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We built it, but not many came… How do we reinvigorate Teachers Unplugged?

0170cd4fb6e7a3edb5790bf13b769ab060dff49002This is the fourth year that I have helped to organize the Teachers Unplugged session at NAISAC. This is a participant driven session in which the attendees propose and vote on topics for discussion and then we sit at round tables and have two 20 minute discussions about the most popular topics. It takes some explaining as people enter, but every year we have heard the same thing from people as they leave the session, “This is the best session I have attended at this conference.”

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I think this has to do with the fact that the sessions are interactive and participatory. The fact that NAISAC brings together independent school folks from all over the country who are grappling with the same questions, makes the unplugged session a unique opportunity to hear and learn from the other attendees at the conference (not just the experts). We even “sketchnoted” during the discussions – putting into direct practice the Doodling message we had heard from Sunni Brown’s talk the day before.

unpluggedroundtablewithsketchnotingThis year we had about 30 people attend the Teachers Unplugged session (about 50 people attended the Administrators Unplugged session the day before). Not only is this a valuable experience for the participants, but you can easily bring this back to your own faculty as an approach to Professional Development. My question is why so few? And how do we get more people to attend?

I think part of the problem is our title – people don’t “get” what an unplugged session is until they get to it. It is a hard concept to explain. How can we rebrand this session to better communicate its value and its benefits? I really don’t want this session to die. NAIS has generously given us large rooms with big tables. I fear if we can’t get the numbers, NAIS won’t be able to justify the space they give us.

Please help! What can we do to help reinvigorate the interest in this session? Do you have an idea for a new session title? Something that would attract more people to give it a chance? I welcome your suggestions!!

Thanks! @lizbdavis

Crossposted at The Power of Educational Technology

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Affirmation Through Absence: Thoughts on #NAISAC 2015

I’m writing this post somewhat out of guilt. I had been honored to be selected as one of the official bloggers for the NAIS Annual Convention this year. But I ended up not making it to the convention this year–the second year in a row. Of course, I’m sorry to have missed it. Last year it was for health reasons (all better now). This year weather messed with my schedule and I needed to stay in Dallas. Based on the last couple of days, that’s probably just as well, given my need to be back and how many haven’t been able to fly in because of snow and ice. It’s also leading to an interesting “experiment,” which I’ll try to capture in this post.

We know technology has changed how we do so many things, some of which we couldn’t do before. Once I knew I couldn’t attend the conference, I wondered how well I could gain a sense of events through social media and a few phone calls afterwards. I’m very grateful to all the people who posted on the community site and the many people tweeting. I’ve also seen some great photos; I especially liked the close-ups of the work done by the graphic artists.What follows are the points I gleaned as perhaps dominating the conversations. I know they are heavily influenced by whom I follow, and for someone else these might be very different. I also add a bit of my own reaction.

  • As one would expect when the conference theme is “Design the Revolution,” there seemed to be loads of sessions and energy around design thinking. That’s awesome, and more and more people seem willing to embrace this approach. At the same time, I sensed some worry that eventually it will fade away as other buzzwords do. There seemed a mix of whether or not the point of empathy with the user was lost at times. If that’s the case, and we end up, for example, just redesigning curricula, I think we’ve missed the point. After all, even before we knew the term design thinking, aren’t the basic principles of it what we are supposed to have been doing all along?
  • People had a mixed reaction to the panel of college presidents, with some thrilled they were acknowledging issues, but many others feel they were not accepting their part in the issue or offering any solutions. I don’t think we can count too much on them to do so, as they feel the same pressures many independent schools do. I wonder how we balance our idealism and our realism.
  • Tied to that notion, loads of verbiage about having the courage to make big changes, debate about whether significant change is hard or uncomfortable, whether teachers or administrators are the more willing or loath to make such things happen. One thought I have is that until we bridge that last gulf–along with breaking other real and imagined constructs–it likely won’t happen. It comes down to getting the culture right before anything can happen. That, and as I’ve written many times, truly embracing our independence.
  • Quite a few complaints about “boring” sessions which failed to include any real engaged and active learning. That’s worrisome, for it makes me wonder how people still doing things that way are going to design any sort of revolution. For that reasons, among others, I also wonder about this idea of revolution. Our schools do many things right, and I think we also need to look at progress in relation to where a school starts. Plus, constantly changing too much, too fast always makes me wonder if a school truly knows itself. The change must be thoughtful and measured to be meaningful. Having said that, I’ll contradict myself and admit I often want it to happen much faster. As a head, it’s tough to know how to strike the right pace and balance (a topic I’m planning for another post soon).
Finally, I realize an eternal truth once again. It’s a great one for us to be reminded of quite regularly. It’s a notion that Lori Carroll captured in an earlier post about the #isedchat Tweetup in Boston. For all the talk about more education being on-line and the end of giant conferences, I don’t beleive it will happen to the extreme that some people imagine. There is simply something essential about the communal experience of coming together for a common and admirable goal. Kids need that from their schools, and we need that as independent school educators.
     For that reason, I fully intend to be at annual next year, and I hope to be asked to blog so I can make up for dereliction of duty this year. In the meantime, I’d love to know if I captured the flavor of this year’s event and what I missed.
Cross-Posted on To Keep Things Whole

33 Great Ideas For Women In Leadership Positions

I attended a great session today titled: Engendering Leadership: How Independent Schools Support Successful Female Leaders. Thank you to Lindsay Koss, Pearl Kane, Lucy Goldstein, Meera Ratnesar, Frances Fondren, Karen Whitaker and Katie Arjona for all of your sage advice!

Here is what I learned:

Leadership is a behavior
1. Leadership is about doing not about the title
2. If your passions don’t align with your institution you have to listen to that and move to a place that fits.
3. You need to know the stereotypes that are attached to you (whatever they may be) – use them for your benefit or debunk them.
4. Be frank and clear in your communication even at the risk of not being perceived as nice.
5. Develop a capacity for solitude – as you move up you have a smaller peer group, develop your capacity to solve things alone or with a smaller group of people.
6. Retain your spirit of joy – It can be a joyful position. Need resiliency. Important you know how to bounce back and find the place of joy again.

Developing yourself
7. Presenting at a conference as a way to develop yourself
8. Rent feedback before you own it – look at the reason for the feedback and who is giving it – before you own it.
9. Be aware of your weaknesses – find people who can help you in those areas

Developing others
10. Modeling the way – you are modeling how to be a leader
11. Encourage leadership in each other and in your students
12. Classroom teaching is great training for leadership
13. Cultivate other people in your school
14. New teacher mentoring is an opportunity to build leaders
15. Listen and allow people to tell you their stories
16. Open yourself up to the people around you
17. Develop a protocol for everyone to have a way to think about their career arc – where would you like to be in 5 years – express aspirations and opportunities for the school to help along the way

Blending work and life
18. Work brings joy – don’t apologize or be a martyr
19. Can’t build walls up between work and life
20. Spend less time worrying about the overlap
21Spend more time making sure both are bringing you joy
22. Model as a leader what it looks like to be off line –
23. Eat a piece of chocolate and go for a run – what are your ways to indulge yourself
24. Embrace the glamour of being in a leadership position
25. Cultivate your mentors and your village
26. Times that are really hard can give you a lot to laugh about

Taking initiative
27. You don’t have to know everything in advance
28. Finance knowledge is attainable –
29. Guidestar – Find out what salaries are and ask for money.
30. Don’t be afraid to talk about your value to the institution
31. Look in the mirror and say no to yourself 10 times – the mirror doesn’t break. Don’t back down.
32. If you don’t get the raise ask for feedback as to why
33. Negotiate for PD funds, for comp time not only for money

The Daily Find:Thursday February 26- Day 1 of NAISAC 2015

This Daily Find covers the first full day of the NAIS Annual Conference.

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Thursday of NAISAC 2015 is now in the history books. If you missed it or want to revisit some of what was shared, take a moment to explore some of the community posts below. Each of these posts were contributed by a collection of contributing authors to the community blog. If you have your own blog and would like to have a conference reflection highlighted, send the link to naisac15@gmail.com so it can be featured in a future issue of The Daily Find

Pausing & Thinking About Digital Citizenship

“From your head down to your toes, pause and think about it. From your feet up to your nose, pause and think online.” – Common Sense Media

Pause & Think Online

Today’s performance: http://youtu.be/nslHMGdwcW8

How wonderful it was to this morning to watch first and second graders from The Meadowbrook School sing about how to be good, smart digital citizens…especially at a conference focused on 21st century learning! After all, how can we expect our students to use the wicked (that’s a Bostonian term) awesome technology tools we’re providing them…but not guide them on the social responsibility, etiquette, and safety of using them?

So much of the 21st Century learning we all leaned into today happens with technology – CAD, coding, robotics, video production, and more! And what is so wicked special about these technologies is the added educational value they provide our students:

  • Collaboration with peers
  • Tutorials from experts
  • Sharing (and playing) in online communities

The fact that our little ones were on the stage today singing about digital citizenship…well that’s because they are already part of 21st century learning. They are collaborating with peers to build and program (Minecraft, Scratch), watching tutorials on how to sew or design dresses made of duct tape (Khan Academy, Youtube), and sharing their own successes and discoveries in online communities (Poptropica, Club Penguin). And while some of this discovery happens at school, more and more of it is happening at home.

We owe it to our students, if we are going to put the tools in their hands, to teach them digital citizenship – What is fair use? How do you safesearch? What does your digital footprint look like? What should you do if you are being cyberbullied? How do you protect your identity?

So when it comes to digital citizenship at your school, take the advice of our Meadowbrook 1st and 2nd graders today: Pause…and think about it.

Digital citizenship is wicked important.

Mike Scafati

Teacher – Technology, Film, Social Studies

Digital Citizenship Certified Educator: Common Sense Education

@MikeScafati

@MeadowbrookMA

 

Facing the Music

It’s meant to be entertainment, but I’m pretty sure that every educator in the room at the NAISAC plenary sessions is entertained by far more than the sweet sounds of the student groups whose performances precede the speechifying. It’s not just the music that’s on display; it’s the kids.

A few years back I started looking around at my fellow audience members during these performances. No adult has ever listened to kid-produced music so intently just to appreciate the tunes, and it became clear to me that nearly everyone in the room—thousands of us, teachers all—was watching those kids and doing just what I do when I watch: I was analyzing, pondering, and creating backstories for the kids whose expressions, dress, body language, and apparent levels of engagement are on full display for an audience whose members lives’ work is figuring out kids.

It’s a panorama of essential kid-ness: The head bobbers, the silent starers, the earnest angels, the unmade beds, the stage-frightened automata—they’re all there for us to see, magnified on the Jumbotron screens. We can try to imagine what they are like in class, what they’re like at home, how they think, what they’re like as friends, how they feel about the experience they’re having. We empathize, we applaud, we sometimes mentally chastise; we can even imagine on occasion what the choral or orchestra director must be thinking. We can see—or guess—who is Old Reliable and who just doesn’t know the words–never has, never will. We can see who is transported by the music they are creating and who isn’t quite aware—perhaps because of the giant audience before them—that they are actually making music.

The Annual Conference has many pleasures, but I will confess that watching those kids, and imagining what three or four thousand educators are thinking and feeling and taking pleasure in as they watch along with me, gives me an enormous and heartening feeling of satisfaction and community—the feeling that we are all in this together, and that we share something truly profound.