Monday, March 28, 2011


The title of this post is based on sign seen this weekend in a cable car on San Francisco’s Powell-Hyde line. The incorrect grammar forced me to read it a few times before I knew what the saying meant. Eventually I figured out that it was a reminder to the operator to allow sufficient time and distance to stop the car.

I had NO notice and NO previous experience that let me know how good the ASCD Annual Conference was going to be. The past two days have been the best learning experience that I ever had at a conference.

I learned so much in the sessions I attended, and you can read about my experiences in my ASCD blog post reflections. There were two main things though that I will walk away with from this year’s event. They were the opportunities to collaborate with other educators AND the many sessions that focused on building relationships.

COLLABORATION: There were some big name speakers, which is fitting for a conference of over 10,000 participants. However it was the interactions before, during, and after the presentations that I will remember. There were many presenters who facilitated conversations of the participants during their sessions. This allowed me to meet other educators from around the world face to face and to learn from their expertise. These conversations stretched my thinking and challenged my assumptions. I was encouraged to ask good questions and to answer some intriguing questions.

RELATIONSHIPS: I was also encouraged about how many sessions and speakers focused on building relationships with your students and your staff. A few of the sessions I attended were about differentiated instruction, student creativity, and staff supervision, and all three presenters were very clear about how important it is to build relationships in your school. The best quote that can summarize this point is from Peter Reynolds. The last thing he told the assembly to do in order to encourage creativity in the classroom is “Let every child know they are loved.

PRESENTING: I also had the opportunity to present a session entitled “Online Student Collaboration.” I am very grateful to ASCD for the opportunity to be a part of the conference as a presenter, and I hope to be able to present in the future (I already have some ideas for future presentations). I have been able to do about 8 presentations at conferences in the last year and a half, and I felt like I had made it to the big leagues by presenting at the ASCD Annual Conference. I was satisfied with how the presentation went and I feel like I was able to share some effective resources with the participants. However, I fell short in making more personal connections with the participants. As I prepare for future presentations, at ASCD or elsewhere, I will be placing a higher focus on preparing ways to connect personally with the participants at the presentation and beyond.

GENERAL: A few more items that I was very pleased with. The conference had an amazing amount and a wide variety of sessions. Every time slot I had multiple sessions that I wanted to attend. For sessions that I did not attend, I have downloaded the online handouts and will work hard to make time to view that information. ASCD also offered a very strong wifi connection at the convention center AND at the hotel. Thank you ASCD for keeping all of us connected at all times.

The challenge for all 10,000 of us who attended this weekend is to go back to our schools and share our experiences, the passion, and the energy that was all around us in San Francisco.

If you attended the conference, what did you learn? What will you share? What will you remember?

Just the Beginning: #LEA2011

I hope this is the beginning. I hope the #LEA2011 hashtag is just the beginning. I hope the backchannel conversation that took place on twitter last week at the 2011 LEA Convocation is the start of making a good convocation even better. I had a blast, I truly enjoyed myself, and I was not ready to leave on Saturday morning. However, there is room for improvement, which I hope will go into effect at the 2014 Convocation. I hope that the conversation that took place will encourage LEA to make some changes. The backchannel conversation was amazing and during the convocation it even grew. In less than 72 hours, multiple Lutheran educators were joining twitter and joining the backchannel. Even now, 2 days after the Convocation ended, new educators continue to join the conversation. This is a step in the right direction for Lutheran education.

NETWORKING: The best part of the convocation was the networking and fellowship that took place over twitter, in sessions, in the hallways, at the tweetup, and in the hotels. The unique part of an LEA Convocation is the chance to worship, pray, sing, and laugh with one another. I am confident that LEA will always give us opportunities to have fellowship at these convocations and I know Lutheran schools will continue to attend because of that focus.

Seeing old (or future) colleagues, meeting new friends, and sharing learning experiences with 2600 Lutheran educators has provided with me with many great memories. . At the Thursday night tweetup at Rock Bottom Brewery we had 40 people enjoying an evening together. Lutheran educators from Missouri, Colorado, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and Indiana enjoyed great conversations and great company. Dave Black said it best when he tweeted this comment out shortly after the conference was over:

Using Twitter for education is an even richer experience after our tweetup at #lea2011less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

PRESENTING: I had the opportunity to present twice at the Convocation and I am very grateful to LEA for giving me that opportunity. In my first session, “Twitter for Teachers,” I was very excited to present the great professional development opportunities through twitter to a roomful of people that included so many former, current, and future colleagues. I was honored that they attended my session. I also had a great experience presenting “Online Student Collaboration” with three of my current colleagues, Amanda Helmkamp, Kara Cornejo, and Kendra Gilmore. I am very proud of all three of them and their ministry and service to Lutheran education. I was honored to present with all of you. In both sessions, I sensed a hunger from the participants to learn about how technology can help them as educators, both professionally and with their instruction. We must keep teaching our teachers how to use technology and to encourage them to try new ways to integrate it into their instruction.

OBSERVATIONS: I attended the ASCD Annual Conference immediately after the LEA Convocation, and after attending both I am trying to determine what the similarities and differences are between the two conferences. In some ways it is like comparing apples and oranges. ASCD has resources well beyond what LEA has to offer for a conference, so it is not easy to make comparisons. I think Lutheran educators would benefit, and need, more professional development opportunities that revolve around 21st Century Learning, Problem-Based Learning, technology, collaboration, student engagement, etc. I would like to see LEA work toward offering more sessions aimed to meet that need. However, in fairness, I think LEA faces a challenge that a non-parochial conference does not necessarily face. Lutheran schools must place a large amount of focus, time, and resources on student retention, recruitment, development, and marketing. I commend LEA for providing some sessions that focus on instruction. I also commend LEA for providing some sessions that focus on enrollment, retention, and well, just surviving as a parochial school. I wonder though, if we can offer more of both types of sessions?

GENERAL: For the most part, I thought the general assemblies were well done. The Skit Guys were hilarious and Leonard Sweet was very encouraging and supportive of 21st Century Learning and Instruction. I previously asked if we could offer more for the participants. I think one consideration is to eliminate one of the general assemblies. By doing that, more sessions could be added. Another way to offer more flexibility would be to shorten the sessions, or have some sessions that are 75 minutes long and some sessions that are 50 minutes long. Perhaps even an unconference format during one point of the Convocation would be a fresh experience to introduce. In the future wifi is a must. There are two main reasons for allowing participants to stay connected. First, any presentation that involves technology is not as effective without an Internet connection. Second, as was proven last week, the backchannel can be a powerful thing. Wifi allows participants to be a part of the conversation in a much more efficient way. (By the way, it was great to have so many people participating in the backchannel who were NOT at the conference).

I am excited about the possibilities for the 2014 LEA Convocation. I hope to see the same networking and fellowship taking place in 3 years, as well as some changes that will make the Convocation an enriching experience for all Lutheran educators.

If you attended the conference, what did you learn? What will you share? What will you remember?

Let Every Child Know They Are Loved

The following video was shared by Peter Reynolds during the second general session at the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference.

This is a good reminder of how we can stifle the creativity of our students and our teachers. Reynolds gave a strong message of the benefits of a creative classroom and of knowing your students and encouraging their creativity.

Reynolds gave 6 essentials for promoting a creative classroom.
1 - Creative classrooms are full of color, music, art, and nooks, or areas, for learning.
2 - Students need to be given the invitation, the blank page, to be creative.
3 - Students must be given the tools to express their creativity.
4 - Time and Freedom: Dive more deeply into learning and creativity
5 - Leadership must be visionary, enlightened, and engaged.
6 - Love: Let every child know they exist and they matter.

How effective are you in promoting creativity in your classroom or in your school? Are you a creative person? Do you believe this video is a reflection of your creativity?

Instructional Tips to Tell Teachers

Notes from the ASCD session Instructional "Tips to Tell Teachers"
Laura Myrah
March 27, 2011

#1 – The Body and The Brain
Two favorite foods for the brain – water and oxygen.
Standing up is so much better, more oxygen to the brain
Your brain can actually become dehydrated
Water makes you feel less stressed
Sleep is very important. At a minimum 9 hours all the way up to 24 years old
Open windows, plants in classrooms, water bottles, educate parents and students regarding the need for adequate sleep

#2 – Movement
Exercise, Movement in lessons (standing, use of hands, change of location)
Stand instead of raising their hands, questions around the room (10 question quiz on note cards on the room), clapping rhythms, new location for important material

#3 – Emotionally Safe Environment
Stress – Even younger students are under stress
Ginott, 1975 poem
Principal sets tone for whole building
Teachers set tone in classroom
Modeling behaviors, alleviate stress – humor, known expectations, emotions and memory
Make every student feel unique and secure – meet and greet, give recognition, listen and show interest, expect respect from all, relationships transcend everything

#4 – Collaboration
Human brains are social, mirror neurons at work (our behaviors mirror others), contemplation of varying viewpoints
Collaborative learning/projects, pair and share, connections with other levels, connections with community

#5 – Time
Need for more time, optimal learning periods according to age, attention span, planning and instruction according to “Prime Times”
Number of minutes in Attention span for students is equal to their age (5 yr old = 5 minutes)
Students most engaged at beginning of the lesson
Vary mode of learning every 10-20 minutes, teach new, most important information first, pay attention to time cycles during lessons and the day

#6 – Make learning Meaningful
Point out the relevance, make it interesting and fun through your delivery, experiential learning
Use a KWL

#7 – Student Choice
Allow for learning within different learning styles and multiple intelligences, Allow for choices in products and/or assessments to demonstrate learning
Vary the mode of instruction, allow for choice within assessments, implement project/product based learning

#8 – Enriched Environment
Challenging problem solving, enrich the physical classroom, use of music (primer, carrier, arousal/mood)
Foster wonder in students through questioning skills, use of visuals, vary the mode of learning-experiential, from peers, etc., purposeful use of color
Environment factors that influence achievement – humidity of room, acoustics, light bright wall colors, ideal temperature, aesthetical beauty, meaningful posters,

#9 – Assessment and Feedback
Goals of learning are to know it well, remember it always, use it readily
Assessments should match goals
Vary the assessment formats
Skill demonstrations, portfolios, reflective analysis, artistic (fine and performing), projects, real-life and alternative applications, group activities, problem solving, lab experiments

Feedback should be frequent, specific, and from a variety of sources
Verbal corrections, written notes, peer editing, rubrics

#10 – Net Generation Leaders
Students are different learners, brains wired differently due to use of digital products, etc.
Adults fear what we don’t understand
Youth don’t see working, learning, collaborating, and having fun as separate experiences
They believe in, and want, these experiences occurring simultaneously in school and in future careers
Best teaching style to reach and motivate these students – move away from a broadcast mode
Rather than the provider of information, teachers should be the facilitator who sets up the environment for authentic learning, collaboration, and innovations by students
Freedom choice, innovation, collaboration, scrutiny, integrity, customization
Do we deliberately incorporate these into our classrooms?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Developing 21st Century Learners & Thinkers

Strategic Conversations for Instructional Leaders

Leading & Managing A Differentiated Classroom

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Big Picture

Basketball, mvongrue, uploaded January 24, 2009 via flickr, Creative Commons License

My 7th and 8th grade basketball team had a rough season this year. The team finished with a record of 10-17 and we battled injuries, tough losses, and very talented teams. In the midst of a losing streak in January, in a game where we were getting crushed, I called a timeout and told the boys that they need to stop getting frustrated about every single mistake. I could see the frustration on their faces after every foul, turnover, or missed basket. I told them it is no longer about making plays or winning games, they need to look at the big picture. They needed to decide what this season is all about for them. Was this a stepping-stone for reaching the goal of playing basketball in high school or beyond? Or is this possibly their last season of basketball so they need to learn some life lessons of hard work, discipline, and teamwork? At that point in the season, I decided we needed to stop focusing on individual plays and start seeing the big picture.

As I look toward becoming a principal for the first time this fall, I am trying to determine what is a part of my big picture. One item that I keep arriving at is communication. My wife had a good quote recently regarding communication. She said, “The root of all conflict is a miscommunication.” I think she is on to something. Conflict can be avoided through efficient and effective communication. Conflict can also be solved through appropriate channels of communication. It is helpful to spend time thinking about how, when, and why you will communicate. Conflict cannot be completely avoided, but effective communication is crucial to helping build relationships between students, parents, and educators that in turn will help provide effective learning environments.