“Digital Day” and The Literacy of Cooperation

During play time, three girls were working together on an ipad in my classroom. One suddenly exclaimed, “Ms Echternacht! We get higher points when we work together!” They had devised a system of cooperation to maximize their point achievement levels.

Contrast that with this image of a school advertising their “Digital Day” in Kindergarten:


"Ms Echternacht, we discovered we get higher points when we work together!"
“Ms Echternacht, we discovered we get higher points when we work together!”

The New Shape of Teaching and Learning

So I just completed a three week Tri-Edu-Thon :D.

It started three weeks ago when I was invited to be a panelist at the #NYSAIS at the Lower School Heads and Early Childhood Conference held at Mohonk Mountain House in NY. Wow! Such a beautiful location. I met some really wonderful, unique and “with-it” people. It was a true pleasure to be a part of that group and help lead an “unconference” session. I want to Thank Josie Holford, Head of Poughkeepsie Day School for connecting me to this fantastic group of Educators and to Barbara Swanson for welcoming me so warmly and for organzing such a remarkable event.

There I talked about tech fluency, literacy and “the app trap”. You can see my talk outline here.

From there I beat feet to #ISTE12 I had never been to Southern California before and I decided to make a two+ week adventure out of the journey. #ISTE12 was great because I had the chance to meet up with other colleagues from both my online connections as well as my own school. My school, for those who don’t know, is part of an International Network of Schools. We spent the better part of Sunday meeting with Tech Coordinators and Teachers as well as having time to talk with people from my own school.  It was interesting to hear their point of view on technology and realize, in general, how isolated the tech integrators are from the classroom. In fact they are often two entirely different skills, as they generally deal with the “hardware” problems “my computer won’t work” or “what are the intricacies of a 1:1 ipad program” or “what are the advantages and disadvantages of a BYOD program”. All were discussed at length that day.

However, the other topic that came up over and over and over again, and one that I have come to simply shake my head at is “how can we all communicate with each other better?” Over and over I hear this question from people still living in the silo-ed world of not actually USING technology to communicate and ie to become connected.  There are gigantic and complex Narnia-ic worlds of which the majority of folks have no knowledge of- even tech integrators!  WHEN to use a doc vs a form vs a blog vs a wiki vs a livebinder vs a chat vs an app, not to mention the how of each of those applications.

As for which #ISTE12 I had a new approach this year and I spent way more time networking than attending sessions. Don’t get me wrong, I floated in and out of multiple sessions from: Allen November, David Warlick, Sylvia Martinez, Gary Stager, Adam Bellow (who took the place by storm!) But I focused more on meeting up with many of the people I have been chatting with on a regular basis as well as meeting up with  new friends. I even stumbled into presenting in one of Steve Hardagon’s famous “off-grid” presentations on BBCollaborate, though I am told the recording  cracked out halfway through bc of internet connectivity issues. haha, at #ISTE.

I also attended a “Birds of a Feather” SIG (Special Interest Group) for Early Childhood Technology. That part was probably one of the most interesting of the conference and continues to be so as I wade into the waters of learning the politics, history and special interests of those living in the space of  Early Childhood education and Technology. I felt really proud and keenly aware of #Kinderchat unique voice in this area as well as the scale of innovation that is happening within this (IMHO) incredibly unique Network.

Network. It always loops back to  Network! I find this particularly interesting as, looping back, my school is a Network school and thinking about how these things are formed and what it actually means has become a definite fascination for me.  (See more below)

One of the most humbling parts of being a connected educator is realizing how fortunate you are to receive such support for Professional Development. So many of my #Kinderchat colleagues must pay their own way to conferences. I would never have been able to participate in #ISTE12 without the support of my school and I  am very grateful to my school for sending me out to San Diego.

Now for #EdCampKinder

The Quickdraw: Matt’s, The roster: Michelle’s, The reporter: Karen’s, The group: Stacey’s, The wonk of meeting f2f: Mardelle’s  Michelles second post: the ripple effect
Owly Images

From Michelle in British Columbia:

Our meetings spanned the entire time we were in Vegas, but instead of being in a conference room, they had multiple locations…the airport, the hotel lobby, the street as we walked around the city, the pool, the restaurants we ate in and everywhere in-between. It was a four day, intensive conversation that had started on twitter and finally resulted some very special personal time.

Web Activity Flower Graph

article on web literacy- what is it anyway? from dml 

NYSAIS Outline

Tech and ECE

Educators: We Are All in Process of Becoming Literate: It’s Overwhelming to Do yourself (Working in Isolation)



Fostering fluency in 2012

Well, this one has been brewing for a bit. I start, I stop, I lose my train of thought. Oh if I could only insert a zip drive thingie into my head sometimes! Maybe then I wouldn’t lose the thought before it gets from my brain to the keyboard!

I just posted a video I made with my class. It documented the process of one of our projects. After I attended #cmk11 w @garystager it became all about process for me. I knew beforehand that learning, real learning, is in those visible yet invisible moments. Visible to the teacher who can see the lightbulb, visible to the parent who can reflect and see the progress their child is making, but often invisible to the person themselves. And what is rewarded in our lives and society is often the product, thereby obscuring this mysterious stage even more.

I’ve come to think of it as the sleep mode, or the chunky mode a kid goes through when growing. They go from a little chunky to suddenly shooting up and going through three shoe sizes in two months! It’s this time of seeming stagnation, our nightly sleep, the winter, that helps us spring forward and burst forth the bloom of our efforts and work.

And everyone grows and changes at their own rates! Which is why what I teach a child now may not embed itself until much later, or why values parents instill in their child at a young age will suddenly surface as their Mom’s voice calls out from somewhere inside their head “don’t do it”. Just because something is dormant doesn’t mean it isn’t as alive and vibrant as a forsythia in full bloom. Dormancy is the yin to forsythia’s yang. It works this way in learning, too. 

It’s why we need vacations and summer and weekends. And it’s why I shun terms like “continuous improvement”. True improvement (a word I find derogatory btw) really doesn’t look all that continuous, at least within a span of one, two or three years. And certainly the more you improve, the lesser are the measurable increments of that improvement.

I think about my own learning when it comes to technology. I look back a year ago and reflect and think, “I didn’t even have a blog yet!”

True! At least the #kinderchat blog didn’t get up and running until January of last year. Wow! I look back and see all I have done, learned, made in just a year! Amazing I must say so myself! Now I have 3 wikis, 3 blogs, 4 websites and 5 twitter accounts. There’s more but it starts getting embarrassing. 😀

I by no means- NO MEANS even consider myself “proficient” in technology, but I would say I feel “fluent” or at least approaching some degree of fluency! And fluency is the whole reason this blog post came to be.

Did it all happen in one year? Well, sort of, but if you look at the extended timeline, it started years ago. But once I broke through that initial barrier, things got way easier and my confidence and curiosity, way stronger.

So often we try to teach (teachers, children, students, anyone anything) by instruction. I am beginning to recoil at the word! “Here, let me instruct you on how to do it. Oh, and btw, here is my 16 page outline of my guidelines and policy on how to be successful within the given instruction time.” In the past, we called this learning. In the present, we are often forced to call this teaching as well.

There is a huge difference between the word “instruction” and the word “foster“. I was thinking about this in the car today on the way home from school. One is hard, the other soft. One is teacher centered, the other requires the teacher to be learner centered enough to know what to even foster. The past is sharp edged categoried boxes vs the now of circles and swerves.

And who has fostered me? Helped me? Been my guiding light over the last year? The fabulous teachers, educators and friends of #kinderchat and the mentors I have found here on the internets!

I am very grateful to all who have shaped my learning and helped me “feel fluent” in technology and in life. Here’s hoping 2012 brings the world and each one of you more joy and fluency in whatever field you choose and more love in life and learning!

“Voices Carry”

I still have an aversion to blogging. Fair warning, this one’s a tome and I will probably change the look four more times by tomorrow, but here goes:

So, I went to my first ever #ISTE conference held early this week in Philadelphia. I wanted to go with my first and second grade teacher friends to a literacy conference at a spa in Maine, with yoga every morning and an ocean view, but lo, I went to ISTE in Philadelphia by myself. 😀

Most of the people I follow on twitter are in education, but it widely varies. Community members, artists, musicians, mathematicians, random emo tweeters, people in the business community, politicians, economists, the over 2,000 people I follow is spread out over multiple accounts but gives numerical data to support something I am proud to say: I am listening.

I think I’ve almost gotten too good at listening sometimes to the point that I don’t share my own story or shine my own light enough. I think this is part of the reason why I am so motivated to sing the praises of Kindergarten and Early Childhood teachers out there everywhere. Teaching Young Children is really hard work! And what is old hand good practice for many are things higher ed is just discovering. Stuff like classroom design and organization, like how to manage self directed and individualized learning. Like “google time”, I mean play time (sorry google, PreSchool and Kindergarten did it first!) Like creativity, divergent thinking, fun, music, singing, using real life mathematical building tools each day, art, drama, literacy! Life! Love! Living! I mean, we teach people to read a language down here! In one year!

I think what I am talking about is being acknowledged and taken seriously. And the transformative power that it has had on me directly through my experiences with technology. 

One of the events I attended was the Strategic Ed Tech Leadership Panel with past Presidents of ISTE and various business leaders. The entire ISTE experience was something else- I met some amazing people and there’s much to say, but it basically boiled down to: tell your story, Voices Carry. So here is mine:

Once upon a time, way back in dinosaur times, there was this thing called friendster. A friend told me about it when we were talking on the telephone. I think it was even a cordless phone. See, you could be friends with your long-distance friends on the computer and not pay .10 cents a minute. They could write stuff on their page and you could see what they wrote and you could write stuff back! Like a notebook on the computer. I was only on there for a few months when I signed up for ….

Myspace! Oh, yes, the myspace! wooo! Party time! It was wonderful! There was “music in the air, her dress was cut down to there!” It was so much fun. Tom was everyone’s friend automatically, of course. Not only could you see other people’s pages, you could add your own decoration AND music AND blog! Everyone was re arranging friends and learning codes, discovering bands, friending and commenting. What an event! I started talking regularly online with people I hadn’t met yet, finding artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, random pages for Spam! Yes! Spam! the canned ham had a page as did Winston Churchill. I’d link you to them all, but they improved it so much I can’t find anything on there. They weren’t listening.

I guess this is when much of the guru blog craze was running wild as well. I wasn’t really into blogs then. I’m still not really, for whatever reason (because I can’t find stuff on here easily and have yet to master the medium). Or perhaps its a subtle rebellion. Bloggers can take themselves pretty seriously sometimes! (sorry! It just feels that way to me, especially today when myspace sold for $35 million and people who were never were on it comment or just have constant put downs- its pretty amazing to see the arrogance IMnotsoHO) Indeed, the “white flight” from myspace onto facebook provided more than one article on the subject and still gives me pause to this day.

Anyway, back to the story! Ok, well, I found myself in quite a pickle in 2006. I had been writing back and forth with someone, meeting up in person a few times, when that person said online wasn’t real life and just suddenly disappeared, breaking all contact. Needless to say I was totally heartbroken. Have you ever been on the playground and a kid will come up to you, hysterically crying because another kid runs away from them and won’t talk to them? My face still flushes to even write this, but that’s pretty much what happened.

So there I was on myspace. Alone and heartbroken. These are the dark ages now. But I started taking photos to get my page looking better. I started designing slideshows. Pretty soon I was coordinating slideshows to music, adding my poetry, it got really wild! And awesome if I don’t say so myself! Here’s the remnants now that its been defunct, its just the barebones of what it was.

I found a friend of a friend, who’s page I loved. I said hi. Her page was awesome. She had written a funny resume and was a super fine writer. She had an incredible selection of friends who were neat. We started chatting and became friends. She liked my slideshows, we talked about writing and boy did we write! She took me seriously. It was real life. I am forever grateful for her coming along at just that right time. I still tear up! Turned out she and her husband run a music studio up in NY. Voices carry! And she introduced me to twitter in 2008. Behold! Enlightenment!

Fast forward to #kinderchat and the amazing year I’ve had creating and building these connections between people working with young children. I have, in the course of one year built blogs, resource wikis, tweeted with classes from around the globe, created completely unique structures for weekly chats, networked like mad, invited experts to come and talk with teachers of Young Children from all over the place!  

We have had the privilege to meet, learn from and listen to some of the most wonderful, sweet, kind, funny, knowledgeablesmart, innovative, creative, understanding, reliable, resourceful and loving people on the planet!  We all take each other seriously! (ok, not too seriously! but you know what I mean! :D)  I had no idea what we were wading into when I said “we need to do this Amy!” Amy, who I’ve never met, Amy who lives in Calgary, who I found by reading her awesome blog, and who I can’t wait to meet in Orlando in November when we present our work at the @NAEYC National Convention and who I talk to on an almost daily basis in real life, but never face to face.

Present day! Ok, Last night 😀 I was invited to dinner with people from iEARNUSA. They found us on #kinderchat and have been a real source of encouragement. I tracked down (all I knew was his name was “Ed”) at the #ISTE11 International Networking Reception Monday night because I wanted to say hi and Thank them for all their encouragement. It sure can be lonely out there in the digital world! I was just about to give up looking for him when “pop!” there he was and he extended an invite to a dinner being held that next night.

And wow! Did I meet some wonderfully gifted, fun and interesting people at that table! Really, it was such a magical night for me I’m still reeling from and not sure what to do with it all! All that work was being taken seriously. It was a night I won’t ever forget and for which I am very grateful for.

The future is so murky and mysterious and wonderfully unknown. All these daydreams require so much work. My first job it seems, has been to tend to myself, and my own story. There’s no one right way to do things. I’ve learned to step out and find my own way and my own voice and I’m so excited to see what comes next.

Thanks all-