Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Nuggets from NECC 2008 (1)

I participated in an extremely positive and energizing panel discussion today at NECC 2008 organized by Pearson Education. Participants included Jo McLeay, Cheryl Oakes, Joyce Valenza, Chris Lehmann, Lucy Gray, Julie Lindsey, and Vicki Davis. Elaine Roberts of Pearson told us we would be able to have an audio copy of our discussion, and I hope to share that here as a podcast in upcoming weeks. I was truly inspired and motivated to continue immersing myself in the work of helping learners of all ages create, collaborate, share, and grow together.

I took some scattered notes during the session, and I will attempt to summarize and reflect many of the points made by participants in this post. One of the most important takeaways for me from this panel discussion, however, was something that’s been on my mind for many weeks. Self-directed professional development is one of the keys to helping both teachers and students THRIVE in the 21st century. Kevin Honeycutt talked a bit about differentiation and self-directed professional development in the leadership session at EduBloggerCon on Friday, captured in this video:

I shared a presentation with some Oklahoma educators studying to be librarians on the Friday right after Christmas last year. Vicki Davis’ exhortation in our panel today that we STOP “binge professional development” reminded me of those days in December. After those sessions, in January, I was contacted by one of the teachers who wanted me to come present at her school on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I already had another presentation commitment so I was not able to come. Her response floored me, however. She said:

That’s really too bad you can’t come. This day [Jan 20, 2008] is the last day of professional development our teachers will have all year.

What?! How crazy is that? As educators we need to be engaging in professional development (both formally and informally) every week of the school year. I know all teachers are overloaded and have far too much on their plates already, but having NO professional development scheduled for the last four months of the school year? That struck me as sad and tragic.

Two of the most important things offered by the FREE K-12 Online Conference, in my view, are:

  1. The opportunity to engage in self-directed professional development.
  2. The opportunity to enlarge one’s personal learning network and community.

A big part of “the learning revolution” is the ability we now have, as educators, to engage in self-directed professional development at almost any time. We no longer have to wait for our school district or campus leader to schedule a formal day of PD to learn new knowledge and skills. Of course good teachers have never waited for those “formal” opportunities to learn and grow as an educator and learner, but the opportunities we have to be self-directed in our professional development are certainly better than ever today. That was one of my primary takeaways from our panel discussion today. Here are some other thought-provoking ideas I jotted down during our conversations.

Vicki: Don’t do clandestine web 2.0 activities in your classroom. Be in constant, open communication with your campus administrator, as well as with parents.

Chris: What would happen if you invited the world to your school?
– you hear lots of fear, uncertainly and doubt all around us
– at SLA, all our web content is hosted off the main district network to the relief of the IT department
– by banning all the technology tools from our students at school, we deny ourselves the opportunity and right to be in the conversations with our kids

Joyce: Many of these [tools and websites] are animals no one has ever seen before!
– Like it or not, Facebook has gone viral
– In discussing WikiPedia, we should discuss what tools are most appropriate for the information tasks before us. The example of the London Bombings and WikiPedia is powerful: Right after the bombings, WikiPedia was a better source of information than the BBC.
– What is the best place for information at the time we need it?
– WikiPedia is a better source for “American Idol” than other resources in your library
– WikiPedia provides a good jumping-off point for different topics (with external links at the bottom of each article)
– many information decisions are “fuzzier” than they might have been in the past, but helping students navigate and make these fuzzy decisions is an essential part of our role as 21st century educators
– Key question: How do you judge the information?
Conservapedia is a wiki-based encyclopedia written from a conservative viewpoint [I HAD NOT HEARD OF THIS BEFORE. I FIND THE WEBSITE’S ASSERTION IT IS “THE TRUSTWORTHY ENCYCLOPEDIA” TO BE VERY INTERESTING.]


We must keep moving forward in our learning and growth

Chris: We ALL need to be scholars, thinkers, and activists
– Why not what?
– Why is this an either / or question? Couldn’t this be either / and?

Vicki: I see the worldview of my students changing
– As a teacher, we need to play before we produce [WITH TECHNOLOGY TOOLS]

Some teachers think putting homework assignments online is enabling kids to be lazy

– We are teaching kids how to use iGoogle to create their calendars and use digital tools to be responsible

Cheryl is a collaborative content coach at her school

Cheryl: How do kids coach each other with games? With “cheats

Vicki: First steps to a flatter classroom:
1- Connect yourself
2- Connect to your administration
3- Connect your classroom


Joyce: We use wikis to create pathfinders for students [HERE’S A LINK TO JOYCE’S VIRTUAL LIBRARY WEBSITE]

Jo: Clarence Fisher had taught his students to speak of “First Nation” peoples, there was a misunderstanding on student blogs with her Australian students who wrote about “Indians” but were speaking of people in India
– Clarence also teaches his students to comment on other student blogs with questions, leading to more dialog

Chris: What is the worst consequence of your best idea?
– NY Post Syndrome: If something bad happens, it will be a headline tomorrow

Joyce: The Wiki is “the killer app”
Chris: a blog is a tool for reading content over time

Vicki: The reason DNA was unlocked so quickly was because scientists collaborated
– our kids need to use collaboration tools and learn these skills today

Lucy: How do we help schools be more brave? [SCHOOL LEADERS: TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS]

Joyce: The key characteristic of a wiki which is transformative is that it makes everyone a publisher

My definition of transparent technology: Using digital technology tools like pencils, the chalkboard, and the overhead are used today

Vicki: Techno-personal skills are vital
– dehumanization of other people happens all the time now online

Chris: As Postman noted, some technology is truly transformative, not merely additive

Vicki credits her husband using the term: “touch every page teaching” [THIS REMINDS ME OF WHAT IAN JUKES CALLS A CURRICULUM THAT IS A MILE WIDE AND AN INCH DEEP]

Chris: President Johnson’s Secretary of Education in 1964 was asked about a national curriculum, and said he thought it should be kept as broad as possible

My thought: Today in the United States we place faith in standards, not faith in teachers. This must change.

My comment quoting Kevin Honeycutt: We need a “do” curriculum in all content areas, not just music, art, and shop class

Vicki: The “Schools of Excellence” movement is not accommodating children with special needs
– students need help delineating social versus professional online behavior

My thought: Hyperlinked writing is the most powerful form of writing, and provides one of the most important aspects of complexity in writing for a global audience. There is great power as well as responsibility when you link to the ideas of another. Like my 4 year old learning to swim, we need to actually get in the water and SWIM when it comes to online social networking. It is dangerous, but we need to learn together. We can’t learn authentically if we are not getting wet.

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On this day..




3 responses to “Nuggets from NECC 2008 (1)”

  1. Melanie Holtsman Avatar

    Wow! Sorry I got in late yesterday and missed this discussion. Thank you for posting it. I’m heading out the door to necc now and will be attending Vicki Davis’ session. I hope to catch up with each of you at some point and learn from you too.

  2. […] Nuggets from NECC 2008 (1) Wes Fryer’s notes from a panel he participated in at NECC. He says there will be a podcast of this soon. It looks like there was some great discussion here. (tags: necc2008 literacy learning education ProfessionalDevelopment) […]

  3. Julie Lindsay Avatar

    Wes, thanks for the excellent summary.
    Your comments about self-directed professional development resonate with the approach I wish to introduce at Qatar Academy next year. Based on the excellent work of Will and Sheryl with their Powerful learning Practice and the program Karl Fish has implemented with 21st century learners, I want to introduce a ‘Work with the willing’ ongoing series of PD sessions. (I might need to change the name as it sounds a little exclusive). This attitude that PD is only on certain days and times is detrimental to the philosophy of community and social learning as an ongoing practice. I want to take the willing teachers and meet for extended periods of time on a regular basis. As a pilot there will be no monetary incentive, or any time release from school (initially) however there will be an opportunity to become immersed in learning about 21st century learning and to have protracted conversations and experiences based on thematic input. I see the K12 Online Conf. as a vital part of this pilot program for the October/November period.