may need the contact information.

2. Tweet chatting and following hash tags are effective for collaboration.

During the school year, we constantly wish for more time to collaborate with teachers. Various structures and procedures to creatively design collaboration time are put in to place. But, it's never enough. Teachers visit other schools for specific peer observation opportunities and collaboration, but there is only so much in the substitute teacher pool for release time. Setting up a weekly summer tweet chat with our own hash tag (#10TuesTweets) has proven to be an effective way to have professional discussions and learning with each other, but also with others from around the world. And, these discussion can take place without hiring a babysitter, or from the checkout line at the grocery store!

3. Professionals from around the world are ready and willing to help.

Ask and you will receive. I have not found anyone who will not extend themselves to help a fellow colleague. Twitter is a network that gives us no excuse to claim we can't find answers or help from others. I try my best to pay it forward and share every chance I get. I consider my PLN to be a network of "virtual" friends and colleagues.

4. Tweets can be a "link" to unlimited resources in the form of blogs and web resources.

Tweets are a "link" or a window to professional blogs and web-based resources. It never occurred to me that 140 characters could lead to so much information and resources for professional learning. I now have a number of blogs that I follow regularly that I might never have found without my Twitter connections.

5. Social media is not a one-way ticket to disaster, but a gateway to self and organizational improvement.

I, like many parents and educators, lived in fear of social media. No way was anything positive coming as a result of my being involved. My own children forced the issue. So, I began my journey first as a watchdog mom. Little did I know, it would improve me as a professional and energize my passion as an educator. Thanks kids! And thanks to all of my colleagues and friends in my growing professional learning network!