Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Inspiration - Another Meme


1. You are to copy the rules at the start of your post.

2. You are write, in 150 words or less the story of ‘Your Inspirational Teacher’ from your school days.

3. Name and link 4 other bloggers and leave them a comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

4. Tag your post ‘myinspiration’

Thanks to being on the top of her twitter roll for the day, Lisa Durff has tagged me to participate in this meme. Someday I will get her back for this!
This meme asked me to write about my inspirational teacher. This should be easy. Afterall, twelve years of public school, plus pre-K for two years, plus college for six or seven (I forget) adds up to a lot of teachers. Somewhere in there, there has to be one that inspired me.

So, ever since this meme came my way, I've been thinking about that one teacher. And, much to my dismay, there has been no one coming to mind. Not my first grade teacher who constantly reminded my class that I was younger than them. "Just a baby" is what she always said. Not my fifth grade teacher who allowed me to read in class because, as he told my parents, I already knew the material and didn't need to participate in the lessons. Not my middle school English teacher who returned my papers with a big red F on them if I forgot to leave a margin on the side. Not my high school chorus teacher who told the boys in class to stop singing, it was hurting his ears. I certainly was not inspired by any of the work that was assigned. I was not excited, enthusiastic, inspired. I was never taught to be a student, nor taught the excitement of learning.

So I'm faced with having to find an inspiring teacher in a sea of muck. As I look back at my years in school, I am stuck. So who inspired me to be who I am today? Well, first, my husband, who taught me to be competitive, working for grades. (My master's graduation grade was a 4.0, his 3.95. I win!) Then, I must move to teachers I work with now or have worked with in the past. There was Anita who, when she announced her retirement, shocked me. She was always learning and growing. Why was she leaving? She was not the old lady sitting at her desk, waiting for the bell to ring, signaling the end of the day. There was Barbara, who taught me to never accept the status quo. This is my trademark saying now. She showed me there was always more to reach for, for myself and my students. And, mostly, my students inspire me now. They constantly remind me to have fun, enjoy life, be proud of my work and theirs, and learn, learn, learn. I strive for greatness because of them. They are my true inspirations.

So now it's your turn. If I tagged you, I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane. If I didn't tag you, try it out any way. Hopefully, you will all find teachers who are inspirations. I hope I, myself, am turning out to be somebody's inspiration.

Christine Southard - a new blogger, who needs to be tagged
Jen Wagner - because I gave her two free conference opportunities
Chrissy Hellyer - for being such a good sport with our class
Steve Dembo - because I met him in person yesterday and figured he could have fun with this

Tech Forum - F2F vs. Online

Yesterday I attended the TechForum Conference in New York. It was the second tech conference I have attended in two weeks. The first was a small conference on Long Island attended mostly by Long Island teachers just starting to use technology in their classrooms. So I was anticipating much the same for this second conference. I was happily proven wrong. This was a much larger conference with people from all around the tri-state area, as well as surrounding states. The presenters were not local teachers. They were big names in the ed. tech world. And I "knew" many of them. But more on that later.

As I was driving to the conference, I was listening to a podcast of a recent edtechtalk show. In this show, Jeff Lebow interviewed Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach & Darren Kuropatwa about the K12 Online Conference. They talked about how the conference was going, how it was created and organized, where the idea came from. One of the last things discussed, was whether or not having online conferences would hurt face to face conferences like NECC. Considering the cost (free for online, costly for NECC), the inconvenience (going to workshops on their time or your time), and the drawback of having to chose among presentations for f2f conferences, I came to the conclusion that, yes, online conferences would indeed begin to eliminate f2f ones. And then the day began.

Upon arriving, I grabbed my breakfast and headed for a table near the front in order to get a good view of Alan November, the keynote speaker. I fully intended to ask him if I could record his speech on UStream. (I did, he agreed, and it can be found at When my colleague Christine Southard arrived, we chatted about the presentations and then were asked to leave the room for the sound check. While waiting outside, I spotted my first "celebrity". Ryan Bretag passed by. My heart started pounding. I began to get excited. Of course, I only recognized him because of his tiny little twitter picture.

We were allowed back into the room where I quickly spotted Steve Dembo. Yes, it was his new twitter picture that enabled me to recognize him, too. Thank you, twitter.

So before the keynote began, I make my way around the room. First to Steve Dembo. I introduce myself and he actually recognizes my name (at least he pretended to, which was so nice). Then on to Ryan sitting next to him. And, next to David Jakes, with whom I had spent some of the weekend, in a manner of speaking, thanks to John Pederson and his back channel room. My heart is racing. I can barely contain myself. I get introduced to Gwen Solomon, who I discover is a celebrity in her own right.

Back to my seat for the speech. I start my UStream, send out a twit, and 15 people show up from around the world to view Alan November. Christine sends out periodic twits about the conference and one twitter friend comes back saying he is sitting in the back of the room. We wait until the keynote is finished and head to the back to meet Patrick Higgins and his friend, David Gorecki. Now I am flying!

The rest of the day went well. David Jakes and Jon Orech gave a great presentation about digital storytelling that gave me some fantastic ideas for the classroom (see the wiki for the presentation). Later David led us through a presentation on Google Earth. Again, fascinating. Can't wait to start playing around. I introduced myself to Peggy Sheehy. I won a site license for my school from NetTrekker. I met with some DEN members afterwards for an IMAX movie and dinner. And I drove home listening to the rest of the edtechtalk conference.

But the best, absolute most fantastic part of the day was lunch. Christine and I ate lunch with all of them. David Jakes and Steve Dembo and Gwen Solomon. Ryan Bretag, Patrick Higgins and David Gorecki. Our twitter friends, our chat room friends, our webcast friends. And it was comfortable and fun and exciting all at once. Like chatting in a chat room, only right there, face to face.

So I take back what I said about online conferences making f2f conferences obsolete. I would gladly pay the money to connect with my friends. I think David's workshops were all the more powerful and enjoyable because I knew him. And, as Ryan said, (forgive me if I don't get this exactly right but I wasn't recording the conversation) "Now I will have more vested in the reading of your twits simply because I know you better." And Steve pointed out that, because we meet online, "I know you better than I know some of the people I work with."

So I am working hard to find the means to get to NECC next summer. And forgive me if, when I see you, I point and stammer and stare. I am so anxious to meet more of my twitter friends, my chatroom friends, my PD friends. I can't wait to meet you all face to face!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Just a Teacher"

In the last two weeks, I have spent a great deal of time learning. I have ventured into Operator 11 a few times, joined 110+ teachers in Elluminate with David Warlick for his Fireside Chat, played with Vicki Davis and friends skipping from channel to channel in UStream (planning to broadcast Teacher Talk with this tool) and continued to Skype and Twitter with friends about new, exciting happenings in the ed. tech world.

And through all this learning, among all the people I have connected, there seems to be an underlying theme. There is a separation among the technology people and those of us that are "just teachers." In fact, I have heard this term quite a few times in the last few weeks. I have had conversations with techies asking why more teachers aren't participating in all the learning. I have heard teachers explain their shortcomings with the "just a teacher" line. And I am beginning to find the whole thing rather offensive.

My whole life, I have had to justify being a teacher. I was raised in a family where education was the means to achieving higher goals: doctoring, lawyering, journalism, politics, etc. Teaching ws regarded as the thing anyone could do. You know that old saying, "Those who can - do, those who can't - teach." That was drilled into me. But I was always drawn to children and teaching. I was the neighborhood babysitter, the peer tutor, the sibling who did homework for the other sib. It was then, and is still, in my blood. I was destined to become "just a teacher."

Now, 23 years into my teaching career, I am still just a teacher. But let me tell you what that means in this newly developing ed. tech world. I now seem to work two full time jobs.

One is the "just a teacher" job. I plan for lessons and units, work to integrate test prep so I don't torture my students, strive to keep up with new curriculum requirements, new NCLB laws, new state expectations, and new district demands. I stay connected with parents, calling and e-mailing on demand, meet with other teachers to plan field trips, in-school programs, and budgetary issues. I sit on committees for staff development, science, health, technology integration, site-based, social events, policy board, foreign policy...whew. I attend monthly faculty meetings (sometimes running them) and monthly grade level meetings (which I run as grade level chair). I write report cards and meet with parents three times a year, although I usually have at least one parent a week stopping in to check up on their child. And that's just my first job.

My second job is the technology portion. I strive to keep up with all the learning. I check e-mail before I leave for work, answering student, parent, and administrative mail. I also check Twitter in the morning, feeling lost over the learning that took place since I turned off the night before. Then I head to work, listening to podcasts along the way, trying to keep audio records of sites I need to check out when I have the chance. Once I arrive at work, I have an hour before kids come in to check e-mail, Twitter, and Skype chats again, help teachers whose equipment is not working, and give advice to colleagues who need new app. ideas. (Remember, all of this is happening while I am trying to set things up for the children.

During the day, I log on once during prep and once during lunch, always feeling like I am falling further and further behind. After work, I arrive home to participate in the Webcast Academy classes, Robin Ellis and Darryl Draper's PD class, online conferences, impromptu learning opportunities (these always seem to be happening), and chatting with friends. I am also spending this time trying to master applications I wish to use in class, and planning for my own teacher technology classes. And, of course, I have a husband and daughter who would like to spend time with me.

So the next time someone says to me that I am "just a teacher", the next time someone insinuates that a teacher isn't as qualified, the next time someone tells me I MUST be able to use a particular application in order to be a good educator, I'm going to tell them to spend one "just a teacher." Try it and let me know how you manage to keep up.

Monday, October 8, 2007

David Warlick's Keynote and Other Job Changes

I sit listening to David Warlick's K12 Online keynote speech, excited by the ideas he put forth and excited by changes in general. I find myself quite frustrated at times, trying to make changes and being pulled back by NCLB, testing and curriculum requirements. It's nice to be reminded every once in a while that there are so many of you out there willing to try with me. I love being a part of it all.

Just one more quick note: I have been playing around this weekend with UStream. The possibilities for collaboration have opened up so much more. I spoke this morning to Susan, my Teacher Talk co-host, and we worked out the streaming for our show on October 17th. Yes, we will be audio and video streaming on October 17th. It might have kinks...okay it will have kinks..but it will be fun...changing boundries - as David reminds us we need to do. Thank you, Jeff Lebow, for playing with us this weekend and showing us how.