Sunday, October 21, 2007

Whether or not you know me, we need to be friends. Together we can improve schools. I know we can!

I want to thank Karen Janowski for making me aware of a post on Darren Draper's blog Drape's Takes: Our Fearless Leaders - Technologically Incompetent? In the post Darren speaks of his trip to present at a conference.

... I had the privilege of presenting (thrice) with Margo Shirley and Kathy Ridd at the National Federation of Urban & Suburban School Districts conference. The small, annual conference attracts an elite crowd of superintendents, school board members, and other high-ranking district administrators from various school districts across the United States.

I am a superintendent in Massachusetts, and although I did not attend the NFUSSD conference, I have recently had many experiences that confirm Darren's experience. He goes onto say...

While presenting, I was struck (and rather severely) with the realization that many (certainly not all, but many) of the participants in the conference had extremely limited technology skills. Furthermore, this realization had even greater effect as I better understood to whom I was presenting: Remember, these participants were educational leaders (superintendents and the like) of school districts throughout the country. Indeed, I was literally awestruck as I was forced to throttle back my discussion (almost to the point of that famous right-clicking lesson), in order to help several of the participants to understand.

Last summer I was totally unaware of the extent of the paradigm shift that is going on in the world of Web 2.0 and so readily experienced through the stellar creativity, ingenuity, and drive of so many educators who have built the free and open online world at currently happening on the internet. I was not technologically illiterate. I had a laptop; I know how to use much of the typical Microsoft tools and used them when appropriate; I used Wikipedia; I had tried blogging and a wiki (a little). Then I met Alan November at a technology conference for superintendents. Alan's message had nothing to do with the sales pitches I heard over those two days. There was something new and unusually insightful about what he was saying.

Fortunately for me, Alan became interested in helping my school district with a project we were trying to do with the scientific institutions in Woods Hole, a village of Falmouth, Massachusetts, so, along the way, I began to learn about his Building Learning Communities (BLC) Conference he had each summer in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for the same week as the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) executive conference in July 2007. Many superintendents and assistant superintendents go to the MASS conference each you and I was one of them. Summer 2007 I decided to go to BLC -- and am I glad I did. Publicly, I have said in many venues that it was a life changing experience for me, not because of the technology, but because of educators developing the incredible plethora of possibilities the new technological tools - and I mean something new is happening in this field daily it seems - have for pedagogy.

Here is a video that will give you a glimpse of the new story of learning; it is what I and 600 other educators experienced at the BLC 2007 conference. It introduces you to the educators who are in touch with the paradigm shift and using it to invigorate their classes, engaging students in powerful learning experiences through the application of technology tools. Notice the technology, but pay attention to the pedagogy threaded through the comments of these educational leaders. If you are in a school, I need to let you know that it is a link to a YouTube video so you will only be able to see it if is not blocked in your school. View it at home if that is a problem. It's worth the trouble.

November Learning's Building Communities Conference 2007

At the conference I attended Darren Kuropatwa's workshop Thinking About Innovation in Education or Learning the Guitar. I remember thinking to myself, well, that was interesting, but the more my mind tried to move onto the content of other workshop's that day I kept coming back to what Darren showed me about the technology tools, the pedagogy, and what and how his students were engaging in learning... and Darren's presentation modeled everything he was saying about Web 2.0. As the conference continued, I began to develop a context for appreciating the other presenters' workshops, but I could not stop thinking about what Darren Kuropatwa was saying and doing. So...I attended the other two workshops that Darren gave: New Tools, New Pedagogies: What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before? and New Tools, New Pedagogies: Developing Expert Voices. What an eye opening experience! He's a great teacher. To see these presentations, search for Darren Kuropatwa's work on, a new tool that Darren told me about in the workshop so I could, as he said, take away what he was having us experience and go home and apply it in my schools.

I have not stopped thinking about that three day conference. In my opening presentation to the staff of the Falmouth MA Public Schools in August 2007 I took everything I learned during the conference and during my reflections on the experience and combined it with the ideas I was developing while reading Stephanie Pace Marshall's new book The Power to Transform, to create a presentation modeled after Darren's presentations. I called it The New Story of Learning or Thinking about Abundance, Creativity, Interdependence, and Wholeness.

Darren Drapers' blog post that prompted this post references The Partnership for 21st Century Skills' framework of 21st Century Skills. I have been speaking about that framework for two years; actually the current framework is actually a revised version. I summarize it in a post below.

I developed a wiki that I won from Darren that week and then I got involved in trying to publicize this world of Web 2.0 pedagogy through telling anyone who would listen about the K12 Online Conference: Massachusetts superintendents and assistant superintendents, ASCD Leadership Council representatives from the 50 states and many counties in the world, my own school district's Instructional Leadership, MASCD's Board of Directors, participants in the state STEM Summit IV, and a gathering of 200 educational leaders who were convened to discussed The Future of Education in Massachusetts by the Governor's Educational Adviser, the chairpersons of the Board of Higher Education, the state's boards of K-12 education and early childhood and the commissioner of education Chancellor of the Board of Higher Education. I spoke after the presentations and said I had no questions or comments because I generally agreed with the speakers views. Instead, I wanted to offer them a solution that could dramatically transform the experiences in classrooms throughout the state. I spoke about my experiences with Web 2.0 and told them I have a model through which they could experience what I was speaking about, I would like to be able to say that I had a positive response; they were polite, but only 5 people approached me during the break to say they appreciated my comments and planned to visit the site. You need to know that I was the only one who had a laptop out at that meeting (internet access only if you had a means other than your laptop to receive the password that would be sent to you to access the internet through your laptop) and that was generally the same at the Massachusetts STEM Summit IV (no internet access), and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges and The Center for Secondary School Redesign's Showcase of Model High School Programs Conference (internet access available if you asked and were given a sheet of directions that took a few minutes to implement). The comment, "Web 2.0? It's not on the radar screen!" comes to mind.

Thanks to the generous people associated with K12Online; I am slowly becoming familiar with their world. Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach was very kind to help me during a Skype session we scheduled because I had so many questions. "I need twitter friends," I told Sheryl. "How do I reach out into the "twitterverse" and make friends who can help me learn about this "parallel universe?" Sheryl helped me a great deal, but now a suggestion. I need more friends and so do others looking to learn what we can from you so we can generate new knowledge as we interact. Follow me on twitter if you want to help me so I can follow you and watch you think about this world and reflect and contribute to the community conversation ~ that's the only way we can continue learning. All I can promise is to be your friend, do my part in this movement, and continue learning, modeling and trying to help students, educators and others with a stake in or authority over education in Massachusetts, the USA, and the world. dennisar.


Darren Draper said...


It looks like you're in company. Alan, Sheryl, and the other Darren in ed-tech are all very sharp and have done great work.

It's also exciting to see how you've chosen to implement technology into the things that you are doing in your district. Keep up the good work - I think it will be well worth your efforts.

Dennis Richards said...

We are doing some creative projects in the district. It is fun learning about the new tools, trying them out, and then passing on what I learn to others.

I will continue to find new ways to do that.

Thanks for the comment.

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