A week ago, I had the honor of being invited to the PA Elementary Secondary School Principals Conference 2014 with fellow Digital Principal Daisy Dyer Duerr, @daisydyerduerr. We had the pleasure of leading a couple of talks on digital tools in their Tech Learning Lab, an inspiration @PAESSP President Bill Ziegler, @DrBillZiegler, borrowed from the NASSP Dallas Conference. Daisy and I gave a pres on some essential digital tools for building up and maintaining PLNs [this included showcasing our new favorite – @Voxer!]. Our second session was some ‘Play in the Sandbox Time’ – helping provide some personalized learning talks for any- and everyone on the digital tool of their choice.
It was a great privilege to be a part of this event. The organizers of this event went to great lengths to make sure that there was something there for everyone at every level. I really admire the organization and preparation that went into this event – it facilitated the deep learning opportunities we participated in. Everyone was incredibly helpful and committed to making sure all attendees had a good time and left at a better place than they arrived.
Takeaway #1: The Undeniable Value of Group Learning
I had the benefit of attending some great share sessions from Alan November, Michael Fullan and some local educators. Good presentations always leave crowds hungry for more and shake us up a bit and these sessions did not disappoint! November and Fullan both brought great points about how we are or should be designing learning and teaching and leading our organizations. It was enough to make some people question some [or all] the aspects of their leadership practices. I count myself fortunate to have had an opportunity to share some thoughts with some conference attendees after the talks on what we are doing, what we can do and what we need to do. It was great to compare notes with others on what we learning looks likes in our school and what we want it to look like.
This epitomizes what value of the group learning and conversation. This is why we need to get out of our buildings and attend great learning events like these conferences. Not only to hear from experts, we need to be able to share with others in similar and different roles and experience levels. These conversations help grow us as professionals and help the learning and teaching in each other’s school.
Takeaway #2: Getting Connected/Growing PLNS
The networking and fellowship at #PAESSP14 helped make this experience. The face to face networking here only made the later digital connecting more impactful. Connecting at these events is what makes us grow, finding like minded colleagues and even mentors. But we can also count on extending these relationships to our PLN to continue the discussions and sharing to make a difference in growth. I volunteered to lead the first @PAESSP chat of the year on digital tools later that week. Reconnecting with some of the attendees and connecting with others who didn’t was a great experience.
Takeaway #3: Keep Sharing Those Digital Tools
Our sessions were great! I’d like to thank Daisy for being a great co-presenter [she only mentioned she was taller than me twice! #improvement]. Sharing on the digital tools was a lot of fun for us and we could tell that it was informative for our audience members. The only thing that made this better was our ‘sandbox’ time in the afternoon. We didn’t let the numbers sway us OR limit the tools we shared. We talked Twitter and Hootsuite and Evernote and Voxer and Droid phones and iPhones and other toools and devices. [We even helped a vendor with her social media]
We had lots of questions on different levels – a validating experience that we all have to commit to helping others grow and develop comfort and competence levels with these tools. We can’t take for granted that we all have a certain experience or impact level with different tools. While were able to help some people get started on Twitter, we also helped others who were experienced users get more out of their Twitter practice, including managing multiple accounts.
I’d also like to give @DrBillZiegler credit for implementing these Tech Labs. I was able to meet @ as they were leading a Twitter 101 session! Great guys and great PLN builders!
State conferences like @PAESSP are great connecting and learning opportunities we should enthusiastically embrace. It fills in the learning and practice gaps we may have in our practices and understandings. I saw firsthand the great benefit of being a resource to other learners – being able to share how we use tools in our everyday practice makes helped some attendees realize the work is worthwhile, is doable and is difference making!
Thanks for a great experience @PAESSP!
I’ve had some recent conversations with some of my PLN members about how digital tools are helping me make a difference in my practice. Its always an honor to share some aspects of what I do with others. Its gives me a great sense of community to engage in these real, share conversations but I also benefit from these opportunities to share because they give me the opportunity to reflect on not only what I am doing but some of the other aspects these tools bring to my administrative function.
One conversation this week was about blogging. I was sharing my personal journey as a blogger with a principal here in NC, a newly connected learner and [hopefully after our conversation] a prospective blogger. I shared with him my need to overcome my hangups about writing to get to the real need and goal for my blog – to be a resource to my teachers and school. I am not a prolific blogger like many of my PLN but I do rely on my blog for several critical reasons.
Voice & Vision
We all have conversations with teachers and community members about what we are trying to do in our classrooms and school to have a positive effect on learning and teaching – this is an ongoing function of school leaders in and out of the classroom. So between and after conversations with our stakeholders what serves as a placeholder for the conversations we have? What can serve as the place to go to get a question answered as far as what is this principal/teacher/educator trying to accomplish? The blog is a great tool to not only share your thoughts but to paint a very clear picture of what your organization is about, what the goals are and where we are headed.
For several years I had a personal blog where I recorded experiences and thoughts about what I was thinking and doing to make a difference. Earlier this year at the @NASSP conference, I had a chance to meet Dwight Carter @Dwight_Carter, 2013 Digital Principal of the Year. One of the great conversations we had was on blogging, specifically how he not only maintains his personal blog Mr Carter’s Office, but also his weekly blog for his school and staff filled with announcements and resources and a blog to keep his community informed about what is going on. Hearing and seeing this made me rethink my communication efforts. I always ask myself what else can I do help my teacher and staff and this was a small consideration. What a great way to celebrate, inform, inspire and lead groups!
My NC colleague shared how he creates weekly and biweekly newsletters. With this transition, he will be able to maximize on the archiving and search features of the blog – his staff and community will be simple searches away from accessing and re-accessing difference making information.
I shared my new school blog in our discussion and what drew the most conversation was the resource section. In every blog, after our celebration and upcoming events, I make sure to share resources that I have gathered from my PLN over the week that I think will make a difference with our instructional goals. These are mix of blogs, articles, infographics – anything that reinforces recent conversations and past and future trainings we have had in the school. This is section has helped reduce the number of emails I send out to my staff through the week [I’ve been told I may have a problem]. One of the best examples of this that I’ve seen is from Jason Markey @JasonMMarkey, 2014 Digital Principal of the Year. Check out his central hub site – from here he links to all the resources and communication blogs for his school. From here you can clearly see a focus on keeping everyone informed and keeping everyone resourced.
The different aspects and benefits of a good blog can’t be spoken of enough. It starts with intention – making a difference. I am fortunate to have some great examples in my PLN that I can continuously learn from and share with others in their journey.