On August 31 nearly 1000 teachers from this District gathered in one place for a day of learning together.  As Chair of the District Education Council I am invited to speak for a few minutes at the beginning of the day.  As I am there in an official capacity I’m cognizant of delivering a message that is true to the Council’s mission and goals, so I decided to continue with the theme of “connecting”.

I encouraged educators to model 21st century learning by exploring networks and using technology to connect to their own passions and to have conversations with educators far and wide. I suggested a few easy things they could do to begin: Tech20Tuesday, #edchat, Learning: Everybody’s Project, or even their own association’s social networks. As the major theme of the event was “responsible use” of technology I even suggested they might want to read a great blog post on the CEA website. Our District schools have developed some very good professional learning communities, but I asked them to go beyond the usual for conversations and then to bring back what they learned to their PLCs.

BUT as I was writing the remarks for the event, I realized that as a Council we have been distracted, albeit by some important responsibilities, from our own true purpose of connecting citizens to the public education system.  Whether we meet online or in person we have to spend more time in conversation with our community, exploring how to connect to the learning that is happening and celebrating the innovation that exists in so many places.

I’m excited for the new year to begin, I look forward to connecting more myself!

my message

NB3 21C – Why I Embrace the Shift

originally posted at:

As a parent I have hopes and dreams for my children.  I want to see them exploring the world with open eyes. I want them to be literate and numerate enough to pursue any passion they discover, to follow any path that looks inviting and to contribute to whatever society they chose to live in. I want them to be optimistic, but at the same time skeptical. I want them to be creative, communicative, collaborative and compassionate. Our education system as it has operated in the 9 years I’ve been involved has given them some of this – some days, some projects, some experiences, some teachers, sometimes – but not enough.  I want more.

Two years ago I read this post by David Warlick and I began a blog post of my own (unfinished until now) with the title “Maybe Someday”.  The passage that resonated with me was this:

“Conservatism and conformity necessitate control, and the spirit and the affect of Web 2.0 are to democratize control and make it personal.  When teachers are released from district managed portals, and allowed to shape their own personal learning networks, when they are granted a voice and ear to a global conversation about education, when students begin to take a more active role in affecting the “what” and “how” of their own learning, then education changes, and the barriers between the “classroom” and “world” start to disappear.”

I knew a few educators who were working in this way – making global connections, using web tools, helping students develop their own PLNs (personal learning networks), but I wasn’t optimistic that my children would benefit from this personal approach to learning. Time passed, and my blogging efforts gave way to other things.

And then, a spark of hope.  Just over a year ago I was invited to participate in the N.B. Department of Education’s 21st Century Learning Advisory Committee.  The mandate of this Committee is to assist the Department in developing 21C competencies and to review research and consultation findings with the goal of shifting our system to a model of 21C learning.

I have witnessed such great openness to new ideas by the professionals involved in the Committee and the officials at the Department.  The NB3 21C Consultation Document outlines a number of shift elements that will help us move our system from pockets of 21C learning to systemwide innovation and exploration.

I no longer say “maybe someday” because that day is here NOW and it is exciting to be a part of.

All the world's a Twitter,

and all the men and women are avid players.

It seems one of the most popular social networking tools around is Twitter – a microblogging application that asks people “what are you doing right now”.  The personal learning networks of many people I follow in RSS have embraced Twitter as an important participatory tool, and for some people tweeting has replaced blogging.

When I began writing this post yesterday I was firmly convinced that I should master the art of blogging before becoming at Twitterer. Reading Will Richardson’s  recent post I doubted Twitter’s claim  that “It puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload”. Will asked the question:

Are we getting too distracted, too connected, too participatory for our own good?

My 20C skills kept telling me to not get distracted – take these applications 1 at a time. Alas Lorna Costantini’s opinion that some parents who may not have/take the time to blog may still communicate on Twitter by posting links, etc made me reconsider my views. 

I’ve realized that embracing 21C tools means giving up some of my 20C mindset – these tools aren’t hieracrchical and sometimes you have to go wide before you can go deep. 

Certainly I have benefitted already from those who tweet – much of the early traffic to Tools of Engagement is thanks to Jeff Whipple who let people know about my blog. Thanks Jeff, and thank you to all who have left encouraging comments.