September 7, 2012

What’s good for you

Filed under: about me,edtech,personal learning network,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 12:11 pm

Make time for what’s “good for you.” Exercise 30 minutes a day. Eat organic. Go outside. Read to your child. Drink water. Set aside quality time. Model responsible behavior. Oh, and reduce stress.

We know what we’re supposed to do and why it is good for us. We just don’t know how to fit it all into a teacher’s week. Now add to the list: staying up to date on new approaches to teaching and learning (often using technology). As someone who finally figured out where to find the time for some of the above, I wonder whether the same strategies –with a little tech assistance– could work for the other things, like staying up to date with tech for learning.

Strategy 1: Where were you?

I have read that we are more likely to exercise if we have comrades at the gym or pool or on our walks. Simply knowing that you’ll be asked, “Where were you?” is often enough to make you go when you’d really like to skip. My swim friends have no authority over me, but anticipation of their concern is enough to drag me out of bed before 5 am on cold, winter mornings. Even the casual acquaintances who greet you on regular walks will ask why they have missed you. Easier to just do it than to make up excuses. Try establishing the same “where were you” type of group in your faculty room for Better Teaching Tuesdays or on Twitter by joining one of the many #chats. But be sure to  befriend enough buddies in the chat that they will ASK you where you have been if you do not show up.  As I scan chats, I see enough side conversations about vacations, family, and local lore to recognize the same kind of conversations that happen in my swim locker room. Support each other’s professional development simply by asking, “where were you” when a frequent chat buddy is absent, and ask your buddy to do the same for you.

Strategy 2: Let them notice

There is nothing like having someone say, “You look good. Have you been exercising?” or “I wish I read to my kids as much as you read to yours.”  If you keep your success at beating the time bandits completely secret, you may never hear these invigorating reinforcements. Leave a trail that others can find. Facebook is great for this. So are blogs. Mention the book you and the kids just finished or the great story you heard at the gym. Be honest about how much you hate broccoli as you share the first broccoli recipe you can stand on Pinterest. Maybe even share the first tech tool you figured out. It’s not bragging if you are simply giving people a small view of a minor accomplishment. I don’t think I’d list my breakfast menu, but I see how many comments my friends receive when they share a pic of a culinary coup. I personally have a bit more trouble with the running apps that share how fast you ran 5 miles, but that is probably my problem, not yours. To me, sharing limited peeks is better than trumpeting announcements. To each his own. A great side benefit of playing in the social network venue is that you are learning the way your students like to learn. How can you adapt it as a class activity?

Strategy 3: Find the app for that

If nothing else, apps add novelty. Heaven knows, they multiply like mosquitos, with a new buzz hourly. A lasting favorite of mine is Flipboard. I like being able to add Twitter searches, favorite blogs, and just plain news into one magazine-style app that I can browse without feeling like I am working. I admit I don’t stay up to date on all the new apps that come out. I wait to read what others say on Twitter and try them when I notice 3- 6 tweets about the same app. Must be good, right?  App shopping is like using coupons. You try new products when you hear enough buzz and you think it’s cheap enough to try. (Either that or your eight year old is hounding you to buy it.)

Strategy 4: Balance your diet

Twitter is dark chocolate for the teaching heart. I could stay on all day, but I know it is not the only food for thought. There are other options that offer high fiber (online pubs like Learning and Leading), large tossed salad webinars, and  the full meal experience of  creating a conference presentation or online PD session. I especially savor the face to face potluck paloozas like the ISTE conference where I meet and simply talk with other teachers.

I certainly don’t stick to what is good for me, and I often do not meet recommended daily allowances of professional development. I’ll keep working on serving things up at TeachersFirst if you promise to try some tech broccoli once in a while.


July 15, 2011

A food model of social networking

Filed under: about me,personal learning network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 5:16 pm

I admit it. I am sick of social networks. My hermit feelings will surely pass, but this Friday finds me questioning the value-added of so many places to contribute, comment, rate, respond, or otherwise spill my guts. The cicada-like buzz about Google+ is deafening this week. I find myself taking an analytic look at social absurdity in hopes of avoiding an all-out rant.

As pundits point out, our social networks establish a false sense of consensus. We see and hear only the opinions of those who agree with us. Yes, it’s “social” to pat each other on the back and sing in harmony from the same choir stalls, but what do we learn or gain? What makes the difference between social networking that has value and social networking that wastes time and has little nutritional value?

The social marketplace: a food model of social networking

Premise: There are different places to acquire social network nourishment. Which describes the social network that you frequent?

The roadside table: We can stop by this spot for random offerings, whatever is in season. It stays open only as long as there is a surplus of cucumbers in the garden – a few thoughts to share. We rarely see anybody else as we leave a dollar in the coffee can, and the goods we take with us may be delightfully fresh. If left too long by the roadside in the hot sun, they shrivel and are of no use to anyone. Most web sites with add-on “social” features are simply roadside tables. We pass by without stopping unless it is a neighbor.

The farmers market:  We gather at specified times – the earlier the better – to buy or swap for the freshest of the fresh. The offerings change with the seasons, and we learn to anticipate the coming crops. We dicker, exchange, and find the best ingredients, taking them home to create new recipes based on today’s offerings. The level of chatter and common support is strong as we wait or weave through the hungry crowd, armed with our reusable bags. The selections and the company of this network influence our nutrition for several days, and we like it so much we come back, as long as it isn’t too far to go. It does require extra time out of our week, though. Some of us have such social networks as part of our weekly habits. #edchat seems more like a farmer’s market for edu-ideas.

The food coop: We organize with a group with common goals: good food, fresh, and at good prices. We plan and delegate work that will be shared. The ideas we acquire here are outlined in advance: an online conference like the K-12 Online Conference or the Global Educon. Only the very organized can manage this kind of network on an ongoing basis.

The independent grocer: If nearby, we know this store well,  and they keep it well stocked — given possibly limited space. They don’t spend much on advertising, so the we discover it by word of mouth. But the nutritional offerings are comprehensive and quite tasty. The management will even bring in something new we suggest. We know that the clientele and floorspace are smaller, but the combination of staples and new ideas keeps us coming back. TeachersFirst is like this, I hope. Perhaps not a megsatore range of offerings, but always open to new suggestions.  We customers talk to each other when we can, but the grocer respects the fact that we don’t have a lot of time.

The specialty shop (Coffees, teas, and gourmet baked goods): Our little favorite stops. We can only get one thing there, but it is our passion: the perfect bean, the best book club blog, the latest tech developer blog. We make time for this one. The rest of our food is not important to us as long as we have the best coffee beans. Good Reads is  such a specialty shop for book lovers. Classroom 2.0 is another. Once we choose a niche like this, we always come back. We don’t have time for many.

The growing, upscale market chain: The Wegmans of social networking nutrition, these have all the media buzz and the latest and greatest in both groceries and cafe offerings. We watch the pastry chef at work  as we gather the rest of our ordinary groceries. The lobster tank is full, and we are tempted by the very best.  Even the store brands seem special. We are quickly entranced and find ourselves wishing we knew everything they carry. If there is a new product, they have it. Google+ is the Wegman’s of social networking. If you haven’t bought new ideas there, your ideas simply aren’t as good.

The mega-market chain:  The Walmart of social networking nutrition is Facebook. They tell us what to eat by offering loads of  quantity but a limited selection. Everything is Real Value and comes stacked high on the row-ends to fill our carts with blandness. Though “everybody” shops there, we leave only slightly satisfied– if at all.  Walmart Facebook is ubiquitous and blue.

The fast food stop: We run in, grab what looks good, and run out. Some of us stop far too often, and our nutritional balance is at risk if we are not careful to select well. We risk a diet high in fat or sugar, but the 140 character offerings can be so temptingly tweet. Definitely not the only way to feed your mind.

Take out/delivery: We can order up anything, but our interaction and learning are limited to a few likes and comments. We frequently order the same thing: this channel or What’s Popular. YouTube.

I think I need to decide my nutritional needs for this stuff.  But first, there’s a weekend…

January 14, 2010

I can’t SEE it

Filed under: about me,edtech,education,learning,personal learning network,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 11:24 am

I can’t see 3D movies. I mean actually, physically will never be able to make the neuro-messages from my two eyes converge into a three-dimensional experience. As far as I know from talking to ophthalmologists for decades, there is nothing in current medicine that will change this.

As I read all the hype about Avatar in 3D and the possibility of 3D television and more and more 3D movies in theaters, I am downright resentful. How dare they leave me behind as someone who will not be able to see any movie or show projected or broadcast in this fuzzy new medium? Don’t they know there are people like me who will be abandoned as lost?3dglass.jpg

My reaction bears a strong resemblance to some we as teachers and/or technology “leaders” may have  passed by as we jog ahead. Learning support students have always felt abandoned and resentful during lessons taught through means they cannot “see.” When the faddish, highly patterned posters with hidden images first came out over a decade ago, some of us could not force our eyes to decipher the hidden images. My most empathetic teaching colleagues finally understood how their LD students felt and changed their lessons to include multiple approaches to concepts. Just as those posters were not the only things available to hang on the wall, however, finding other options for teaching was similarly easy.

Now , with people marveling at Avatar  and promoting the prospect of ubiquitous 3D, I  am experiencing my first near-terror at technology “progress.” For the first time in my tech-loving life, I am not an early adopter. I am negative and angry that I could be considered “challenged.” I do not know of a way to “fix” it and am secretly afraid that NOT welcoming 3D will make me less of a an innovator-teacher-communicator. I don’t want to be the old person who doesn’t try the new thing. This is not my role, and I resent being pushed aside.

pause for Aha moment

THIS must be the way some teachers feel as technovations beyond their vision whizz through their worlds like hummingbirds on steroids.

I have the luxury of time to play and commitment to make the effort with every new technology, always excited to figure out how it could fit into learning. Like many edtech leaders and willing educators, I continue to add, adopt, adapt, and build my PLN with new tools. In two years, Twitter has cycled from a curiosity to a regular part of my day/week. The difference between my initial Twitter reaction and my 3D reaction is that I can’t see 3D.

If teachers truly believe that they are similarly hampered, organically or logistically, they must be feeling the same resentment and embarrassment.   Can’t See It empathy must be part of  planning for all of us who lead and teach our fellow educators, even those who simply teach alongside a peer in a similar panic.

I know I have written about the issues of  technology adoption, fear, and teachers’ professional obligation to grow and change before. But now I am living Can’t See it, and the intensity of my reaction is the perfect fuel to do my job better.

June 24, 2009

Risk, people, and toys

Filed under: about me,musing,necc,personal learning network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:05 am

new computerI am writing this on a brand new computer just days before I leave for NECC and hours before an important semi-annual board meeting for my non-profit company. There is nothing like having a video card die on a  computer just as you are headed into critical days. Yes, I had thorough back-ups, etc., but the time required to reconfigure everything on a new machine (and new PLATFORM!) does not fit within the 24 hours I had. Thank goodness for a helpful spouse who continued installing things while I ran to an emergency dentist visit (on top of all this!) and a thoughtful boss who said, “Just go buy one NOW” when the display on my old brain machine was shutting off at random times.

Lessons learned: 

Each of us is at risk of the unexpected every day. Nothing will ever prepare you.

When push comes to shove, it’s the people who make the difference, not the machines.

New toys are not nearly as much fun on a deadline.

I hope all at NECC will help me continue to learn about this new machine. It IS the people who make the difference.

June 5, 2009

Professional Development Meme 2009

Filed under: about me,learning,personal learning network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:48 am

I am participating in this “meme” thanks to Louise Maine, a fellow techno-junky teacher and contributor to TeachersFirst. I love the fact that she and I have never even met face to face, though we “talk” often in email, on Twitter, via webcam, in the OK2Ask “classroom,” and occasionally on the phone (how mundane). The very fact that we work together is a case study in professional/personal  learning networks and the power of the web. I will finally meet Louise at EduBloggerCon and NECC later this month.

As someone who went over the wall from full time teaching to twelve month work at a non-profit three years ago, I miss the annual cycle of a school year and the summer change of pace for professional development (see my post on summer growth). But I can give this one a shot.

BTW, here are some definitions of  meme for those who may not know the term. In this case, a meme is simply a way of using people’s blogs to pass along this summer professional development idea and to use the power of “tags” or “categories” to connect what all of us are doing so you can find the ideas easily. Think of it as word-of-mouth-follow-the-leader-copycat-gone-internet-viral thanks to little packets running around telling each other things. I have this vision of kindergarteners on the playground when one of them tells a secret…


Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2009 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules

NOTE: You do NOT have to wait to be tagged to participate in this meme.

  1. Pick 1-3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
  2. For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/07/09).
  3. Post the above directions along with your 1-3 goals on your blog.
  4. Title your post Professional Development Meme 2009 and link back/trackback to
  5. Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme09.
  6. Tag 5-8 others to participate in the meme.
  7. Achieve your goals and “develop professionally.”
  8. Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

My Goals

  • Sort through all the “check this out” items I have thrown into Delicious, tagging them and USING them rather than having them just sit there
  • Stop and spend some time with my feed reader, organizing it and paring it down so it is a welcome friend to visit with each day instead of another item on my to-do list
  • Successfully pull off a live video streaming event that any teacher COULD do (OK2Ask LIVE from NECC)- and have teachers join us!

I tag Melissa Rivers and Ollie Dreon (I hope….if I can find his blog URL!) and Jim Gates, all fellow PA folks in “different” teaching positions these days. What do you want to learn this summer?

May 8, 2009

Mother’s Day Tech Help: The Ultimate Gift

Filed under: about me,personal learning network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 3:58 pm

mousehelp.jpgFor those of us who have adventurous mothers, this weekend is an opportunity to give a special kind of present: tech help. Over the past ten years or so, I have spent countless hours on the phone  across the 400 miles between me and my fearless mother, helping her remember how to print multiple 4 by 6 prints onto an 8-1/2 by 11 sheet of photo paper, save an email attachment where she can find it, delete incorrect email addresses from her address book, or download the photos from her digital camera. At this point you are probably guessing that my mother is about 60 years old, maybe…right? Nope. Try over 80. (She’d shoot me for saying that, but she probably won’t read this).

Her age does not matter. What matters is that I am her personal tech learning network, and she loves it. My help is needed, appreciated, and custom-made to “fit.” I may have to “give” the same gift a few times until she gets it, but she revels in telling me every time she uses a tech skill. How often do you give a gift where the recipient brags back to you every time she uses it? So here is my list of tech-help MDay gift suggestions for moms at various levels of techspertise. And none of them requires a coupon at Macy’s. I hope you will comment back with ideas of your own.

  1. Set up an account for her on Facebook so she can be friends with grandkids.
  2. Use a free trial of GoToMyPC to fix all the things she cannot fix herself and customize her Favorites. Maybe even give her desktop shortcuts to great online games and word puzzles to keep her mind sharp.
  3. Email her links to the same games, in case she forgets they are in Favorites.
  4. Set up folders in her email, including a HELP folder where she can file away all your “How to” emails. Be sure you put “How To: [insert topic here]” as the subject line for subsequent tech help emails, so she can find them easily!
  5. Have her try right-clicking on everything while you watch or talk on the phone. Explain what those options mean–and have her try some.
  6. Make her a template for a photo greeting with her choice of layout and fonts ready to go. All she has to do is add the message and print.
  7. Offer to digitize her Christmas card list. Then do it before December.
  8. Set up an account on Voicethread and show her how to upload and record narration for family photos. You will LOVE watching them.
  9. Pay for her virus protection subscription and set it so it is foolproof!
  10.  Send her a list of travel links to go on virtual vacations. Talk her through organizing them in a single folder of Favorites.
  11. Show her how to RIGHT-click nasty pop-ups to close them from the taskbar (in case they have nastiness linked from the little X).
  12. Set up groups in her email and show her how to compose mail to one of them.
  13. Show her how to find magazine images on the web from the decade of her childhood…then listen to her stories about them.
  14. Help her organize the images from her digital camera. Tell her it’s OK to delete the blurry ones of her feet. Then set her screensaver to cycle through them at times when she is bored. (Warning: she may call you and start narrating the pictures as they go by).
  15. Teach her how to copy and paste by keystroke. Copy is easy. Paste: think VELCRO to “stick it there.”
  16. Show her how to use quotation marks to search old friends’ names on Google. Show her how to screen the results before clicking.
  17. Set up Google Reader with feeds for her  from pubs and blogs you know she’d enjoy (there are tons of recipe blogs). Show her how to check out the Reader’s suggestions for more—and how to delete feeds she no longer wants.
  18. Send her a new feed idea each week for a couple of months so she remembers how to add a feed.
  19. Set up that digital picture frame you gave her so it actually works with current pictures of the grandkids.
  20. Set up a wish list for her on Amazon and make sure she knows how to add to it and edit it. Now you have gift  ideas for the next occasion!

PS. When “showing” her, you are not allowed to touch the mouse. Put your hands behind your back and TALK.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

January 9, 2009

Permission to Play

Filed under: learning,Ok2Ask,personal learning network,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 4:05 pm

Play — No, this is NOT what I look like. I just liked the picture.The greatest luxury I have in this job since leaving the classroom is permission to play. After 27 years of completely scheduled or overscheduled time, I can dedicate a morning to comparing tools in search of the ideal one for a given technology task. I can play at will and seek answers: on my own, from help screens, among online forums, or from my PLN (personal learning network). What a luxury to have “permission” to learn from play.

This week I spent several hours comparing different ways to deliver the upcoming OK2Ask sessions on TeachersFirst. I started with a desire to model entirely free tools that any teacher could use without TOO much trouble. I played with all sorts of freebies, all with jibberish names that are de rigeur these days. I embedded myself, recorded myself, shared myself, chatted with myself (on several computers at once, rolling my chair back and forth), gave myself tours, denied myself privileges, gave myself control (and took it away), took polls of myself, clicked myself, made innumerable profiles of myself, moderated myself, muted myself, dragged and dropped myself, tagged myself, explained myself, reverted myself, and even broadcast myself looking stupid as I played on (I guess that was “channeling” myself.) It was pretty funny when– for a bit — I could not figure out how to STOP channeling myself.

But I learned. And I found what I sought. In the process, I refined my search, defined my criteria, and even articulated them several times to  complete strangers. I was so glad to have permission to play and learn. And teacher-guilt made me feel bad that others are not allowed to do the same.

Our kids play this way all the time. They play with any available tool and toy. They may not be systematic, but they are comfortable. They know how to play. [At this point the early childhood people I work with would be yelling ,”Of COURSE they do. Play IS learning!]

As the OK2Ask sessions approach, I wonder if we should have named them “OK2Play” instead. I also wonder if teachers have forgotten how to play because they are simply never been given the time to do so.  I have a fundamental belief that teachers try to do the best they can for and with their students. They have been schooled in the Best Practices, research-based methods, etc. But I hope the denial of play time has not removed it from their repertoire.

I don’t really believe they have forgotten how because I have run innumerable inservice sessions where teachers have been as excited (and disruptive) as little kids as they have played with a newly-introduced technology.  I have always given them permission to play. This may not appear to be the most cost-effective, responsible, mature adult thing to do while being paid taxpayer dollars, but I would assert that these same teachers, give a meaningful mission such as I had in selecting a tool for Ok2Ask, would make permission to play into permission to learn. All it took was a focused goal.

I will find out in a couple of weeks whether my recent play time went between the goalposts or veered wildly out of bounds. Either way, I will learn from the experience.

November 21, 2008

To Donna Benson: I have an idea!

Filed under: about me,education,gifted,learning,musing,personal learning network,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 3:23 pm

Northern lights by Senior Airman Joshua Strang via FlickrThis is an open letter blog entry to a valued colleague because she is someone who aways responds,”Why not?” when I hatch some hare-brained scheme…and she adds her own hare-brain!


Six years ago we were in the midst of doing something no one else had done (as far as we knew and still know now). We were about to take six very bright kids to Alaska in winter and have them teach their peers via the web using what they had taught themselves through the web and real-life contacts in Alaska. Sounds old hat now. Except  that in 2002-03, there were no wikis. There were no photo and video sharing sites. We did it all by figuring out solutions using available tools and begging for freebies. If we’d had wikis and Youtube… goodness!

Roll the clock six years. Read what the MacArthur Foundation says this week about time spent online and how kids learn today — really about how all of us should consider re-visioning what education is, based on how kids are learning. My electronic “quote wall” pulled from the summary:

change the dynamics of youth-adult negotiations over literacy, learning, and authoritative knowledge?

“interest-driven” networks

Self-Directed, Peer-Based Learning

“geek out”

specialized knowledge groups of both teens and adults

gaining reputation among expert peers

erases the traditional markers of status and authority

outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.

skills that youth value are highly variable depending on what kinds of social groups they associate with. This diversity in forms of literacy means that it is problematic to develop a standardized set of benchmarks to measure levels of new media and technical literacy.

New role for education? ….What would it mean to really exploit the potential of the learning opportunities available through online resources and networks?

So, Donna, if kids really learn by poking around online themselves — and we know they do– and have entirely separate networks of experts (and ways to define “expert”) on topics we, as the “adults,” do not even know about…why not invite a dozen or so of them to redesign their education and see how well they could meet two masters: the legal one that says they have to meet certain “standards” and the personal master within themselves. I would hypothesize that given the right environment, the right tools, some no-B.S. adult  mentors, and the motivation that they might actually be able to affect change, you  and I could guide a group of HS kids to redesign learning into something meaningful to them. Here is the beginning of a framework of sorts:

To start, give the kids the standards, explaining that this is the part over which we have no control-yet. Tell them to find the “expert network” to learn about it themselves (and prove it). 

The kids proceed to: (with the side-by-side participation of “teachers,” as needed and specified by law)

  • Find the source/community of experts 
  • Verify the knowledge level of the source Who else links to him/her? How can you tell he/she is good? Do you find this source referenced over and over again? Can you find out anything about him/her?  Would you trust him to fix/use your computer? etc.
  • Engage and question
  • Participate and interact with their own questions and exploration
  • Show learning—turn in the URL from the online community where their learning “shows”—along with a list of the questions they still want to know. 
  • Show where this fits into the “standards”- the kids do the alignment
  • Maybe keep a personal RSS Reader organized by academic topics? 

They end up as content experts in their own right, with a vast network of places to return and learn more…including through their peers who are also engaged at various stages in the same process. Most importantly, the kids are involved in actually defining and evaluating this very cyclical process: Does it work? What should we change? What is B.S.? What is cool?

So, Donna, looking back on 2002-03, isn’t this what the better participants in CV/AK did? As they found connections to prescribed curriculum, they went off into their own expert networks to learn what “fit” for them—and what they thought would fit for their peers.

We won’t talk about the “management issues” of watching over 150 kids instead of 12…that’s another day on Think Like A Teacher. That’s an outdated concept, too…

Not bad for something hatched on a Friday. After all, CV/AK came out of a breakfast at (now defunct) George’s.

Why not?

September 18, 2008

Virtually Limitless

Filed under: edtech,education,k12online08,Misc.,personal learning network,TeachersFirst — Candace Hackett Shively @ 1:44 pm

TeachersFirst is fortunate to have a reviewer/contributor who is building a significant learning network among edubloggers, school reformers, and edtech proponents. Louise Maine not only was the focus of articles on wikis in the classroom in the current Edutopia, she will also be presenting for the K-12 Online Conference coming up in October. Louise’s level of involvement as part of a network of enthusiastic educators involved in edtech-as-part-of-ed-reform movement makes me both optimistic and concerned.  I wonder how many teachers even know about the opportunities for virtual conferences, online professional learning networks, and edublogs that spark discussion with thought-provoking reading. Wouldn’t it be great if we could both spread the word and have some means of tracking the spread?

Steve Hargaddon’s efforts at Classroom 2.0 provide one helpful stat: the number of members (11,474 as I write this) . The number of free edu-wikispaces surpassed 100K last week, another meaningful stat. But what do these numbers mean…and do most teachers know that the opportunities are virtually limitless?

I hope that this year’s K-12 Online conference will provide two things: a way to get a picture of the spread of virtual professional development and resultant CHANGE in education and more ideas for reaching the stressed and buried among teachers. While I do believe there is an obligation for teachers to seek new ideas and learn about new trends, I also know that the barriers for many are simply impossible. What will K-12 Onliners do to make the message virtually limitless?  Can we brainstorm efficient, clever ways to reach the teachers who suffer with unreliable infrastructure, resistant administration, untenable working conditions, and immense personal pressures?  Just as we talk about removing barriers for student success, we need to look at the big picture of teachers’ lives and help them access the virtually limitless opportunities being enjoyed by this energized* bunch.

energy2.jpg*Louise and I have been emailing about energy and entropy as she plans her K-12 Online presentation. I have thoroughly enjoyed the dialog…and am spreading the energy here in honor of her efforts.

July 5, 2008

NECC, Hats, and Invisibility Cloaks

Filed under: about me,necc,necc08,personal learning network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:11 am

Apologies to any readers who may not have been at NECC or even know what it is. This post is part of my personal reflection/debrief on the National Educational Computing Conference, my biggest annual opportunity for formal professional development.

I have concerns about the hats we wear — or the choice of invisibility cloaks — for the many forward-thinking educators who come into NECC  with more than one role.

Feeling the Tension

When I arrived at NECC this year, it was with a sense of regret that scheduling had prevented me from attending this year’s EdubloggerCon (EBC), my favorite part of NECC ’07 in Atlanta.  I followed enough of the blogflak about video and gleaned between the lines of ISTE’s policies about recordings, though,  to know that Pearson’s videotaping at EBC was a hot issue.  I also read and commented on pre-conference discussion on the NECC Ning regarding “commercial” postings there. A conversation with friend Jim Gates on NECC day 3 was the third time I felt it: there is a stigma attached to any role or affiliation that makes a NECC attendee or presenter “unpure.”


As a  27 year teacher who went over to the “dark side” two years ago by switching my moonlighting  job to a full time job, I am aware that no modifier I can include in the description of my role running TeachersFirst can erase the stigma; “free,” “ad-free,” “service,” “non-profit,” “noble,” even “saintlike” would be inadequate.  If I choose to don my TeachersFirst hat publicly, I am tainted. Even worse, my ideas and contributions become suspect.

I would maintain that many respected contributors and organizers at EBC, NECC, and the most respected educational technology/ education reform collaborations have additional “hats.” Many individuals moonlight outside of their classrooms as consultants. Others have relationships with publishers, tool developers, or hardware/software companies. I have no problem with that. Teachers need the money, and the good ones have good ideas to share. Many in the “inner circles” at EBC or NECC are aware of the consulting/training  that others do. I would suspect that there are quite a few other “hats” would show if everyone engaged in complete disclosure.

So what to do?

The dilemma: is it better to don an invisibility cloak  (and remain quieter) or wear your hat? Aren’t we, as teachers forever (for that IS what I am– a teacher — no matter who pays me) , just as entitled to learn and grow out of genuine interest in the topics at hand? If NECC is a part of my personal learning network, what is the best way to participate: hat on head or invisibly? Are my ideas less valuable because I changed jobs? Should I refrain from speaking because I come from the dark side? I don’t think so.

I wear my name badge with job title. I tell people what I do when asked. I share ideas that others seem to value. But I must “be careful.”  At what point do my ideas become suspect as an agenda instead of the honest contributions to the conversation they are meant to be? And at what point does the suspicion prevent me from learning as well?

I am frustrated at Pearson for raising the suspicion level of everyone by showing up to “document” EBC. I will admit that I am also suspicious of them, given the fact that they are not participants or teachers, just a commercial company videotaping. They recently launched a “foundation,” and that raises my antennae, too. Will their “foundation” status end up throwing more suspicion on genuine David (to Goliath)-sized non-profits such as my employer in the long run? Is their foundation an intentional invisibility cloak?

So I throw these question out ot the twitting-blogging-Ninging-gadgeting crowd from NECC and beyond:

1. Where and under what circumstances are teachers who wear multiple hats allowed to go for fully-engaged professional growth?

2. How would you prefer to see the hats that these teachers wear?

3. Is there a difference between moonlighting educators and those who retire and take that second career?

What are your thoughts?