Saturday, June 16, 2012

5 Things Twitter Has Taught Me

1. Professional learning is available when you need it, 24/7.

After hearing Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt), I was convinced I needed a Twitter account. Although I signed up immediately, I didn't really use it for more than an avenue to track celebrity gossip and breaking news. Then, I discovered FlipBoard and began finding legitimate professionals to follow. I rarely forget to eat or sleep, but Twitter  for professional development has caught me wondering why my stomach is growling or I am yawning . Any time, anywhere. I can be reading professional journals from my iphone between innings of my son's ball game! If there's 12-step program for addicted Tweeters, I may need the contact information.

2. Tweet chatting and following hash tags are effective for collaboration.

During the school year, we constantly wish for more time to collaborate with teachers. Various structures and procedures to creatively design collaboration time are put in to place. But, it's never enough. Teachers visit other schools for specific peer observation opportunities and collaboration, but there is only so much in the substitute teacher pool for release time. Setting up a weekly summer tweet chat with our own hash tag (#10TuesTweets) has proven to be an effective way to have professional discussions and learning with each other, but also with others from around the world. And, these discussion can take place without hiring a babysitter, or from the checkout line at the grocery store!

3. Professionals from around the world are ready and willing to help.

Ask and you will receive. I have not found anyone who will not extend themselves to help a fellow colleague. Twitter is a network that gives us no excuse to claim we can't find answers or help from others. I try my best to pay it forward and share every chance I get. I consider my PLN to be a network of "virtual" friends and colleagues.

4. Tweets can be a "link" to unlimited resources in the form of blogs and web resources.

Tweets are a "link" or a window to professional blogs and web-based resources. It never occurred to me that 140 characters could lead to so much information and resources for professional learning. I now have a number of blogs that I follow regularly that I might never have found without my Twitter connections.

5. Social media is not a one-way ticket to disaster, but a gateway to self and organizational improvement.

I, like many parents and educators, lived in fear of social media. No way was anything positive coming as a result of my being involved. My own children forced the issue. So, I began my journey first as a watchdog mom. Little did I know, it would improve me as a professional and energize my passion as an educator. Thanks kids! And thanks to all of my colleagues and friends in my growing professional learning network!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Forget the "0" Fight - Change the Scale!

“We are faced with the irony that a policy that may be grounded in the belief of holding students accountable (giving zeros) actually allows some students to escape accountability for learning.”  - Ken O’Connor

I've been in a little slump on "what to blog about" for the past couple of weeks. I've been riding the wave of excitement after our school's #10TuesTweets sessions. Aside from my new obsession with social media for professional learning, my passion is standards-based grading. I'm a disciple of all the greats. Tom Guskey, Robert Marzano, Ken O'Connor, and several others. I've participated with a team of our high school teachers each year for five years in a regional six-day consortium to study, plan, and implement. I'm all in! And a growing number of our high school teachers are all in as well.

My "what to blog about slump" ended while surfing TweetDeck when I found a news piece from Edmonton about a teacher being suspended for refusal to follow his school's "no zero" policy. I wasn't alone either. John Scammell @thescamdog, Cherra-Lynne Olthof @cherraolthof, and Joe Bower @Joe_Bower as well as several others also responded. All of their responses were excellent. (see the grading and assessment page tab from this blog for links) 

As I read each article or blog post, I experienced a range of emotions that elicited groans, cheers, and "are you kidding me's?" But, all I could think about was the grading or scoring scale. There is all this turmoil, disagreement, insubordination, and strong emotion surrounding the idea of whether it's okay to assign a "0," but no talk about what I see as the real issue - the scale.

Marzano has been talking, writing, and publishing about the need for a new scale that measures learning over time. I highly recommend taking a look at his work. From my perspective, the majority of the controversy on the use of zeros in grading is based on the traditional 100-point scale. Here's a newsflash - this scale was designed during the World War I era to sort and rank military recruits! We don't live in a sorting and ranking kind of world in schools any more! Our job is to bring all kids to proficiency on agreed-upon standards. Marzano's work with proficiency scales and grade reporting methods addresses this and makes the "0" argument a moot point.  Let's start talking about learning goals and a scale based on proficiency and learning, not zeros and voodoo math.