Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Summer Reading

It's summertime and like so many other educators, I'm enjoying some much needed R&R to get recharged for a new school year. Like you, although school is out, it is never far from my mind. I use some of my time to reflect, attend conferences, and revise curriculum maps, but much of my time is spent curled up, blocking out the chaos of life, and simply reading. I spend hours engrossed in an story, wrapped inside the story line, and standing beside the main character. I feel their turmoil and rejoice in their triumph. This is what Aimee Buckner calls experiencing the story.

Aimee in her new text, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader's Notebook, claims that readers visualize a story in three different ways; still pictures, motion picture, or experience. Readers who get totally engrossed in reading, who experience the reading, like I do, become life-long, avid, reflective, thoughtful readers. They are able to move beyond the still and motion picture to being a part of the story-connecting with it in such a way that they will forever be a reader. Isn't this what we want for all of our students? We want to help them become avid, reflective, thoughtful, connected readers. We want them to pick up a book and read even when it is not expected of them. We want them to love reading, for it to become a life-long pastime.

Teachers of reading grapple with how to teach students to become this type of avid reader. Because, like me, some didn't experience this magic until adulthood. They, like I, were taught from a basal reading text. I didn't have teachers who shared their favorite stories; I didn't get an up close and personal glimpse at a particular author; I was never taught how to visualize or infer or synthesize to more deeply understand text. (My former teachers may disagree with me.) As an instructional coach to reading teachers, I try to devour as many professional texts on reading as I can. I try to understand how reading passion develops for young learners, and what we, as educators, must do to assist their reading development. I know that many of you share this same passion as we seek out reading best practices. As we turn kids on to reading.

One of my colleagues, dayle timmons, shares my passion, and is a veracious reader. She's a stalker of Stenhouse and Heinemann waiting for new literacy texts to hit the market, and when they do, she's always the first to order them. Aimee Buckner's, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader's Notebook, was one of those text. She passed it my way and I think she meant for me to give it back after a first read, but I'm quite certain she had no idea that the text would be earmarked, highlighted, coffee stained, and passed along to another colleague to take on vacation for beach reading this week. What dayle passed along for my summer reading was a gem-one I will add to my toolkit. Of course, she knows, another one is on order for her.

Aimee Buckner has written a practical guide for helping teachers use the Reader's Notebook. In this easy to read guide, she shares snippets from her classroom of lessons she's taught and ways her students have responded in their notebooks. She shares student responses so readers can see actual student work generated from these lessons. Her last chapter also addresses using the Reader's Notebook as an assessment tool.

If you are looking for a way to increase your student's reading reflection or want to assist them in articulating their thinking, this text may guide your instructional practices. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NECC 09, Relationships & Reflection

I'm entering my twelfth year in education, and just attended my first National Education Computing Conference with a colleague. There were immense differences between this conference and other national conferences I've attended. What made this one so different? Relationships & Reflection.

Never have I attended a national conference were I feel like I know hundreds of attendees and presenters. I haven't met them face-to-face before, rather have an on-line connection with them via blogging and twitter. I feel like I know them professionally through 140 character tweets, and I have open access to their writing and thoughts on their blogs. Many of them also share snipits of their personal lives so I know (and through pictures may have seen) where they live, their kid's names, their classroom environments, or where they took their last vacation.

These on-line relationships propelled NECC to offer NECC 09 Unplugged. This unique design set it apart from other national conferences. Not only were there regular conference sessions via lectures and panel discussions and BYOL (bring your own laptop) sessions, but also informal learning opportunities through playground areas and a blogger's cafe. The playground areas were set up with a presenter to share some of their learning and where others could gather, ask questions, and get some advice on implementation strategies. In the blogger's cafe conversations focused on wikis, how to create interaction on a blog through comments, what individuals might want to present at next year's conference, or how to use their new Nikon 60 cameras, to name just a few. On a personal level, people spent time making face-to-face connections and just talking. Networks deepened and friendships formed. I took as much, if not more learning from these informal conversations. This means extended and richer learning for me far beyond the convention walls.

Relationships also had me selecting sessions differently. In the past, I would pick solely on the title or content listed in the program, but this time I selected based on whether the presenter was part of my PLN, Personal Learning Network, through Twitter. Attending sessions with presenters from my PLN offered many benefits, including that I can have dialogue with them far beyond the hour session, and I know if I want to learn more later, I can go directly to the source.
In addition, at other conferences, once sessions commenced, the colleagues from my school and I would find a dinner location, and share our session debriefs. I wasn't really sure what other participants were doing, but I would venture to say, the same thing we were. Not at NECC. Because people were networked and connected on-line, they would meet at Tweet-Ups, go bowling together, meet in large groups for dinner (most meeting face-to-face for the first time), or tour our nation's capital. The groups formed because of common interests, and though some may have been pre-planned (through twitter), many were not. It would take one shout out through twitter to bring a group together. Again, forming relationships that will last far beyond the convention walls.

Reflection was also a natural part of this conference. After leaving other national conferences, I would take time to reflect on my learning and decide how my new learning would shape the way in which I work or deliver pd to teachers. After NECC, I not only have my own reflections, but the reflections of hundreds of other attendees. Many are bloggers and through their on-line communication I can read a post much like this one, that tells me about their own shift in thinking. I can also access many posts that were live blogged during the conference, much like the blog my colleague and I contributed to, Live from the Creek, and I can read about sessions I was not able to attend. To me, a significant change in the way we do business.

If you are reading this, you are part of my PLN, and you attended NECC 09, you already understand. But, if you are not part of my PLN, and this conference intrigues you, I would suggest that you attend ISTE 10 in Denver next year. My advice would be to get connected now so you will fully benefit, like I did, from being networked by the time you arrive. To get started, go to , create an account, and search for me at @shalls under the followers tab. Don't feel overwhelmed in getting started. Start small and your network will expand. Once you meet people face to face next year at ISTE 10, you will be glad that you did.

For those of you who are networked and attended NECC 09, what do you see as the differences between this conference and others?