Thursday, December 14, 2017

Charlie Wilson

I'm so sad to learn that my friend and colleague at VITA-Learn, Charlie Wilson, passed away yesterday.

Over the last 25 years I've admired Charlie's tireless advocacy for students, innovation and creativity in schools.

Charlie's been a mentor to countless people in Vermont education over many decades. All Charlie's work was threaded threaded with genuine compassion.

I found myself laughing, just once today, as I remembered...

Charlie joked with me a few years ago that not hiring me back in 1993 for a Network Administrator position at Shelburne Community School was one of the worst mistakes he ever made in education. I told him "if that's the worst mistake you ever made, you've done really well over the years." I'll never forget how he laughed that day, and how fun it was to listen to the stories that followed about his paths in education, the triumphs, the trials, and the ideas he was still hoping to work on.

I had another great conversation with Charlie this past November at VT Fest. As usual, he was full of ideas and bouncing around ideas about what we could do to expand learning opportunities for kids.

Rest in peace, Charlie. Thanks for all your work here, kindness, friendship and innovative spirit.

We're going to miss you here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Inventing, Reinventing, Sustainability... and Leadership

Inventing, Reinventing, Sustainability... and Leadership.

My friend Diana Laufenberg wrote a great post recently on Sustaining Momentum for School Transformation that got me thinking... thinking about years in education.

Education, too often, suffers from initiative overload.

Here's what I've learned. Two cents worth.

It's easy for people in leadership positions, especially new ones, to dive in with too much, and too fast.

In leadership positions and professional development positions ... it takes some vision to parse out what's really needed and at a pace people can digest it.

I'd offer that...

teaching and learning, that's the most important things to do.

Leaders must isolate the 'real' needs and have a thick skin to push forward that healing work. So how do you do that?

Explore what is most important to correct or remedy at your school or business?

Find the most pressing problems by talking with people.

Themes will emerge form those conversations.

Isolate what you find.

Then vet those discoveries with everyone.

Build a pathway to correct those important ills.

Slay one thing.

Show people progress.

Then move on to what's next.

That's how you build. That's how you gain momentum.

Leaders need support to do this work.

#vted #education #business

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Student Voice and Real Publishing

I get asked often what blog platform is best for students, and why I chose Blogger for this website.

As for what blog / web platform is best for students... I think that depends on what age group we're talking about.

Evaluating what your schools 'Digital Policy,' whatever schools call it at your site, says is worthwhile. Many schools haven't updated these docs in a while, and quite a few others I've read are, well, insanely restrictive. 

Here's the rub, I think... promoting kids, especially high school kids, to publish their work to a real audience in blogs / websites.

In our work in the rLab from 2005 - 2013, students created 'real' blogs to showcase their work. It was a meaningful portfolio of their work, resume, professional website... and story. Publishing to a worldwide audience rather than creating a portfolio jammed with work they would throw away when they graduated always made sense to me... and to students. Students had platform choice in the lab, and most students chose WordPress.

'Real' blogging for students created natural interdisciplinary threads to explore. Theme/s, layout, visual, writing, featured content, audio, video... it's a long list all centered around design and finding voice.

I read a post on this topic from Audrey Watters a couple years ago about called The Web We Need to Give to Students, and, like all of her writing, it's well worth a read. I wish more High Schools, Technical Centers, and Colleges / Universities would follow suit.

So... why did I choose Blogger for creativeStir?

Bluntly, it was a quick solution way back in the day.  For basic functions, post and make a page type stuff, it works well, but it certainly has limitations. Blogger shares it's login under the Google Apps umbrella which I still find convenient, and it's mobile app back in the day worked quite well. I've learned some workarounds to increase Blogger capability, but it still isn't pretty, or a modern publishing platform by any means. I used Blogger for the Vermont State Baseball Coaches Association for all the same reasons. WordPress and other platforms have always far outmatched Blogger capabilities. I loved helping students learn to support each other using WordPress.

WordPress was the ticket for work at VITA-Learn, conference websites for Dynamic Landscapes and VT Fest, and for Burlington Technical Center.

Here's an updated rundown of the basic differences between Blogger and WordPress rather than rehash it here.

I'll move creativeStir from Blogger to WordPress at some point. It's time. Actually, it's been the for a while but I haven't made it a priority.

So back to that Ed portfolio discussion... 

What if schools revisited how they are asking students to 'present' their learning? What are your thoughts about each student could benefit from their own website / domain?

#vted #education

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tim Comolli

I received word yesterday that my dear friend, mentor, and educator extraordinaire, Tim Comolli, passed away.

Tim was an innovator, a pioneer in education and student mentorship. His work in the Imaging Lab at South Burlington High School here in Vermont, the awards and grant writing are all eloquently recapped here by Sandy Lathem far better than I could.

I've spent countless hours seeking Tim's council and friendship over the years. We spent a lot of time... laughed, cried, talked through our faults, and counseled each other on the difficulties of innovating in education, especially in public education.

Tim helped me immeasurably over my career and life. He encouraged me to follow my heart and teach full time. His jovial personality, hearty and infectious laugh and radio voice were only outmeasured by the genuine compassion that came through in every conversation. I gained strength and perspective from his insight, humor and generosity, endlessly.

I couldn't count the number of times I left Tim's office, lab, or home with my sides aching from laughing so much.

Since I got this news... I've been reading again the countless emails and handwritten thank you cards Tim has sent me over the last 20 years. It's a recipe to laugh, cry, and above all... I'm so profoundly sad that these times with Tim have now come to pass.

Tim used this footer at the end of every email he sent, and it speaks volumes I think about his life.

"For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, 
Saw a vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be..." 

I'll miss our talks about life, my old friend. I'll miss seeing the joy in your face when I tell you about my kids. I'll miss talking about education, the future, and how our past shaped our lives. I'll miss our debates on where the best pizza is these days in the area, and hearing what movies really taxed all the speakers in your house.

Rest in peace, Tim. Thanks for your friendship, kindness, and all your innovative work here.

We've all been so very fortunate to have you in our lives.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What's Your Message?

Building Better Ideas...

through ideation.

Building possibilities = building learning. 

It's about more than posting information with tools. 

It's about...

... people. 

... listening.

... collaborating.

... exploring connections.

... storytelling.

... showing people hope.

What can you offer in your message that inspires curiosity?

Be brief.

I love exploring these challenges. 

Love it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Presidency of VITA-Learn 2011-2017

After six incredible years I decided to wrap up my Presidency of VITA-Learn (VL) at VT Fest 2017.

I knew I'd been far too busy over the last year and a half and it was time to make some changes. New directions were unfolding, and with that, new opportunities. And... creating new opportunities for people is what VL is about when it's at it's best, so it's time to open this opportunity for another person to step into this role.

My friend, colleague, and board member, Patricia Aigner, takes the Presidency now.  Patricia has been involved with VL as a board member for many years, has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and so many great ideas.

I'll still be involved with VL, and will still be helping this great group innovate.  I'm moving back to the  board in an 'ex-Officio' position to help with marketing and outreach, ideation, conference innovation, and some special projects.

As for the conference emcee bit, my thanks to all who've given me so many compliments in my work there over the last 6 years (12 major conferences).  I'm hearing interest from the board that they may have me continue in that role in some fashion. We'll see where things land over the next months.

I need to thanks so many...  the board of directors, Paul Irish, Patricia Aigner, Lucie deLaBruere and Craig Lyndes, Mike Lambert, Steve Jarrett, Fred Wadlington, John Craig, Jen Burton, Caleb Clark, Dan French, Jay Nichols, Jess & Charlie Wilson, Ed Barry & Sue Hoffer, Peter Drescher, Rebecca Holcombe, Jeff Renard and the folks at VTVLC, the Tarrant Foundation, Chuck Scranton and the Rowland Foundation, and all the students, attendees, vendors, presenters, and our incredible immersive workshop leaders. A special thank you to my these immersive workshop leaders... Diana Laufenberg, David Jakes, Chris Lehmann, Kristina Ishmael-Peters, Brad Latimer, Zac Chase, Mary Beth Hertz, Andrew Marcinek, Zephyrus Todd, Matt Kay, and Gary Stager.

Working with all of you has inspired me in so many ways, helped me recharge, and helped me forge new ideas and connections. I feel very fortunate that I've developed friendships with so many as a result of this work and am looking forward to the next phase.

We did it. Together we restructured the organization to promote more innovation. We created more opportunities for PD in Vermont and abroad. We remapped and implemented a new marketing and outreach plan to help people connect and share. We rebuilt all the VL websites. We spiced up the conferences and created new opportunities within them. We introduced more student voice... student keynotes - the first in VT history. We built Project IGNITE. We built hands-on makerspaces at our conferences. We introduced alternative conference schedules to promote more diverse learning. We added some great social events to help people connect. We helped people connect to a larger audience in Vermont and abroad. In all, we opened new pathways to promote innovation in schools.

Other conferences and organizations took notice especially in New England. So many abroad have been in contact with me to see how we did it, why, and what results it provided... and they have made similar shifts.

And VL is just getting started ; )

Three projects I'm looking forward to working on... promoting more diversity and discussions therein to VL conferences, continuing to grow partnerships with other organizations, and promoting more student voice.

My sincere thanks for all the kind words and encouragement, and thanks for attending all these great VL events and sharing your work and expertise. Keep doing great things. Keep sharing ideas.  And keep supporting each other.  We do our best work when we do it together.  I'm looking forward to seeing you around the shop.

We win...


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vermont Teacher Licensure... and losing common sense

It's a time when we need forward thinking in education. There's so much to do, so many challenges... especially in the institutions of public education.

Today, my path was delivered some tough medicine.. and so was the path of others in similar shoes in Vermont.

I was informed the Vermont Agency of Education now gives no credit for years of experience to people who taught in independent, private or international schools who are now applying for VT State teaching licensure.

So... teach abroad for 20 years and apply for licensure in Vermont... you'll be listed as a teacher with "zero" years experience.


You guessed it... according to the AOE I now have "zero" years teaching experience. For nine years I taught at a premier Independent school in Vermont. The programs we built there helped inform the Winooski iLab, Mt Abraham Horizons programs, Vermont Act 77 (personalized learning plans) and also numerous other visitors to the lab. I managed over 100 independent student projects per semester... over nine years. I can't imagine, in this context, that all that work now carries absolutely no benefit to me as I seek a Vermont Teachers License.

I'm currently taking licensure classes to get certified as a career tech ed director and a principal... the latter, of course, requires teaching experience.  In order to get a 'Principal's License' now, I'd have to leave my current position, teach for three years and then go through the teacher peer review program, finish my school leadership courses, and then apply / seek out my 'School Leadership' license via another provisional license or peer review program.

It means... I won't be pursuing a principal license in Vermont.  I'm not sure if it makes sense for me to continue on this path I'm on for licensure in Career and Technical Education either. I'll have to give that a great deal of thought over the coming months.

Vermont is progressive educationally in so many ways. I feel this is a major step backward. Imagine the lost opportunities to hire incredible teachers with international teaching experience.  At a time when Vermont could and should be recruiting these people... I'm heartbroken.  Imagine the folks who are teaching at private and independent schools across the world who now won't venture into Vermont public education.

It's likely that this would take years to of lobbying to remedy this impulsive and ill-informed decision.

I'm ready for a vacation. I'll hopefully have some time to reflect and do some future thinking.