Trolling My PLN For Edtech Vision

Calling all brains

I’m asking for your help.  If you could pick anyone, anything, or anyplace, What books would you read?  What conferences, workshops, or meetings would you attend?  Who would you travel to meet with?  Who would you fly in to sit at the table with you?  Who would you pick to help you in your strategic brainstorming or planning?  Who could help inject progressive, innovative ideas about the future of education and the technologies that will drive it?  Anyone.  Yes, I am serious.


This post is a straightforward attempt to leverage the power of my PLN.  It is my goal to get some fresh input about that very thing…  fresh input.  As a generalist instructional coach on what could realistically be called a “21st Century upgrade” mission in my building, I have spent countless hours in research this past year.  In fact, this blog originated from some of my earliest explorations into how a school can systematically raise the tech literacy of its staff ahead of a larger edtech implementation with students.

Here’s the deal

I am pleased to say that I work in a district with some success in incubating innovation.  We locally help to fund innovation with a fantastic “Apple Seed” grant program for creative projects.  We also celebrate ingenuity with an “Innovator of the Year” award- presented alongside the T.O.Y. award each year.  On a district wide level, our administrators in charge of curriculum & instruction are working hard to implement constructivist-leaning instruction and content-specific best practices.

In my opinion, we have long lacked such a mandated, district level approach to educational technology integration.  We invested early in a robust and speedy system-wide fiber optic network.  We have always succeeded in putting current, state of the art technological tools in the hands of our children.  What we now recognize the need for, is an innovative and comprehensive plan to elevate the technological savvy of all SJSD faculty members.  21st Century literacy skills (whatever you think those might be) cannot be developed in our children by skipping over our staff to do so.  We are ready to do the staff development required in readying our own workforce…  to ready those of the future.

macbook pro inside out

Our crew

A district task force was assembled to study the situation.  Our group consists of three instructional coaches, one social studies teacher, a library/media specialist, our district’s technology curriculum specialist, and our chief operating officer.  We have been told that we are “taking one year to study.”  One year to learn everything we can about what the future of learning will look like-  at least with regard to information and communication technologies.  Experimentation with free online technologies has been spawned and is growing in a grassroots way in a few places already.  My home high school actually has a building-wide implementation plan that was put into play this past summer.

The goal is to get just enough perspective about what we are currently doing… and what we still need to do…  before making any more large scale technology purchases.  The idea is to put the “buy it and they will come” -approach to edtech integration to bed for good.  This task force is headed by our C.O.O.  He is a direct sitting member of our superintendent’s council.  This level of buy-in is aligned what I had in mind when I wrote a post entitled “Increasing Our Level of Vitamin A” last November.  We are really to the point in our little corner of the world where we need to think long and hard about our mission and vision prior to buying even one more laptop.  Smart move, methinks.  And this mission had better be flexible.  Life moves pretty fast in these circles.


Why should you care?

I don’t know if I can say why you should care about a project in Missouri.  However, I do believe I know why you will.  Because you are a bunch of committed, forward-thinking educators.  Folks like us know the power of buy-in at all levels of implementation.  Here’s betting that the readers of this blog realize the power potential of solid know-how combined with administrative support.

Please help.  I could submit my own recommendations.  I essentially do that quite regularly behind the driver’s seat of this blog.  The articles I write examine interesting avenues and advocate passionate positions.  My blogroll is a list of folks I rely on for new learning.  I have a set of books on my shelf that were important to me, but really…   the elements of my learning network allow it to be a dynamic, hyper-responsive, thing.  There is even a pretty good chance you came here from the Twitterverse-  and that has become a frighteningly good resources as of late.

Speed Writing

We are locked and loaded for NECC 2009.  We are set for a sit-down at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino this March.  We recently sent a small contingent to METC 2009 for a last minute look at a few of the presenters.  We are ready to grab a few keystone texts for the group to dive into.  We are ready to visit the top workshops available where our learning/time ratio will be strongest.

We are going to take a slow, smart, focused look at this issue.  I can make informed suggestions as it is.  Yet- this post marks one of the ways I am increasingly gaining input.  Here’s betting that an emerging best practice in “informed decision making” includes surveying your PLN as an crucial step.  What do you say…  will you make a suggestion for our study?

Artwork thanks:
*Fisketur by ergates on Flickr
*MacBook Pro Inside Out by Christoph*B on Flickr
*Focus by ihtatho on Flickr
*Speed Writing by margot.trudell on Flickr

Sean Nash

Biology teacher in the great state of Kansas. Back at it in the classroom after a 30-year career in Missouri. Former District Curriculum Administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator, and Instructional Coach. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at


  1. This is definitely an interesting challenge. I’ve been struggling with the implications of the PLN lately, specifically wondering how I’m excluding people by not categorizing them as part of my PLN. I’m afraid comments to this may end up being a “Who’s Who” of edtech, so I’ll share my perspective. The year before last, I queried my “PLN” to see what conferences I should attend. People immediately suggested Northern Voice, in Vancouver, and TLt, in Saskatoon. I put them on my calendar and made plans. What I’ve realized since then, is that I was very lucky to have received those recommendations. The people I met at these two events have been my strongest online connections, mentors and supporters. However, this didn’t happen because I followed the advice of others. This happened because of the way we naturally work together. If I hadn’t received the advice, before getting to know these people, I feel I would still have ended up with the same connections. I don’t think anyone could provide you with a list of people who will be perfect for you. Just as we acknowledge every student and learning situation is different, so should we address our formation of professional and personal connections. Once you spend more time connecting, you will easily be able to identify the people with whom you’ve formed the closest bonds. I do think most of us will care about your project, and you will find support from many different places. But I think you will also learn to identify those with whom you will build lasting bonds, and those with whom you can collaborate on smaller projects. I’m interested to see how others respond. I wish you the best in your adventure!

    • @Jen, thanks a TON for the reply. I highly agree with you on the nature of creating and cultivating a PLN. I think this is all about the “personal” part of the acronym. You are so right. There are a ton of folks who are very crucial to me… who you wouldn’t find in a “who’s who in edtech.”


      This post/request is less about MY personal learning, and more about building some sort of team of consultants for my district. This is a far clunkier proposition than merely weaving your way to a dynamic personal learning team. Because it is that tough, I wanted to personally ask my own connections for their thoughts on who and what would make good input at a district level.

      On my committee… we have a C.O.O., tech curriculum specialist, three coaches and one teacher. Currently, we now have one (other than me) who is running a blog, a few are on Twitter to a small degree, etc…

      Really- perhaps a bit of who’s who might help to back up what I think from this end? Perhaps I haven’t thought of the perfect person to bring into a district at the web2 “first step.”

      So yes- it was tough writing this post (probably why it went to long) from such an odd perspective. But really- I’m asking for about 1000 people.

      Jen- thanks a million.

  2. I must admit, friend, that I’ve been avoiding this post for a while. I feel a bit underqualified to respond with specific recommendations. (I’ve told you before — you’re the one that runs with “the big boys”.) My first reaction was that I’d pay top dollar to sit down with Lucy Calkins, Fountas & Pinnell, and other (more traditional) literacy education experts. But, I know that’s not what you’re looking for…so, I dug deeper. I would STILL invite those people, but I’ll add into the mix someone like each of my brothers. One is a computer guru/software dude and the other has his MBA from HBS and looks at the world as a problem to solve — an out of the box thinker. The last “silo” I’d pull from is “the next generation”. I’d want a digital native (teenager? young college student?) to be present. Here’s my rationale: (a) I must be an expert in my content area (in my case, literacy). I must know the principles and philosophies behind teaching this area like the back of my hand. (b) I must have knowledge of the technologies available to me AND be skilled in using them. (c) I need to look at my classroom and my instruction from a new perspective — be prepared to solve “old problems” with new solutions. And (d) I must be able to tackle all of this in a manner that is relevant to my audience and takes into account their unique skill sets and needs. It’s all about the customer – which, in education, is the student (and their parents). So, while this response is not, I’m sure, what you’re looking for…perhaps it gives you some food for thought. Good luck!

    • @Jenny Nash, I was afraid of the “I feel a bit underqualified to respond with specific recommendations.” -factor.

      Here’s what I got from your reply: I wish we could work together. (other than virtually) Why? Because your reply sold me that your brain nicely fits the TPACK framework. Think about it. You essentially told me that you would take your content knowledge & pedagogical input (from F&P) and blend it with direct technical input. Really- if you know your content, have a solid hold on how to strategically deliver this… then all you need is the raw technological know how to plug into that framework.

      I truly believe that the folks who can most easily integrate emerging technologies into what they do, are the folks with the best grasp on content as well as an open mind for learning new strategies to hone their practice. People who these two thirds of the puzzle already present, will see a nifty little tech trick and be able to evaluate it -on their own- for its educational impact… or lack of.

      The real money from your reply was the kid suggestion. You are spot-on here. It IS about the customer in the end. And this may just be the one area where we need a younger opinion more than most others, huh?

      You’re right- not what I was looking for, but then again… I wasn’t really looking for a lot of the best things I have found… at the time that I found them.

      As always, thanks so much for playing. 😉

    • @Jen, Ok, wow… I need to write a bit more carefully, eh? What I meant to say is that I am not just asking for advice for myself… but for an entire district.

  3. Sean,
    Is it not better and more cost effective to send the qualified people from our district to conferences where the best are speaking instead of bringing in the best to speak. I can see where one motivational speaker who could really show how technology is becoming THE tool to be used to construct, collaborate, and communicate and how our district might plot a course to implement this strategy would be a good idea Not a dog and pony show with a few things to overwhelm all, but real life examples of how technology is being using to really change an educational environment. I guess I am not quite old enough (although I must be close) to have forgotten the A+ situation that evolved from outside consultation when there was a great deal of local talent available.

    The Ed Tech conferences that I went to, even though it has been ten years ago, gave me enough really great things to implement. I have noticed that the conferences that you have attended have had the same effect. The right people with the right conference experiences could create the wholesale change that it appears your committee is looking for. It would seem that a PLN is much more important in this period in history that finding the most respected speakers and workshop presenters.

    The problem has always been the support to implement what has been experienced. I guess I have been around long enough to have to be shown that cooperation is possible and that requests for implementing progressive technologies are not usually met with a “No”.

    After watching this develop for 20 years it is refreshing to see district level initiative in the form of this committee. I wish you luck. I have also been around long enough to see that Tech years are like dog years doubled. Beware of extended timetables… Pretty soon it is 2012 and we will all be worried about the end of the world…. We have an unspoken saying at LHS, “We’ve got to Move it! Move it!”

    • @Russell, great comments. I agree that the right conferences can be amazing tools to connect. I really do believe that this is an integral piece of the puzzle. It is a way to push a handful of people out to scan a really diverse set of new things, and then bring them back to the center to share.

      However, I also see value in bringing in a consultant or two at this level… to deliver something a little more tailored. I’m not talking about bringing in someone to do a blanket-bombing speaking engagement. (though that isn’t a bad thing on the right level) I am talking about bringing in someone who will sit down at the table… learn about where we are now.. and where we would like to go… and then make suggestions.

      You and I both are still likely cringing from the “A+ experience.” It truly is a landmark in my experience as an educator. The reason people like you and I were so frustrated, centers around the fact that we could have made solid, creative -even innovative- input into that system. Working within those parameters was one of the more stressful periods of my career.

      I agree on PLN’s. But getting each individual in our world on board with that mindset will take some time. I think it will also take an injection of vision a time or two to get people believing in that direction. I really do think a multifaceted approach is the only way to win anything that big.

      We really are lucky in the SJSD. We don’t remotely have a perfect set of operating policies. However, as I travel all over and meet with people doing similar things, I am constantly finding our policies are far more open than others. To be honest, much of this is likely derived from having no plan… as opposed to one that can shut down innovation. But- our corrent situation is better than 80% of what I see, and that is saying something.

      Tech years really ARE like dog years on speed. In fact, when I pitched the “Benton plan” to Rick- he was quick to let me know that he thought it was one year too long. I was being conservative, and he realized that we need to roll. I was impressed with that.

      Thanks again for the comment. As one of the few people to ever teach me something about educational technology… (as I say that as humbly as I possibly can) your input is always welcome.


      • @nashworld, It’s good to hear that SJSD is ahead of 80% of the other people that you talk to. My perspective is somewhat dated at best.
        I have been working on implementing Moodle for about 3 years and the process seemed labored. Server instability was a major problem at first but that seems to have been worked out. We did have a major problem week before last but that has been corrected. I hope that I can help LHS be a part of whatever is decided.
        I am really glad that Rick understands the urgency of what needs to be accomplished. Consultants can surely speed up this process. I know that a major emphasis on what you are doing will be teacher training. One of the obstacles I have encountered is that the teachers do not thoroughly test what they want to do. As with any lesson, flying by the seat of your pants can be a recipe for disaster. This is especially true for lessons involving technology. On the surface having students do a Wordle exercise, save it, and print it in color would seems to be straight forward, but alas it might not be.
        I am truly excited to see what happens in the next year.
        If I can be of any help, let me know.

        Thanks for the compliment.

  4. Sean,
    I’ve thought about this all weekend… Seriously. Here are my thoughts.
    First of all, at a district level, I am delighted to see that you are a part of the team that is helping to shape our Ed Tech vision for the district. I’ve told you before that I consider you to be the “Go to Guy” on Ed Tech matters for the SJSD. Others that I listen to in our district, and feel they “know” what is right for our students include many of the instructional coaches as well as teachers, such as Scott Horton from Truman. He teaches PE and doesn’t touch a computer most of the day. Through conversations, I know he is the most in tuned person regarding future student needs with technology.

    When I go into cyberspace, there are the big guns, such as Karl Fisch, Steve Dembo, David Warlick, Will Richardson, and Sue Waters. I subscribe to each of their blog. Fantastic resources! I’d absolutely LOVE to be able to sit in a room with any of them with a host of questions!

    And there are others. Let’s see, I also enjoy reading what Stacy Baker, Ben Wildeboer, Phillip Cook and Glen Westbroek’ Tweet and Blog. There are a few others. But as I scroll down my Tweets on Twitter, I generally stop and check out what they have to share. (The science background is a bonus!)

    Personally, I like to learn from people who obviously share similar interests, actually enjoy being around kids, and are smart enough to try new things to improve our future. As a sidenote, I noticed that each of these people have a sense of humor. No small feat to accomplish that in 140 characters or less!

    So, there are some names tossed around. I’m not sure who would be the “best” person to help jump start the SJSD Vision on Ed tech.

    I’m ambivalent about sending people to conferences to improve our districts use of technology. There would be some drastic differences between each of the buildings and by level (high, middle, and elementary) if that is the road that gets taken. For example, I am not able to attend a conference due to lack of moo–la at my building. So, funding would need to be made available to support the learning of all teachers.

    I believe that’s all I have on the subject for now. Happy Trolling!

    • @Terri Johnson, Love and agree with this quote: “Personally, I like to learn from people who obviously share similar interests, actually enjoy being around kids, and are smart enough to try new things to improve our future.” ~I certainly couldn’t agree more with this. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything were that simple?

      I know what you mean about conference attendance. However, one thing I can say is that when our school sent a team of seven to NECC 2008 in San Antonio… we had more accountability for sharing than ever before. Think about it. When you go to a conference- who asks you about it? How do you report/reflect on the event? Who asks you for “next steps?”

      When the seven of us blogged from the event (with some live blogging as well) our entire cohort could not only read every word and follow along… visit pertinent links, etc… but they could INTERACT with us in our new findings. I really do think conference attendance is an important facet in any comprehensive PD plan. It certainly isn’t an end-game, but it really can be a powerful injection of novel ideas into a system.

  5. (This is my second attempt at this–if this message dissolves into nothingness, I’m going back to clamming….)

    You will get plenty of wonderful recommendations for brilliant people riding on the crest of the next big thing. You are a nidus (maybe the nidus) for a huge ed tech wave, but peering into the future is an impossible dream.

    Let me recommend a few folks on the opposite side of the fence–grasp their problems with high tech, and you’ll have a better sense on what might work in the future.

    Read Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America, a collection of essays examining the consequences of our culture losing its connection to our land base. Heck, invite him to a conference.

    Jacques Ellul, a French sociologist, wrote a masterful treatise on technology in the early 1960’s The Technological Society. It’s a bit pessimistic, and was a favorite of Ted Kaczinski, so it’s not one you want sitting visibly on your shelf, but it does a remarkable job explaining how technique/technology has infiltrated our culture in ways we cannot control.

    Derrick Jensen has written an interesting book Endgame: The Problem of Civilization that takes off where Jacques Ellul left off. Check out this and Ellul’s book at the same time and you may have an FBI file.

    I am not advocating their positions; I am advocating that people high up the high tech ladder read them and understand what the “anti-tech” fuss is all about. It might save you a few steps in the process of figuring out how you are going to use new tools to teach our children.

    Finally, get your hands on the anthology of THe Plain Reader edited by Scott Savage, a neo-Luddite (and I think a conservative Quaker, but I may have that wrong).

    (Gene Logsdon is another one worth reading–he’s a bit feistier that Wendell Berry, and he writes back if you send him a letter.)

    Hope this helps.



    • @Michael Doyle, man, I love that we have connected this past year. You provide insight that is anything but the norm in these channels. (Though you have to be inspired by the non-litany provided in the comments here thus far.) In fact, at times I fully expect you to pen your response on parchment and send it via USPS. 😉

      But you wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t because this media channel has clear and distinct advantages over pen & ink for this particular mission.

      Love the term nidus. Thanks. That’s a new one for me. I also agree with your suggestion of finding the opposing idea to the the prevailing “wisdom.” I am a big proponent of this kind of thought. I think any time you can discipline yourself to create (assemble?) the polar opposite vision, you then can truly understand the dynamic of the situation you have found yourself within.

      Check out The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin. In it, he maintains that brilliant leaders are skilled at integrative thinking, that is- being able to hold opposing ideas in their minds at once, then finally reaching a synthesis that contains elements of both, but improves on both. This is a clear difference between the “study all options available and then pick one” managerial approach that we normally take.

      All that being said, I have to disagree with this one: “…peering into the future is an impossible dream.”

      I don’t think foretelling the future is the issue at hand whatsoever. What I do think the issue is… is studying the situation in enough depth and breadth to be able to be better at dealing with future uncertainty.

      I have a deep belief that any sort of plan looking into the future must have as much built-in flexibility as possible. I think this is the challenge. In such a rapidly changing world, those who are able to adjust and roll with the punches will be best adapted to the future itself. Information and communication technologies are rapidly evolving and disrupting the modes of communication we have all been accustomed to for so long.

      I mean, hey- in today’s world, even a clammer can be Sean’s favorite internet author.

  6. (Cross posted from Classroom 2.0)

    The TPCK framework has been incredibly influential as I think about the role of technology in educational reform. From an in-service perspective, without adequate culture change as it relates to pedagogy, there is little, if any hope, in diffusing technology effectively in our school systems today.

    Think about it…”Give a lecturer PowerPoint and she’ll keep on lecturing. Give the lecturer Sketchup and he’ll give it right back.”

    In one of his books, Larry Cuban said, “When teachers adopt technological innovations, these changes typically maintain rather than alter existing classroom practices.”

    This is where the connection between technology, pedagogy and content knowledge comes in to play. So…in summary, I recommend the TPACK body of knowledge as a place to begin in your ed. tech visioning.

    At its core, it is a bit “academic,” but if you’re interested, here is a starting point.

    I’ve saved a few other articles, one from Leading and Learning with Technology that may be more “practitioner” friendly.

    • @sylvia martinez, absolutely. I have The Children’s Machine as well… haven’t read Mindstorms.
      The constructionist approach is what should fuel our mission, and I think we are coming around to that idea. Anything with its roots in Piaget is solid in my book.

      Stager- thank you. Both excellent suggestions in my opinion… and both solidly noted here. Thanks so much for weighing in.

  7. The first thing is to say that you need to stay away from the hype that so many educators are following — BLOGS are not the end all be all of Web 2.0. They are, in fact, poor tools for what most intend. Forums are much better at generating group discussions. Blogs are nice for individual expression and feedback, but most teachers I have seen start BLOGS do not have that in mind. They wanted to have an initial post ‘ignite’ a free flowing discussion on the main topic. One in which students would comment not only on the ‘original post’ but on the posts that followed.

    The second thing is to think of moving the technology focus away from the teacher and to the students. How can technology assist them? Can we allow them to pick their tools and let them use it to learn or will we force them to use the same tool as their 20-30 classmates?

    The final thing is to evaluate the ‘measures’ of success. Will technology really raise English, Math or Social Studies scores? Or is technology a topic of its own that will simple enable different learning paradigms?

  8. If I’m reading this correctly your base question is “how a school can systematically raise the tech literacy of its staff ahead of a larger edtech implementation with students.”

    I feel like a broken record here because I keep coming back to the same logic.

    Teachers teach the way they were taught.

    If they are to become 21st Century Teachers, they must first become 21st Century Learners and not 19th Century Learners in the 21st Century.

    Until they learn to learn with these tools by exploring their variety and building a toolbox of applicable technologies, they will be unable to learn to teach with them.

    I’m not convinced that the answer to your question lies in getting people to teach your staff, but rather getting your staff to create their own networks to teach themselves. Sure, seed the network with some links to “thinkers and stinkers” and certainly provide some scaffolding, but recommending books, finding speakers, attending conferences, planning training … ?

    Well, to quote the apocryphal saw attributed to Einstein:

    “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used to create them.”

    So let me turn the question back around:

    Sean, you’re using these tools and skills here. How did you learn them? Why don’t you think that’s an appropriate way for your staff to learn?

    • @Nathan, I love this reply more than I can tell you within a comment box. Thoughts like these reaffirm the notions I began our own building plan with just this past year. I constructed a network at to begin facilitation of the exact connections you mention… and to make a 30 minute large or small group PD to raise awareness… something that will stick because it has a context of asynchronous PD communication to ground it back into.

      I think this model can scaffold up to a district of three high, four middle, and eighteen elementary schools. Whether it be building level with connections out… or one big PD network to facilitate anytime/anyplace learning for all of our staff with their ever busier lives.

      With regard to: “Sean, you’re using these tools and skills here. How did you learn them? Why don’t you think that’s an appropriate way for your staff to learn?”

      I do think this is an appropriate way to learn. However, I am an instructional coach set on a self-directed mission to raise the tech integration of my one building. By virtue of my flexible schedule, I was turned loose to learn. My learning curve has been steeped quickly because of my schedule.

      And yes- I too dislike the word “training” for such an important mission. Potty training is training… what I want is to develop the inherent greatness in all of the individuals around me at more or less their own pace.

      I am just looking for outside opinions (other than my own) for who and what sort of expertise to “seed” my group with.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to weigh in here. I appreciate it greatly.

  9. Read your comment about the conference blog. Do you have a shared blog set up, or did you blog it on personal blogs? My school has a shared blog for professional development experiences set up on a permanent basis. 🙂 (As with anything, some posts are better than others.)

    • @Jenny, 1) We did some very nascent blogging on after NECC 2008. That network was very very new at the time for all participants. I only started it a week or two prior… and there was only one of us manning an individual blog.

      That said- your group PD blog here is good.
      I learned a ton just looking through. Thanks so much…

      • @nashworld, you really should come for a visit. add that into your group’s agenda. 🙂

  10. Another thought – can you included students in this process? Students can bring new ideas and energy into your committees and initiatives, and it’s a great way to walk the talk of them being the global citizens of the 21st century. Adults have to let kids learn how to be citizens, and technology planning is a great way for them to participate in something that’s meaningful to them.

    I did an article on how to do this for the ASCD Ed Leadership magazine last year (Nov 2008), unfortunately it’s not freely available online yet.

    • @sylvia martinez, I think your suggestion of building in the student element is so good. I highly agree. This is always tough in my head. I always wonder if I am doing it the right way at a level like this one. (easy in the classroom- tougher at higher levels)

      I will most certainly look up the article. Wait- principal had it: “Working With Tech-Savvy Kids.”
      Nice. 😉

  11. Books: Digital Literacy by Paul Gilster, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, and In Search for Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms by Martin Brooks

    Conferences: I’ve only been to two, VSTE – Virginia Society for Technology Educators and FETC. I am also planning on going to NECC this year.

    Who would you travel to meet with? Anyone who is a Discovery Educator or works with Discovery Education (Steve Dembo, who’s already been listed), Jennifer Dorman (also a DEN member), and Nancy Bosch, and my professors from my graduate program at GMU.

    • @Darcie, I ordered the Brooks & Brooks text for my tech cohort this past year. It is truly fundamental. “Digital Literacy by Paul Gilster” is now on my list… haven’t read it.

      I too have been only to NECC (’08) and METC. Perhaps we’ll meet in Washington, eh?

      Dembo helped form this blog into what it is today by following his 30D2BBB this past year as well. He (like so many of you) is always so super helpful.

      I envy your graduate experience.

      Thanks so much for helping me out.


      • @nashworld, Sure thing! I am learning a lot from people around the world. I met so many people at FETC and I feel like I have a real PLN now. I’d like to put together on PLN’s for my faculty, any suggestions? I’ll keep my eye out for you at NECC. I’m from the Washington area, so that could be helpful!

        I wanted to do 30D2BBB and didn’t get around to it. I may go back and look at the archived posts and try it on my own.

  12. The conference that I really enjoy attending is Alan November’s Building Learning Communities. The person who I find really fascinating to listen to and learn from is Jonathan Finklestein, author of Learning in Real Time and founder of Learningtimes. The person who I would want to help me with strategic planning is Ewan McIntosh though his role has changed within the past year, his ideas are always innovative. And I’ve always appreciated the Ted Talks by Sir Ken Robinson and the lectures by Stephen Heppell so they would also be people I would be interested in brainstorming with. Steve Hargadon is the best in community building and social networking…Just look at the numbers of Classroom 2.0 to see how successful the community has become. I’ve been involved with the innovative sitesALIVE program where Skipper Rich Wilson is finishing his epic race around the world while connecting with classrooms and the global community via his website, gabcast, Facebook, YouTube, TeacherTube. And while he is sailing he has a team consisting of an author of Longitude, two physicians, a professor at MIT, the director of the Museum of Science and more who are answering students questions. A pioneer in his field, he realizes that educators are moving in the direction where technology can enhance lifelong learning in the global community. I have a team of teachers who are a part of my PLN. Most of these teachers I have never met. It would be really neat to be able to meet and collaborate with them face-to-face someday.

    • @raine22, “I have a team of teachers who are a part of my PLN. Most of these teachers I have never met. It would be really neat to be able to meet and collaborate with them face-to-face someday.”

      Wow. You said it. That is the very reason I knew I could get a valuable discussion going here by just asking. Creating these little virtual communities is intoxicating to say the least. So many deep-thinking and generous folks out there… how did we get by before? And yes- perhaps we’ll meet F2F. Going to NECC?


      • @nashworld, I go to the Buildling Learning Communities conference July 27 – 29th in Boston. I haven’t had funding to go to NECC, but have attended several streamed events.

        • @raine22, Yes… I’m seriously going to have to look at that one. There have been enough positive comments about it here to cause one to take notice.

  13. @ Matt & @indigo196, These are excellent comments… I thank you both for commenting in both places. You really do help me prove what an amazing thing it is to cultivate a PLN. These are two of the best responses (in my opinion) I have yet received to this post.

    And yes- I could agree more on the idea that few teachers who think they want to use a “blog”… really know what that means. I try to steer many of them into what I call “blogging lite” on Ning networks which also feature really solid discussion forums. It does irk me to see member of my school network post things to the blog that are meant to be discussion starters… and then post (as you nicely put it) individual expressions into the discussion forum. I try really hard to differentiate the two entities. I use discussion forums far more than blog posts on my Principles of Biology network, as evidenced within the link.

    There are some of the new instructional nuances of the 21st Century (or at least the past two years).

    Excellent posts by both of you for such different reasons!

  14. “If they are to become 21st Century Teachers, they must first become 21st Century Learners and not 19th Century Learners in the 21st Century.”

    I totally agree with Nathan on this one. Not only do teachers need to learn to learn how to use technology in their pedagogical practice, but their administrators MUST have a foundational knowledge, or better yet a tremendous desire and motiviation for them their teachers to gain a foundational knowledge, that it drives the building into action.

    I think the most powerful learning event for me was TPCK. It made the educational part of using the computer for more than emailing each other a reality. Finally, to share more than a memo. To tie that to what we do every day, to what we spent years building in content knowledge, and to a tool that we all know intrigues and motivates kids more than any other tool right now (besides cell phones, of course) — well that’s makes for one perfect PD storm!

    As far as who…my list includes McCloud, Mishra, Richardson and Burrell. But, as I truly reflect on who really changed my mindset on use of technology in education (besides you, of course) it would have to be David Warlick. I will never forget my first NECC experience when I first heard him speak. He’s true.

    How to go about this is our district? That’s a tough one. I think it takes a commitment, for one. Our cohort has been a true pilot in this very scenario. Like Nathan said, the most powerful tool was our learning from each other. Our cohort was fortunate; we had you to seed our learning, direct our path, and constantly integrating our learning. A true instructional coach.

    I also think it takes administration to coach a staff through this — sort of like coaching with teeth to it. Accountability to learning always increases the event.

    And before I get too long winded…we can’t forget to continue to see what our students want and need to learn as far as their own technology skills, but also to increase not only their motivation to learn, but their venue of display of their learning. Let’s just ask them.


    • @Jeanette Westfall, this is so true:
      “I also think it takes administration to coach a staff through this — sort of like coaching with teeth to it. Accountability to learning always increases the event.”

      It does help to have admin. buy-in. In fact, I would say it helps move from a small set of interested staff members… to a faculty-wide conversation. I am excited for next year.

  15. Just read through it. Looks like you’ve got some great advice already! As for conferences, I’ve got a few suggestions for different reasons.

    1) Building Learning Communities: While it isn’t practical or what I would consider to be very hands on, you do get a very healthy dose of “WHY” we should be doing this stuff. Great for stubborn administrators, to get them on board.
    2) METC is good, NECC is good. But I’d consider sending some people to PETE&C. I’ve been to a lot of conferences, I think it’s a really solid one. Great keynotes, they have some incredible presenters, and LOTS of opportunities to break bread with people and network. I think it has a much more of a family feel to it than many other conferences, and it can certainly back it up when it comes to quality of sessions. Other’s that I’m a big fan of are MACUL and ICE. MACUL is a large conference that still manages to feel small, with lots of community input and serendipitous opportunities. ICE is one of the countries best kept secrets. They are adept at bringing in some of the biggest names on the conference circuit…. several years before they become big names. They truly are masters at finding the diamond’s in the rough.
    3) Bringing people in: Really depends on your needs. For inspiration in “get you all riled up” sort of way, Alan November is great. For a “she’s actually practicing what everyone is is preaching” type inspiration, Vicki Davis is perfect. For pure inspiration, technology or practicality aside, both Rafe Esquith and Sir Ken Robinson (both of whom I’ve just recently seen) are phenomenal. The founders of Taking It Global are a little off the map, but they keynoted NECC several years ago and I think they have a great message for teachers about ‘digital natives’ and such.

    And in all seriousness, one person mentioned ‘anybody from Discovery.” We’re doing a lot more PD now. We have a pretty solid cadre of speakers that can hit a broad variety of needs. If yer interested in going the Discovery route, we could tailor things to suit your needs, both practical and higher level.

    Or send me an invitation. Buy me breakfast and I’ll talk all day 😉

    Good luck!

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