Making it Count, Weeks 2 & 3

Integrating formal and informal learning has continued as an underlying theme in many of the activities, events, and resources of Connected Educator Month during in second two weeks. Three of the sub-themes identified in our post on Week 1 continue to provide structure to the discussion: time, credit, and culture.


In the social media discussions about being connected educators that unfolded at breakneck pace over the last two weeks, there has been much consideration of how individual educators find, or make, the time to learning through communities and networks. Several educators published “day in the life” blog posts. For example, Anne Mirtschin shared a typical day in her life as a connected teacher in Australia. Stacy Schmidt illustrated her day as a connected superintendent via an infographic. Molly Shields wrote to urge connected educators to stop complaining about not having enough time. In her opinion, we have a professional responsibility to make time.

In the opening sessions, participants suggested that a focus on collaboration is one approach to finding time. The second two weeks have featured new and ongoing opportunities to learn about and engage in collaboration. IDEO’s Creative Confidence Challenge in engaging teachers in an open design thinking process on their OpenIDEO platform; An Estuary is engaging teachers in collaborative action research using Sanderling, a mobile “field journal” app; and LearnZillion shared how it’s organizing teachers to produce high quality, standard-aligned learning materials for use across the country.

Each appealing, these innovative collaborative efforts still require teachers to make time on their own in order to participate. This raises a key question about time: How do you integrate innovative collaboration designs into the school day and year? What can we learn from connected educators existing time-making strategies to inform this integration?


The theme of giving credit for learning and collaboration from communities and networks was central to two of the Connected Principals (#cpchat) chats co-hosted by NAESP and NASSP to jointly celebrate Connected Educator Month and National Principals Month. Particularly interesting is “Patapsco University” at Patapsco High School in Baltimore County, MD, where teachers can choose from a number of flexible, blended professional learning opportunities, with the option to co-develop their own, for professional development credit.

Badges continue to be one means for documenting learning and providing recognition of considerable interest. For example, the HP Catalyst Program, which offers compelling short courses on cutting edge educational technology topics for teachers, award teachers a series of badges to recognize their progress through the program. In addition, Connected Educators Month participants continued to earn badges, which we made easier through the addition of FAQs and how-to videos. Increasingly, educators were nominating each other for peer-to-peer badges to recognize collaborations and contributions to each other’s learning.

A recurring question about badges: What do I do with them once I earn them? Who’s the audience for badges? 


Several sessions of the nightly Connected Café focused on integrating formal and informal learning. The most prominent sub-theme in these conversations was professional learning culture. Lucy Gray emphasized the importance of “professional generosity,” which involves not only helping people learn but also giving them the opportunity to act autonomously as professionals, and suggested the GlobalEdCon is designed around this principal. Peggy George, too, pointed to the importance of supporting others in taking ownership of their own learning, suggesting that it’s easy to fall into an “enabler” mode that keeps them dependent on you.

In the chat, Jim Vanides (a guest in another terrific session later that week) shared his satisfaction in seeing students move from depending on him for answers to “constructing their own knowledge together.” This is how professional learning ought to work. Steven Anderson introduced another challenge for both students and educators learning about using technology in their learning, shifting focus from the device to the process of teaching and learning. In general, participants agreed that connected learning for teachers and students goes hand in hand. In the series of GeekOuts, HIVE Learning Networks and the National Writing Project powerfully illustrated this through inviting students to teach educators how to, for example, program with the Scratch.

A key question about culture: Can we preserve autonomy in informal professional learning when it begins to be more systemically embraced through school and district programming?

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Connect with Other Educators to Personalize Your Own Learning

The second annual Connected Educator Month (CEM), an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology has lived up to its promise to deliver rich opportunities for informal professional development. If you have not jumped in to take advantage of some of the great learning opportunities, you can start now.

Start by registering at the Connected Educators website to receive daily updates. Not sure what to do first? Download the Connected Educator Starter Kit that is full of tips, tutorials, and ideas to help you along your professional learning journey. The CEM 2013 District Toolkit that district and school leaders will find useful as they participate in Connected Educator Month (CEM). Check out the CEM calendar.

Trying to keep up with the hundreds of great events has been an interesting challenge, especially since many of these events are during the school day. On top of all the events happening at Connected Educators Month, there were fantastic learning opportunities at RSCON4, K12 Online, and other events. So we pulled together a few archived events that you just cannot miss.

Interesting articles to read:

Upcoming Events not to miss:

  • Mon., 10/28 12:15-1:30pm ET iNACOL Symposium | Leading Systems Change toward Student-Centered Learning
  • Tues., 10/29 5pm ET New Personalized Learning Models  – join David Truss from Inquiry Hub and Lisa Welch and Wanda Richardson from KM Explore to learn about and discuss new models.
  • Wed., 10/30 5-6:30pm ET Discussion questions and discoveries around themes of Personalized Learning, Innovating STEM and Literacy and 21st Century Classroom Management

As you participate in an event or watch an archived event and find it worth sharing, use the hashtag on Twitter #ce13.  You can even connect with other educators in the CEM online community EdConnectr.   Check out the Wrap Up Events and Activities page.

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What a Week for Thinking STEM!

This was an interesting week for STEM events. I attended one event with the authors of Invent to Learn that was quite inspiring and gave me some fodder on which to chew. I spent an hour in the Connected Cafe with guests Sylvia Martinez & Jackie Gerstein. The webinar was intended for secondary educators. My background is elementary, but I felt that the conversations were very applicable to educators of all levels.

The discussion included conversations about the need to change the current education system, which does not encourage creativity. It made me realize just one more time how much education does need to be transformed. Education needs to provide opportunities for our students to create connections between the facts and knowledge with the big ideas, helping them to develop enduring understandings. In terms of STEM, students need to be engaged in real experiences so that they have the opportunity to think and work like scientists and engineers. It is time to think about personalized learning plans for students. I can only imagine what the role of connected educators will be in the new environments for learning!

After listening to this webinar, I did order the book Invent to Learn because I knew I needed to find out more about the work of these two women.

On another note, Anne Jolly and Nancy Flanagan did some STEM work of their own. They taught an online class on STEM/STEAM last week on the PLP network.  Participants who attended learned what characterized STEM and set it apart from traditional teaching (integration of subject areas, use of the engineering design process, teamwork, multiple possible correct solutions, failure as a road to success, etc.)  They applied what they knew to begin writing an outline for a STEM lesson.  In this case, they are using the engineering design process as an organizer. Even though it was an online course, participants worked in teams to analyze lessons and determine if they were truly STEM lessons or not. I bet Anne or Nancy would be willing to respond if you have any further questions about this topic.

So this brings up the STEM/STEAM question, another point to ponder.

I had fully intended to attend another STEM event, a web seminar sponsored by NASA and NSTA but it was postponed because of the government shut down. It was Weather and Climate: Satellite Meteorology for educators of students from Grades 7-12. So I cannot discuss this but I can tell you about an ongoing STEM resource that is available to you free of charge: NSTA’s Learning Center. The Learning Center is multifaceted with many different types of resources, 3500 or more free resources. The learning Center is perfect for the busy STEM teacher because they can access it at their convenience. There are tools for teachers to use to diagnose, organize, personalize and document their own learning. There is access to other colleagues asynchronously through the discussion forums.

And last but not least access to online advisors who are always willing to assist you or just chat with you about what you are doing in your classroom.

So how do you begin? Google NSTA and click on the NSTA Learning Center. Here is where you will register and your new foray into the STEM resources of NSTA will begin. I can almost hear you that thinking, “But I am not a member of NSTA…” This is NOT a problem, no membership is necessary!

Now that you know a little bit about NSTA’s Learning Center, let me tell you about 3 upcoming events this week.

On Monday, October 21st, at 6:30 PM there will be a web seminar about using the Cybermission Competition to teach STEM skills.

One of the physical science disciplinary core ideas of the Next Generation Science Standards will be brought to life through a web seminar on October 22, 2013. The web seminar is focused on Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions and addresses questions such as “How can one explain and predict interactions between objects and within systems of objects?” This web seminar will provide guidance on:

  • which concepts are central to an understanding of motion and stability
  • how ideas that students have about forces and interactions can be leveraged during instruction
  • how the scientific and engineering practices can be incorporated into instruction so that students can deepen their understanding of these ideas

Wednesday at NSTA highlights an event for  teachers of grades 4-6 in its 6:30 PM web seminar Distance Rate Time Problems: Smart Skies. This web seminar is collaboration between NSTA and NASA, modeling one of those 21st century skills.

This web seminar for educators of students in grades 4–6 features an engaging activity called “Smart Skies.” In this activity, students explore the mathematics involved in the role of an air traffic controller. The challenge is to use mathematical reasoning and distance, rate, and time concepts to change airplane routes and speeds to line up three airplanes safely and with proper spacing at a given intersection. Web seminar participants will receive an overview of the “Smart Skies” activity and discuss ways to modify it to include the engineering design process.

Kathy Renfrew, for the Innovating STEM theme curators

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Connected Leaders Week One — #CE13

Connected Educators Month is full of ways to get “connected.” One special group of learners is the CONNECTED LEADERS theme curator group, who most certainly are interested in the Connected Leaders theme and anything and everything about leadership in the connected communities out there.


The opening panel, Connected Leadership, was hosted by:

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach – author of Connected Educator
Valerie Greenhill – Chief Learning Office for EdLeader 21
Chris Lehmann – Founding Principal for the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia
Candice Dodson – Director of E-Learning with the Indiana DOE
Scott McLeod – Director of Innovation for Prairie Lakes Schools

Discussion centered around, “What does it mean to be a connected leader?,” How does connected leadership impact student learning?,”  and “As we become more connected, what challenges do we face in the future?” The panel got off to a great start and immediately tackled the topic of preparing our students for the future. This certainly is an underlying theme of why leaders should be connected.

The way we learn and live is moving beyond isolation. Our local Communities of Practice are becoming GLOBAL Communities of Practice. Reducing isolation is key, and this will change everything we do. For instance, educators will feel affirmed in their learning to take risks because they no longer feel isolated….instead they feel connected.

Topics ranged from issues such as openness, district systems that facilitate openness, transparency, accelerated learning, and the ever critical collaboration. Again and again, the panel members returned to the concept that there is power in learning that is socialized.

Other events throughout the week included:


Also, on the 1st, there began a celebration of connected Leadership. NAESP began their celebration of National Principals Month with their Hats Off to Principals Contest!

  • Step 1: Draw a picture, snap a photo, produce a video, write a song or poem, or create any other work of art that celebrates your principal. Make it cool, make it personal, but most of all, make it fun!
  • Step 2: Upload your tribute to NAESP’s Facebook page at
  • Step 3: Win great prizes! We’ll recognize a weekly winner. Prizes include: $50 Amazon® Gift Cards, Crayola® Dry Erase Prize Packs, and more!


During this multi-vendor session, administrators were able to review several great educational apps. These apps ranged from organization and time savers for leaders to academic apps for teachers. Dr. Rob Furman, principal of South Park Elementary School new Pittsburgh, PA, shared 25 to 30 apps in all including several social apps. At the conclusion of the event, a small discussion on social media in education was also presented.


During this webinar, Kappan Editor-in-Chief Joan Richardson walked leaders through the process of submitting a manuscript for publication. Her advice focused on Kappan but much of what she shared also applies to other professional education publications. She introduced participants to writers’ guidelines, editorial calendars, thematic issues, timelines for decisions and more, all in an effort to help educators navigate the submission process. This was a valuable session for connected leaders who are interested in print publishing as well as following the same sort of guidelines for BLOGing or publishing online.


Administrator’s days are extremely busy. One theme that comes up across all the topics for Connected Educators Month is the necessity of finding the time to be connected. During this contest kick-off, the event asks the question, “What does a day in the life a Connected Educator look like?” We invite you to show us! There are many possibilities for creating a Day in the Life of a Connected Educator project. It could be as simple as a blog post, a graphic organizer or something along the lines of a podcast or video. We have not created guidelines because we want to allow for creative choice. The only requirement is that your project needs to be accessible online. Share the link to your “project” anytime during October by Tweeting it to @INeLearn with the hashtag #CE13. We will feature Indiana Connected Educators all month long at The purpose for sharing:

  1. Inspire unconnected educators and educational leaders to get connected.
  2. Expand your connections and collaborations.
  3. Motivate other connected educators to create their own project to share as part of the National Connected Educator Month.


This webinar hosted by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach was designed to prepare the next generation to rise to the demands of constant change. Sheryl defined how to meet these expectations enclosed in the silos of our classrooms and offices? Her solution is that we need each other. During this session, Sheryl collaboratively explored the art of collective intelligence building and selfless tribe leadership as a means to transpersonal and professional growth.


#Satchat is an online Twitter discussion for current and emerging school leaders that takes place every Saturday morning at 7:30 AM EST/PST. This Saturday’s #SATCHAT will most definitely be focused on Connected Educators Month; however, tune in every week to learn from the other leaders who are up with a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning to discuss the issues of the day.

OCTOBER 6, 2013

This Moodle MOOC 2 Webinar hosted by Dr. Ludmila Smirnova shared her experience of teaching undergrad and grad courses in a teacher-training program and how she made a change in teacher candidates’s attitudes and skills from resisting technology and critical thinking to embracing technology and striving for excellence. Any administrator that works with teachers could benefit from using such strategies to move learners from technology resistance mindsets to technology participation, connection, and collaboration.

Week one was busy with options for connected leaders to continue with connected learning. Connections are transforming learning, and we are no longer dependent on local spaces. Join us each week this month as we continue to add to our personal learning networks and our communities of practice.


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Call to Action: Recognize and Celebrate the Educators Who Have Made A Difference with Peer-to-Peer Digital Badges

cem-collaboratorLearning from and collaborating with others educators is the irreducible foundation of being a connected educator. In fact, it may be foundational to being an effective educator, period. In the countless stories of being and becoming connected shared during Connected Educator Month so far, the common refrain is that we’ve learned more from our colleagues—across the hall and around the globe—than from any other source and achieved more working together than we ever could have on our own. A growing body of research confirms these insights, suggesting that connected professional learning and collaboration contribute powerfully to helping kids thrive.

cem-mentorContributions made by peers benefit other educators, their students, and the profession as a whole. They cry out to be recognized and celebrated. However, they are often invisible to those not directly involved in the learning and collaboration. Other educators who were involved are far better positioned to document the contributions and attest to their impact than any third-party assessor. Educators have privileged knowledge of how other educators have helped them improve their practice. The only way the world is going to know about how your peers have helped you excel is if you tell their stories.

This is why Connected Educator Month this year is offering you the opportunity to nominate your peers to receive digital badges. When you nominate them for badges, you get to tell the stories of the difference they’ve made. (Event staff members approve all nominations that aren’t spam.) Receiving digital badges recognizing their contributions is likely to be meaningful for your peers, particularly since they will know it came from fellow educators who truly know what they’re talking about. The recipients can also display their badges publically and share them with others as evidence of their leadership and contributions to the profession.

There are two primary peer-to-peer badges for which you can nominate other educators who have made a difference:

  • Use the CEM Mentor badge to recognize another educator who has influenced your practice for the better, in small or big ways. If you’re learned through your relationship with another educator—whether the relationship was developed through a Connected Educator Month event you attended last week or is the result of decades of working together—consider nominating them from this badge.
  • Use the CEM Collaborator badge to celebrate another educator with whom you’ve collaborated in a shared effort that produced meaningful results. Collaborations could be as expansive as developing a new curriculum or as modest as developing a shared list of resources. If it was important to advancing your practice, it deserves notice.
  • Two other peer-to-peer badges enable you to document specific kinds of collaborations: CEM World Traveler focuses on collaboration across national borders, and CEM Re-Mixer highlights collaborative transformation of open educational resources.

Nominating other educators for badges is simple. Telling the stories of their contributions as well as they deserve to be told does take a bit of time and care, but actually making the nomination only take a few clicks. The mechanics are described in the Connected Educator Month Badges FAQs and in this short video.

We challenge you to observe Connected Educator Month by honoring the educators who make a different in your professional lives today with peer-to-peer digital badges. We’ll be following up with some of you who do later in the month to tell your story as well.

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The ConnectED School Leader

As part of our Board capacity building program, we offered 2 full day sessions for our school administrators and instructional leaders with George Couros. George’s session aligned perfectly with our system plan and Ontario school improvement framework. The timing of our sessions also support the global work of Connected Educator Month

George is very personable in front of a crowd, and that in itself helped drive home one of the key messages of the day – the human connection. His approach captured and reinforced an important message in my recent blog post providing a perspective on technology enabled learning. It is NOT about the technology itself. It IS about the human connection: how we connect, develop relationships, learn, support the learning journey of others and reflect. Technology plays a powerful role in the “C’s” – communicate, collaborate, citizenship and character development, creating and critical questions.

The “C’s” provide connectors for us to learn, tell our story or tell the story of our school or system. The “C’s” help us connect beyond our school and system. We gain a wider perspective on innovation and best practices from educational counterparts around the world. Who can better tell your/your school story than you, the administrator and instructional leader?

Through personal and heart warming examples, George shared a journey that connected the dots on the benefits of becoming connected. In the end, the tools themselves, and the technology involved, was simply that – a mechanism to get to the relationships and the story. Tools that supported the journey included Twitter, Google tools (docs, hangouts, youtube etc.), Ted Talks. Use the tools to make your job more streamlined. Deal with information once: Google doc vs word processor to pdf to email for example.

One can not under estimate the value of developing a personal learning network (PLN) to give you access to sharing, resources, problem solving, exchange ideas, thinking and best practices and asking questions – all part of telling your story. I really enjoyed George’s analogy to using your PLN to ask questions and source the wisdom of the PLN crowd to lighting up the “Bat Signal” – a call for help, information, collaboration etc. – awesome!

Dovetailed with blogging, you have a powerful method of communicating your story to a real world audience. This journey certainly does require one to step into the role of the learner and that in itself may be one of the most powerful things that you do as an instructional leader. People around you will benefit from watching you learn, ask critical questions, share through blogging & other means, and shape your thinking.

Sounds like this could be messy – right? So what – learning is messy, and that is simply OK. Why wouldn’t it be messy? Process vs end result. This journey does require that you put your self out there and demonstrate transparency in what you are doing. And just like the first time skier on the 60 foot run (reference to video) – go for it — it is just a little longer and faster than the 20 foot run.

You can do it.

Take action.

Start building your network by spending a few minutes a day on Twitter. Commit 10-15 minutes daily – that is all it takes to get started. Commit to contributing to your board/district hashtag.

See you online in the “Twitterverse” and “Blogosphere”.

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Creating a Scientifically Literate Generation

Connected Educator Month kicked off with a bang as panelists Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Don Buckley, Jeanne Century, and Kent Williamson discussed connections between STEM and literacy. Science literacy is an often misunderstood yet vital element that must be incorporated into our classrooms if we are to engage the next generation in science. Too often the message students receive is that an interest in science, unless translated into a science degree, has little bearing on possible career choices. This attitude, which is often perpetuated by numerous organizations who focus on the need for scientists and STEM professionals, ignores the importance of educating a scientifically literate generation. Rather than viewing science through career-focused lenses, an emphasis on writing and communicating, coupled with the implementation of a DIY mindset into schools, will help to bridge the gap between scientists and non-scientists.

Perhaps we need to start by defining STEMsomething that even the panelists struggled to do. The take-away from this is that STEM is not a one-size fits all approach. Rather than viewing STEM from a career scientist point of view, STEM should represent a movement driven from outside the science community. Indeed, the groundswell of information and projects that have arisen from the maker movement and citizen science movement are helping to define STEM today. The non-scientists of tomorrow will need to be scientifically literate but will also need to establish the habits of mind scientists possess in order to be successful in their careers. Critical to this development is the cultivation of the problem-solving process within today’s classrooms. This process, in which the student learns from failure, encompasses inquiry skills, articulation skills, and the ability to argue and defend claims–skills that can be extended to many fields beyond STEM careers. Teachersespecially elementary teachersneed opportunities to learn the processes of scientific inquiry and engineering design in order to successfully nurture problem solving skills within their students. Once understood, teachers can engage their students in pursuing authentic problems by engaging with active inquiry and by constructing meaning through making.

The panelists were in agreement that technology can accelerate this movement. As teachers connect with each other and with educational researchers and scientists, classrooms will become more dynamic. Information learning venues and online networks are poised to make this happen, yet the eternal question of assessment will need to be addressed. Authentic assessments that revolve around investigations and design processes, combined with the production of digital artifacts and portfolios may portent the future of STEM in this country. This paradigm shift will require educators from different backgrounds and settings to collaborate and share their work so that all practitioners can benefit. For teachers to truly shift their approach, however, they will need time to explore both on their own and with their classes. At the heart of this change will be the development of professional learning communities where teachers and scientists intersect for the purpose of defining STEM.

So how about you? Are you a researcher? Can you reach out and connect within your own community to contribute to the scientific literacy of the next generation? Are you a teacher? Learn how to be a more connected educator by taking advantage of all the wonderful STEM-related events during Connected Educator Month. I encourage you to create a profile in Ed Connectorit is a great place to start connecting! Later this month, there will be an ongoing discussion focused on the book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. I just bought my copy and am looking forward to connecting with other educators in a vibrant discussion community. I hope to see you there!

—Patty McGinnis, on behalf of the Innovating STEM Theme Curators


Anne Jolly (2)Anne Jolly is a former science teacher in the Mobile County Public School System and a former Alabama Teacher of the Year.  She currently develops STEM curriculum for the Engaging Youth through Engineering (EYE) initiative in Mobile, AL.   Anne serves on the Alabama Math, Science, Technology, and Engineering Coalition Board of Directors.  She has also served on the National Commission on Math and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (the Glenn Commission) and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science Education K-12.  Anne blogs about STEM on MiddleWeb.

McGinnisPatty McGinnis is an award-winning teacher who works as a gifted support specialist and science specialist at a middle school in Eagleville, PA. She currently serves as president of the Middle Level Science Teachers Association and is on the board of directors for the National Science Teachers Association and the Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association.


Bev 2012Bev DeVore-Wedding is an award-winning science and math teacher in Meeker, Colorado. She is active in the National Science Teacher Association and currently serves as the High School Division Director.


Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew is an elementary science and math assessment specialist for the Vermont Agency of Education.


CARLISLE-PeggyPeggy Carlisle is a gifted education teacher for second through fifth grade at Pecan Park Elementary in Jackson, Mississippi. She is also the Director of the Preschool-Elementary Division of the National Science Teachers Association and was recently featured in the book American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom.


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Reflections on Any Century Classroom Management

Technically, we’re connecting over 21st Century Classroom Management this month.  Realistically, much of what is being said in the webinars, tweets, blog posts, etc.  is that many of the tenets of “classroom management” developed and supported by research in the previous century still apply.

The kickoff panel reminded us that not all lesson plans (or technology tools) are created equally, access to information has changed the way the world works, and relationships between teachers and students matter. “Good teaching is good teaching.” Clear expectations, redirection skills, and true collaboration matter with or without technology.

What are the key differences?  The tools teachers and students must navigate, the extent to which students have access to information that sits outside of the teacher’s head, and there is a greater need for engagement and differentiation than there was when education could rely more heavily on compliance while only educating a small segment of the population.

Want to dig deeper into this topic?  Here’s the list of upcoming CEM activities on this topic.

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Personalized Learning, Week 1: Personal or Personalized Learning? What’s the difference?

The Connected Educator Month Kick-Off panel on October 2nd on personalized learning helped to lay the groundwork for the conversations that will no doubt be continuing throughout this month and far beyond. Darren Cambridge from the American Institute of Research (AIR) introduced Connected Educators month, provided some logistics, and then asked some questions to lead off the panel. The panelists were:

  • Kathy Cassidy represented teachers well sharing her experiences of personalizing learning in the classroom with primary children.
  • Will Richardson is a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks and education.
  • David Warlick is a speaker, writer, programmer, and a teacher with enthusiasm for helping people discover a brand new world of teaching and learning.
  • Jessie Woolley-Wilson is Chair, President and CEO of DreamBox Learning®, the company that developed the Intelligent Adaptive LearningTM platform.

After the panel, we, as the theme curators, came up with some questions:

Is Personalized Learning about data tracking and informed, responsive instruction as some would suggest? What about interest, engagement, motivation, and learner voice? Who is in charge of the learning? What does it mean to personalize learning? Is it “personal” or “personalized learning?”

The meaning that we made of the discussion is that our teaching, and the educational systems that we have set up on all levels, frequently model our own learning. Many educators see their role as being the ones who bestow information, monitor, and control the environment.  From that perspective, we can feel secure in what we teach, because we confine it to what we know. When we can see ourselves as self-driven learners…who seek and quest after our own knowledge… constantly learning and reaching beyond our own walls even, and especially, while teaching… it is then that we can model personal learning and provide that classroom/school/district/state/nation where both learners and educators can expand and become empowered by their own learning. Is it as Will Richardson says, “It is hard to teach in this century if you haven’t learned in it?” How do we get there?

Will stuck to his point on why we need to talk about “Personal” learning instead of “Personalized” learning that he interpreted as something being done TO the learners instead of learners owning and driving their learning. This caused the activity in the chat to increase with educators from around the world.  Kathy explained that even young children can take responsibility for their learning and provided some examples. One concern we had in the audience was the focus on the technology and not the learner. This came up several times and then David reiterated our concerns by sharing why engagement and motivation is necessary. Expecting technology to monitor progress based on algorithms that track performance is not “personal” to the learner. Will came back with why learners need their voice heard. We applaud this panel for taking on some of these difficult discussions, but we encourage you to check out the chat archive because the backchannel was very interesting and engaging.

Many more sessions on Personalized Learning are included throughout the Connected Educators month. Please visit our CEM Page on Personalized Learning. We are looking forward to continuing the conversations.

Meet the Personalized Learning CEM Theme Curators

romanDonna Adams Román is classroom teacher, blogger, trainer, and presenter committed to providing rich learning opportunities for her students and professional learning network. She is a recent recipient of ISTE’s first place SIGOL Online Learning Award. Donna is active in Professional Development online and in her district, CoSN, ISTE, and Flat Classroom®.


irinyiMichelle Irinyi is an international Montessori teacher mentor, instructional designer, blogger, and educational consultant providing professional development on positive, respectful, and personalized interaction and instruction between adults and students. She is also a judge for the SIIA CODiE awards.


brayBarbara Bray is a Creative Learning Strategist, Co-Founder of Personalize Learning, LLC and Founder/Owner of My eCoach. She is a writer, coach, professional developer, and change agent. She writes a regular column on professional development for Computer Using Educators (CUE) and was awarded the Gold and Platinum Disk Awards for the advancement of educational technology in teaching and learning.


mcclaskeyKathleen McClaskey is CEO and Co-Founder of Personalize Learning, LLC and President/Owner of EdTech Associates. Kathleen is an expert on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and has directed several projects using the UDL framework in math, literacy and science. She is the Advocacy Chair of NHSTE, an affiliate of ISTE and was the recipient of the 2012 ISTE Public Policy Advocate of the Year Award.

Barbara and Kathleen are co-authors of article: A Step-by-Step Guide to Personalize Learning in the May 2013 issue of ISTE’s Learning and Learning with Technology.

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Making It Count, Week 1

Discussion of the integration of formal and informal professional development got off to a great start with an opening panel during the Connected Educator Month kick-off. It also proved to be an underlying theme in many of the week’s discussions. How to enable teachers to utilize protected time and how to provide credit for teachers’ investment in learning and collaboration through communities and networks were key issues. Participants argued that strategies for providing time and credit have to be considered in relationship to state and national policy and school and district culture.


Teachers and administrators are very busy, and time is perhaps the most frequently evoked obstacle to connected learning for educators. Connected Educator Month contributors are addressing this issue in a number of ways.

  • In the opening panel, Eric Sheninger explained how his teachers at New Milford High School all have professional development periods (in place of some non-instructional duties) that they can use for online, informal professional learning. The inspiration for this system is Google’s 80/20 policy. (Eric’s talks about this system here and here, which were widely shared as part of the #ce13 dialog on Twitter this week.)
  • The Connected Educator Month book club on Teacherpreneurs began this week with a webinar with the authors and several teachers featured in the book. As teacherpreneurs, teachers lead without leaving the classroom by devoting some of their time (sometimes with external funding) to work on policy advocacy, community engagement, and educational innovation while continuing to teach throughout the year. Teacherpreneurs from around the country collaborate through an online community of practice, the Center for Teacher Quality’s Collaboratory. (CTQ just released a new video about this community.)
  • One approach to the challenge of time is to focus on collaboration. In the opening panel on connected leadership, Chris Lehman argued that the “killer app” for getting educators connected may not be the ever popular Twitter, but Google Docs, because it can be used to engage in collaborative work that produces a shared product the value of which is self-evident. On the same panel, Valerie Greenhill from EduLeader21 stressed that the educational leaders they engage in their online community of practice learn a great deal through their participation, but what they learn is a byproduct of their collaborative problem solving: “It’s just the work.” (MindShift published a nice piece on this panel.)

A key question about time: The need for and value of collaboration is obvious at the local level. What are the needs that collaboration at the regional, national, or international scale could address well enough that the time investment is worth it? About what kinds of things should educators be collaborating?


A key point of consensus from discussions during Connected Educator Month 2012 was that informal online professional learning ought to count as official professional development, such as through contributing to recertification, bearing graduate credit, or figuring into performance appraisal. (See last year’s report.) This year’s Connected Educator Month speakers shared several strategies:

  • Several of the speakers on the opening panel are working with teachers to use digital portfolios to document professional learning–both informal and formal–to award credit and plan future learning. New Milford uses them to document learning during professional development periods, Albermarle County Public Schools uses them to award credit towards recertification, and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Learning Center makes them central to their system, which a number of districts and states incorporated into their PD programming.
  • Several systems also use points systems to recognize participation. This likely does not lead to formal rewards, but it is nonetheless motivating. For example, in the Oregon Cadre community, led by the Oregon Department of Education and featured in a webinar hosted by the State Education Technology Directors Association, educators receive points for their contributions.
  • Bill Brennan shared plans to award redeemable “Daler Bucks” to teachers in Farmingdale School District where he is the tech director..


The most discussed means for documenting learning for possible formal credit is through digital badges. Badges are being used to incentivize, guide, and document professional learning and collaboration. Several badging initiatives are launching during Connected Educator Month to build on the success of longstanding (for digital badges, at least) use by organizations like NSTA. (See Al Byer’s blog post.) Organizations doing badging for educators in October include:

  • Connected Educators itself. We’re asking all participating organizations to distribute badge codes so that educators can build a “transcript” of their participation in Connected Educator Month. These events badges document the amount of time educators have invested. In their Mozilla Badge Backpacks, educators can augment this record with their own reflections and action planning, then share their collection to argue for receiving PD credit. You can also earn badges for completing activities defined in the Starter Kit and for other key steps to becoming a (more) connected educator, such as utilizing edConnectr. Perhaps most exciting, educators can nominate their peer for badges that recognize powerful collaborators and mentors.
  • Some participating organizations, such as K12 Online and Discovery Education, are designing their own event badges. Others, such as the Indiana Department of Education, are quite actively promoting them.
  • Eric Sheninger announced the integration of digital badges into New Milford’s professional learning system using a new platform, Worlds of Learning.

A key question about credit: Should we take an incremental or transformational approach to badges? Connected Educators largely is taking the former, trying to level the playing field by providing the digital equivalent of seat time, a deeply flawed but very common metric on which PD credit can be awarded. Greg McVerry and others on Twitter have questioned whether this approach devalues badges in general and argues the badges ought to be awarded only on the basis of robust and rigorously examined evidence.


School and district leaders’ approaches to providing time and credit are both constrained, and potentially also enabled, by state and national policy. Policies related to what counts are legitimate evidence for recertification, how professional development is defined and funded, how privacy is protected, and which technologies are allowed in schools are all important for consideration. Panelists in the opening panel on this theme suggested that policies are often read narrowly as an excuse not to innovate. Becky Fisher at Albermarle CPS, for example, has figured out ways to make informal professional learning count toward recertification in spite of state policy that might seem initially not to permit it. That being said, given how much policies differ from state to state, participants agreed that a national analysis of policy related to connected learning for educators would help move practice forward.

A key question about policy: What policy information and guidance do leaders need to advance their plans for integrating informal and formal professional learning? What sorts of advocacy are needed to remove policy barriers?


According to opening panelists, effectively integrating connected learning for educators has to be more than just another program to be bolted on. It requires deep changes in school and district culture. It requires that leaders model the practices they wish to see educators adopt, and that students also have regular opportunities for connected learning at school. These changes take a long time and require careful attention to the local context. Pam Moran, superintendent at Albermarle CPS, reminded participants that it “took years” for them to get to where they are, and that they still have plenty of room to improve.

Connected Educators is working to support districts seeking to be the change process through its district toolkit, the first part of which we released for Connected Educator Month. It features interviews with leaders from districts at different points along the journey towards deep integration, and links to tools and resources appropriate for districts at each stage to help them take full advantage of Connected Educator Month.

A key question about culture: How do you scale up the innovative practices for integrating informal and formal professional learning we’ve seen so far? Which practices for time and credit transfer between schools and districts easily, and which need to emerge from local practice?

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