Building a (Virtual) Learning Community – #T3Learns

Gotta ask…how are you using social media for learning? If you are teaching in isolation, what steps are you taking to build a learning network? What if your peers are all over the world rather than just in your building?

I spent the day facilitating mini-PD session on social media for 20 of my fellow T³ Instructors.  In the planning session, Kevin Spry (@kspry), Dale Philbrick (@dalephilbrick) and I decided to focus on Twitter and blogging.  How might we use social media in our PD sessions with teacher-learners? How might we use social media to enhance our own professional growth, model reflection, and share our learning?

Here’s the plan…but this is not the actual path…

As our friends arrived, we quickly learned that only a few were already using Twitter.  They chose to come to Atlanta today to learn.  Scrap the plan…teach where the learners are.

One of the hallmarks of a learning community is agreeing on and using a common language.  What if we learn by doing?  If you don’t know what @jgough or #T3Learns does for you in a tweet, then today is the day to learn it.  We learned by doing (tweeting), making mistakes and correcting them.

We discussed how to use Twitter to mashup reflection, brain-based learning strategies, and formative assessment and then we practiced.

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Once we’d worked on hashtags and handles, I wanted these learners to tweet pictures.  The TI-Nspire offers learners the opportunity to embed a photo in a graph screen and graph over the image to prototype functions to fit the object.  Just look at the progress made over the short morning timeframe.

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In the afternoon we discussed blogging as a reflection tool and as a communication tool.  If we are working with teachers from all over the country, how do we support their learning after the workshop or institute is over?  What if we learn and share in public? We looked at three examples of how this might look:

What if we modeled reflection and learning by writing one post a week to share an activity that inspired growth and thinking? What if our participants could “dial in” to our thinking and process as the year progresses? What if we share with a wider audience?

So…then we practiced.

If I go back to our original learning plan, we covered everything on the list. We followed the learners to lead them to more understanding and confidence in social media.

Here’s some of the feedback:

[Today] allowed me to explore a new-to-me technology at a relaxed pace, being able to get questions answered, not just see an expert “do their thing.”  So I found out a little about “why I might want to use this” and a lot about “can I personally actually do it?

This opportunity provided the time to explore and practice.  I had tried once before to tweet but did not gain confidence.  I won’t say that I did not have support the first time, but it was not at a time or place where it was easy or convenient to ask for help.  Everyone in attendance at Westminster was so willing to put down their work and assist me with my issues.  That is what I love about good professional learning and collaboration.

I liked the way the day was sculptured to meet the needs of the participants.  Very much like your analogy of the classroom, moving on and “covering” the material does no good if you are leaving many behind.

How might we learn and grow together? What if we leverage social media to communicate and collaborate when we cannot be face-to-face?

Feedback, coaching, and support – An example of how it can and should be

When learners test themselves, what feedback do they receive?
What feedback should they receive?

I arrived at Trinity Saturday morning for the annual Trinity Fun Run/Walk.  We were also celebrating the opening of our new track.  I was teaching a workshop on social media later Saturday morning, so I parked outside the gate and walked in.

Our PE team ROCKS!

I was met by the images you see in the photo gallery below.

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What if all learning events carried this much coaching and support? What if all feedback loops were designed with intention to motivate and encourage success? How might we transfer these messages to paths of learning in other disciplines?

The English Connection – #LL2LU with #WALearns & @lottascales – Feedback

Yesterday, Shelley (@lottascales) and I facilitated a day-long learning session for Woodward Academy’s English Connection on Leading Learners to Level Up.  While we did accomplish everything on our lesson plan, we used the questions of these 20 learners to chart a path that was slightly different from our intended path. I love when this happens.  I always want to be responsive to the learners way of thinking to lead by following.  Almost always we accomplish the same tasks but in an order that makes sense to the learner rather than the teacher.

After introductions and the 4-minute overview of Leading Learners to Level Up, we offered an experience with leveled assessment using fractions.

I really expected to have tomatoes thrown at me, but that did not happen.  There was some anxiety, but that is normal. Our students experience this everyday, right?  When everyone had completed the assessment, I asked if they could tell me what they could do? Yes. I asked if they knew how to ask for help using specific language? Yes.  That is the point, right?

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At the break, the magic of this type of communication happened.  Before going to break, several learners collaborated to continue to work on the fractions assessment.  It was awesome!

How might we bright spot or highlight what learners know rather than what they do not know? What if we design learning progressions that help our learners understand what they can do and know how to ask for help to move to the next level?

“In order to engage in high-quality assessment, teachers need to first identify specific learning targets and then to know whether the targets are asking students to demonstrate their knowledge, reasoning skills, performance skills, or ability to create a quality product. The teacher must also understand what it will take for students to become masters of the learning targets.   It is not enough that the teacher knows where students are headed; the students must also know where they are headed, and both the teacher and the students must be moving in the same direction.” (Conzemius, O’Neill,  66 pag.)

We embrace doing the work in the workshop, so we set about writing prototypes of learning progressions.  We asked each teacher-learner to take about 15 minutes to draft a learning progression for his or her classroom. At the end of approximately 15 minutes, we invited someone to be interviewed for the fishbowl exercise.  Carrie Edmison (@Edmison3rdGrade) volunteered to discuss her draft with me for some questions and coaching. Carrie had lots of questions as did I. We discussed her thinking and discovered that she needed two Level 2 items to guide learners to Level 3.  Carrie indicated that she could go from there to write a second draft.  Linda Freeman stepped up for the second round of the fishbowl.  As Linda shared her learning progression out loud with me, she immediately redrafted.  It was awesome! Isn’t it interesting how hearing someone else’s thinking and then literally hearing yourself can help refine your work?

Now that two rounds of the fishbowl were complete, we transitioned to working in pairs to learn from and with each other.  We shared our learning progressions and asked questions to help clarify thinking.

After lunch, we broadened our opportunity for feedback by completing a gallery walk.  Each teacher-learner read every learning progression and left feedback using Post-it Notes.  We used the prompts I like…, I wish, I wonder/What if…  to offer positive, constructive, and directed feedback.

The two  comments that standout for me after the gallery walk was how helpful the I wonder… Post-its were and how valuable the feedback was in helping refine the learning progressions again.  I heard I like how this is written; I’m going to change mine to be more like this.  Shelley reminded us that constructive and directed feedback will help improve our learning progressions.  After sorting her feedback, Rhonda Nichols (@Dimes_2) commented that the three Post-it notes that resonated with her the most started with I wonder. We help each other learn and grow when we offer positive, constructive, and directed feedback.

After this revision, we took the time to digitize our learning progression drafts in a common Google doc so that our work was shared with everyone.

During our final hour together, we brainstormed ways of calibrating and collecting artifacts that could serve as examples for each level in a learning progression.  We discussed next steps and plan to meet again in two weeks.

Here’s a sample of the comments from the collected feedback:

Even though this process seems overwhelming, I am so excited to be involved with this very important process!  The whole concept of Leading Learners will benefit the teachers as well as the students.  It is a win/win situation that will empower me as a facilitator in the classroom.  Thank you!

I like the practical. I am already revising my rubrics so they are more “student” friendly with the language – and not so judgmental. I love that we started with that and then ended with practical. I am writing my lesson plans for next week to begin this process.

I wish that I understood better how this will work with the faculty in my building.

I want to know more about what the children are doing at each level, what kinds of knowledge they are coming in with, and how I can support their learning at the next level.

I can hardly wait until we meet again.  I agree that this will get easier each time we practice.


Conzemius, Anne; O’Neill, Jan. The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2006. Print.

The English Connection – #LL2LU with #WALearns & @lottascales

How might we mashup leveled assessment, clarity of expectations, and alignment of curriculum? There is so much to do that we need our work to serve multiple purposes.  What if we meet together as a team to discuss, describe, and build prototypes of learning progressions in student friendly language?

I had the privilege of working with Woodward Academy’s English Connection to investigate these ideas.  Shelley Paul, Woodward’s Director of Learning Design, a.k.a @lottascales, and I facilitated a day-long professional development opportunity for 20 Woodward faculty-learners to experiment and learn.

Our learning plan for the day:

I like the learning plan.  It mirrors the original plan for Leading Learners to Level Up with much richer detail and use of technology way to communicate and collaborate.

I wonder if our plan will help Woodward’s teacher-learners engage in the process and feel confident as they begin the important process to align curriculum both vertically and horizontally.

I want to know more about teaching reading and writing and how it progresses as a young learner grows through our school from Kindergarten through their senior year.

Shelley and I have done some homework.  We have practiced this process with Dee Koscik (@koscikd) and with Peggy McNash (@pmcnash). We also met with the English Connection core committee members to discuss and overview the process.

In my next post, I will share our experience during the session and the feedback from the teacher-learners.  Stay tuned…

Perseverance, Tenacity, Risk-taking – #LL2LU with @k8burton

Kate Burton (@k8burton), our science goddess, and I have been discussing assessment.  One of the many things I love and admire about Kate is her willingness to experiment to learn and grow.  The label science goddess makes many giggle, but she approaches everything through the lens of a scientist.  What if we experiment with an assessment plan? What if we use the Leading Learners to Level Up philosophy to communicate expectations and a path to grow? What if we experiment with a system of feedback that includes self-assessment, peer-to-peer and teacher assessment?

Kate and I met Wednesday morning to talk about Leading Learners to Level Up and how she might incorporate it into her assessment plan.  It was awesome!  I’m sure I expected to talk about the scientific method and the content of her course.  Kate came with a list of what she areas of growth for her student-learners.  Her list included persistence, tenacity,  curiosity, attitude, communication, open to constructive criticism, and the ability to ask questions.  She uses science content to teach and model these learning targets.

Using an interview method, she talked and I took (messy) notes as fast as I could write.  Kate started with her list and elaborated to offer me context and additional information.  The interview protocol really calls for me to listen and reflect back what I hear.  I should not interject my experience. I should listen for what is important to the interviewee.  I failed twice and told a story.  I am not the interviewer I will become.

After collecting lots of notes, we noticed two areas where Kate added more detail while we were talking.  Together, we discussed perseverance and tenacity and what Kate would like to encourage in her learners.  Our draft for the target for perseverance and tenacity is that every child will be able to say (and d0):

I can keep working when things go wrong to learn from the process.  I can learn from the experience and try again.

But, what if I can’t? What if I am not there yet? What can I do to get on a path to success? And, what if I’m already there? What can I do to level up?  Here’s our first draft of a learning progression to lead learners to level up.

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We also worked on risk-taking.  Our draft for the target for risk-taking is that every child will be able to say (and d0):

I can risk being wrong to test my ideas and strategies and appreciate what I gan through my risks.

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What if we post these where our young learners can see and refer to them?  Will they be able to calibrate where they are and ask Kate questions to learn and grow?  Will they begin to coach each other? How will having a common vocabulary and understanding influence this learning community?

These are drafts.  We intend to ask our learners for their feedback. We’d also love to know what you think.  Please leave us a comment if you can and will add to our thinking.

PD: Reading and Assessment – Learning Together – feedback progress

We met yesterday to discuss next steps in our work and learning on reporting progress, learning, and growth.  Our lesson plan (agenda) had to differentiated for different groups of faculty.

I am working to be better at differentiation for the 90+ faculty.  I was more successful yesterday, but I still have lots of room for growth.  The plan differentiated for our teachers of 3s and Pre-K, teachers of K-4th grade, teachers of Specials, and teachers of 5th-6th grade.  I failed to have a formal differentiated plan for our Learning Team and our Media Team.  Fortunately, the Learning Team was proactive and submitted a lesson plan for themselves. <awesome!>

At 12:30, Dawn Pile (@DawnPile), our Early Elementary Division Head of School, reminded us that progress report for our youngest learner was revamped just a couple of years ago. These teacher-learners used the rest of the meeting to learn more together about supporting and building e-portfolios for our 3s and Pre-K children.  Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach), our Personalized Learning Specialist, highlighted work already being done and outlined a workflow strategy to record this work into the children’s MyLearning portfolios. It was awesome!  A real mashup of PD, sharing ideas, and strategies.  The questions were immediate and specific.  How do I… What app should I use… Will you help me… It could not have been better for these teachers. The feedback was great.  Here are a few comments that stood out for me:

Rhonda helped me to understand the many different ways I can use Evernote besides posting pictures and videos previously taken. Very useful!!

Rhonda generated ideas to get us moving on the My Learning notebooks. she also helped us with ways to move photos and videos into notebooks.

I have never used Evernote and need all the information I can get.  Also, the timing of this meeting was perfect.  It will jumpstart us to begin document our students progress.

At 3:30, Maryellen Berry (@fastwalker10), our Upper Elementary Division Head of School, Dawn, and I reviewed the work and ideation from last year and discussed the results from the latest faculty feedback.  We talked about the request from faculty to have a mashup of the ideas from our ideation.  Since the group was so big and so diverse, we then transitioned into three small groups.  Maryellen and Dawn met with Specials teachers; Rhonda facilitated the K-4th grade session, and I worked with the 5th and 6th grade teams.  I was very encouraged at our progress as the meetings concluded, but what would the feedback say?

I liked that it felt like our feedback and suggestions were listened to and acted upon. (This is a really bad sentence but I don’t know how to word it better.) I liked having a discussion of what it might look like.

I was able to see the different perspectives of progress reports and assessments from my fellow colleagues, which I really enjoyed!  We are all different and have different, unique, and important ways to see our children and communicate with families.

Honestly– I thought that it was a little silly for us to write about a student today.  BUT….. I CHANGED MY MIND COMPLETELY!!!  It was so useful to hash out the sticky parts of this BEFORE we are sitting at our computers actually writing them in October.

This applies directly to our work every day and then in progress report writing however, we would have liked to have Dawn in here to discuss with us and to clarify.  We would like to have an EED meeting with K and 1st to show examples.  We are eager to move forward with this new format and just want to make sure we are all on the same page!

As a community, we have grown in our ability and willingness to offer feedback.  I am encouraged and grateful to have every sentence of feedback that offers support, asks questions, and expresses concerns.

As is my practice, the entire set of comments and feedback was shared with our community via email.  It is shown below. Is there a particular comment that resonates with you?

PD Lesson Planning: Progress Report Prototyping

It’s about focus.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 4.37.20 AMWhen we report progress, formally, do we remember that this report is just one of many parts of a system? Do we focus our efforts on using a progress report to document learning and grow up to this point in time? Do we remember that there are many other parts of the system that give feedback, communicate progress, and communicate learning?

As a community, we have been discussing how we might adjust our methods of communicating learning through our formal progress reports.  You can see some of the steps on our journey by reading the following:

We met today to discuss our next steps in this journey.  Below is a copy of the lesson plan shared with faculty.

We will use a Google site and Google docs to collaboratively write the narrative comments that tell the story of our learners.

Will we embrace this adjustment in the way we report progress?  Will we be able to focus our energy to tell the story of learning? Will we grow in our understanding and use of growth mindset language? Do we see ourselves as young learners in this process? Will we prototype, pratice, and experiment? Will we seek feedback and share our thinking?

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