Monday, March 23, 2009

Using Twitter for PD Conversations

I was minding my own business last night, surfing the web and checking my twitter feeds when I saw a tweet that read:

hrmason: Heather Mason, 8th Language Arts, Merritt Island, FL, USA #educhat

I wondered why this person I was following just randomly identified herself in this way. I noticed the tag #educhat at the end and did a Twitter search for that term to find....

thorprichard: Yeah, #educhat is an informal live intl. discussion about education using Twitter.

At the search window, hundreds of education related tweets began scrolling. Some folks enjoyed finding new people...

@ScottElias: Best thing about #educhat - finding new ppl to follow!!

Others launched polls...

wgraziadei: What criteria do you use to follow (for that matter unfollow) a user? Poll #educhat

And many shared resources....

clinds: Just heard about LearnCentral in Live Classroom 2.0 Ning archive - looks like an amazing tool to collaborate w teachers-anyone try? #educhat

To review the content of this evening's chat or to share it with colleagues, use the hashtag at #educhat

And, about 1000 tweets later, we signed off with...
Educhat: Thank you for joining us. Please take the time to join us at our next meeting on April 6, 2009. Goodnight! #educhat

In addition to using Twitter to engage in backchannel conversations at conferences, this was my favorite use of Twitter.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

PDC Work - part 2

A few ideas I want to weave into the strategic stance I drafted in the last post.

1 - Sustained contact time on a single focus spread over time Consistent with a recent report titled "Professional Learning in the Learning Profession," our professional development center would emphasize choosing a focus, working together with a school for at least 50 hours and spread out over 6-12 months.

2 - People on the ground have the capacity to invent their own solutions This falls under our assets based approach. However, I think there are so many specific elements to the assets based approach that it warrants listing them out. The last post listed the concept of "positive deviance" and now we have the belief in the capacity of people to invent their own solutions. More can also be written on the "strengths based" movement, positive psychology, growth mindset, appreciative inquiry and learned optimism.

3 - Building teams in this work is a high leverage point More brains are better than one and only different perspectives can really produce new knowledge.

4 - Whatever theory or concept we are working on, it must be grounded in the work produced at the site Studying student work together or videotaping teacher practice provides the reality test when we are discussing more abstract concepts of differentiation, scaffolding, or project based learning. It takes far more disciplined energy to keep returning to our work than it does to have abstract debates on what works best for students. Our approach is more empirical.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Professional Development Center work

I'm drafting some ideas for how to best describe the strategy for The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock School. Here's what I've got so far.

Guiding principles: Assets based and actionable. We begin from a place of working with schools and organizations from the stance that they already have all they need to move closer to their vision. They may need someone like us to unearth their assets and identify signs of positive deviance. Further, we are strict about turning any insights into actions. We provide clear descriptions of what the folks in an organization must do rather than just describe outcomes.

Given these principles, we engage in the following strategies.

1 – We choose to work with strategic partners. These are organizations that have a highly developed infrastructure for working (a) with small public schools and (b) directly addressing issues of high school drop out rate and secondary school experience for the kinds of students we work with at Eagle Rock School. Amongst our current partners are The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), Alternative High School Initiative (AHSI) and the League of Democratic Schools (LoDS).

3- We partner strategically with technical assistance providers like PEBC and Buck Institute. They offer to either train us in their professional development or have us cofacilitate their work. That enables us to deliver our work having had the benefit of their high quality approach -- builds our capacity as trainers, adds value to ERS and adds values to the schools we work with. We are low to no-cost help to them as needed facilitators and we, in turn, learn from their work which is in high demand due to their quality and reputation.

3 – We are using our capacity to host visitors at our school site more effectively by working with fewer schools with whom we can conduct follow up visits. We combine the retreat nature created here while remaining embedded in a school environment. Our follow up visits to their school sites supports the needed contextualizing.

I will continue to flesh out these thoughts and develop a fuller strategy document.