30 December 2011

Goals for 2012, or the lack thereof

Over the past decade, a friend and I have traditionally written personal goals for the new year and shared them with each other.  This year, for a variety of reasons, I'm opting to live without goals.

However, if I were to write goals for the new year, they might go something like this...

Thanks to my beautiful wife for passing this along to me, even though I thought she was poking fun at my need to set goals. :>)

06 October 2011

Prayer & Inspiration

"How are you guys doing it?"

I can't tell you how many times my wife and I have been asked that question in the months since Chloe's diagnosis.  The answer is simple.  You get up, you get going, you get the family going, and just live the day.  You don't have a choice.

Actually, I've found there are two things that are making days manageable.  Prayer and inspiration.

Prayer is the obvious one.  However, I've found there are so many days when it is difficult to quiet my mind and heart and allow the Spirit to enter the moment.  Yet it is on those days that others tell me, from seemingly out of nowhere, that they are praying for Chloe and our family.  Today is was a colleague during my plan time, over the weekend a parent of one of my students told me that my student prayed for Chloe during Sunday School. Wow.

The inspiration piece is something that evolved as I was trying to expand my circle again.  In an effort to get back into my PLN, I began to give myself five minutes a day to explore Flipboard containing my Twitter and Google Reader feeds.  Not only did I begin to feel inspired again, I began to want to share that inspiration either through a tweet, an email, or a conversation.  A daily ritual had begun.  Now each day, without planning or forethought, I carve out a few minutes to be inspired or inspire someone else.

And that, possibly poorly written, is how I do it each day.

27 September 2011

An expanding and shrinking circle

Circle inversion by fdecomite on Flickr
[I have a few posts that don't really fit here, but they don't fit on the family-turned-Chloe-update blog.  As work, family, and life are closely integrated right now I'm going to post them here.  I'm feeling the need to write.  Thanks for understanding.]

When Chloe was first admitted to the hospital this summer, my world, or my circle, shrunk to five people - our  family.  Many days it was a circle of three as Henri and Martha were cared for by grandparents, aunt and uncles, or family friends.

In the weeks following, it was challenging to expand that circle.  It went slowly, sometimes trying to include a few friends from church or colleagues from work.  Often times I found myself needing to retreat to my circle of five afterwards to regroup and recharge.

It took at least a month and a half before I was able to expand my circle great enough to include my PLNs via Twitter and Google Reader again.  Even then, most of the time it is still as a "lurker" rather than as a participator.

Last week, Chloe had a tough week.  A heavy dose of chemo on Monday made her feel cranky, tired, and generally out of sorts for the week.  That determined our week as well.  Couple that with a lot of assessments within the walls of my classroom and I have found my circle shrinking again.  

I wonder if this expanding and shrinking circle phenomenon is just a product of cancer in our family or if it has happened before without my awareness.  One more detail that I just need to accept and roll with...

08 July 2011

Prayers for Chloe

Chloe, my four year old daughter, was admitted to DeVos Children's Hospital yesterday and had surgery this afternoon to remove a her left kidney containing a large mass.

Details can be found at our family blog: http://blog.hollandanderson.net

Prayers are appreciated!

15 June 2011


Here's something I'll be pondering this summer, courtesy of Seth Godin in Poke the Box.

If you had a chance to do a TED talk, what would it be about? What have you discovered, what do you know, what can you teach? You should do one. Even if you don't do one, you should be prepared to do one.

15 May 2011

When the going got tough...

...to be honest, I wanted to quit.

Since Christmas Break I've been trying to get back into the running groove. Unfortunately, beginning about that same time, I began to suffer from painful IT band issues. In an effort to keep myself motivated to get out there and pound the pavement, I signed up for the 25K Riverbank Run. A little nutty, I'll admit. Yet I knew that if I didn't have that out in front of me, I probably would have quit. And boy did I want to quit.

On at least three occasions (and probably more), I came home and told Christa that I was done running. It was time for me to be content walking and cycling. She did a great job of just listening, and then usually suggested to take a few days to recover and then try it again.

Towards the end of March when my mileage was about half what it should have been according to my training schedule, I discovered that I had overlooked one possible contribution to my IT band pain: insoles. Even though I replace my shoes on a regular basis, I hadn't replaced my insoles for many (read: around 5!) years. Once I put new insoles in my shoes, the pain started to go away.
Yesterday, I achieved my goal: I finished my 25K run with a smile on my face. The run was great. Lots of energy, the rain stopped just in time for us to start, and the temperature was perfect. No record time, but I feel great about my effort.

Without going into too many details, I see so many parallels between my efforts to train for my run and the work of the ZPS TPIT. I was reminded of that as I finished up reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard yesterday afternoon. Two quotes from the final pages resonated with me:

Change isn't an event; it's a process. (p.253)

To lead a process requires persistence. (p. 254)
My run yesterday was certainly an event, but it wasn't the change. The change is my getting back into running. Likewise, handing our staff and students new technology in the coming months will be an event, but the technology itself won't create a transformative change. That change is going to be a long process, one for which we will be persistent.

03 May 2011

Am I Googleable?

That's the question that blogger and author Will Richardson would like us to ask of ourselves as educators. In an interview with Education Week from last October, Will shares:

...too few teachers have a visible presence on the Web. The primary reason this matters is that the kids in our classrooms are going to be Googled—they're going to be searched for on the Web—over and over again. That's just the reality of their lives, right? So they need models. They need to have adults who know what it means to have a strong and appropriate search portfolio—I call it the “G-portfolio.” But right now—and this is my ongoing refrain—there’s no one teaching them how to learn and share with these technologies. There's no one teaching them about the nuances involved in creating a positive online footprint. It's all about what not to do instead of what they should be doing.

The second thing is that, if you want to be part of an extended learning network or community, you have to be findable. And you have to participate in some way. The people I learn from on a day-to-day basis are Googleable. They’re findable, they have a presence, they’re participating, they’re transparent. That’s what makes them a part of my learning network. If you’re not out there—if you’re not transparent or findable in that way—I can’t learn with you.

If a student, parent, or colleague were to Google you, what would they find? How are you using online communities to learn and grow professionally?

Join in with us as we all learn what it means to say iLearn@ZPS.

Cross posted to the iLearn@ZPS blog.

11 February 2011

Thinking Constructively (about changing the status quo)

During Christmas Break my family and I were invited over to my parents' home for lunch with some of their friends. Unbeknownst to me, one of their friends, Mike, had spent over 40 years in education. Of those 40 plus years, he spent about 10 years in the classroom and the remainder in various leadership positions working with curriculum, instruction, and technology integration.

We "talked shop" for well over an hour, and I mostly just listened. Even though Mike had "retired three times in three different states" he was still full of passion for his profession and the changes he had worked so hard to make over the years.

Somewhere during the conversation I mentioned that I had completed an independent study on constructivism a number of years ago. Mike's face lit up.

"Did you know that constructivism has been around for over 30 years?" he asked.

"So why do you think it has taken so long to catch on despite research to support its effectiveness?" I replied.

Without hesitation Mike replied, "constructivism is a student-centered approach to learning. The teaching profession is and has been teacher-centered. That's the status quo. Changing the status quo is difficult."

I've spent the past month pondering the idea of changing the status quo.

I was first introduced to the idea of inquiry (a constructivist teaching practice) a decade ago by the Building Science Leaders program at the Regional Math and Science Center. Over the past ten years as I've experimented with moving towards a more student-centered classroom I've had many successes, and just as many failures. I know it is working well when my students are excited, engaged, and motivated to learn, to prove, to share their learning.

One of the huge challenges of inquiry-based learning I've experienced over the years is having materials available for students on-demand. If I had a dollar for every time I've told my students "now, if you each had a computer sitting in front of you, this is what we'd do..." I could have bought my own class set of laptops. The most exciting thing about our 1:1 initiative is that this will now be a reality. Students will have instant access to information, the ability to discuss their learning and questions with their peers -- locally and globally, and the ability to share the products of their learning with the world.

Do these reflections bring us any closer to changing the status quo? I don't know. However, I am hopeful that as teachers and students start to see the benefits of student-centered learning made possible by 1:1 technologies, we will be able to finally transform teaching and learning for the benefit of all.

31 January 2011

Learning can — and must — be networked

Over the weekend, I shared the EduCon Conference's axioms with the TPIT Diigo group which included the statement: Learning can — and must — be networked.

I've often described my experiences with learning within social networks as serendipitous. I never know what will pop up on Twitter, in my Reader, in my Diigo groups, or, as it occurred today, even in Goodreads. I don't even usually consider Goodreads when I name the social networks I use. I started using it because my brother uses it and it was a fun way to keep up with his reading and to share my reading as well.

A few weeks ago my Goodreads account was followed by Paul Reynolds, the brother of Peter Reynolds (author of Ish, and other excellent books). I'm guessing he connected with my account because I had marked several of Peter's books as read (but to be honest, I don't really know). Today, Paul shared a review of The Big Picture: Education is Everyone's Business written by Dennis Littky and Samantha Grabelle.

In his review, Paul wrote:
If we move to a model that is student-at-center/teacher-at-periphery within a distributed learning community (one that, as Chris Dede states would, "enable a shift from the traditional transfer and assimilation of information to the creation, sharing and mastery of knowledge."), the teacher has TIME to take on the mentoring role. Educators would no longer have to scramble daily to be the fully-stocked "information vending machine" - rapidly dispensing knowledge to "cover" content standards/requirements - instead they could focus time and energy on knowing their learners.
While I'd love to head off on a tangent and share how I see this as one of the benefits of 1:1 and student-centered learning that we're trying to achieve, I'll practice what I preach to my students and stick to my topic.

For me, much of my learning occurs when I simply show up in one of my networks. Thankfully there are others out there who are sharing what they are learning and trying with their students. What can you do today to facilitate learning for yourself? Is there a social network that you've been curious about trying out? Give it a try and see what happens.

20 January 2011

Four tools for learning

Over the past six months, I've been thinking quite a bit about my school district's move to 1:1. Specifically, I've been wondering what web-based "tools" my students should have available to them for their learning.

I began by asking myself what tools I need for my own personal and professional learning. Each week I find my use of my RSS reader, Twitter, Diigo, and my professional blog (on weeks when I make time to write) are the tools I use the most. So, I gave my students the student-friendly versions of those.

This school year, my fifth graders have been using:
  • Diigo -- to collect bookmarks and share to a private 5th grade group consisting of the three fifth grade classrooms in our hallway
  • Edmodo -- to share thinking, questions, and resources within a private class set up for our team
  • KidBlog -- for reflection and posting random assignments
  • PB Wiki -- for publishing their writing
A few reflections on each tool after a couple months of sporadic use (we're not 1:1 yet and available lab time has been scarce in my building the past two months):
  • Diigo has been a tool that I've used daily since it was presented to me at a conference back in October. The ability to set up public or private groups has been great for me and for my students. They are still learning how to share useful comments and once we have more regular computer access, I'm sure it's usefulness will grow.
  • Edmodo is a tool that, like Diigo, will grow in usefulness when my students have greater access. I've shown my students how I and those I follow use Twitter (after previewing my Twitter feed for kid-friendly tweets) for sharing resources, asking questions, and responding to others tweets. My students have practiced these, but they aren't natural uses yet.
  • KidBlog has been my favorite student tool so far from the teacher side. It is simple for both students and teacher alike. I can have total control over what gets posted to our class blogs by approving each post and each comment before they go public. I'm hoping that I can get my students using it more frequently for their own short reflections and writings (remember Type 1 writings?) in the coming months.
  • This is my second year of using PB Wiki for publishing student writings after I watched how the fifth grade East Dragons out in Littleton, CO used it in their 1:1 classroom. My students really enjoy posting to the wiki and commenting is quite easy. Recently, I've been reading The Power of Less and it has me asking if I can do the same with less. I've been thinking that KidBlog could easily take the place of PB Wiki. I suggested that to my students earlier today and was met with a chorus of "no, we love the wiki." For now, it's staying.
Those are my thoughts at the present. I'm interested to know how you're using these tools with your students or if you've found others that are essential for student learning.

17 January 2011

What if we shared?

What if we as educators not only believed, but regularly practiced this statement?

What if we shared not only our lesson ideas, but also our thinking?

What if we shared not only our knowledge, but also our questions?

What if we shared not only our successes, but also our failures?

What if we shared not only our joys, but also our sorrows?

What if we shared not only our hopes, but also our fears?

How would it change your life as an educator?

How would it change your school community?

You're invited to share your thoughts at the ZPS 1:1 blog.

Image shared by Powerful Learning Practice on Facebook

09 January 2011

Crowdsourcing: Going Global

In my last post I shared an example of how I have used crowdsourcing on a local level. Crowdsourcing can be powerful on a global scale as well.

Back in February of 2009, through a mention on the A Year of Reading blog I learned of and joined the Elementary Teachers group on the English Companion Ning. What's a ning? A ning is an online social networking tool where members can post questions, replies, and share resources. Teachers in the Elementary Teachers group were using the ning to ask questions about teaching poetry, seeking recommendations for persuasive mentor texts, and other literacy-related issues.

At that time, many educators in my PLN were talking about the NCTE's 21st Century Literacies. However, most were talking about what these new literacies would look like at a secondary level. So I posted a question to the ning asking what they would look like at an elementary level. As the discussion began and I shared my own thinking two mind-blowing things happened. First, after mentioning a Choice Literacy article in my response the author of the article replied to my comment within the ning and shared her thinking. (I still remember running to my wife after receiving the reply saying, "can you believe this?") Second, because I had linked to a post on my personal teaching blog that I had made public the prior month, the first comment that was ever left on my blog was from a kindergarten teacher in Australia.

The power of professional social networking was made clear to me in these two experiences. By being willing to be vulnerable and express that I don't have all of the answers, I was able to learn alongside others around the globe that were asking the same questions.

04 January 2011

Crowdsourcing: Staying Local

[I am a member of the Zeeland Public Schools Technology Plan Implementation Team (TPIT) which is charged with rolling out handheld technologies to all students in grades 3-12 in the coming years (alongside other additions to classroom technologies). As a part of that transition in teaching and learning, TPIT has launched the ZPS 1:1 - Transforming Learning blog. This post is cross-posted there.]

In her post on crowdsourcing, Jackie shared a few examples of how one could get started. I'd like to continue the conversation sharing a few ways that crowdsourcing helps me in my role as a 5th grade teacher.

At a local level (let's say within ZPS), crowdsourcing can be as simple as sending an email. When I have a question or a need for a particular resource, I often choose a few teachers from my grade group (and usually Shari Moore, the elementary literacy coach, when my question or need is literacy-related) and ask for some help. Once my email is sent, I usually have what I need within a day, if not minutes or hours.

For instance, a few weeks ago I was looking for quality nonfiction mentor texts that I could use with my 5th grade students. I shared this need at my weekly 5th grade team. Shari Moore was present at this meeting and by that afternoon had given me a copy of a chapter on nonfiction mentor texts full of all of the great examples that I was seeking. I was able to use the examples with my students and then began typing up a list of the texts in a Google Doc (a student who is a fast typist and hates recess finished the list for me). I was then able to send the list on to the staff in my building where colleagues have told me that they have pulled texts to use in their classrooms.

At the heart of successful crowdsourcing is the idea of sharing. What could a colleague share with you today if you asked? What could you share with a colleague?