Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nary a Soul Need be Wary

Inspiration is a good thing at the close of a solar/ceasarian calendar year.

I typically receive a good dose of inspiration from Dr. Scott McLeod; this is particularly the case when he is encouraging readers to be wary of outside consultants. This is what I do for a living, and his thoughtful reflection led me inspired me to reflect on my ethics, even if not in his echelon of public speaking nor a member of the National Speakers Association.

Can I assert that I have pledged myself to:
  • honesty and integrity
  • pursue my profession and education to the end that service to my clients shall always be maintained at the highest level
  • to seek and maintain equitable honorable, and cooperative association with fellow members . . . of my business and professional life
  • to comply with the standards . . . as set forth by th[e] code of Professional Ethics
I need a few days to mull it over for a truly accurate self-reflection. I also look forward to redefining my personal mission statement to make sure all is where it should be for 2009.

Happy New Year. God bless us, one and all

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Many Roads Lead to Roam

I thought I'd share some of "the places I've visited" as my blog post. Mind you, this isn't all of them, as they emerged from a list of prompts. I remember summer vacations of youth, in the back of the station wagon headed to fulfill a mother's dream to visit all 50 U.S. states. We nearly made it; it was a job in Alaska that took me to a conference in Hawaii where I fulfilled the destiny of this legacy.

Now, I'm blessed to travel the world as part of my job. After a recent 8-week tour I returned to Portland, not surprised that it is still not home without my husband there! When reuniting with friend & career coach Marti, she shared that she would be curious to see my virtual map. I updated this through my facebook page, inspired by friend Amanda's really full map and hoping mine would begin to compare.

The results are below, with miles to go before I sleep . . .

car image from http://fuselage.de/index.html?http://www.fuselage.de/ply73/station.html

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Slept as the World Changed

Has it really been nearly three months since my last blog post?

I have absolved myself from guilt - even with a new purpose in September to blog more regularly. I have been at my Portland base 10 days since September 9th - only two of those were non-consecutive weekend days.

I am melded to my laptop, so it's not a matter of being removed from the digital community. However, since my last blog post, I feel as though, perhaps in a dream:

  • The U.S. elected a President who has the potential to inspire beyond what Kennedy or King did.
  • The blogosphere shriveled up and went inactive - or maybe I just stopped reading my RSS feeds?
  • Twitter slowed down - or maybe I couldn't stomach reading all the racist comments in the public twitville after McCain conceded
  • I realized there were other priorities in my job demanding immediate focus beyond making sure we were present in web 2.0-ville.
Or perhaps, it is as my friend Jeff said:

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I just think the landscape of what blogging is, is changing.

What brought me back?

I logged into Twitter, and my friend Andy Torris had a link to his post.
I wanted to comment on his post but became instantly ashamed when it asked for my website.
I decided if I was going to comment and list my blog, I darn sure better have something recent.
I read Jeff's post to see where his thoughts had been lately - even though I was a Skype guest with his Grade 5 class as they were creating audiobooks for kindergartners.

I was also pulled back by Sanjana of AS Bombay's way of introducing first and second graders to the world of blogging . . . and I just *had* to start following @dearlibrariAnn once we met ftf after she starting following me from a mutual friend - @adecardy's twits.

I fell asleep and the world seemed to change. Then I woke up and realized I can still jump on the train and ride to my heart's content.

Let's do away with that phrase "The train is coming - either get on board or get left behind". There is nothing wrong with stopping to smell the roses and trusting there'll be another train coming through the station soon - that's why the station was built!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fine line between school bashing and reflection

Early Sunday morning, I was led to join a SecondLife pre-conference and was enjoying the conversation and chats until I became irritated by the sweeping generalizations regarding what teachers will and will not do to propel, no support their students in this century. (Aside - eight years in, we can stop projecting what 21st Century learning should look like and start reflecting on what it really is).

As an educational consultant supporting both U.S. and international schools, I admit I am occasionally frustrated with educators who aren't familiar with what one might consider as the basics of computer/network navigation. However, upon realization of missing skills or understanding, it then becomes my responsibility to maximize the teachable moment, not to critcize them for what they don't know they don't know! I marvel how some will readily scaffold learning experiences and adapt instructional practices for students but become aghast at the prospect of doing so for adult learners.

As I mention what "some will readily do", I can't help but arrogantly wonder if my Quit It! reply was referenced when Scott McLeod questioned "some " as a rebuttal to the following:

Teachers aren’t integrating digital technologies into their instruction on
a regular basis.

Let's continously facilitate teacher learning on how to do so. Let's introduce them to tools so accessible and so exciting that they continue the exploration on their own, even if it means staying up until 1:00 AM to own them well enough to use them!

The administrators who are in charge of leading their school organizations into the information age don’t really understand the information age.
Let's meet them where they are in the midst of multiple pressures and initiatives (mandates!) and provide them with enough exemplar IT/Ed Tech plans and dialogs until they clearly see the customized vision for their school. Let's encourage/lead them to meet in digital spaces and engage them in conversations about systemic changes that are most meaningful to them right now. Let's hyperlink them to blogs and wikis until they are so addicted to their personal learning network, their days aren't complete until their feeder is empty.

Schools aren’t providing the types of learning experiences necessary to prepare
students to be 21st century citizens and workers.

Is the community aware of what it expects from its schools? Does it support new initiatives and take responsibility for leading rather than supressing-by-challenging innovation?

I would assert that among the schools I'm entitled to work with and visit, for every one where the above statements might be true, I can point to three others where they couldn't be more inaccurate. I can identify small class movements within a seemingly stagnant school which are aggressively transforming educational practices to reflect 21st Century education using embedded technology as a tool to enhance relevant content and strong instructional practices. I would rather highlight this classroom and teacher than focusing on the less in-tuned one.

The microtrends happening in pockets of these "failing" schools, according to Mark Penn, can be enough to spark a social movement or produce political change.

I plead guilty to using "some" or "many" to rebut what I view as teacher-bashing over-generalizations. Let me justify the reminder that what is true for some or many is rarely true for: this child of the 1960's riots and revolutionary changes, still trembles with angst when I hear sweeping generalizations applied to groups. Please, judge me on the content of my classroom, not the "color" of my school system. Hearing "this school" or "these past six schools I visited" seems a more appropriate and accurate reflection of educational systemic assessments than a broad brush stroke which obliterates the intricate details of a work-in-progress.

If we who are educators denigrate our own profession or professionals, how can we expect others to hold it in the esteem due an occupation that directly impacts children?

. . .and cue soundtrack for this musical called "life":

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are You Ready?

When contemplating my own level of preparedness for the plunge, the old childhood chant comes to mind:

One for the money - Two for the show
Three to get ready, and Four to go!

Photo courtesy of creative commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/d10b/
I took advantage of the holiday weekend to catch up on my RSS feeds. How desperately I need to get on a schedule to do this regularly, but 10 days in four Asian countries followed by 7 days on the west coast and ending with 8 days in India is enough to help me feel justified for irregularities in my rituals.

Irrespective of my personal wars, Janet Lee Johnson has been absolutely inspiring over the past few weeks! I enjoy following her on twitter and seeing the world of public relations and interconnectivity through her eyes, but it was downright comforting to hear her echo my friend and former colleague, Jeff Utecht, regarding strategies for increasing blog visibility. One of her recommendations rang particularly familiar: the trackback to the Technorati Profile as an absolute must.

So now I must fill out another profile. Call me lazy, but it will temporarily be a cut-and-paste from the presenter bio for an upcoming workshop at the Near East South Asia (NESA) conference in Amman, Jordan. I have joined so many networks, filled out so many profiles, and attached so many pictures, I feel as though I just came from a wine and cheese in a new position.
(image from NESA Center Gallery - Spring Educators' Conference)
I'm not complaining. I'm thankful that web 2.0 matches what Debbie Silva would call my ADD-OS personality (Attention Deficit Disor . . . . OOOOOH! SPARKLIES!!!). I can flit and float from network to network, finding what this still-creative mind craves for the moment.

Yet I wonder if I'm ready to make the bold commitment. Do I want a following on my blog (do I have one and not know it? Gotta upload that new Google gadget!). Most importantly: do I want to make the commitment to be an ongoing part of very meaningful conversations that, when done at the level of Janet's or Jeff's or my friend Andy's can inspire thought and excellence.
Yes. I'm ready. To learn.
Yes, I'm ready, to love.

To fall into the blog
To keep up with the blog
To commit to the blog
Right now.
If you can name the tune from which those lyrics are borrowed/tweaked, than your as much of a dinosaur as I am.

Let's keep it real: That which doesn't kill me will only make me stronger. Crank it up, y'all!

See you next week! Leave a thought or two.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Signs of the Season

Summer vacation is over in International Education. At the office, we might as well install a revolving door to accommodate the upcoming travels of me and my colleagues. I joking bid a co-consultant goodbye with a hope to see her in September as we integrate our Curriculum Mapping system trainings into the start of the academic year.

Recently, have been deeply inspired by an Asian International School so closely wedded to excellence, they purchased our tool. What was inspiring is that curriculum mapping was not used to create change in their school or lead toward improvement, but because the practices they have already established needed what my firm offers to maximize their pre-scheduled time focused on designing and refining their curriculum.

Although I desperately miss my husband, as my "home base" and travels currently require that we live apart, I love my job, which provides me the opportunities to travel (on this trip) to places like Malaysia, the Phillipines, Singapore and Taiwan. I am tickled to goose-bump level to see people more excited than me about designing curriculum that will improve student learning.

The seasons of my life have changed from a classroom to consulting full time. As I learned of the need to be an educational teacher-leader to become the change I wanted to see in education, I am now learning that I need to persevere as a consulting leader to become the change that others need to see in our field. I'm excited by the podcasts we're producing and the way our borders are reaching out to share best practices at the speed of change, but with change happening so quickly, how will we keep up? I know many of you have seen this video countless times, but it reminds me, humbly, how rapidly our world changes.

Whether or not we manage to keep up or catch up, I am thankful for the opportunities to see outstanding and committed educators collaborating to do what's best for their students.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

On the Road Again

I still marvel that I've accumulated more miles this year an educational consultant (this after 13 years in k-12 education and three as an adjunct college lecturer/performing artist) than all of my traveling years as an international educator.

Usually, I put the headphones on, tune out the world, and focus on preparations for/follow-up from the school I've gone to visit. This usually devolves into mind-numbing airline entertainment or a fast movie/TV series on the laptop or ipod. This vacation trip to Phoenix was different - my aisle mate was otherwise occupied, but once the conversation began, I didn't want to "tune out".

He too is an educator at a charter school in Phoenix. His passion for the profession was inspiring and reminded me of the good old days. However, it was his inquiry into my job teaching internationally that inspired this blog.

My friend, Amanda DeCardy summarizes it beautifully. I echo the sentiments on benefits to the family. The only addition I would make is the opportunity to meet wonderfully dedicated professionals with global perspectives and an appetite for cultural experiences and exchanges.

The world is flat, but it is through exchanges offered in international posts that we can physicalize the virtual connections available.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tools of the Trade

What started as a comment to Andy Torris' blog turned into a post of its own. Because I know this educational leader values the opinions of others, I left it there, in the comments, but wanted to share the context with you.

“The U.S. Department of Commerce ranked 55 industry sectors by their level of IT intensiveness. Education ranked was ranked 55- the lowest. Behind coal-mining.”
Before we completely fault educators, I'd like to make a comparison between three industries in which I worked:

Higher Education:
Resident Director at a major research institution - provided with a desktop computer and access to the "BBS" (OK, so I'm a dinosaur!)

Given the option of a low-interest loan in a payroll deduction to purchase my own personal computer. The loan amount had limits.

Consulting Firm:
Provided with a laptop computer and international mobile phone upon arrival (latest bells and whistles).

The expectations of my expected use of technology both during and outside of work hours were clear by the resources provided. Most schools wouldn't expect a teacher to walk into a room without text books (hopefully this is changing) and a teacher's manual to accompany them. We won't even name those schools whose provision of technological resources are so scarce that teachers use their own money to purchase digital projectors. If educators are truly expected to embed technology into instruction and learning, give them the tools - not just available in the classroom - that they need to do so.

There have been few changes to the expectation that educators do more with less, particularly in US public education. School calendars, expected outcomes, scheduling, even teacher training and professional development are still shaped by the industrial model of education. The changes to adapt to 21st Century learners will be implemented by educators but the really metamorphosis is at an institutional level, most critical at institutions of teacher preparation and certification.

Main point: provide educational professionals with the tools of their dynamic trade. Outside of photosynthesis and those things created to imitate the process, very little happens by osmosis.

Friday, May 9, 2008

If they made you, they can't be all bad!

A strategic planning consultant asked a reticent group to introduce themselves, sharing the last book they read or the last original thought the remembered having. We all chose books.

Jeff Utecht, through the twitter universe, led me to a 2006 TED speech by Sir Ken Robinson

An entertaining and thought provoking video, but as a former music educator - in a state-run school (since we have no "national education system in the U.S.), I respectfully disagree.

We need to stop beating up our educational system. I have had a rich life - rich in wonderfully creative experiences and opportunities, and guess what? I am a full-blown product of public education! My 3rd grade teacher nurtured my creativity in poetry while Ms. Strozier nurtured my love of instrumental music and Ms. Robinson gave me chances to sing. As I travel to different schools, I see so many loving and dedicated educators just like the teachers I have. Yet we tend to focus more on what' missing than what is or what could be.

We blame the educational system for our human shortcomings. Schools can nurture all the
creativity they want, but if parents tell kids to "cut that racket out" once they get home or farm them out to activities that keep them too tired to find the time to create, the morning has been nearly nullified.

No matter what the educational system may have been "designed" to produce, it is powered by individuals. In the paraphrased words of a former administrator, "Forget the curriculum - teach these kids to enjoy their time making music with you".

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Will this be on the test?

OK, dharter, you win.

I had discovered the thrill of blogging while taking Jeff's class. Then work realities hit, and blogging just wasn't a "priority" anymore. But in this beautifully interconnected universe, I could no longer bear a most recent post touting my my mom's new Christmas Nano.

As I prepare for my first ASCD convention, I wonder what lies ahead for curriculum and curriculum mapping. I can't deny that technological advances make our lives more accessible to more people and information more accessible to us, but accessibility doesn't change the substance of our needs or needed skills.

Working with educators rather than students provides many opportunities for questioning the path of education. Nonetheless, our technology shouldn't dictate the content of what we teach; it is merely a tool to accelerate our discovery learning.

Wiggins and McTighe use etymology in understanding curriculum - as the course to be run, given a desired endpoint. Until there are near-metaphysical changes in our destination (i.e., an academic degree leading to a job/career to support exisitence on earth), there will not be lasting change in the preparation toward this end - commonly known as k-12 education.

Richard Bach's biplane view of life offers winding roads filled with alternatives. He offers that Learning is finding out what you already know. Education should not restrict the path that students use in this discovery, but they need an aerial view of where the "course to run" is leading them

It is misleading, no matter how many different jobs a 21st Century student may face, to coax our students into believing that mastery of the traditional core subjects is anything other than necessary. How we lead them to discover those fundamentals can eternally morph, but without the possession of the knowledge and skills essential in a math, science, language, and arts education - traditional long before the industrial age - remains essential.