Vlog Letters of Rec

A couple of days ago, I posted on the power of digitally archiving ourselves via video, which has amazing potential in teaching and learning for ourselves and others.  If they are posted and published, they become part of the Vlog world.  However, we could “vlog” in various other mediums as well, perhaps internally within our organizations or even privately over time to become part of a bigger piece – perhaps leaving a message for our children each year for 15 years and then editing them together.  The possibilities are exciting.

One such possibility that is taking rise are video recommendations.  As online portfolios take rise, candidates are looking to market themselves differently.  Recently, a teacher asked me to provide him with a video reference, and I agreed.

Some rights reserved by 2create

He came in with his video camera, asked me to discuss some talking points and hit record.  I gave a 4-5 minute recommendation, which included elements that I would have included in a recommendation letter.  We finished in one take and he was very pleased to have heard live my reference of him.  From my perspective, taking 5 minutes to record a recommendation is far more efficient than taking 30-60 minutes per letter to wordsmith the “perfect” recommendation.  Additionally, it was a positive interaction between the teacher and I, so it also served as a relationship builder.

After we’d finished, we discussed a couple of uses of such videos.  Busy administrators may not have time to watch 3-4 five-minute recommendations.  Thus, we could film numerous recs and then edit them into a single clip, leaving the original archives available for those with more time.

Though I don’t love being on video, I’m loving the possibilities of video!


Video Archive Yourself?!?

This morning, I presented virtually at ISTE 2015. Actually, I re-presented a shortened version of a webinar on Narrative Poetry & Digital Storytelling that I presented for the ISTE Digital Storytelling Network in April. As I was preparing and reviewing for my presentation, I realized that in my Kuwait-Saudi move purging frenzy, I’d tossed all of my handwritten notes and commentary.

As I noted in my “Whirlwind” post, we move fast. Perhaps too fast, and in just two short months, though I knew the content well, I was no longer in the same preparatory space as I’d had been when I prepared the original presentation. Luckily, we record our webinars, and so I watched the archive and took notes from myself. This proved interesting, useful and I learned again. This time from myself.

Though I may have archived my webinar for my portfolio, I probably would not have watched it all from start to finish had I not been preparing a secondary presentation. And though I had a detailed outline, it was really interesting hearing myself present, hearing the thoughts I spoke in real time and hearing the connections I didn’t know I’d made. I learned something and revisited a place I’d not been in a couple of months. Additionally, I was able to revise my upcoming presentation and improve upon it.

Yesterday, I also came across a video blog by one of my favorite coaching experts, Stephen Barkley.  Though I don’t typically love video presentations, his “post” spoke to me.

These two experiences, one of viewing Barkley speak in real time and the other of of going back in time and hearing myself speak as opposed to just reading old notes or journals, has got me thinking that it might be valuable to take video archives of what we do. We advise novice teachers to record themselves as a form of reflection.  Perhaps, this should be standard practice.

  • What do we look and sound like when we are presenting, teaching, collaborating, etc.?
  • What do our planned thoughts look like in real time?
  • What is the uncut version of who we are?
  • What can we learn from watching a past version of ourselves?
  • Can recording and presenting our thoughts deepen our online connections?

As a writer, I know that I do not capture nearly all that I think.  I also know that as much as I plan and script presentations, I always go off book.  Thus, listening to myself was illuminative.  It was also nice to remember the intensity of the passion I feel for the topic, and this is something that words on paper/screen simply can’t do.

Additionally, listening to Stephen Barkley speak, think and pause made me connect with his content in a manner that differed from reading blog posts (though I also love the traditional blog posts).

As we journey further into the digital age, I would challenge us to start recording ourselves live and uncut, at least some of the times.  And then, watch it a week, month or year later. Though it occurred by chance in a moment of necessity, it certainly proved to be a wonderfully reflective exercise.

A link to my original Narrative Poetry & Digital Storytelling Webinar can be found here or at https://iste.adobeconnect.com/p93lcyjctf3/

Poetic Voices: Using Digital StoryTelling to Visualize Narrative Poetry

As part of my work with the ISTE Digital Storytelling Network, I just presented a webinar on using digital storytelling with narrative poetry.  The archive to the webinar will be posted to our wiki at: https://storykeepers-dsn.wikispaces.com/

I am also embedding the presentation below.  Feel free to use, share or modify.  I’m happy to answer any questions.

Feel free to view the presentation here and make a copy in order to revise for your needs.  Thank you to my wonderful co-presenter Julie Jaeger.

Happy StoryTelling and StoryKeeping!

Digital Storytelling & Narrative Poetry Webinar – April 13

Greetings StoryTellers and StoryKeepers!!
It’s Poetry Month!!
Our 2014-15 DSN Webinars continue with…

Poetic Voices: Using Digital StoryTelling to
Visualize Narrative Poetry

Join DSN Execs Tara Waudby and Julie Jaeger
April 13th at 8:00 PM ET, 7:00 PM CT, 6:00 PM MT, and 5:00 PM PT
Register at this link…. https://tinyurl.com/DSNNarSpokenWrdWebinar

Poetry is a powerful mode of communication, and in the history of storytelling, poetry is an essential element of the genre. Learn how we can make poetry come to life and give image to the imagery of poetry with Digital Storytelling. The session will incorporate three ideas that we can use to visualize narrative poetry. We will review digitizing poetic personal narratives, using digital stories to demonstrate analysis of poetry, and using digital storytelling to inspire the creation of original poetic narratives. Hope you can join us!!

DSN members…find numerous resources and webinar archives at our
StoryKeepers-DSN Wiki

Please feel free to send this information on to others…our webinars are free and all are welcome to join us. Hope to see you there!!

Carousel Dialogues

At the recent NESA Fall Leadership Conference, I engaged in a brilliant strategy, the Carousel Interview.  What I love about this strategy is that it allows for a synthesis of voices but also provides space for each person to speak deeply about multiple topics.

The Carousel is organized around questions that are discussed in pairs and finally in Jigsaw format.  We recently engaged in one to synthesize a range of ideas we’d been discussing regarding assessment.

Below are our questions and the format.  Feel free to adopt and adapt as you wish.

Here are the questions we used.  Because we were discussing a lot of information, we posed the question on one side and an artifact related to the question on the other side. One point to note in designing questions, as per Lynn Sawyer, is that there should be a question that allows for dreaming and one that allows for the voicing of frustrations and challenges.

As a whole, this was a fun strategy that allowed for interaction among several people and a synthesis that ultimately included the voices of the entire room.

Faculty Meeting Unconferences

I love the idea of EdCamps, which are founded on the idea of participant driven dialogue or what is now termed the Unconference.  Having participated in my first version of an Unconference a year ago, I became inspired to try it at our school.  Since then, we have organized two faculty meetings using an Unconference format, where the topics of discussion have been generated by our faculty.  The conversation is based on exploration and reflection, rather than an outcome, though the conversations have certainly inspired many actions.

Below are the slideshows of the two sessions we organized, along with a recording worksheet.  In the interest of time, since we are running these in faculty meeting sessions, we did “cheat” slightly by generating the topics throughout the week before the dialogue.  However, we have held true to the rest of the Unconference Protocol.  Feel free to use, tweak and develop as you wish.

Unconference to Process In-Service Week

In this Unconference, we kept track of questions raised in our in-service workshops and meetings.  Then we ran an Unconference to share ideas, clarify understandings, and, as per the Unconference norms, “allow what is supposed to happen to happen.”


Unconference to Process Assessment Non-Negotiables

In November, we decided to summarize our assessment philosophy into a few non-negotiables.  We self-reflected and then discussed each of the non-negotiables in small groups led by our Department Chairs.  This generated a lot more reflection and conversation, so we decided to run it as an Unconference at our next meeting, this time allowing each conversation circle to focus deeply upon a topic.


Recording Live

Here is the worksheet we’ve used to record.  The format was shared by Brian Hartman of CollegeBoard.  We hope to be recording live soon, but for now, we are using pen and paper.  We do share the notes though, so that people have the benefit of sharing in the conversations they did not participate in.

The Unconference has been a fantastic tool for discussion.  We share ideas, get to know one another and the concerns of others deeply and generate questions for further exploration.  The most positive benefit is that the conversations have inspired further reflection and conversation.  They inspire thinking, and though we often pose more questions than we answer, this is how we grow, for as Carol Commodore states, “We are always in a state of becoming.”

Are you a problem-solver or a problem creator?

Do your questions inspire more questions?

Please “Drop the Worry Ball”

My friend Sarah Marslender recommended I read Drop the Worry Ball, which has turned out to be one of my best reads of 2014. Originally, I set off reading it as a parent, but I quickly realized that this is a must read for all educators.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 1.59.35 PMThe subtitle of the book tells a pretty good summary: How to Parent in the Age of Entitlement. However, this is not a book about spoiled children. It is not a book about helicopter parents. It is a book about the effects of over parenting and rise of two types of children, the anxious teens and the disengaged ones.

As a parent and an educator, I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone involved with children. It will change how we view one another, how we judge one another and how we work with one another.

A few of my favorite tidbits from the book:

  • “err on the side of benign neglect”
  • “teachers and parents are playing hot potato with the worry ball” but what are the children doing?
  • “watch, wait and wonder (as opposed to respond, manage and control)”
  • “so remember, when she screws up, and something painful is happening, she’s about to learn”

Essentially, in the last decade, our societies have become consumed with an over parenting culture that is detrimental to our children. Schools have also bought in, often expecting parents to “fix” a child’s behavior from afar. As a parent myself, I realize how impossible this is.

The best thing for our children and our students is for us, the adults, to “drop the worry ball” and let our children pick it up. Hopefully, they’ll fail early on, when the stakes aren’t too high. And if they don’t, eventually, they’ll have to live with the failure.

Well-written, engaging, humorous and honest, Drop the Worry Ball is a must read. Enjoy!

Developing Norms of Collaboration

In my previous post, I mentioned that we developed collective norms of collaboration as a faculty. The below slideshow details our process. We used the PLC Collective Commitments and Adaptive Schools Norms of Collaboration as resources.

    1. We used the process of collaborative summary to develop consensus.
    2. We reviewed the resources and came up with our own priorities for norms.
    3. Then we came together in small teams, combined our lists, and met again in larger teams.
    4. We ended up with four groups who each presented a list of five.
    5. Finally, we used post-its and faculty chose their top three from the list of 20 norms.

It was a positive process and served as our first workshop of our in-service week. Below, are the norms we developed, which we printed for everyone and laminated in card format. We revisit our norms frequently.

Rooted in Reality

Though I am not posting this until today, I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago. In finishing my thesis for my MFA in poetry, I have unfortunately neglected my blog, but I am now coming back to it, at least once per week.

August 31, 2014

Some Rights Reserved by Celeste

Last week, as a faculty, we developed Norms of Collaboration. As part of the exercise, we looked at Adaptive Schools Seven Norms of Collaboration and PLC Collective Commitments. The exercise was positive and we used a collaborative summary and priority stickers to whittle down our collective lists. As I was typing up the final norms for the group, I noticed that “rooted in reality” was one of the main priorities. Somehow, this phrase struck me as less than positive, not quite fitting with the other priorities such as respect, keeping a positive attitude and being engaged. I wondered, what does “rooted in reality mean?”

As it was the weekend, I engaged in a really productive virtual dialogue with the group reporter and found that they had meant…Yet, I wondered if that was the collective understanding of the entire group who had tagged it as a priority.

Last week, we also discussed an excerpt about expectations from Robyn Jackson’s Never Work Harder Than Your Students. She discusses the Pygmalion Effect and notes that it is not our “dogged belief in our students….” In our context, I noted that if we say, “they can’t,” we are really saying “I can’t.” We are saying “I don’t have the skills and strategies to help this child,” and if that is the case, we need to engage in collaborative inquiry together and find the strategies.

I have spent the weekend thinking about the phrase. I hope that to some it doesn’t mean there are students we can’t help, who can’t succeed. I’m all for being “rooted in reality” as a means to understand the present. But I want to do more than remain rooted.

Let me highlight my thoughts with a parenting example. I have spent the weekend rooted in the reality of my stubborn two year old who is learning how to listen well.  Additionally, both my girls are in a bickering phase that is somewhat new and completely grating. This weekend has been particularly challenging, and my patience has worn thin on numerous occasions. I’ve engaged in lots of deep breaths, positive self-talk, exercise and journaling. I’ve been compassionate in my discipline and modeled positive behavior. Yet, I’m still frustrated.

Despite everything I’ve read about toddler behavior and sibling rivalry, I’m experiencing the same issues again and again. That is my reality. It’s important that I recognize it, so I can move forward because I do believe we can learn how to get along, practice kindness, listen without losing ourselves and all the other goals I have for my girls. Yet, I also have to recognize that I need more strategies and support. Thus, remaining rooted in reality is not helpful. Recognizing reality is necessary so that we can become un-rooted.

Present reality does not have to become future reality. That is entirely up to us, and we have to believe, whether as parents or educators, in our own abilities to help our children learn and grow past challenges. Rather than remain rooted, I challenge us to imagine the possibilities and then think up solutions. As I used to say to my students:

Remember to always float on the aura of positive energy.

We must remain positive in our belief that all children can learn and want to be successful.

Why Poetry?

The Gaelic Harp traditionally symbolized poets and musicians. Some rights reserved by Neneonline

I’ve just spent a month in Ireland writing poetry in a land of poets. Bliss for someone who loves poetry in a world where poetry is largely tossed into April for National Poetry Month (a practice which I detest, but that’s a different blog post). The reason I was in Ireland for the month was to finish my course work for my MFA…in poetry.

As I’m finishing my degree soon, poetry is at the forefront of much of my conversation of late, and recently someone asked me a brilliant question:

How does poetry inform your work?

He thought it was a common question, but no one has ever posed this question to me, and to be quite honest, I’ve always framed poetry as my indulgent degree. Truly, I have embarked upon my MFA to improve my craft. And yet, upon reflection, poetry most definitely informs my work.

So why poetry?

  • Poetry is beautiful. It allows you to think in images, possibilities and imagination.
  • Poetry is concise and precise. It forces you to be specific, use precise words and foster an economy of language.
  • Poetry is reflection. You aren’t supposed to get it right away, so it forces you to think deeply, reflect and reread for deeper meaning.
  • Poetry is creation. In a world where creativity is making a huge comeback, I love the fact that I get to spend my free moments using words to create something new. And though poetry is a more conventional form of creativity, thinking creatively in one genre transfers to other realms of life.
  • Poetry is the essence of literature, society and language. Yes, I know this is a big claim, but look at how many cultures value poetry, either today or in history, as the foundation of culture, language and politics. I always started my English classes with poetry, for, as I told my students, if you can analyze a poem, you can analyze anything. And if you can write a good poem, you can most certainly write a good essay or story.
  • Poetry is problem-solving. A great professor once told me that writing is 90% revision. Revising poetry is definitely an exercise in problem-solving. Form must serve function. There has to be a balance of heart and head, a “foot on the ground and a foot in the clouds.” Writing a poem can take 10 minutes. Revising a poem can take 10 years. It is a series of deliberate decisions. It requires thought, separation and perseverance. It is the ultimate exercise in problem-solving.

So there it is…my attempt to answer a thought-provoking and valuable question. My work requires creative problem-solving, imagination, patience, reflection, perseverance and a range of other skills that the act of reading and writing poetry give me on a daily basis.

I love bridging connections between distinct areas in life, and now, I have new inspiration for why we should all embark upon a bit of poetry in life.