Friday, February 8, 2008

The Four Walls Have Fallen--Our work is Transparent

My digital epiphany, thanks to colleagues, started in early October and has reformed the way I look at professional growth and communication. The epiphany has me thinking about the endless possibilities of virtually bringing educators from across our globe together to watch live lessons and share best practices. The four walls of our classroom have finally fallen--our work is transparent. This shift in thinking was clearly evident in our school's work at the America's Choice Conference in Hollywood, California last week.

Three firsts were the highlight of the conference for me. For the first time ever, my colleagues and I live blogged the conference to our peers at The Creek and to participants. (Of course, live took new meaning because the hotel didn't offer free wireless connections, so we hurdled the obstacle by writing in Word and pasting in blogger during the evening.) Our learning leaders didn’t have to wait for us to return to share information, rather they simply logged on and got the updates-- in far more detail than they would have received if we hadn’t mutually blogged the conference. In fact, one of our learning leaders back in Jacksonville made 22 comments on Live from the Creek—she definitely deserved her Supporting Actress Oscar!

Also a first, during our Chets Creek Virtual Tour, we (with the outstanding technical assistance of the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership) video conferenced a live lesson from Mrs. Mallon’s Kindergarten Classroom in Jacksonville, Florida to the session in Hollywood, California. The “Virtual” label in the title came alive with this session and had the conference a buzz. Afterall, educators in this school design from across our nation observed a Writers' Workshop lesson where the teacher taught kindergarteners to self-assess their work based on a rubric, and where another colleague, Mrs. Alvarado, toured them through the classroom during work period! Then, the conference participants got to interact live with the teachers in Jacksonville and ask them questions about their practice and classroom. I sat in awe as this unfolded and dialogue from the audience indicated that they, like me, where envisioning new possibilities.

Another highlight, and a first, our own dayle timmons, special education teacher and primary literacy coach gave the closing keynote. The 1,500 + conference participants listened intently as she shared her journey in a Cohort 2 America's Choice school. The neat thing about this--in the past, the CCE teachers attending the conference would have bragged about her when we returned but no one else would have gotten the experience. This year, the keynote will be posted on our Live from the Creek blog (as soon as we figure out the technical end of how to do this) and all learning leaders including the Chets Creek Faculty will have the opportunity to watch this keynote. They, too, will be deeply moved by her words of wisdom.

We are envisioning new horizons, thinking about all the possibilities, changing practice. From this conference forward, each time a teacher attends a conference, they, too, will add to the Live from the Creek blog. Their learning will be brought back live to us all. In addition, we've already begun to plan for future presentations at the conferences we attend. We think all presenters from Chets should include a live conference session as part of their presentation. In fact, next year at the America's Choice Conference in Orlando, Florida, we'd like to live conference in a Readers', Writers', Math, and Science lesson, as well as a Mathematics Navigator and Literacy Navigator saftey net session. (Are you ready for that Dave?) Dreaming was only the beginning, now, thanks to the hard work of my colleagues at this conference, we see that the sky is the limit!


dayle said...

You are so right. This past week opened doors that we never imagined. this is an exciting time to be a teacher - especially a teacher at chets Creek! dayle

Melanie Holtsman said...

It is such an exciting time, so glad to be sharing it with someone I respect and admire as much as I do you!