29 March 2011

ASCD 2011: The End of the Affair

Monday was the last day of the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference---a bit of a bittersweet time. The truth is, everyone is exhausted, but you’re enjoying the conversations and learning so much, you can’t help but go back for more. The day also felt like the last day of school as I said goodbye to new and old friends.

But I had to set this aside for the morning, as it was finally time for me to present. I have talked about data tools and visualization before, but my presentation materials had received a major facelift over the last couple of weeks. I was really excited about rolling it out. Here are my new favourite slides I designed. The first is meant to invoke an iPad (yes, I made all the little icon buttons from scratch) and the second is taken from an idea on Flickr CC (although I wish I could have made the orange line smoother).

The main points of my session were
  • Visuals are more powerful than words and numbers alone because the brain can process and respond to them faster.
  • There is a story---one with characters, audience, setting, plot, and theme---in our data. We have to find and show it.
  • A good visual requires the user to interact with it. Maybe we think that numbers speak for themselves. They don’t. If the story is important, make the audience engage.
  • Data visualizations need to include some basic design elements. Use color, line, size, shape, and other attributes to help sell your message…but don’t go too far and end up with a junk chart.
Along the way, I showed various tools (all of which I’ve shared here over the past year or two). But the interesting thing was the reaction to the QR code I included on my business card-sized handout. Several people stayed after the session to learn how to use it. One of the biggest differences I see between ASCD and ISTE is that ASCD is full of people with mobile devices. Lots of smartphones and tablets. ISTE is made up of a group with laptops. The ASCD audience would be the one to target with things like QR codes, mobile versions of Web sites, and so forth---and yet I’m not sure if they know the power of the tools they hold in their hands.

Things that went well for me during the session included everyone who wanted to be there got to be there. I had a ticketed session---one that was “sold out”---so there were lots of people (who for a variety of reasons) who would not have been able to attend. But there were enough no-shows and other workarounds that everyone who wanted a seat got one. I was only aware of three people leaving early, so my message appeared to be on target and the audience engaged. The timing was good. I had an hour-long session. We started a minute late (as the non-ticket holders were seated) and ended a minute late. I had three people tell me afterwards that my session “made their conference” and others who asked if I would do a road show for their districts/groups. While I’m sure that not everyone who attended was so enthusiastic, it is reassuring to know that the information shared was valuable for some.

What would I do differently? Definitely build in more time for people to think-pair and reflect on the information. This presentation might need a 90-minute time block. I’m not sure I can scale it back much further. I would have liked to take more time showing the various tools. Maybe I also need to start thinking about looking for and incorporating more things for mobile devices.

This was the first presentation I’ve done where there was something resembling a backchannel. Considering that the comments were made mostly by people who know me, I won’t claim that this represents an unbiased or full view of the event, but it was fun for me to read later. Here are the tweets (most recent at the top...oldest at the bottom).

I had some nice conversations with people throughout the day. A few stopped me wherever they saw me (including after dinner) to tell me that they really enjoyed the presentation. Others had questions about tools and downloads. I am always grateful for the opportunity to connect with other educators. It is always a humbling experience to learn more about all they do on behalf of students everywhere. I didn't attend any other sessions on Monday (and Edutopia completely stood me up about taking me to Skywalker Ranch...the stinkers).

I have a couple more posts rolling around my head about the conference that I will work on soon. Right now, I am on the train home---crossing the California/Oregon border---and enjoying the opportunity to reflect on this amazing conference.

27 March 2011

ASCD 2011: Sunday Workshop Worship

It was suggested to me by another member of the press/blogging community (*cough*) that following my "Live. Nude. Notes." post (which is driving the search engines wild), that I title this one "Barely Legal Coverage of the ASCD Conference." But considering that my day began riding the bus to the conference with a bunch of nuns clutching their lattes, perhaps today is one that should be devoted to contemplation and reflection at the altar of staff development.

In the morning, I started out in 21st Century Skills for a 20th Century Curriculum with Bruce Taylor (from the National Opera) and Liz Eder (from the Smithsonian). An excellent start to the day (you can download my notes here). I was interested in this session mainly because of the presenters. It's not often that you get arts educators---especially ones from outside the K-12 system---talking about technology. They were off to a fabulous start, but I was so enthused by the description of this session (which started 30 minutes later), I snuck out. Big mistake. The presentation started out to be rather promising---not many people are talking about how to use interactive whiteboards in a student centered way. And then, there was a parade of demos. Argh.

The afternoon was better. I attended Fisher and Frey's session on Responding When Students Don't Get It. (my notes and their PowerPoint, flowchart, and questioning guide). These were presenters well-skilled in communicating with an audience. I have read their books, but really enjoyed the opportunity to engage again with the ideas and talk about them with Jason and Jen. I also found it interesting how powerful it is to look at samples of teaching, even in an arena-style presentation. Fisher and Frey did a fabulous job building our background knowledge in order to apply their work to the videos. Very impressive---I'm a total convert now.

My final session was Visual Literacy: Learning Content and Skills with Pictures by Mark Newman and Donna Ogle. (Click the links to download my notes and their handout.) This session was also outstanding. I love the simple strategies and methods they suggested to help students use visuals in more constructive ways. A truly excellent way to end Day Two of Learning.

If you'd like to see what others are writing about the conference, you can see the list of acolytes bloggers here.

Tonight, I am off to a reception for the ASCD Conference Scholars (including yours truly) to imbibe some holy water...then back to the room to run through my presentation a time or two. I present first thing Monday morning (8:30 a.m.). And at high noon...I'm off to Skywalker Ranch. (Squee!)

Now, go in peace.

Live. Nude. Notes.

Nothing is more exciting than hearing all about a conference you're not at...am I right? You're in luck, then, as I have things from Saturday to share with you. So, sit a little closer and I'll whisper in your ear.

But first, a teaser. I've been thinking about the following question: What is the role of a conference in today's educational landscape? We know that single-shot PD events don't lead to significant change. These are expensive events (as my bank account gently weeps...), so only one or few people from an institution can attend---and many times, they don't even see the same sessions. Why bother?

I think the answer to the question comes down to relationships: a foundational aspect of the classroom and making things happen in education. I have read lots of stuff by Thomas Guskey and Carol Ann Tomlinson---but there is something fundamentally different about sitting in a room where they are speaking and sharing. The accent of their voice and they way they deliver their patter...how they communicate their information when they are the ones in control. No editors. No filters. Just ideas in the buff. It's very seductive. But beyond that is the conversations that get generated. I had so many quickie discussions with people in hallways (and at the bar)---all focused on what we'd seen and heard and how it stimulated our thoughts. Speakers at a conference are not an end point: they are the beginning of beautiful relationships.

I will whip out more ideas to share later. But here is a basic rundown of my Saturday---with links to download my notes from each session. They are messy, to be sure. It's not easy to take neat notes while sitting "airline style" in rows of chairs. I also have electronic versions of their handouts/slides for most of the sessions.

So without further ado, here are my live nude notes:
  1. I started with Trent Kaufman's Beyond Regrouping and Reteaching: Using Data to Dramatically Improve Instruction. The session was a bit of a bust. I got the impression that the presenter really didn't understand how standardized tests get put together and why this is not the data you should be using for classroom level decisions. I think he also missed the boat on impacts to individual student learning when we regroup and reteach. I'll come back to this later. Click here for ppt.
  2. I snuck out of the first session and into Laura Greenstein's Assessing 21st Century Skills. I did pick up a couple of golden nuggets here. If there was anything from yesterday to take back home and directly insert into my job, it came from this session. This was another presenter, however, that made me a little nervous about some of the messages that were portrayed widely. Click here for pdf of presentation and Word file of handout.
  3. After lunch, I started with Thomas Guskey (swoon) in Fair and Meaningful Grades for Exceptional Learners. Not much new here, if you've been around standards-based grading for very long, but still well-grounded info to share. The exceptional learners piece can be really tough to navigate. Click here for pdf of presentation.
  4. I moved over to Carol Ann Tomlinson's Differentiating Instruction and 21st Century Skills. I was incredibly impressed to watch her manage a room of 1400 people. Srsly. Again, I'm not sure that I heard anything new, but I really did get a different perspective on differentiation. Behold, the power of conferences. Click here for pdf of presentation.
  5. I ended my day in Jen Orr's session on Collaboration through Technology for Assessment Information. If you read Jen's blog, then you probably have a good idea of the strategies used in her classroom. There is something magical in seeing the information presented. I did audio record this session and will give Jen the link, but for now, visit her post about the session for resources. The session was a great "bookend" to the one I started the day with. Jen provided some very concrete examples of collecting and reflecting upon classroom level data---and how to use it for regrouping and reteaching.
Lots more experiences for me to share from Saturday, but they will have to wait. I need to finish getting ready and get out the door for Sunday's events. Time to put this post to bed.  :)

26 March 2011

ASCD 2011: Sunday Scouting Report

All right, campers. It's time to build our brackets and mix our metaphors for ASCD Sunday (sunday...sunday).

In the 8 - 10 a.m. time slot, I have the following contenders:
  • Creating a Culture of Reflection and Learning Through Questioning---I like the idea of building a school culture where all stakeholders are engaged in an inquiry process. Many teachers struggle with questions that come from outside the classroom. How do we make that an empowering process?
  • Using Technology to Create Interactive Learning Centers and Group Activities---As we begin to move out our statewide assessment system for tech, I really think that one way to make it work in most classrooms is to build into a workshop model or help teachers see how to use learning centers in new ways. 
  • There are two different "21st Century Skills" sessions on the menu. One is more assessment oriented. I might try to drop in on one of them.

Then, in the 12:45 - 2:45 timeframe, competitors include
  • A three-way (careful...) between sessions focusing on thinking skills---Thinking about Thinking, Developing Critical Thinkers, and Creativity: It's Not Just for Artists Anymore.
  • I am also eyeballing Responding When Students Don't Get It. The presenters (Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey) really do have a nice model and understanding. Seems like a great opportunity to hear from the collective horse's mouth.
Mid-afternoon, we have a walkover: Linda Darling-Hammond's lecture on The Flat World and Education. Here is a woman with her head screwed on right, which is probably why Arne Duncan is now Secretary of Education. Sigh.

And for the end of the day (5 - 6:30 p.m.), we have
  • Bold Strategies for Standards Based Instruction in Diverse, Inclusive Classrooms---Kinda sounds like a barbecue sauce, doesn't it? It's bold...It's spicy! I like it. Even better, it looks at ways to use technology to help reach some of our harder-to-reach students.
  • Visual Literacy: Learning Content and Skills with Pictures---Should be a great warm-up for my Data Viz presentation Monday morning. I would really like to learn more about getting data and information visualization out to students---as well as using these tools to teach medal literacy and other skills.
Want to build your own fantasy ASCD schedule? Just visit the conference Web site.

Tomorrow evening, I have an ASCD Scholars reception...then it's back to my room to see if there are any other final touches to put on my presentation. All 200 tickets for my session have been spoken for---good to know that I will have a full house bright and early on Monday morning.

Enjoy your Sunday!

    25 March 2011

    ASCD 2011: Saturday Possibilities

    It's been a lovely Friday afternoon getting ready for the ASCD conference. I went to the Moscone Center to pick up my press badge, badge candy (presenter ribbon), and Scholars packet. I stayed for the Welcome reception---live music, warm Asian foods, and diabetic coma-inducing desserts. While there, I chatted with a pair of educators from the Virgin Islands (who thought SF was cold), four administrators from Regina, SK (who thought SF was warm), and a gaggle of NYC public school teachers (who were having hot flashes and therefore had no comment about SF weather).

    Tomorrow is a buffet of sessions. I'm still in the process of making the final choices. Here are the top four I am looking at for the 8 - 9:30 timeframe:
    • Beyond Reteaching and Regrouping: Using Data to Dramatically Improve Instruction---I am always on the hunt for strategies to share when it comes to reteaching, especially for secondary teachers. This seems to be a weak point in many classrooms.
    • Teacher Assignment: The Key to Maximizing Student Learning---This one is on the list because the description makes me a little nervous. But, sometimes controversy can be a good thing. If I don't find coffee tomorrow, I'll go get my adrenaline pumping here.
    • Assessing 21st Century Skills---A session that is high on the list for this timeframe, mainly because it directly relates to my current job and I am interested to see how others are trying to solve the same problems that we have.
    • Conferring with Students: Practical Strategies That Close the Achievement Gap---Another one that is at the top of my list. I'm a firm believer in collecting and using qualitative data in the classroom. This session has a secondary focus, which represents the grade levels least likely to include student conferences as part of the assessment process.

    Then, in the afternoon, between 1 and 3...
    • Teaching With Poverty in Mind---Could be another controversial session. I do have an earlier book by the presenter/author (Eric Jensen) and am interested in his take on reaching our ever-growing populations of children living below the poverty line.
    • Working Successfully with Difficult and Resistant People---Dude. Who couldn't use a session like this?
    • I'm also interested in Guskey's session on Fair and Meaningful Grades for Exceptional Learners, (natch) a couple of sessions on differentiation/tech integration, and one on using Social Studies and Math to Teach Social Justice.

    At the end of the day (3 - 5 p.m.), I'm looking at
    • Boosting the Cognitive Complexity of Instructional Tasks and Assessments---Anyone who uses Webb's Depth of Knowledge over Bloom's for designing assessments is a person after my own heart.
    • Collaboration Through Technology for Assessment Information---presented by Jen from Elementary My Dear, or Far from It. I'll totally go to this one. Go, Jen, go!
    • There are also a couple of sessions on increasing rigor and a few on tech integration that pique my interest.
    As you can see, it's going to be a busy Saturday.  I also have a Scholars Luncheon, may peek in on the Keynote, and there's an Edutopia tweetup in the evening. If I'm lucky, I'll get to the Exhibit Hall or chat with a few other bloggers.Do you want more information on the conference? Visit ASCD's Web site: http://www.ascd.org/conferences/annual-conference/2011.aspx

    What I love about ASCD---and that I don't find at any other conference---is the representation of ideas. How wonderful to be in a position to have so many choices...to see all of the ways the pieces of our schools can fit together. It is rejuvenating to be in a place where the focus is where it should be: kids and teachers.

    Here's hoping I remember to show my enthusiasm in appropriate ways...

    The Train! The Train! (with apologies to Tattoo)

    As I start this post, I am sitting at a train station in Sacramento, California. I am traveling by train between Olympia, Washington, and San Francisco, California. This is my first extended train trip. I've done a couple of short jaunts on Amtrak...and a few day trips in Europe. Now, I feel like I"m sold on taking the train whenever possible.

    Most of my life is "hurry, hurry, hurry." Maybe it is that way for most people, too. There are times when hurrying is efficient---take the freeway instead of the scenic route...fly cross-country instead of drive. But for most of the last 24 hours, I've had time to let someone else worry about the "driving," the meals, and the clean up. Me? I've been sitting in a little compartment, watching the world go by outside my window. Some of it has been beautiful. There's been snow covered mountains, rivers, rainbows, and sunshine. At night, tucked in bed with the train gently rocking, and the constellations the only visible items out the window, it was like floating in space---the path of the train altering the positions. The midnight blue of the cloudy sky I woke up to early this morning, lit only by moonlight underneath, was a wonderful way to start the day. Other parts of the journey, however, are not so scenic. I have seen lots of backyards that seem to be the place where old cars go to die and many abandoned homes.

    I will be in San Francisco in about 2 hours. I am looking forward to the conference, for sure, but now I am looking forward to the journey home---knowing that the train will be a quiet place to reflect on what I've learned and what I hope to do.


    This weekend, I will be blogging about the ASCD conference. We are making a trade: My corner of cyberspace in exchange for a free registration…and press pass.

    In the edusphere, we don’t talk much about the potentially blurry line between blogging and journalism. It is, however, a hot topic amongst science bloggers. I think that this is because there is such a range of science magazines and newspaper sections. Education does not have its own version of Scientific American or Discover. My hunch is that there are far fewer reporters out there devoted to an education beat than there is for science. Those who see themselves purely as science journalists are not always welcoming to blogs. But as newspapers move to online formats, they bring up questions about how online content (and those who develop it) are viewed. If you blog on behalf of a magazine, such as Scientific American or Discover---are you a blogger…or a reporter? Both?

    My adopted mother has been involved with journalism for years. Even in her retirement, she still goes over to the next town one day a week to help the local paper with their layout and other tasks. I don’t see what I do here as fitting into the neat box of journalism. My blog, as you know, is a mash of personal thoughts and reflections on my life as a professional educator. Over the years, there has been any number of iterations as I have shifted positions and had my eyes opened to many different parts of the system.

    I do, however, believe that blogs have earned a seat at the communications table. Our style may be informal, but our reach is far greater than a piece of paper could be at any given point in time. We may have page hits instead of a circulation number, search engine optimization issues vs. the Reader’s Periodic Guide, and a network instead of readership---but we are all after the same goal: to share what we know (or think we know) and to generate dialogue.

    I hope you’ll enjoy the stories and join in the conversation here this weekend. Maybe next year, you can join us in person.

    22 March 2011


    It's been quiet on ye olde blog as I have been busy with one conference last weekend and have ASCD coming this weekend. In between I'm juggling meetings, field testing, planning for more rangefinding, and a host of other details. Stay tuned for an onslaught of posts from the ASCD conference over the weekend.

    12 March 2011

    A Preponderance of Ponderous Perceptions

    I'm sure it will surprise no one that it's a rainy weekend in western Washington. It's spring in the Pacific Northwest---and while my yard is waking up from its winter slumber, the conditions are still not entirely friendly for staying outdoors for long periods of time. Cold and wet is one of most unpleasant combinations to find yourself in.

    So, I am working on various indoor projects and thinking about the following ideas...

    Take 20 minutes to watch this video. No...really. I know---you have a brazilian other demands for your time and attention. But I can think of nothing I've seen in the last year that has totally blown my mind the way this TED talk does.

    In "The Birth of a Word," Deb Roy, a researcher at MIT, "wired up his house with videocameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son's life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video" to capture not only how language development happens, but all of the environmental influences that help it along. Beyond that, Roy and his group also look at social interactions that happen in real time across media. What do we see when we cross Twitter with tv feeds? It's a presentation that left me dumbstruck. I'm still not sure what to think about all the implications presented here---but it is fascinating to consider them.

    And then, I was handed some links to "geotemporal visualization." Wha'? These are tools that mash together space and time into one visual. When you think about some of the things I've shared here, the visuals are one or the other. We've looked at how to plot achievement data (or any other set) on a map...and we've looked at tools that allow you to follow data over time. But nothing that shows these simultaneously. What if you could? And why would you want to?

    You can play with the "timemap" showing Renaissance Artists and Authors here. (For more examples, visit Timemap or the Geotemporal Viz site. I can think of ways to use these tools with students, but for teachers and administrators, there might not be as many advantages. I'll have to think about this some more...or perhaps you can see some schoolwide benefits.

    Now that my files are all copied and uploaded to Amazon.com's cloud ($.14/GB/month---quite the deal), I am also pleased to discover how easy it is to share files. How nice to be able to send a link to a new teacher and give them instant access to my entire library of AP Biology stuff, for example. I really like this idea...but still need time to play with it. A lot of my "old" curriculum really isn't very good. I would definitely overhaul it before using it with students. There's probably no historical value...and yet, I'm not willing to just delete it. Maybe another teacher could take the crude base and reconfigure things into something wonderful. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself.

    I decided this week to put my entire handout for the ASCD conference on a business card. One side will have my contact info...and the other a QR code (shown at the right) that will automatically link to all the resources. I will also supply the URL for those who don't have smartphones. Is this too weird? I haven't tried this before...so we'll see what feedback I get. Somehow, it just seems silly to provide a paper handout for a session which showcases a variety of digital tools and information.

    I've been feeling more creative recently---good things happening at work...some excellent progress on my ASCD presentation...new ideas to share at a conference next weekend...trying to post here more often. Positive things to identify in spite of the all the negativity in the world I'm living in. Where all these things take me remain to be seen. And out of all the things I'm pondering this weekend, it's the one topic I know I have to leave out.

    08 March 2011

    The Big Show: 2011 Edition

    In just over two weeks, I'm off to the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference. I've gone to a lot of conferences in the past year---I believe that this one will be #8---and while all of them are work-related, this is the only one that is completely paid for out of my own pocket.Why bother? Because it is the best place for me to get some professional development. Don't get me wrong---I learn tons from the other conferences I attend around the state, but it's learning for a different purpose. When I go to those events, I'm really there to wear a very specific hat and listen to what the field wants and needs me to do. I'm there to find out how they need me to serve them better. At ASCD? I get to be selfish---it's all about me at that conference. I'm there to learn whatever I can so that I have something more to offer and share. For me, this is worth every penny I've been scrimping and saving for months---even my 89-year old grandmother kicked in $100.

    Last year, I unofficially blogged for ASCD at the conference (see posts here, here, here, here, and here). This year, I will officially be cranking out posts on their behalf, as well as several other bloggers/tweeters. You can see the list here and follow the tweets here. Even if you can't get to the conference, we'll do our best to bring the conference to you. Have questions you want us to answer? An expert you would like interviewed? A specific session you want covered? Let me know and I will do my best.

    My presentation this year is on data visualization for educators---lots of things that I've posted about here over the last couple of years. I'm in the process of overhauling the materials. ASCD deserves something extra special...and I have learned a lot since I first rolled out this presentation. Besides, I gotta make grandma proud, right?

    07 March 2011

    Sometimes They Come Back

    Nearly three years ago, I wrote a post about a senior who was dropping out of school:
    I was working with one of my classes a few weeks ago when a student from another class came to see me. He had withdrawal papers with him. This is a student who had been frequently absent (or disengaged), but who I genuinely enjoyed. He was a senior---two months from graduation.

    "What's the deal?" I asked.

    "I'm quitting. I'm getting my GED and have already enlisted in the army. I show up for basic training mid-May and will be off to Iraq soon after."

    "Kevin," I said, "You make me sad."

    "I know," he replied. "I make me sad, too."

    Don't come home in a box, kid. Sigh.

    According to today's paper, he very nearly did. I've thought of him now and then since signing those papers. I always wondered if he was okay. I still hope he will be.

    05 March 2011

    Excel Dashboards for Educators

    I've been interested in the idea of a dashboard reporting tool for the classroom for a long time. I stumbled across business versions three years ago when I first started thinking about how to build a gradebook I could use, then created a static mock-up a year and a half later. I have wanted to fine tune the darned thing ever since---getting to a point where the reporting tool would auto-update for individual students. Then, in my typical foolhardy manner, I proposed a workshop for data visualization which would include creating dashboards...even though I hadn't made one yet. However, a deadline can be a healthy thing. A little frustration leads to innovation...the night before the workshop. And then, I had my Colin Clive moment: It's alive! It's aliiiivve!

    The starting point was the gradebook from my Building a Better Monster post. Plenty of student scores to play with. What I ended up with is something that looks like this:

    Yes, it looks the same as my original mock-up...but it's not. The important difference is in cell A1:

    See that little number there? If you change that number (there are 10 students in the gradebook example, so you can change the number in A1 to any whole number between 1 and 10), all of the names, scores, and graphs will automatically update to represent that student. ZOMG This is so supercool that even if you aren't an Excel lover, you should still download one of the files to play with. It is an awesome thing to change a single number and watch everything else update and bow to your whim.

    This is accomplished by using OFFSET/CHOOSE formulas in each worksheet (one for the scores, one for the dashboard). The one in cell A1 tells the rest of the dashboard what to pay attention to. The ones in the remaining cells describe which data to pull. I'll provide some additional tips and tricks in a later post if you want to start from scratch.

    I won't claim that everything is picture perfect. I would much prefer to use the Sparklines add-in to display the graphs. But while they work beautifully in the gradebook, they won't work in the dashboard. So, in the Excel 2007 versions, I had to use the regular graph options. In the 2010 version, I used the MS "sparklines" in the dashboard (and add-in for the gradebook).  It's a start.

    I hope you'll take these and make them your own. If you're an elementary teacher, sub in different subject areas. If you're an administrator, see what happens when you look at different classroom level data. I know you can purchase fancy-schmancy software that will do these things for you---but I firmly believe that you should have the choice about how your data is used and visualized. Enjoy!

    Update 5/2012: Please visit my page on the Excel for Educators blog for the most recent versions of gradebook and reporting tools. Most have sample workbooks to download and instructional videos...and have moved beyond the first steps described in this post.

    The Wisdom of the Crowd

    100 educators---some from districts with 70 students...some from districts with more then 40,000 students. Some teachers, librarians, administrators, curriculum/instructional specialists, and IT staff. Some with primary students and some with middle and high school kids. Some with little knowledge and experience with educational technology and some with significant expertise. All of whom needed and deserved some personal attention and individualization during the day.

    100 laptops---with needs for tables, AC power (that wouldn't blow the circuits), and wi-fi. All in different shapes, sizes, and operating systems. Some locked down tight by IT requirements...some easily accessed by teachers.

    100 lunches---including accommodations for vegans, vegetarians, diabetics, and various food allergies. Nearly 100 different travel arrangements to make sure everyone could get to the event.

    8 hours---to summarize nearly four years of work and build anticipation for the future.

    Put all of this together in a single room, and you have my Tuesday. It was a little bit like being on the world's largest field trip: a million little details, an extended learning purpose, working to meet so many needs, taking attendance. But it was also much more than that. Any journey with teachers---especially those who voluntarily give up a day with their students and take time away from their family and colleagues to share and learn with others---is an awe-inspiring experience. It was also a humbling one, with such amazing people to support and serve.

    It was a good learning experience for me. Large groups are difficult to plan for and manage. As much as I hate "sit and get," when you have 100 people with laptops in a single space, there aren't a lot of options. So, we tried to alternate delivery of information with as much time for table work and discussion as possible. Pacing-wise, we did pretty well. We kept to the agenda, even though some things felt rushed. I wanted people to have time to plan, but we also needed to be sure we gave them the information to plan with. Since we will have another event like this in three months, I have time to learn from this past one and make a few adjustments to the timeline. Evaluations were mostly positive---people felt like they got what they needed. Some pointed out (and justifiably so) the sedentary nature of things. A few indicated that they came expecting one thing and left with something different---not necessarily in a bad way. We definitely can be more vigilant about stating goals, but so many people are signed up to attend by others that I'm not sure how clearly things are communicated before they arrive.

    I am grateful for the wisdom of the crowd present this week. I admire their willingness to represent the best interests of their schools and their courage to share what they know and are still learning. I am hopeful that the seeds we've planted with these assessments and goals will bloom and bear fruit for students throughout the state.

    Update: PD is hard on the feet. Here are my poor bruised piggies from that day. Ouch.

    04 March 2011

    Conference Head

    It's been a long week...and it ain't over yet. I have a couple of presentations later today and then some travel to manage. I also have a variety of blog posts rattling around in my mind: the trials and tribulations of working with 100 people at once for a full day...my brand new Excel dashboard for the classroom...people who teach kids vs. people who teach stuff...and how the continuing call for teachers to be treated equally (especially from within the ranks) has caused us to be treated unfairly.

    My head is a big ole mess---a lot like "bed head," except no one can see it. I'm learning a lot along the way. I like that part. I like that I've met all sorts of teachers this week---and gotten to enjoy visiting with some old friends. As comfortable as it is to be home and have my regular routine going, I have to admit that being plopped into different situations and unfamiliar surroundings is good for me, too. It makes me ask questions and try some new things. Now I just have to figure out what to do with them.