“Fall”ing into CUE

This weekend I got to experience my first intearction with CUE (Computer Using Educators)with Fall CUE at American Canyon High School.  First and foremost, if you have never been to AmCam, it is well worth the visit.  It is one of the most beautiful high school campuses I have ever seen.

Along with this, I was able to meet, face-to-face, many amazing educators that I have either interacted with or followed digitally for quite some time.  The likes of Eric Saibel, Jennifer Kloczko, Ali deGuia, Bill Selak, and Rachel Diephouse.  As well as this, I was able to re-connect with some of my favorite people I have met in California (Kenneth Durham, Sergio Villegas, and Amy Fadeji I’m talking about you!) and make brand new connections!  Being my first Fall CUE, I walked away with a couple main reflections:

1. Learning With a Purpose

One of the first things I learned awhile back was how important it is to define your learning before attending a conference.  Whether it be going to sessions with a specific purpose in mind, or whether it be for an overarching theme, it is vital you identify what learning you take away.  At Fall CUE, I focused the majority of my efforts on PD and staff development.  I started my conference with Kristen Swanson, from Edcamp, looking at personalizing professional development and moved throughout the weekend examining what it means to be the lead learner with Anne Schaefer Salinas.  By focusing on a path, I was able to easily connect what I was learning to a goal and a purpose.

2. Don’t Rely in Just Sessions

I had two great conversations this weekend around this idea, one with Sergio Villegas and one with Kenneth Durham.  Sergio is the Vice President of North Bay CUE and they sponsored an amazing after party at Napa Smith Brewery.  Sergio was shamelessly plugging the event all day on Friday, but with a purpose: the great conversations we have don’t just have to stay at the conference.  Secondly, walking to our cars, Kenneth and talked about what we get out of conferences and we both agreed we desire more dialogue.  Sessions where you learn a specific tool or skill are valuable and have their place, but being able to learn from a breadth of educators can be inspiring.  The take away from both of these: don’t just rely on what you learn in sessions to be a learner.  Fall CUE created amply opportunity for this to happen.

3. Circles of Innovation

I was blown away by what Todd Feinberg was able to accomplish.  He brought about 10 teachers from his school to Fall CUE!  How incredible is that.  I love conferences and find them so interesting, but sometimes I feel like I get stuck in the same circle of innovation.  For the majority of people at conferences, they WANT to be there.  Many attend all of the amazing opportunities presented their way and are all in when it comes to growing teaching and learning.  Todd provides a great example of setting a strong context for learning at a conference like Fall CUE.  By bringing so many teachers from the same school, the excitement and energy they bring back can help but be contagious.  It is so important that we are constantly bringing new people, or for that case, hesitant people, into our circles.  In order to get someone to grow, you have to get them to places that will challenge them to grow and more of this needs to happen!

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The Graduates of 2025

Last week, we began to dive deeper into the direction our school is moving by examining what our ideal graduate looked like.  Instead of focusing on what our 2015 ideal graduate looked like, our staff was challenged with thinking forward to 2025 and what skills and attributes we wanted to see in that graduate.  We are continuing the conversation this week, but here were a few of my original take-aways:

1. Moving Skills Forward

Asking people to focus on the future is one of the hardest things to do.  We are so consumed by what we know and the present we live in, that many times it feels daunting to think about what’s next.  As our staff collaborated on building the ideal graduate of 2025, one teacher pointed out, “many of these things are what we are already doing!”  They were right…for the past two decades our school has spent countless hours defining what student outcomes are valuable to us.  However, the question here wasn’t that we shouldn’t still focus on these things, but how do we move what we are doing with these skills forward.  For example, collaboration is a schoolwide learning outcome that is valuable to what our ideal graduate looks like.  The challenge is, as a staff, how do we measure this skill moving forward to be better prepared for our ideal graduate of 2025 starting tomorrow?

2. Considering Job Growth

Out of our discussion around the ideal graduate,  the need to involve industry grew ever more apparent.  It is true, many of the jobs we know today will continue to evolve and might not exist in 2025.  Statistics support that fact that STEM-related jobs will continue to be some of the fastest rising occupations over the last decade.  As a room full of educators, we are not experts in industry analysis or understanding the changing nature of the work environment. As we think about the Kindergartners, 1st, and 2nd graders that will soon be in our high school, we have to consider what skills THEY WILL need for the jobs that WILL EXIST when they are our graduates.

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3. What We Don’t Yet Know

I love love love having discussions around topics like this.  It is so dangerous for us as educators to think past what we have done, what do, and what we know.

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I recently watched a great talk from Dr. Tony Wagner about the global achievement gap and he highlights seven skills students must have in the future: critical thinking, collaboration across networks, adaptability, entrepreneurialism, effective communication, analyzing information, and curiosity.  Many teachers will challenge that we are already providing access to these skills for our students.  That is where the conversation gets tough.  We don’t actually know yet what these skills will look like in action in 2025.  By our staff at least starting this conversation, we are going to be challenged to see what trends are leading us towards what we don’t know yet.

This viewpoint, along with Andrew McAfee’s TED talk “What will future jobs look like?”, have really challenged me to think about what we are doing today to prepare for our students of the future.  This is not an easy thing for myself or our staff here at New Technology High School to do, but the conversation has begun, and that is a start.

What is a Connected Educator?

October is Connected Educator Month.  I am a huge fan of this idea.  The world of education we live in today is full of connections and #CE14 creates a platform for educators of all kinds to grow the personal learning networks, build their knowledge base, and reduce the silo’s in which we live.  I have been blessed to build my PLN both back in Indiana and now that I am in California.  The many educators I have met digitally since becoming an administrator here in Napa has let me know that NorCal and the Bay Area are a great place to be.

 

 

However, as I reflect on what it really means to be a connected educator, I feel like one of the biggest pieces that gets left out is creating stronger connections in your own school and community.  I have fully embraced tools like Twitter, Google+, and Voxer to strengthen my practice, but that does not mean all educators closest to me have taken that leap.  Here are a few of my thoughts on how to become a stronger connected educator in your own backyard:

1. Start Where Your Staff Is

Every educator has a different comfort level when it comes to being connected to other educators.  There are many barriers (family, time, external commitments) that get in the way of educators being open to creating new connections.  In my experiences, I have come to find that many teachers just don’t know where to start.  Some people can gain access to a new communication tool and they are already 75% in, while others see it as learning a foreign language.  In order to connect at a deeper level with your own staff, you can’t assume they will share your comfort.  It is important to create incremental opportunities for educators to find the value in various forms of connectivity.

2. Create Pathways of Shared Interest

I had never moved to a new district before.  As a new AP, it was important for me to create strong relationships with the other AP’s in the district.  No one knows better the challenges each of us face than each other.  In working with the other schools, I have began to meet regularly with a couple AP’s to talk about strategies and common problems of practice.  As well as this, we have created a GroupMe group to share our thoughts throughout the week and reflect on our common goal of being in classrooms more.  This has created a portal of shared interest for all of the high schools in our community.  We are all facing different school cultures, but by being connected, can navigate the course together!

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3. Develop Capacity in Others

I don’t know how many times I have been at a conference, workshop, or PD where the same small group of educators dominate the conversation.  There is nothing wrong with this at all!  It just happens that most of the people are already bought in.  On Roger’s Innovation Adoption Curve, they are the innovators and early adopters.  When connecting with your own school, it is vital to build capacity in others.  If the same group of teachers are leading the charge, it is important to create opportunities for those that are on the opposite side of the chasm to lead the charge.  This will create a larger sense of connectedness to the culture and all-together mentality you are trying to create.

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4. It Doesn’t Have to be a Full Ship

Lastly, it is important to recognize and even be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to jump onto the ship.  There will always be educators in every setting that question to validity of being a connected educator and are hesitant to use their time on such practices.  That is okay.  In starting where your staff is, creating pathways of shared interest, and building capacity, you will identify which educators are comfortable taking a leap of faith and what educators might not be ready.  Start without them.  Eventually the culture will consume them or cause them to realize the school is moving in a different direction they are.

Regardless, by focusing on being a connected educator in your own school and own community first, it becomes far easier to reach out to that vast world around us.