Do we have lift off?

Day 2 of our Collaborative Learning Plan, which, if you didn’t attend the AASSA Looking for Learning pre-conference would be Day 1, but anyway..  (here’s a look at my Day 1, pre-conference reflection)

I just couldn’t keep up. I had committed myself to read and respond to all of our team’s reflections and as many of their tweets as possible. However, the amount of thinking that came at me went beyond what I expected. I’m excited that we’ve had such a great start. The pre-conference was, though a long and important one, a single workshop, and a warm up. I think this is why there wasn’t as much coming from the team.

17470-a-firefighter-with-a-water-hose-pvOnce the conference begun in earnest, again, not dismissing the amazing learning that occurred during the pre-conference, the reflection and tweets starting coming in like the oft depicted fire hose. I think this happened because our teachers were really inspired by what they saw at the pre-conference, in particular everything around Roosevelt’s Innovation Academy.

There was one other boost that helped, and that was a mention of our school’s plan by Silvia Tolisano during her keynote. (Woo hoo!)  This served as a one -two punch for our team. Siliva surely expressed and challenged everyone at the conference to make use of social media to reflect and connect with colleagues at the conference and those not in Lima. Her compelling sense of urgency, for the sake of our students more than anything, along with the praise she gave our Collaborative Learning Plan helped bring it home for our team, validating our efforts.

Boom. Explosion. So now what?

There are certainly flaws in our plan, flaws that we knew were there going in, but, you know, ready fire aim.  In particular I’m thinking about our teachers back home. Some of which are attentive, most of which are, understandably, not tuned in at all. They’re wrapping up the quarter. How do we encourage them to engage with their colleagues?

What’s obvious is that it won’t happen now. We’re not there yet. Speaking with a teachers in HS yesterday, it was clear she still could see no purpose in using Twitter. “I just don’t have the time” she said. So, we have to rely on the documented reflections our teachers have been keeping in WeLearInCommunity. We’ll have to leverage these docs to connect and bring the learning home.

One Idea or Two

We have the SIPS workshops, our in-house teachers teaching teachers mini conference, already on the agenda. Ahead of the workshops, we could ask our teachers to read and comment on their colleague’s AASSA reflections. To encourage diverse learning opportunities, we could ask teachers to review one reflection from a colleague in a different division, a high school teacher reviews a reflection from a lower school teacher, and so on. We might also ask them to review and comment on a second reflection from a teacher that is in their department or division, giving them an opportunity to implement ideas. I think this might help them make a better informed choice on the SIPS workshop they attend and help them come to the workshop with specific questions already in mind allowing the workshop to be more in depth.

We also have the plans that teachers should have made with their teaching teams ahead of the conference to bring back learning.  How do we create reasonable expectations, evidence, around this? How do we measure impact on teacher practice and impact on learning?

Keep Going

Some questions I have about this approach and in general… Do we want to, and what would be the best way to, document this next step? Do we make this a professional expectation, a requirement? What parameters would define the expectation? What evidence would we expect of our teachers? How do we decide on the initiatives to prioritize, while getting all of our teacher’s input an buy in? How do we make it real?

What is clear is that version 2.0 of the plan will see teams here at home working to bring back the learning. We’ll “crowd source” the review of our away team’s experience. We’ll build more time into the day to where are home team is tuned in. How can we involve students as well? Surely there will be a student presentation component to the event. Can we connect our students with those presenting in the conference?



Gaining Momentum


Wrapping up the first day of our Collaborative Learning Plan. Here are some quick thoughts.

It’s taken quite a bit of my attention to follow the group attending the conference today. Not sure if it is realistic for other teachers at AC to do the same while they are in the middle of their work day. On the other hand, if we divide up the work, “crowd source” the monitoring of events, couldn’t that simplify it for everyone, even me?  Maybe departments could follow just their colleague’s tweets and reflections?

Indeed feedback from at least one teacher today, “I just don’t get the point of Twitter,” means that many of our teachers aren’t there yet.  How do we encourage them to be open? How do we get them to try?

Not everyone from our team at the conference is tweeting yet.  It really is just a habit of mind, and I know that some might feel that it distracts from their experience of the workshop. Should we push them? How do we encourage them to do more?

We’ve asked for a minimum of one reflection for the entire week, while also encouraging as many as one reflection per day.  For today I’ve seen three of them. You can check them out below. Some may still choose to get one in before they good to bed tonight, the team is out for dinner now. I’m very proud of, and impressed by the reflections each person delivered given their individual level of comfort with technology and shared reflection.  Obviously we wouldn’t do this now, as we’re midstream, but when is the write time to begin to encourage even higher quality reflections from everyone?

Personally, I feel connected to the conference in a way that I most definitely wouldn’t have had I not been following through with our plan. I think there is definite value in this. I think I still need to sort out how to bring it all together in a way that will truly stick. Perhaps the reflections will help do that?

Have you done something similar at your school? What was that experience like?

Justin’s Audio Reflection

Dan’s Video Reflection

Cristina’s Reflection

Image credit:


I’m so excited to see how this project goes.

Our school is preparing for a group of teachers to head off on a learning expedition. They’re off to Lima to participate in the AASSA Educators Conference 2016, Looking for Learning.  I’m staying here. My goal next week is to help be the conduit for which we bring back to our school the energy and excitement about the learning at the conference, as well as the learning it self.  We had considered the oft heard feedback after conferences, “There’s a lot of great energy and learning at the conference, but then it fades quickly after returning from the conference.” Maybe we could change that.

The Goals13_free_psd_download__connect_with_people_by_websonica-d6q15xj

  • Bringing the learning by our teachers at the conference back home to our school. How do we
    keep the momentum going? How do we maximize our time and money spent? 
  • Help teachers learn to document their reflections on professional learning. How do we help teachers make this part of their routine? 
  • Bring awareness to teachers both at home and at the conference of the value of connecting with other teachers via social media. How do we make the tools easily accessible to them.

The Challenges

  • Our teachers back home are in the middle of the next round of reporting; grades, comments, etc. They’re feeling pressed for time. How do we help them see value in participating?  
  • Some teachers going on the trip are new to social media. How do we introduce them to tools in a way that is fun, interesting, and accessible?  

The Plan


Many colored straws thrown on top of each otherAfter last year’s trip to Innovate 2015 at Graded in Brazil,  we had short workshops delivered by teachers that attended the conference. These workshops, or sips of professional learning are best described as our internal teachers teaching teachers mini-conference. Teachers who attended the conference were expected to deliver a presentation of what they learned, and our staff chose between the available workshops  during an afternoon. They were short and helped engage teachers to new ideas, but we knew we wanted to do more.  With that as our start, we introduced a few new ideas.

Professional Learning Ambassadors

Go team!

Every participating teacher reviews the conference workshop schedule and thinks about the workshops that would be of interest. Then the participants think strategically, with their respective subject/grade level teams to decide on 1 or 2 workshops that will benefit the team. They’ll think about the specific questions they might have, or specific resources they need and have a plan for how the learning will come back to the team.

Everyone Tweets

We wanted to get teachers connected to Twitter, and social media in general. Conferences are always a Tweet storm of energy and excitement. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other teachers. We’ve asked them to commit to one Tweet per workshop using the tag #LearnInCommunity as well as the Looking for Learning #L4LAASSA. We hope they have fun and do more.

Everyone reflects

maxresdefaultWe wanted to encourage an opportunity for reflection at the end of each day of the conference. Conferences are full-on the entire time. You typically go through dinner, and are exhausted by the time you are back at the hotel and in bed. It’s also a great time to socialize with teachers from other schools. With that in mind, we asked our participants for a minimum of a singular reflection for the entire conference, but we encouraged them to do more. We gave them options and examples of easy to use tools to reflect on their learning, and emphasized that the reflections didn’t have to be a dissertation, rather a thought or question about an idea in education. These were the options we offered:

  • Post a reflection to WeLearInCommunity, our Collaborative Professional Learning Portfolio.  We guessed this might be where most teachers would feel comfortable. 
  • Schedule a live stream on Periscope and share a short video reflection live to our team back home in Quito. We like this tool because it’s easy, interactive, and automatically records for viewing later. I hope to schedule the live stream and invite teachers to participate. 
  • Use the app 1 Second Everyday in Freestyle mode to collect super-brief reflections throughout the day to quickly stitch together into a short video and share with the team . We hope to see teachers post the final video to Facebook or Tweet it. We included this more for the fun, perspective shift. I’m curious to see if this tool can go beyond that. 
  • Record an audio reflection using Soundcloud to share with the team at the end of the day. While not quite live, SoundCloud does make it fast an easy to share an audio reflection and comment at a specific moment in time. It’s a great tool for interacting with audio as the medium. 
  • Use Lucidchart to create a mind map of the workshop.  Our Associate Principal, and general rock star, Brett Olson, suggested mind mapping  and I love the idea. It would be great to see what this looks like.  
  • Suggest another way to reflect and share, Instagram? Skype call? We encouraged teaches to reflect in a way they wanted and to make suggestions. 

We also wanted to find a way to encourage more reflection throughout the entire conference, while finding a balance for teachers with a full schedule. So, we asked teachers to Power Up their reflection.

Power Ups

Are you humming the tune?

Power Ups are optional “challenges” to get more value and fun from the process of reflection and documentation of that reflection. We came up with two, but would love to hear ideas for more.


  • Include a teacher from another school in your reflection, including some way of -contacting the teacher – Twitter handle, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus profile etc. If you are doing a video reflection, for example, you might include them in the video and reflect together for a couple of minutes over dinner. If you choose a written reflection, you might mention some insight the teacher shared in the workshop. We thought this would encourage that other teacher to read our teacher’s blog, and hopefully foster a connection between the other teacher and maybe the other school. 
  • Include a connection to any one of our current initiatives.  For example, if a workshop has particular implications for our BYOD program, you might mention the connection and why it is important. We thought this would help teachers connect for specific initiatives at school

More Fun

To encourage daily reflections, and to have some fun, we created tiny incentives .  I promised our traveling teachers

  • a bag of Vélez coffee for a single reflection, plus a power up
  • a bottle of wine for daily reflections with at least one power up

I know what the word is on extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. I truly believe teachers will follow through on the reflections because they recognize the potential for their growth in the process. Not because they really want the coffee. However, I also think it’s worth a bit of fun to encourage taking the extra step and giving some recognition for it. What do you think?

Catalog and amplify

The last step in the process is to gather all the reflections in a central space. We’ve recently begun prototyping We Learn In Community, our  Collaborative Professional Learning Portfolio.  It’s been a great start. That’s where I become conduit. I’ll monitor the stream coming from the conference and re-post reflections, links, etc to the collaborative portfolio. This way we can keep that learning here at school.

So, now the fun begins.

We help teachers learn to use the tools before they leave. Then we wait for their tweets, streams and ideas, and share them with the home team.  I can’t wait to get started!

Your Thoughts?

How are you bring learning back to you school from conferences and PD?  What ideas do you have to encourage teachers to reflect and document their professional learning? What experience do you have in helping teachers learn about social media tools? What would you do different about what we’re trying? Comment below.


Image Credits

  • Networking –
  • Teamwork –
  • Reflection –
  • Power Ups –

Applying the LangWitch’s Lessons

Though it’s been a few weeks since our workshop with Silvia Tolisano, the ideas she shared are still ringing in my ears. While I felt I had an understanding of many of the things she discussed, I realize now how much I didn’t yet understand, and how her framing of a number of ideas clarified a direction for me and for my school.   I’ve tried to summarize what I learned from her session with us in a previous post. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you the main points here:

  • Reflection is key to learning, including profesional learning.
  • Sharing our reflections helps us gain more from that reflection through feedback and conversation.
  • Amplifying that sharing to a larger audience of professionals via social media multiplies that feedback.
  • The online presence created by amplified reflections benefits us as professionals and the institutions that we are a part of.
  • Blogging platforms are useful tools to share reflections as they allow us to easily catalog and store our reflections.
  • Reflecting should already be a part of our professional practice  via unit planning and other professional expectations.

Honestly, it was a much more interesting read in the previous post.  I swear. Go read it!


… We Learn in Community – the AC Collaborative Professional Learning Portfolio.

After much thinking, and conversation with my team of Learning Tech Coaches, we have developed a prototype based on many of Silvia Tolisano’s ideas.

I’m super excited about this, and will layout the basics of the prototype to share with those who might want to try it at their schools,  and to get feedback to make it better. If you want to get super specific, here’s the project doc I’ve shared with our teachers.

Reflect, Share, Amplify

One of my favorite amplifiers.

A specific prototyping group was invited to participate with the thinking that in the future, all of our teachers will participate. First, teachers reflect on a professional experience; a lesson or unit plan they taught, a workshop or conference, an article or blog post, etc. This reflection they then share by posting it to our school’s collaborative professional learning portfolio built on a blogging platform. Finally, we help the teacher amplify that share by tweeting, posting to Facebook, Google+, etc.

The hope, the expectation, is teachers will begin to gather more feedback from our own teachers, as well as, from other teachers outside of our school, around the world. We help them become more connected educators, developing their professional learning network. At the same time, they develop a valuable web presence that will stick with them even when they leave our school. Simultaneously, we get to keep a bit of them when they go. Their learning and experience is recorded for our new teachers to refer to.

Teachers Decidevolvo_steering_wheel

Teachers decide their level of commitment and quality of reflection. We wanted to make this super accessible for teachers so that they wouldn’t feel intimidated by the time it would take to write a reflection. We’ve found a barrier to entry for many of us has been the feeling that the blog post needed to be a profound essay expounding wisdom and truth. By making it OK for teachers to post a single sentence or single image, we remove that barrier, while encouraging them to share their failures, as well as their successes.

Of course, we also want to encourage high quality reflections. So, we’ve provided a couple of protocols/prompts to help them write reflections. Since we’re just getting started with the Marzano Teacher Evaluation model, we’ve written prompts around  Domain 3, Reflecting on Teaching, thereby helping teachers get to know and meet these standards. We’ve also given them a tool, a rubric that will help them determine the quality of reflection they are producing. This way they can self-assess and begin to make higher quality reflections when they are ready.

We’ve also tried to remind them of times where they should already be reflecting. In particular, the documentation of their unit plan in Atlas Rubicon. Each unit plan has a place for reflection on the unit’s outcomes after/while it is taught. Simply copying and pasting this reflection from Atlas into the collaborative porfolio makes it easy for teachers to get the benefits of the amplified sharing, while not having to spend much time beyond their regular workload.

What’s more, if teachers are interested in creating their own professional portfolio, we’ve offered to help them do that. They can use the collaborative portfolio to get “warmed up,” then, when they are ready, set up their own blog. After that, they simply cross post between both portfolios.

We’ve also given teachers choice with their level of commitment. Teachers were asked to choose from three levels of commitment. They could commit to two posts per month, one post per week, or one post per week with a promise to comment on their colleague’s posts. Again, this lets them feel in control, while asking them to make a commitment to the team.

One last tidbit to share. We launched this initiative by inviting the prototyping group to a short, before school, breakfast meeting where I pitched the idea over a pile of my super, extra-yummy, homemade pancakes, and invited them to participate.  It seems to have been a good idea because everyone present committed to participate!

Next Steps?

There are some details we hope to sort out, hence the prototype prior to launching to all of our teachers. We have yet to have a clear way of encouraging our teachers to read and comment on their colleague’s posts, an important component of this process. It might also makes sense to have some guidelines around high quality responses. However, with or without those elements, this can certainly become part of many of our professional development efforts as we encourage teachers to reflect on those professional learning opportunities.

So that’s it!  Tell me what you think. How does your school help to bring the learning from conferences and workshops back to the rest of the faculty? How does your school help to encourage reflection? Would a plan like this work in your school? What might you do differently?

Oh, and big thanks to Silvia Tolisano for inspiring us!

Image Credits:

Learning from a Witch


Last week, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Silvia Tolisano. She delivered a half day workshop for a small group of teachers at our school. While I do have some critiques of the format of the workshop – all lecture, with no “doing” component- I still found the message and the ideas she shared immensely valuable, and certainly worth my time in the workshop. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure all of my colleagues did.

While many of my colleagues agreed with me, too often, I heard feedback such as, “All she talked about was blogs for 4 hours,” with a running joke now being, “going to blog about it?” This, despite Silvia expressing at the start of her workshop, “I’m not selling you anything, or telling you this is the only way to do this.” Given that I’m the Director of Technology, and it is my role to help teachers understand how technology can help their practice, I must take the blame for their misunderstanding.

So, for the sake of my colleagues that missed the mark, and for the sake of my own understanding, what will follow is a reflection on my experience of the workshop and the ideas Silvia expressed.

It starts with reflection.

“To make meaning means to make sense of an experience; we make an interpretation of it. When we subsequently use this interpretation to guide decision making or action, then making meaning becomes learning… Reflection enables us to correct distortions in our beliefs and errors in problem solving. Critical reflection involves a critique of the presuppositions on which our beliefs have been built.”

This is how Jack Mezirow describes the value of reflection for transformative learning in Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood   Of course we don’t have to take his word for it, as there are many others who point to the importance and value of reflection in learning, for adults and children.  Helen Barrett and Jonathan Ricther from the University of Oregon put together this site where they’ve compiled lots of the thinking and research on reflection for learning, if you’re skeptical and need more to dig into.

As teachers we probably take the time to reflect much less often than we should. We feel pressured by other work; grading papers, writing reports, documenting our unit planning, understanding new initiatives and expectations from admin, etc. Yet, it is reflection that could help us better meet and exceed these expectations. Through reflection, we can better understand the Marzano domains, or the ISTE Standards. Through reflection, we could better understand the successes and failures of our taught units.

There are even some times where your reflection as a teacher is certainly part of a professional expectation. As professionals, we are expected to document our unit planning. Atlas Rubicon, the curriculum mapping and documentation tool you know and love, has a place for reflection on each unit plan. It’s not there on accident, and it’s not simply another box to fill. It is meant for teachers to critically reflect on their unit to find opportunities for improvement, for differentiation, for teaching digital citizenship, for providing more student agency, for your professional growth and learning.  If you are not already doing this, you should be.

Sharing is Caring

Life is SharingWhile a private, or at least a not-very-public, reflection is certainly valuable to us individually, the reflection’s value multiplies the more we share. By sharing our reflection we can get feedback on our thinking. We engage in a conversation about our experience and gain more understanding of that experience through the shared perspective of a colleague. The saying goes, two heads are better than one.

This is where it starts to get really interesting. With the tools available to us on our computers, on our smartphones, the one you have in your hand right now, we can easily share to a vast community of professionals that are just dying to engage in a conversation with you. They can’t wait for you to share because they recognize the value in seeing your reflection and how it contributes to their understanding and growth, too.

Silvia Tolisano calls this amplification. Through social media we can amplify our sharing so that it doesn’t just reach the colleagues in your grade level, or department, or school, but all of your colleagues, or “friends,” all over the world. In turn, we amplify the feedback we could potentially receive. We crowd-source our reflection, putting the network to work for us. If two heads are better than one, what about 100? 1,000? 100,000? 1,000,000?

Snowball at the top of Mt. Everest

So you’ve reflected and shared that reflection with the world. You’ve even received some feedback that lead to some new ideas about how to teach a particular unit. Great! This is just the beginning. Because along with those important first steps come many more benefits. By sharing, we enrich the entire community of educators. Your experience has been documented, so anyone can access it at anytime, anywhere for their own professional learning and growth. Even your contributions that are “wrong,” or perhaps better stated as, early, incomplete understandings, are valuable. Other teachers may stumble upon those, see your growth, and feel inspired to continue learning, reminding themselves that this is a part of the learning process.

As Silvia puts it, this becomes the glue for everything else. All the professional learning we must undergo for all the initiatives at our school, Writers Workshop, BYOD, student ePortfolios, Marzano Evaluation Model, etc, etc,  all of this becomes activated, super charged, through shared reflection. It becomes the evidence and repository of our collective learning.

How about some more immediate benefits for you, the teacher? By sharing your’re creating an online presence that will be valuable for you as you move through the community of international schools. This recruitment season, I’ve Googled the name of every candidate that I’ve come across. You can imagine that most recruiters are doing this, as I’m sure my colleagues, Dan Kerr, Garth Wyncoll, Paola Pereira and Madeleine Heide have as well. We’re looking for evidence of the candidate’s work, documentation of their previous success, anything that might help us understand who they are. When a candidate has zero results, it’s doesn’t mean I’m not interested, but I’m certainly more interested in candidates I know more about. The more you share, the more likely it is recruiters will find your work and get to know you.

This sharing is also valuable for your school. As more of the larger community begins to hear more contributions from your school, the school begins to become a beacon for professional growth. It becomes recognized as a place where learning is happening. This, again benefits individual teachers as recruiters are interested in what schools you’ve taught in. If you’ve taught at a well known and respected school, you’re more likely to catch their attention.

So how do I share?

To reflect and share, we need a tool that will give us the ability to write in a somewhat longer format than a Facebook comment. It should be easy to use, too. That tool should also let us collect feedback on our reflection, and even engage in a conversation. All of this should be easily accessible by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Ideally, it will also let me sort and categorize my reflections so that I, and anyone else that is interested, can find my reflections easily. This is where the blog idea comes in. The blog is simply a tool that lets us reflect and share easily. However, the blog alone won’t let us amplify. Here is where we can use tools like Twitter, and Facebook to amplify.

Ultimately, what we’re talking about is a professional portfolio. A place where you not only showcase your work, but also showcase your growth. A place where you tell the story of your professional development.

Who has time for this?fashion-wristwatch-time-watch

A teacher is always pressed for time. Yet a minimum amount of reflection is actually a professional expectation. Teachers are expected to document their units. Part of that documentation is a reflection on the unit’s successes and challenges. If we don’t have time for this, we need to be able to make time for it. If writing a unit reflection is already part of your routine, then there is do additional time required.

What if you invested another minute? What if, after writing that refection in Atlas, you also copied it to a Facebook comment, or better yet, to a blog post?  What if you added a few lines asking for feedback, then shared that post via Twitter. How much longer would it take? It might take 5-10 minutes longer the first few times you do it. However, soon, quite soon actually, it would probably take 1-2 minutes longer.  Is one minute worth creating huge potential for your professional growth? Don’t your students deserve the best you you can be?  Don’t you deserve it?

Wrap it up, B!

Spikenzie's Chappelle's Wrap It Up BoxIf reflection is key to learning, then, as we encourage our students to reflect on their learning, so too should we make time to reflect on our professional growth and learning. By sharing that reflection, we benefit from the perspective of other professionals. By amplifying that sharing we benefit from an entire network of professionals, thereby contributing to the entire community and creating an online presence of our work which provides benefits for our professional careers. By making the most of our professional growth, we become the best teacher we can be, and are able to give our students the best that we can be.

Silvia talked about this not just in reference to us, but to our students as well. Yes, she thinks a blog is an obvious tool to help accomplish this, but she is NOT encouraging all teachers to blog.  She’s begging you to reflect and share that reflection, so that we can all grow together because our students need us to. It’s 2016. Are you ready for the 21st century?  I hope so, because most of our students never saw the 20th century.

So now what? Stay tuned for plans, following many of Silvia’s suggestions, on next steps.

What do you think? Are you ready to start sharing your reflections? How would you begin to encourage colleagues at your school to do this?


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Getting started

I’ve been promising myself I’d start this blog for years, and am finally deciding to make it so. A few things are prompting this…

  1. I’m a year and a half into my position as the Director of Technology at an amazing international school in Quito, Ecuador. I had intended this be something I do from day one, document my experience so that I can share and reflect. Better late than never.  I think I was stuck on the idea that it needed to be a masterpiece of writing every single time.
  2. I was reminded of the importance of producing a large body of work to fail often, to try and try again, to let my abilities catch up with my tastes, to ship product.
  3. I feel in my role as Director, it’s an important way to communicate my thinking with our community, teachers and parents in particular, but students as well.  It will help me to share important ideas, most of them not my own, but maybe a few gems I might claim in the future, about technology and education
  4. I was reminded by Silvia Tolisano of the importance of what I intended on doing a year and a half ago – documenting, reflecting, and sharing my work.

It’s been a busy and emotional week.  It’s been an important week.  It’s been a great week.