September 18, 2014

Hold the Gravy: An opportunity

Filed under: about me,SFL,TeachersFirst — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:15 am

Almost nine years ago, I allowed myself to consider the unthinkable. I allowed someone to “pitch” the idea of my taking a new job. I had left teaching once — years before when I moved across a state line and thought I would never go back. Within a few months, I was organizing all the kids’ activities at the neighborhood pool. It was silly not to get paid for what I was drawn to do. So I dove into another state’s bureaucracy and conquered the certification dragon. For nearly 20 years thereafter, I thrived, moving onto new and different teaching challenges every 8 years or so, but ALWAYS a teacher.

One of the things we teachers don’t do so well is to consider change as a real possibility. The cycles, routines, and pendulums of August to June, new kids to old kids, new school goals to forgotten buzzwords, and on and on hypnotizes us into gravy-like sameness. We pour on the gravy and never consider a whole new menu.

In 2006 I made a move that changed my life as a teacher. Yes, I am still a teacher, but I am also a teacher of teachers and a voice for many who never speak up. As the person who directs the Thinking Teachers of TeachersFirst, I advocate for what teachers need, listen to them, and most of all SHARE with them. I have met more people in the last eight and a half years than I ever imagined, many of them only virtually — but genuinely. I have grown, learned, learned, and grown. I learn something new EVERY day. I have been able to spread my creative teaching wings farther than the bald eagles who fly past my house each winter morning.

Now I share with you an opportunity to grow and learn. I hope you will read it, consider it carefully, and pass it on to every adventurous Thinking Teacher you know.



April 8, 2010

The next chapter from the land of Forwardthink

In a tug of war between the wisdom of the crowd and competition, who wins?

Our narrator has been scurrying about in the land of Forwardthink . The story continues! You may want to refresh your memory of the first two chapters here and here.

On the day scheduled for the Big Announcement, it came to pass that the clocks in Forwardthink froze. For nearly four days, the Innovators hovering about outside the town hall grumbled and wondered as time stood still. Although an occasional Tweetboat arrived on the nearby river carrying possible news, the Innovators knew not whom they should trust. The few who remained close by the Town Hall doors multitasked silently as they waited to hear who would have the final opportunity to compete for the Keys of Gold.

Suddenly, and without notice, there was once a new,announcement tacked to the doors, and E-owl messengers were sent far and wide to all Innovators, as well.  The Finalists’ names appeared on a list, along withthe declaration that the Wise Crowd would be invited in for commenting again “soon.”  There was a small map instructing the Finalists to meet at the Peak in 27 days where they must present the mandatory Magic Picture and a lined purse prepared for Keys of Gold.

Among the Innovators still huddled at the portal to the Town Hall, cheers rang out while some slinked quietly away, trudging off on another unmarked trail toward innovation, seeking a different wise crowd.  Those whose names were on The List soon muffled their cheers as they saw the map to the peak and realized both the distance and the treacherous path ahead. They knew that the task of creating a Magic Picture and sewing the perfect lined purse would take many days before their first footfall along the path to the Peak. It was also rumored that unknown trolls and demons might line the trail. Something called the Wicked WebGlitch of the West had been eating Innovator’s ideas and making them disappear. Surely the journey would be fraught with stress and peril.

Okeys.jpgne very special team of Innovators is elated to be among The Finalists and has been working through many long nights creating their Magic Picture. They hope have begun sewing their lined purse, as well. As they stir every Innovator Potion they have to help in the tasks, they continue to marvel at the thoughts of the crowd who visit their MySciLife web display and share wisdom with  Innovators and Elders alike. They hope your wisdom will give them  strength to scale  up to the Digital Media and Learning Competition peak, earning the Golden Keys.  Soon they will hand the Elders their Magic Picture and lined purse. Then all will wait once again for many days as we hope to learn:

In a tug of war between the wisdom of the crowd and competition, who wins?

Won’t you share your wisdom with this special team of Innovators before April 19?

October 27, 2008

Education Change as an Invasive Species

Filed under: about me,education,SFL,TeachersFirst — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:40 am

As someone who works on a web site for teachers, I often stop to wonder about the disconnect between the way most adults think of education and the vision of 21st century learning that is growing as an invasive species amid the education establishment. For over three years I have been aware of the changes being promoted and adopted in forward-thinking schools and universities as they rethink what it means to be a 21st century learner/citizen.  But so many are completely unaware of this surge. Today I received an email with links to two videos videos very much in the same vein as Karl Fisch’s watershed moment in 2006. Those who see these pause. Those who send them to me pause.  I watch and think, “This is what I have been trying to tell you about.” So I wrote back:

This is the core of what the edubloggers and online conference folks I “lurk” around have been saying for the past three years. The really frightening thing is how many teachers (the VAST majority) are completely oblivious to it.  They are so busy they don’t even notice (and is that their “fault”?).  TeachersFirst has taken the “infiltrate as a trusted source and instigate change” approach to opening some of their eyes. As we review many wonderful but “old school” drill-and-practice (20th century) web sites, we throw in 21st century approaches to going further, suggesting ways to ask students to take the initiative and design a review/practice activity of their own, look for local examples and document them, etc. The “in the classroom” portion of reviews has moved to “in the 21st century.”I am sure that in many cases the teachers see the suggestions and say, “I don’t have time for that” or “I don’t know how to do that” or –worse– “those tools are blocked in my school.” The teachers who take on the challenge are widening the gap between new and old, engaged and canned, active and passive, meaningful and “tested.” It makes me worry a lot about gaps that legislators and those over 40 are completely unaware of… that will make this economic crisis look puny in 30 years as the adult products of the testing era wander around, unable to discriminate between web-myth and reality because no one spent any time helping them evaluate and sift all that they have encountered (and created) on their own time while supposedly “learning” in school.

The most encouraging thing is that the grassroots teachers, students,  and profs who are making these videos (starting with Karl Fish of “Did You Know” fame) are getting better and better organized via the web. Those who want to know more have LOADS of company. The rest close their classroom doors and pull out the worksheets.

My editorial for today. Think I’ll paste this into my blog.

So here it is. Which side of the gap are you on? Can you be an invasive species?

October 6, 2008

Putting First Things First- Ask the Educators

Filed under: edtech,education,learning,SFL,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:33 am

How often do you, as an educator, have the chance to provide a vision for a new technology before it is even available?  Or contribute ideas for anything coming “down the pike”?

How often do industry innovators put learning first in their vision for a new technology?

Here is your chance.

The parent company of TeachersFirst , The Source for Learning, has just teamed with the National Educational Broadband Services Association (NEBSA) to create a competition that puts first things first: educator before techie, learning before “glitz.” The whole idea is to ask the innovative minds out there who constantly think up new ways to engage, inspire, motivate, lure, cajole, launch, fascinate, steer, elevate, redirect, hatch, etc. how they envision a technology that isn’t even readily available yet. This is a dreamers chance to learn and a learners chance to dream.

We pulled this competition together very quickly and, unfortunately, the entries are due rather quickly. I hope people will spread the word quickly, since the actual entry is NOT that complicated (500 words– a middle teacher says that much just getting the notebooks out or computers fired up!). What really excites me, though, is the very idea of asking the educators instead of telling them. A sharp teacher might even ask the KIDS for their ideas to make up the entry!

So if you read this blog..tell a friend. Twit it, blog it, email it, listserv it …even post it in the teachers room. This is YOUR chance. Dream big.


The full text of the “announcement” I sent in email:

The Source for Learning Teams with NEBSA on Wireless Broadband Education Competition Two nonprofit organizations—both leaders in educational technology—have teamed to sponsor a contest that will explore exciting educational uses for the next revolutionary technology: wireless broadband. The Source for Learning, Inc. ( and the National Educational Broadband Service Association ( have for years been instrumental in helping educators enhance teaching and learning through technology.  The Wireless Broadband Education Competition will create a showcase for innovative educational uses of one of the newest dimensions of the learning experience: mobility. High-quality wireless connectivity is coming soon, and it will have a major impact on education—“anytime/anywhere” learning. But how will it actually be used? Exciting possibilities are starting to emerge—imagine, for instance: 

  •  A class goes to a field behind the school to research native animals and habitats. While there, with no wires needed, they use the web to learn more about what they find, and share the experience via live video feed with other classrooms—from the same school or from many schools, anywhere in the world.
  • A few students visit a location—for instance a “wind farm” where clean energy is generated. Other classrooms watch the visit live; they ask questions in real time as the students meet an expert and see the workings of the site. The students upload the GPS coordinates of the site; that data is merged with Google Earth layers showing wind patterns and electric power needs, for a comprehensive understanding of the experience.
  • Older, non-wired school buildings add fast Internet access from any room, with no wires and virtually no capital expense.
  • Students use digital equipment to measure on-site water quality in real time from multiple locations without leaving their classrooms. 

To stimulate creative thinking about learning supported by this new technology, SFL and NEBSA announce a competition for U.S. educators (Pre-K – 16), asking them to use their imaginations about ways in which wireless broadband could support and enhance teaching and learning. Three Grand Prize winners will receive scholarships to present their proposals at the National EBS Association Annual Convention, which will be held in Boca Raton, Florida from February 23-25, 2009. Each of the winners’ schools will also receive a $200 reimbursement to cover related school substitute costs.  

Visit the competition site for full details: Phase One submissions are due November 1, 2008, via a simple online entry form.