Collaboration for Literacy and Global Connection – Collaboration and Capacity Building, Week 4

This blog post was written by Lisa Fink, National Council of Teachers of English, and Michael Rifenburg, University of North Georgia, on behalf of the Collaboration and Capacity Building theme curation team, which worked together to cover related events and resources through the first two weeks of Connected Educator Month and met to identify key themes and examples.

“As long as institutions view literacy as primarily the ability to read and write, it stays in the domain of language teachers. When literacy is seen as competence or knowledge in other specified areas, it opens the possibilities to other disciplines and more educators.”

That quote comes from the idea that received the most votes in the Conditions for Literacy IdeaScale project. Visitors to this site were asked: What organizational conditions are necessary for powerful literacy learning to occur? The ideas they submit can be voted on by visitors in order to determine those that resonate most with viewers.

It’s interesting to see that this idea was the one that rose to the top—because many of the events our team covered in the last week of Connected Educators Month (CEM) spoke to this idea that there’s a role for everyone in a school, a community, and even around the world when it comes to building good learning environments.

NCLE graphics-06

Collaborators Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Collaboration that leads to powerful professional learning and increased capacity to address educational challenges is more likely to succeed when certain organizational conditions are in place, conditions that are often determined by policies made outside the local context.

The National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) has organized a series of webinars on models of interorganizational collaboration for improving education during CEM:

Each episode in the series features a model and/or conceptual framework that is yielding promising results and examples of its implementation. Here’s one interesting quote from the Networked Learning Communities session: “Collaborations are not just about exchanging existing knowledge, but also about creating new.”

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) put together a webinar that offers a powerful example of the role librarians can play helping students to create new knowledge. Curation team member Gloria Mitchell observed that librarians

can provide support by helping students ‘connect the dots’ (Kay Wejrowski), assisting with topic selection, finding an anchor text, finding ways to extend the project, helping create presentations, and serving as project mentors.  Capstone projects place student interests and passions at the center of the experience; benefits to the school include increasing students’ independence as learners (they know schools are trusting them to make significant decisions about their own learning), helping students to become expert in a topic that matters to them, and giving students a way to apply the knowledge they have acquired in their schooling, putting their formal education to real-world use.

The AASL website contains an executive summary of the task force findings and a position statement on senior/capstone projects.

This idea of empowered learning also ran through a session called The Digital Leap Charge that Melanie Koss covered. She reflects, “Digital learning occurs in an ecosystem, it comes from a need to empower learners and educators, to learn skills for success in the workplace and society. The goal is to empower them to become lifelong learners, to learn innovative thinking, and to be considered tech-savvy.”

Collaborations Can Span the Globe

Curation team member Michael Rifenburg was struck in his observation of events during the last week of Connected Educators Month by how truly global digital collaborations around education have become. “I had the privilege to tweet with my global colleagues in New Zealand about clustering and small-group collaboration (#cenz14 & I blogged about this experience) and with my colleagues in Norway about the need to have connected teachers before we seek to have connected students (#cenor14).”

Curation team member Marisa Crabtree covered an October 31st webinar on “Open Leadership for the Open and Connected Learning MOOC” (#oclmooc). (For those not familiar with this acronym, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course.) This movement started in Alberta, Canada, and has an active weekly Twitter conversation and blog ( The goal is to create a digital, collaborative space where teachers in Alberta and around the world can discuss questions related to teaching and respond to specific weekly prompts.

While just last year MOOCs were either the panacea or the death of higher education (depending on your source), heated debate has seemed to wane recently, with outlets such as the Chronicle of Higher Education spending less and less ink on this topic. However, now that a recent Nature article has reported that the most common user of a MOOC is an educated young man, MOOCs will struggle even more to be seen as the greater leveler of access to (higher) education.

Curation team member Maria Clinton covered an event on connecting classrooms with Skype. According to Clinton, “teachers use Skype to overcome budget and time constraints. Using Skype, they can contact people willing to work with their kids for free.” And much of the webinar showed how these collaborations enable classrooms to take virtual filed trips around the globe without ever leaving their desks. One creative game Clinton reported on is called Mysteryskype, in which two classrooms are connected and the game is to guess the location of the other class by asking questions.

October’s professional learning shines a light on what education in a globally connected and flattened society can look like. We live in a world today where students and educators are able to reach across countries and borders to connect in the name of educating. Here’s to moving this idea forward!

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Earn Graduate Credit for your participation in Connected Educator Month

graduate-creditConnected Educator Month was filled to the brim with enormous learning opportunities and activities. You were an active participant but are still taking advantage of numerous archived activities. So why not reward yourself and earn graduate credit for all of your hard work? The University of North Dakota is offering one credit for $75 US dollars and two credits for only $150 US dollars. The course is graded as pass/fail and official transcripts may be ordered at the end of the course for an additional $5.

Assignments include creating an action plan that outlines how you will integrate your new knowledge and acquired technology skills into your teaching, what is your timeline for implementation and how you will share your knowledge with others. You’ll also take time to reflect on how participating in CEM events led you to reach your professional goals and how your new knowledge will impact your teaching practice.

Registration closes November 7th but you have until the end of the month to turn in your assignments. You completed the hard lifting this past month, but now’s the time to reflect and put your learning into action! Click here to register and/or to review additional information.

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Thank you from all of us at Connected Educator Month!

Thank you

Thank you to all the connected educators, organizations, volunteers, staff members, and many others who made Connected Educator Month 2014 possible.

We really couldn’t have done it without you!

Sincerely, all of us at Connected Educator Month

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CrICET: Learning Studios – Chat Transcript

Darren Cambridge:Please feel free to share comments and questions throughout here in chat. I’ll draw the speakers attention to them as we go along.
Darren Cambridge:Welcome Kim. If you like, fee free to introduce yourself in chat.\
Don Glass:Hi Kim!
Darren Cambridge:It’s fascinating to me to think about who the equivalent partner organizations might be if the focus were literacy (or arts, or diplomacy ..)
Kim Willey:hello!
Don Glass:Yes, working professionals as content experts, resource brokers, and curricular coaches.
Darren Cambridge:Welcome, Kristen!
Kristen Nielsen:Thanks!
Darren Cambridge:Yes, “model” is a problematic term. It impies replication with fidelity as opposed to the adapatation that’s likely necessary to make things effective and sustainable across a range of school and community contexts.
Don Glass:This is Elizabeth – I am happy to answer questions as Don is speaking!
Darren Cambridge:Professional learning communities + project-based learning + outside content experts
Darren Cambridge:4-6 week project
Darren Cambridge:NGSS pushing towards project-based, cross-curricular
Don Glass:The combination of strategies also provides multiple entry points for teachers, teams and districts with different strengths/challenges.
Darren Cambridge:Eleizabeth, you just said what I meant much more clearly!
Darren Cambridge:Some “PD” in this chart means tool training?
Darren Cambridge:Embedded design and evaluation capacity-building – at their level of use
Don Glass:Yes collaborative training on the tools especially around the curriculum map and NGSS.
Darren Cambridge:Is there a way to learn more about our collaboriaton discussion protocol?
Darren Cambridge:(your)
Don Glass:Yes I believe it is upcoming and if not we can talk about it in the Q & A.
Darren Cambridge:Collaborative culture survey informed by NCLE asset inventory, adapted for STEM context
Darren Cambridge:I really like the mapping between the NCLE domains and these other collaboraiton frameworks!
Darren Cambridge:The use of the NCLE asset inventory, we’ve found that identifying where their is disagreement about ratings between team members are really fruitful places to focus to strenthen the team.
Darren Cambridge:Buck Institute efssential elements of project-based learning
Darren Cambridge:Can others not (yet) involved in Learning Studios access some of these tools?
Adam Papendieck:Good question!
Adam Papendieck:I’m very sorry, i have to sign off a bit early due to prior engagement. The evaluation discussion, especially the details on the various collaborative culture framewhorks was very enlightening. I am thinking about how to transport some of this to evaluating outcomes in citizen science/informal STEM activity context.
Don Glass:So glad you asked – yes and we are in the process of developing a toolkit with these tools, improvement stories, and context right now – should be ready in Jan
Darren Cambridge:Thanks for joining us, Adam!
Don Glass:Adam feel free to email either of us for more info/discussion. Thank you for being here today.
Darren Cambridge:More about the Asset Inventory developed by NCLE:
Adam Papendieck:thanks all for your time. very interesting work
Darren Cambridge:It is available on the Literacy and Learning Exchange for anyone to use.
Kim Willey:survey items on the assessment evidence slide are great!
Darren Cambridge:NCTAF is developing an online toolkit with a number of these tools. Awesome!
Darren Cambridge:I’d love to share the toolkit with the evaluators of our new LIREC project, an Innovative Apporach to Literacy grant from ED NCTE, the Rural Trust, and IEL have just kicked off.
Kristen Nielsen:I teach at a Technical magnet school, so STEM is a major focus. What is the cost of this program?
Kristen Nielsen:Interesting. Are you working with Baltimore County Public Schools yet?
Kristen Nielsen:I do look forward to accessing some of the collaborative tools and survey feedback questions with my AP Literature seniors
Kim Willey:I am very interested in the student retrospective survey- can you talk a little bit more about how the survey was developed and how it informed practice
Kerry Burke:The video from the Summit will be available early next week on
Kristen Nielsen:Which aspects of the program will be available in January and where can they be accessed?
Don Glass:Thanks Kerry!
Darren Cambridge:Ping us when the video is up, and CEM and NCLE will defiitely promote it.
Kerry Burke:Absolutely!
Kim Willey:thanks don!
Kerry Burke:You can also find updates on the toolkit and summit video by following us @nctaf and on Facebook
Kristen Nielsen:Will the Toolkit only be available by the district manager of districts that have purchased the program?
Elizabeth Foster:No cost. It is for coaches and teacher leaders as well.
Kristen Nielsen:Wonderful. I look forward to exploring the program further. Thank you for your time and information.
Kim Willey:yes, I agree! I am very interested in adapting some of these materials to use in arts classes!
Elizabeth Foster:Thanks Kim Willey!
Kristen Nielsen:Thank you for your time, and I look forward to exploring your resources.
Don Glass:Go arts!
Kerry Burke:Thanks!!
Don Glass:Thanks everyone!
Kim Willey:thanks! this was great!
Elizabeth Foster:Thanks everyone!
Lu Ann M. McNabb:Thank you both for your work and your time today.
Darren Cambridge:The series:

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Join us: Connected Educator Month Town Hall Meeting – Monday, November 3

Join us for a Town Hall Meeting to celebrate the culmination of Connected Educator Month 2014

Town Hall Meeting

Whew! After over 940 events this October, it’s time to regroup and reflect!

On Monday, November 3, join us for a Town Hall Meeting: an opportunity for the connected education community to come together, give thanks, share results, reflect on the month, talk about what went well, what we learned, what could be improved, and begin the planning process for CEM 2015!

Date: Monday, November 3


Time: 3:30-5pm Eastern Daylight (New York) time

If you are in a different time zone please use the Time Zone Converter.  International participants please select USA-New York for the location.

Where: Online at

Please spread the word about this collaborative closing event! We hope to see you there!

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This Week’s Best of the Web Roundup: October 31

Best of the Web RoundupWelcome to our final Best of the Web roundup for Connected Educator Month 2014! Each Friday we’ve posted our favorite links from throughout the week from all around the web.

Thank you for all the tips, links, and images you’ve shared! Without further ado, here’s the final roundup of resources and guides, free webinars, thought provoking posts, videos, and more. Dig in!

First, a Halloween-themed laugh

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 11.21.26 AM

Join us for a Town Hall Meeting to celebrate the culmination of Connected Educator Month 2014

Town Hall Meeting

After a weekend breather to rest, join us for a Town Hall Meeting: an opportunity for the connected education community to come together, give thanks, share results, reflect on the month, talk about what went well, what we learned, what could be improved, and begin the planning process for CEM 2015! Read more

Why Educators Should Spend 15 Minutes a Day on Social Media

Busy schedules are one reason why educators don’t collaborate and connect through social networking platforms. But a lack of time isn’t the main issue. It’s priorities. “The Connected Educators Month is a great movement, and it’s not about big grand gestures,” McCoy said. “It’s about doing something that you normally have not done and reaching out and making new connections.” Keep reading to find out why two educators make digital connections a priority and how they do it. Read more

Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities


Download this free #infographic with PLC best practices from ASCD. Get it here:

EdTech Twitter Accounts You Can’t Afford to Miss

There are a number of Twitter users who are worth following for anyone who wants to be up to date with or wants to learn more about the ever growing world of education technology. Here’s a list of the EdTech Twitter accounts that you can’t afford to miss: Read more

Words Matter: Are you talking about technology, or are you talking about learning?

In schools all over the nation, “technology coaches” are being hired, “technology workshops” are being held, and classrooms are getting “flipped” and “blended”. Every time we find a way to be more efficient or effective, we come up with a new acronym or word for it. Instead of “connecting with other educators”, we build a “PLN.” Instead of “giving students access to resources,” we “go 1:1 with a blended learning approach.” Can we please stop? Read more

The death of the PDF newsletter

PYqKQuWe45ZKjokXwAyhjjK3LcQCRzA2B6mpthh7rh9hNNKG3CTlEDFeaRP7i6cMvpRySjJ6Lfl7YsZff5Qt8aZFpXQEUP8nx2TOVGMHoUVKl2GhBdLqBTROZHSr49kqDid you know that worldwide over 50% of emails are now opened on mobile devices? It’s a simple little data point that has far reaching implications for your email newsletters. If every second email you send is being opened on a smartphone or tablet then you better make sure that your email campaigns are all highly readable and actionable on any device. Read more

Connected Educator Month 2015: Get in on the ground floor – how will you be involved?

We all deserve a rest before we move into the planning for 2015, but we want to make sure you save your spot so that together we can make 2015 even better. Please let us know how you’d like to be involved. We will be in touch shortly with a survey for your feedback and then again in January to chat about the possibilities!

Analog Twitter Wall to Build Relationships and Digital Citizenship

During this past summer, I heard about many educators using Twitter in their classroom.  I loved the idea but did not know how to start or incorporate it into my classroom. I decided to go against the digital trend and use an analog Twitter wall to encourage students to express their feelings and thoughts. Read more

Free Common Core Resources Project on iTunes U from ASCD

ASCD, the global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, is pleased to announce the Common Core Resources Project on iTunes U. The Common Core Resources Project is a curation of instructional resources and assessment sample items that will help educators successfully implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and teach effectively using iPads.

The project features 23 iTunes U courses that are free to all educators through ASCD on iTunes U and the ASCD EduCore® site. The courses, designed by teacher teams comprised of Apple Distinguished Educators, members of PARCC Educator Leader Cadres, and ASCD teachers, are focused on CCSS for math and English language arts at each grade level from K–12. Read more

Earn Graduate Credit for Connected Educator Month Activities You’ve Already Completed!


Would you like to earn graduate credit for the activities and events you participated in during Connected Educator Month? The University of North Dakota is offering 1 or 2 credits to those who have participated this year. The cost for 1 credit is $75 US dollars and the cost for 2 credits is $150 US dollars. This course will be graded as pass/fail and official transcripts may be ordered at the end of the course for an additional $5. Registration closes November 7th.

Visit the Graduate Credit page to learn about the Connected Educator Month event & assignment choices for this course as well as the corresponding due dates. Upon registration, you’ll receive an Assignment Tracker that you can use to record your progress, check off the activities you participated in, and collect artifacts and links. This will be turned in when you’re ready to receive your grade. You’ll also receive link to make payment to UND.

Teachers Are Leaders Beyond the Classroom

My mother’s mantra was “to whom much is given, much is required.” Her confidence shaped me and my brothers and sisters into strong, talented young people. She instilled her belief in me so strongly that when I grew up I became a teacher and I’m still a volunteer.

All teachers are volunteers. They give their time, their money and their love to their students. They work hard and they deserve respect. But just being a teacher in your own classroom, as challenging as that is, is not enough. Read more

The Forgotten Elements of Digital Citizenship

Two elements of digital citizenship — security and online etiquette (especially cyberbullying) — tend to get the most attention. Throughout October, many schools turn their attention to bullying prevention. Lessons, conversations, and statements of empowerment fill school hallways as students, parents, and communities demonstrate that they won’t stand for the pain that cyberbullying can bring. There’s no question that for anyone using digital resources, understanding the most appropriate ways to behave and protect information is key. However, let’s not forget about the other nine elements of digital citizenship: Read more

Top Tweet

Top Tweet

Tips & Tricks for Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Building Your PLN

The October 14, 2014 Twitter chat co-hosted by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Connected Educator Month co-chair Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach  was a lightning-fast hour of collective intelligence-building! One particularly good bit of knowledge were the many tips and tricks about building your personal learning network that were shared during the chat. We’ve put together this “toolkit” of PLN-building tips and tricks in a Google Doc so you can benefit from the knowledge sharing.

Get your free 13-page Twitter Guide for Teachers

Powerful Learning Practice’s free Twitter Handbook for Teachers is an interactive, 13-page guide to Twitter. This guide is for educators who are new to Twitter, or veterans to the social media platform who want to bring Twitter into their classrooms or grow their network. Is that you? Sign up to get your free instant download!

2014 Technology and Professional Development Survey

Q12-social-media-pd-012-1024x1003From the abacus to the calculator, the chalkboard to SMARTBoards, technology has had an immense impact on education and how students learn. However, technology is only one piece of the puzzle. Bill Gates said it best: “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

But how are teachers using technology? And how are teachers maintaining expertise in the areas of teaching and new technology? With these themes in mind, the USC Rossier School of Education’s online Master of Arts in Teaching set out to answer these questions by surveying current educators as to how and why they’re using technology, such as social media and Twitter chats, to form their own professional development. Read more

Becoming an Ed Tech leader is easy with the help of ISTE!  Based on my own experience, there are a series of steps to developing ones leadership skills.  While I am very honored to be sitting on the ISTE Board of Directors now, this resulted from several activities I participated in over the last few years as an active member.  Below I will share what those activities were so that you, too, can try out my “recipe for success!” Read more

[Infographic] Five Reasons to Teach Kids to Code

Teaching coding to students has several benefits. Here is an amazing infographic that demonstrates why teachers must teach coding to their kids. Read more

All Aboard the Connected Classroom

Throughout this October, edSurge is sharing articles, tools and resources on this fast-track journey of creating authentic learning for students and educators. Each week, they are releasing new resources for each part of the journey. Week 4 is Expanding Your Influence: Where do you go? Join in!

It’s time to change the world!


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Listen to the latest from Connected Educators Radio: Digital Citizenship, Norway, ISTE, Digital Storytelling & more

We have started a BAM Radio station that will feature connected goodness throughout the year called Connected Educators Radio. Tune in to Connected Educators Radio to hear the latest developments on connected educator initiatives around the globe, highlights from connected events and the back stories on the people and programs involved in the drive to connect the entire education community worldwide.Your show hosts: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Tom de Boor, Darren Cambridge.

Here’s the latest from Connected Educators Radio 

[Connected Educator Minute] A Common  Sense View of Digital Citizenship

Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach, Tom De Boor Darren Cambridge, Rebecca Randall

picNested inside of Connected Educator Month is Digital Citizenship Week. In this segment we look at some of the key issues.

Follow: @CommonSenseEdu @snbeach

@dcambrid @edconnectr @bamradionetwork



Spotlight on Norway’s First Connected Educator Month

Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach, Tom De Boor, Ann Michaelsen

This year, Connected Educator Month went global.  In this segment we check in with our partner in Norway for an update on how their first Connected Educator Month progressed.

Follow: @annmic @snbeach

@dcambrid @edconnectr @bamradionetwork


The Ed Tech Hub: How ISTE is Using Digital Story Telling to Share Best Practices

Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach, Tom De Boor Darren Cambridge, Jodie Pozo-Olano

picWe spend a minute discussing how digital tools are empowering educators to share best practices in new and compelling ways.

Follow: @JPozoOlano @snbeach

@dcambrid @edconnectr @bamradionetwork



How Superintendents Are Connecting to Get Ready for the Future

Tom De Boor with Tom Murray

Tom Murray dropped in to tell us about the Future Ready initiative and how superintendents are connecting through it.

Follow: @tomcmurray @snbeach

@dcambrid @edconnectr @bamradionetwork


Tapping Into the Collective Creative Potential of Educators

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Tacy Trowbridge

We talk with the head of Adobe’s education exchange about how over 150,000 educators are collaborating and unleashing enormous creativity.

Follow: @tacytrow @snbeach

@dcambrid @edconnectr @bamradionetwork

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Connected Educator Month 2015: Get in on the ground floor – how will you be involved?

Connected Educator Month 2014 has been an amazing month!


With over 940 events on our calendar, many new organizations joined us this year offering amazing professional learning for educators worldwide. You all have had a lot to say – we had more Tweets in a single day than we did the entire month in 2013. Many individuals and organizations contributed knowledge, shared tips, led events, and participated this October. We are thankful for each person who gave their time and expertise!

We all deserve a rest before we move into the planning for 2015, but we want to make sure you save your spot so that together we can make 2015 even better. Please let us know how you’d like to be involved. We will be in touch shortly with a survey for your feedback and then again in January to chat about the possibilities!

Click to let us know how you’d like to get involved

Thank you for your commitment to connected education!

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Culture, Assessing Collaboration, and Connectedness – Collaboration and Capacity Building, Week 3

During the third week of Connected Educator Month, we noticed a real focus on tension between what we aspire to with these terms “collaboration” and “capacity building” and what they look like in reality when applied in the classroom. It was interesting to note that while all the learning took place online, a great deal of the discussion surrounded the importance of face-to-face interactions in achieving change at any scale.

Collaboration & Capacity Building


“Good Morning. It’s Good to See You.”

Years ago I was involved in a project where a new principal was trying to turn around her “failing school.” Test scores were abysmal, staff morale was in the toilet, and parental involvement was nil. Faced with such a set of circumstances, there were lots of different approaches we could have taken. But the first thing we did was make sure every student was greeted coming in the door every single day.

According to Dr. Joseph Murphy, that approach follows what we know about what works in school change: “All grade schools rest on two feet. One is hard work, challenging students, etc. This is the variable we are hearing the most about, that of ‘academic press.’ The other that is just as critical is the school’s community or culture.”

Much of what one reads in this ASCD piece called “Getting the Word Out, Part I: How School Leaders Can Address Equity and Engagement” by Peter Dewitt supports this notion that community building, listening, really seeing the people who make up a school is foundational to building the capacity to make a change. Here are some of the things he suggests school leaders must do to make that happen:

  1. Get out of their offices.

  2. Have authentic conversations in which leaders do more listening than speaking.

  3. Encourage student voice: “All students have something to teach us. Kids are not the problem, but they’re the solution.”—Russ Quaglia

  4. Engage with parents by making their presence known at the beginning and end of the school day, creating a school newsletter, and engaging in aspects of “flipped communication.”

  5. Flip faculty meetings—rather than disseminate information as lecture, pick real topics affecting the school and ask teachers to come prepared with resources for discussion, thereby encouraging authentic and productive discussion.

If we don’t pay attention to the fundamental conditions necessary for literacy learning to occur, we’re not likely to see much literacy improvement happen.

Special thanks to NCTE member Heatherlyn Schoeppich for collecting the ideas above. Heather is helping to curate information for Connected Educator Month and our Collaboration and Capacity Building Theme.

Assessing Collaboration

Where’s the “We” in Assessment?  

We live in an era in which whole schools receive grades based on how well their students perform on tests. And we expect whole systems to work to fix the academic failures these tests illuminate. But a couple of discussions NCTE facilitated in recent days illuminate the fact that we may not even be assessing what matters most.

In this webinar a group of NCTE educators discusses student work from this year’s National Day on Writing and what questions it raises about assessment. The big one: How are we assessing communities to determine how well they’re fostering the conditions necessary for literacy learning to occur?

In this online discussion with designers of the new AP Exam for Computer Science, readers were very interested in the fact that the exam requires students to do a collaborative project, but very concerned that assessing students on the outcomes of a project where peers might take over couldn’t possibly be fair.

gmitchell writes:  “I wonder whether collaboration could be assessed here as a skill in and of itself—are you a good collaborator, meaning someone who is able to both contribute ideas/work, accept the ideas/work of others, and negotiate a fair decision when you disagree?”

The commentators responded that this is precisely what they try to assess in that portion of the exam, but it’s hard to do objectively. Hard, but still worth trying.

Imagine what might happen if we started engaging the communities that surround schools in the discussions about how we assess literacy learning. Imagine how we would teach an AP course if we were evaluating growth in students’ ability to work together in addition to their content knowledge?


Is a Connected Educator the Same as a Teacher Who Is Connected?

Plug a cord into a wall. Turn on the wi-fi on your phone. Open an app. Watch a webinar. Snap two devices together. Are you connected? To what?

Throughout October NCTE members have helped us to navigate through hundreds of online professional learning opportunities, many that we’ve hosted, as part of Connected Educator Month. On the whole we hear that online learning of this sort is incredibly helpful—opening doors to possibilities never imagined.

Check out this partial list of resources Marisa Crabtree pulled from a session called FUNdamentals of Learning 2014

The session she attended was full of resources and discussion of how online tools have changed collaboration in the classroom, but it left her wondering something we’re all beginning to ponder as educators: “Are some of these simply fancy time sucks or really useful collaboration tools?”

After attending an international Twitter chat about being a connected educator, Michael Rifenburg also wondered about the relationship between digital learning and solid teaching.

“What I keep coming back to when reading these tweets and looking at Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s slideshow is what connected means to Tolisano, her audience, and even to the whole concept of Connected Educators Month. I actually feel the definition Tolisano was forwarding was a bit too narrow. When she said ‘connected’ she meant ‘digitally connected.’

But I don’t think our students need a digitally connected teacher. What our students need is a teacher connected to the current (global/local) conversations animating the discipline. If this connection happens digitally—great! If this connection happens with the teacher attending conferences, reading the pertinent journals, and keeping up with important developments in the field without ever getting onto Twitter or a similar digital platform—that is great, too.”

Special thanks to NCTE members Marisa Crabtree and Michael Rifenburg for collecting the ideas above for Connected Educator Month and our Collaboration and Capacity Building Theme.

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Building Capacity Systemically and Across the Community – Collaboration and Capacity Building, Weeks 1-2, Part 2

This blog post was written by Darren Cambridge, Director of Policy Research and Development, National Council of Teachers of English, on behalf of the Collaboration and Capacity Building theme curation team, which worked together to cover related events and resources through the first two weeks of Connected Educator Month and met to identify key themes and examples.

Part 1 of our coverage of collaboration and capacity building during the first half of Connected Educator Month (October 1-12), focused on two different ways the term “collaboration” is being used, either to mean cooperation or to mean teamwork. Part 2 highlights the intersection between collaboration and capacity building and other CEM themes, particularly the theme of whole-community engagement.

Systemic Capacity Building

One reason CEM participants make the connection between collaboration and capacity building and whole-community engagement is that systemic transformation of educational practice is likely to require broad-based partnerships that extend beyond the boundaries of a single school. This connection was particularly clear during the National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future’s Good Teaching Summit. During the Summit, researchers, teachers, and school, district, and state leaders agreed that it is not enough to implement piecemeal powerful practices, such as professional learning communities or project-based learning, if we want to see significant impact on student learning. We need to take an integrated approach so that these practices mutually reinforce each other, multiplying impact and genuinely transforming school culture.

Few schools can make such systemic changes without broad-based partnerships that bring additional resources from the broader community, such as through relationships with universities and community-based organizations and through the involvement of parents and outside experts. Lillian Lowery, Maryland State Superintendent, pointed out that not only do these outside resources help schools build their own capacity for innovative practice, they also give teachers confidence that change is real and will be sustained.

Collaboration & Capacity Building

Building Whole Community Capacity

If partnerships that work across the boundary between school and community are to be integral to strengthening education, then we must focus not only on building the capacity of individual schools but also on building the capacity of the larger community to support students’ learning and growth.

In an online workshop, Rebecca Sweeney shared her work with clusters of schools establishing collaborative best practices throughout communities in Australia. Focusing on learning rather than teaching is one key to such cross-school collaboration because it puts students’ experiences at the center and enables stakeholders other than teachers to share responsibility for their learning. Sweeney advocates involving all stakeholders in setting goals so that the whole community, not just individual schools, can be accountable for progress toward them. (Theme curation team member Michael Rifenburg has written in more detail about this event on his blog.)

The US Department of Education is also beginning to encourage school systems to develop what they call “dual capacity” through their Family and Community Engagement Framework. In addition to building the capacity of school staff, leaders argued in a webinar that we should also work to build the capacity of families and other community members to support student learning. This “two generation approach” focuses on developing and empowering communities as a whole. It embraces several principles that parallel those in use in Australia: Engagement should always be linked to learning, and families and community members need to be at the table before decisions are made. Learning activities that engage the whole community most be relational, developmental, interactive, and collaborative, celebrating successes as well as addressing problems.  We need to invite community members into schools and venture beyond school walls to engage with them.

It Takes Time

Collaboration that leads to systematic, whole-community capacity building takes significant time. It can’t simply be one more thing educators are asked to do beyond their existing responsibilities. The importance of restructuring how teachers’, students’, and administrators’ time during the school day is organized has come up in virtually every discussion thus far in Connected Educator Month, including those focused on each of the other themes, particularly Whole-Community Engagement, Professional Development, and Blended Learning. Many CEM contributors and participants remind us that technology can help by making it possible to use time more flexibly, but it can’t create more of it out of thin air.

We need creative thinking about how to use resources differently so that time can be invested most effectively in the service of learning. Participants in the New Frontiers of Assessment Hot Seat discussion with Scott Filkins suggested that rethinking the huge investments being made in response to external mandates in standardized test development, implementation, and administration might be one place to start in locating resources that could be redirected to better support learning.

Future blog posts on this theme will continue to look at restructuring time and recognition as key enablers of systemic and whole-community capacity building, and will feature additional examples of how educators and community members are coming together to serve every student.

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