Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What's More Important...Computers or Skills?

I can honestly say these past two years have been an incredible learning curve for me. I had an opportunity to change jobs, not once but twice, and took both of them! The first was a lateral move from one school to another in the same division. The building itself was the same exact floorplan of my former school. They even underwent renovations at the same time. The layout was where the similarities ended. Each school had its own distinguishable heartbeat. The students, staff, parents and community members made both buildings amazing in their own unique ways.
Just when I felt as if I had my bearings about me in my new environment, opportunity once again arose. Timing however, was lousy. The position had posted at the end of August, and I was excited about starting the school year where I was. We were scheduled to get Chromebooks for every student, and were anxious to see how this would change how teaching and learning would take place. Regardless, the position was an advancement that was too good to turn down. Needless to say, I got the job!

For the third time in my career, I was starting a new position in a leadership role after the school year had already started. While it seemed really inconvenient at first, I ended up being really glad things happened the way they did. I got to see a school full of students and teachers experience 1:1 learning for the very first time. A week and a half later, I was in a completely different school system working with students and teachers who have known 1:1 learning for over a decade. 

Looking back on the experience, I learned something pretty valuable. Just because you have given every student in your building or division a laptop, tablet, or Chromebook; it doesn't mean you have done anything innovative. How that tool is applied to the instructional process determines innovation. We live in an age during which the majority of our students in the US have access to some form of mobile technology in their daily life. Kids are walking into school expecting to have access to technology to complete their schoolwork, record assignments, and work on projects. Collaborating and sharing online are second nature to them. 

Things like presenting, organizing, problem solving, and working with others, however, are not necessarily second nature. I've seen plenty of people who know their way around a computer who don't have any of the other "21st Century" skills I mentioned above. 

This is a time of year during which many of us in education turn towards the planning process for the upcoming school year. Some of us may be tasked with preparing for a 1:1 initiative. My advice to you? Make sure your teachers and staff are comfortable with teaching 21st Century Skills, or those skills needed to be successful in the modern learning process. If they aren't, you are just going to end up with a lot of kids who know their way around a computer. We have plenty of those already. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015


This past weekend, I participated in a Twitter chat called #satchat. In my opinion, it is one of the best run edchats out there right now. Though it takes place at 7:30 in the morning, I try my hardest to participate each week, as I am always learning something new from the amazing people who also participate. It's a HUGE component of my PLN. The topic was centered around the concept of ensuring students are learning in an environment that will help them to succeed in a world that is growing smaller by the day thanks to advances in technology. During the chat, educational best practices were discussed, including the use of the PLC (Professional Learning Community) framework to drive instruction. One of the chat participants brought up a very interesting question - is there a difference between an PLC and a PLN (Personal Learning Network)?

I've spent the past couple of days seeing what other people say about this. 

Lorraine Boulos shares the following in her blog, Making Shift HappenIt seems to me the "PLC" has become synonymous with Professional Development and often, it is the principal, consultant, coach, or whomever the "Instructional Leader" is in the building, that decides what everyone needs to learn about.  How and why does this happen?  These instructional leaders are not just being arbitrary. They are looking at student results, looking at the gaps, and then they are using professional resources to determine what is the best strategy to meet the needs to close those gaps.

Furthermore, Russell Munkler put together a great slide presentation to help explain the difference between the two: http://www.slideshare.net/rmunkler/developing-your-pln

From what I can best gather, a PLC is goal and data driven - within the field of education, that goal is usually student academic success. A PLC is basically designed to function for the good of the group. A PLN, however, is designed by the individual, and its purpose doesn't necessarily have to be aligned to that of your school or organization. A PLN is broad, and it doesn't share the constraints of time or location usually placed upon a PLC. In addition, the "P" in the PLN appears to be interchangeable. While in most cases, the "P" stands for "personal", I've also seen it stand for "professional". 

If you read back to my other posts, you'll find I am a BIG fan of the PLC framework. I've witnessed AMAZING things happen as the result of educators buying into and working as a PLC. That being said, I am beginning to wonder if we shouldn't shift our thinking. Is the PLC too constraining? Can you still have a common goal working through a PLN? If we are asking our teachers to prepare students to be successful in a global society, I think it is something worth looking into!