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 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 new ones 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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Student Voice and Real Publishing

I get often asked 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 a 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.

Today, my path was delivered some tough medicine.. and so was were 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 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, with this change I'm listed as having 'zero' years teaching experience as it applies to licensure for public schools in Vermont. 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 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.  To get a 'Principal's License' now, I'd have to leave my current position, teach for three years, go through the teacher peer review program, finish my school leadership courses, and then apply for my 'School Leadership' license and go through another peer review program.

It means I won't be pursuing an administrator 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 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.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dynamic Landscapes 2017... A Smash Success!

The Dynamic Landscapes Education and Innovation Conference, by the customer satisfaction surveys and discussions board members had with attendees was a smash success.

Student Keynotes, and student led workshops at last!  Our student keynote folks knocked this out of the park this year. It was the first time in Vermont Education history that students have keynoted a conference.

What a privilege to help the board shift practice at these conferences over the years, streamline decision making, involve more people in create roles, and help people communication and collaborate. 

It's been an exhausting year in so many ways... but the fruits of this conference certainly help rejuvenate me.

As emcee I receive a lot of credit, but there are so many people who did extraordinary work. My thanks to all involved, attendees, presenters, workshop leaders, organizers, Makerspace artisans and organizers, Vendors (shifting to hands-on demonstrations and tutorials, and of course our esteemed VL Board Members... we all did something special here, a new pathway in Vermont Ed conferences. 

We win!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Building Better Ideas... at Educon 2017

When the theme for Educon 2017 came across... 'how do you sustain innovation?' .... it got me thinking.

I started talking it over with David Jakes and we landed on 'ideas' as a critical source of sustaining innovation. 

One of David's many fortes is on the subject of 'ideation.'

We decided to craft up a discussion at Educon on Building Better Ideas.

What are some common obstacles and ways to overcome them...

  • when you're problem solving? 
  • when you are working with a team? 
  • when problems are complex?


Why do great ideas stumble?

Some ideas, well... suck ; )  Why do some horrible ideas gain traction?

These are timely questions for people in education. There's no shortage of things to do, initiatives, or needs.

How can you 'Build Better Ideas'?

Come with questions... Leave with an understanding of common pitfalls, strategies, creative ways to open up perspectives and... some pathways to build better ideas! That's our goal ; )

We're lined up open up a discussion on this Saturday, session 3 at Educon.  Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dynamic Landscapes Education and Innovation Conference, May 22-23, 2017

Dynamic Landscapes May 22-23, 2017 at Champlain College is lining up to be... what we started working toward four years ago.

Your feedback, your passion to innovate... we listened and have worked to create a space to showcase it, share it and build strong collaborative bonds.

Here are the new additions this year...

Student keynote competition: YES! Students will keynote our conference this year!

Student and Adult presentations... and the call for proposals is open! YES! Student strands at last! 100 students get in for free.

... hey, the theme is Authentic Student Voice!

And the tried and true staples return of...

Hands-on innovation lab makerspace

Immersive workshop leaders... 1/2 day and full day. Dive in with an expert and dig deep.

Conference sessions of all shapes and sizes. Build your own schedule and pitch a plan to setup your own workgroups.

Social events to bring people together.


What can your students present here? What problem are they trying to solve? What's 'their' opinion?

Come in and tackle tough issues in education and explore innovation with peers and students.

Customer satisfaction has reached new heights... and DL 2017 is geared to be our best conference yet!

David Jakes, Diana Laufenberg, Matt Kay and Brad Latimer are just a few of our workshop leaders this year. Sign up, and dive in deep with these incredible people.

Check out all the details at the DL 2017 website.

Hope you can join us Dynamic Landscapes Education and Innovation Conference at Champlain College in gorgeous Burlington, VT in May, 2017 ; )