Learners Teaching Learners: Derek Oldfield
Learners Teaching Learners: Derek Oldfield

Summer Learning

by on Jun.24, 2014, under Personal

I’ve been immersed in a personalized learning experience for over a year now.  I’ve written a good bit about the opportunities for learning that Twitter presents for educators.  Joe Mazza once said Twitter is a 24/7/365 real time professional development tool with access to like-minded professionals.  I’ve carved out such an awesome PLN (professional learning network) in just over a year.  Todd Nesloney is one of those amazing educators I’ve learned from recently.  Todd is principal at Navasota Intermediate, but that’s just one of Todd’s great accomplishments as a young educator.  Todd took the initiative to create a summer learning series himself.  He engaged educators through social media to join him in this summer learning series quest.  Once signed up, you will begin receiving Todd’s weekly emails as part of his summer learning series challenges.  Each week presents a new challenge.   For example, Todd challenged educators by presenting them with videos like this one from Dave Burgess.  Todd created a hashtag on Twitter #summerls so that educators could network and backchannel thoughts and reflections from his learning series.  He also hosts a chat using that hashtag.  Last count that Todd sent out indicated over 1500 educators had signed up for his summer learning series.  What an awesome accomplishment and what an incredible tool!

I just finished teaching a digital leadership course at AFT-WV summer camp for teachers.  I decided to incorporate a version of Todd’s learning series for my participants.  Most of my participants are new to the world of Twitter and certainly new to opportunities available to take control and personalize your learning as an educator.  I took signups through this form and will continue to engage those participants in support as they begin this journey to proactive growth and development through Twitter and other opportunities.

I am still amazed at what technology and connectedness allows us to do as educators.  The model schools conference is now in session down in Orlando Florida.  I’ve never had the opportunity to attend that conference, but I’ve heard and read several good reports from that conference.  Thanks to Twitter and the #22ndMSC hashtag, I’ve been able to follow the events at the conference almost as if I was there myself.  On Sunday evening June 22, I was able to follow Dr. Daggett’s keynote through Twitter.  I caught a glimpse of just how in tune Dr. Daggett’s presentation was with the changes needed by schools today.  What an amazing opportunity provided by technology.  The backchannel discussion during the keynote was full of thoughtful comments that pushed my thinking about school improvement.  I’ve been aware for some time now that the environment students experience inside of school is far different from the one they experience outside of school.  Societal changes brought about by technology have created a tremendous disconnect between the way our students learn outside of school and the way they are forced to learn inside of school.  Effective leadership and effective school improvement acknowledges this gap.  Dr. Daggett’s keynote was full of great information and resources about what, why, and how schools can shift to better engage students in learning for their future.  My favorite quote of the night was “how can we educate today’s students for tomorrow’s future with yesterday’s schools?”

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by on Jun.17, 2014, under Personal

I was given the great opportunity to teach a summer course at AFT-WV’s summer camp for teachers.  I chose to teach a course on digital leadership.  Digital leadership is not just one thing and it’s certainly not just technology.  I modeled the course after Eric Sheninger’s book titled Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.  I chose to focus the first two days on the pillars of professional growth & development and communication.  I have tried hard to stray from the typical presenter-based format and simply share my resources and engage the participants in conversations aimed at reflecting on our current practices.  It didn’t take long for the group to agree that the impact that technology has had on society is tremendous.  We acknowledged the pace of change in technology is so rapid that it’s nearly impossible to keep up.  This causes tremendous challenges for schools as they try to adjust, adapt, and transform to remain relevant institutions of learning.  We began to accept that if educators are relying solely on their school and/or district to provide opportunities for growth and development, it’s simply not enough.  Regardless of how effective those opportunities are, the task is simply too tall for any school or district to meet.  As a result, students are beginning to get further and further disconnected from the environments that many educators can provide inside their classrooms.  It is time for educators to take control of their own learning and arm themselves with consistent give and take of communication, collaboration, acquiring resources, eliciting feedback, and sharing ideas, data, strategies, and information.

In the last two days educators in the course have been exposed to Twitter and how it is an effective tool to build a powerful professional learning network.  We also tackled the pillar of communication.  We were so fortunate to have 3 principals meet with us via Google Hangout and share how technology has transformed communication at their schools.  Donald Gately (donald_gately) is the principal at Jericho Middle School in New York.  Donald shared about how effective his video newsletters have been at communicating the awesome things going on in his school building.  Donald has been a vital part of my PLN and I value that things he’s been able to share.  Craig Vroom (@vroom6) is the principal at Hilliard Weaver Middle School in Ohio.  Craig was attending a conference in Cincinnati but literally stepped out of the conference and connected with us via his smartphone in order to share for a few minutes the impact that technology has played on communication, as well as the impact it’s had on his professional growth and development.  I’m so grateful of the impact Craig has had on my own practice thus far.  What an incredible statement was made by his sacrifice to spend a few minutes joining our class and exposing the participants to such excellent models of digital leadership.  Later in the day, Bobby Dodd (bobby__dodd) joined us to share what technology has done for communication at his school.  Bobby is the principal at New Lexington High School in Ohio but will be moving to Lincoln Gahanna High School this coming school year.  Bobby provided our participants an insight into the impacts he’s made on a community not unlike the ones represented in my course.  Many of our participants come from rural communities where broadband access is not afforded to everyone and sometimes computers don’t exist in every home.  Bobby shared ways that his school is able to implement effective solutions despite these challenges.  I really enjoyed Bobby sharing about how his school partnered with several community businesses to provide free unrestricted wifi at their locations.

I’ll be sharing the resources and presentations created throughout this course.  Each of my presentations have been given a URL address that has been accessed by all the participants this week.  I’ve encouraged them to save those resources and share them as they see a need.  A tremendous community of change agents has been developed in such a small amount of time.  I’ll be writing later about the supports we’ve put in place to continue the learning beyond these few days.  More about the digital leadership WV summer learning series later :)

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The hardest day of the year

by on Jun.10, 2014, under Classroom, Parents, Personal

Let me say this first.  I am beyond blessed to get to work with tremendous students.  Not all teachers get to experience such grace.  Now I’m not saying things are easy, especially on the last day.

I’m an 8th grade math teacher in a grade 6-8 middle school.  For those that may read this that aren’t educators, especially ones of middle schoolers, I hope that I can accurately portray the investment that many of my colleagues and I have made this year.  One of the most difficult things for a middle school teacher is to force yourself to give an ear on every occasion that it’s needed.  I’m not sure there’s a greater need of middle school students, than a listening ear.  I tried to make a commitment to drop what I was doing and look at a student each time they came to talk to me.  I failed many times.  Often the topic wasn’t of utmost importance, but I tried to listen.  At the middle school level, doing this 100% of the time is an arduous task!  Why?  Because middle school students thirst for someone that will listen.  That means you have to be prepared to listen before school, after school, on your planning period, on your way to the bathroom, when you walk by another teacher’s room, when you’re walking outside for kickball, on your way out to your car, during bus duty, during your lunch, and yes, right in the middle of class.  To be effective, listening to students must come before you, your family, your colleagues, the work at hand, your grades, your plans, your hunger, and your thirst.  The sadness of the last day comes in memories of these conversations.  Conversations of:

  • boyfriends
  • girlfriends
  • moms and dads
  • heartache at home
  • what someone said on social media the night before
  • sporting events: what happened before the game, during the game, after the game
  • homework help
  • hunting stories
  • the pressures of school

As I look at every one of my students, I can recall a conversation with them.  Each conversation was an opportunity for me to make an impact on their life.  What tremendous responsibility!  I’ve found that committing myself to listening stretches my patience and my tolerance; things that can occasionally run thin on this middle school teacher.  You get to see so much growth in students as a middle school teacher.  All students grow physically, but so many grow in maturity too.  Watching my students walk into and out of the auditorium today I was doing really well until this thought entered my mind: I’ve invested more time into these kids than I have my own daughter.   I can’t say it enough, I get to build relationships with amazing young people.

During the last 2 days of school, Blennerhassett Middle School organizes a huge school-wide Olympics festival full of competitions ranging from water-balloon slingshot, musical chairs, 3 on 3 basketball, volleyball, quiz bowl, and many others.  To my knowledge, the festival is unmatched by any other school.  My days are spent running from competition to competition to cheer on my homebase students and fellow competitors.  I spend most of the day screaming, fist-pumping, high-fiving or dancing on stage with about 50 middle school students.  In between setting up and tearing down the events I’m in charge of, I try and make every last moment count with every student.  I don’t eat lunch these two days so I can spend lunch in the cafeteria with my students.  The days fly by and I know in just a moment, they’ll be gone.  The opportunities to impact the lives of young people are dwindling.  After the closing ceremonies and the tribute to our 8th graders, we’ll say our goodbyes, exchange hugs, and watch the students progress into the next chapter.

The last day of school is the hardest for me.

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End of the year: Part 1

by on Jun.04, 2014, under Personal

My school allows teachers to complete an end of the year evaluation each year.  This is just an effort to allow everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the school and offer suggestions for improvement.  I’ll be sharing a version of my evaluation that is hopefully a help for others.  I have learned so much over the past year from engaging in 24/7/365 professional development on what I want when I want.  I’ve learned from some incredible leaders in the field of education that have been carving out a presence on social media for some time.  These leaders are constantly sharing the successes and failures from their own schools in an effort to allow others to learn and/or provide feedback.  In the past year…

  • I’ve attended two Edcamps, co-organizing one myself.  Both of these Edcamps have lead to the opportunity to develop connections with innovative educators like Bobby Dodd and Craig Vroom.
  • I got the opportunity to meet and listen to Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate.  He’s been the most incredible educational speaker I’ve been fortunate enough to meet.
  • I’ve begun reading Eric Sheninger’s book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.  Eric is principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey.  Just read his page about his typical day and you’ll be amazed.
  • I’ve engaged in conversations lead by front-line leaders in public education: Brad Currie, Joe Mazza, Rick Wormeli, Tom Murray, Jimmy Casas, Oliver Shinkten and many others.  The biggest reason for my growth as an educator is due to the time I’ve set aside to read tweets, blog posts, and engage in conversations with educators like these.  They have opened my eyes to a world I would have never known otherwise.

All of these things have lead to real, sustainable change in my practice as an educator and a leader.  I’ve had numerous opportunities crop up as a result of my growth and I’ve been able to make some awesome changes to my practice, all of which were not included in this post.  Completing my school survey caused me to reflect on my growth over the past year and I wanted to share it with you.

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Tell your story or someone else will…

by on May.24, 2014, under Classroom, Parents, Personal

It’s the end of the school year and in my spare time I’ve started to prepare a bit more for some teaching engagements I’ve got this summer.  I’ve got the opportunity to teach two separate week-long courses.  For both courses, I’m attempting to engage other educators in innovative learning experiences centered around digital leadership.

One aspect of digital leadership that Eric Sheninger focuses on in his book titled Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, is called branding.  If you consider the amount of time, energy, and resources companies invest in branding, the reason why it’s important for schools to invest in branding starts to make sense.  Corporations invest in branding because they have a story to tell and they want to form the right story in the minds of consumers.  Digital tools have given school leaders access to free, easy, and convenient ways of reaching their “consumers”.  Isn’t it time schools started to tell their story?  Why not invest in these free, easy, and convenient ways of getting your school story out to the public?  All schools are carving out their story every day.  Unfortunately, in most cases, those stories are carved out in the newspaper or on the evening news.  Or they’re carved out by angry parents venting their frustrations on social media.  Are there schools providing students with innovative learning experiences?  Absolutely!  Why aren’t they sharing it?  Parents shouldn’t have to ask their child “what did you do at school this week?”  The culture of fear, management, and compliance has prevented more schools from investing in building their own brand.  Below you’ll find some methods of building a school’s brand that I’ve gathered from innovative leaders effectively building their school’s brand.

  • A student-run Twitter account is an easy way for students to take ownership of building a positive brand for their school.  Twitter is a social media network based on sharing small bursts of information with an unlimited amount of people.  Using a school hashtag or class-specific hashtag, all the awesome learning experiences can be shared out using a student-run Twitter account.  Stakeholders can also be kept up-to-date on school-wide events or results from sporting contests or academic achievements within the school.  A school hashtag can be created to allow other users to share quality information via the school hashtag.
  • Out at Bettendorf, Iowa, Principal Jimmy Casas allows a Twitter stream to be shown daily on a big-screen television in his school cafeteria.  The Twitter stream shows all tweets including the school hashtag #BettPride.  I once asked Jimmy what happened when an inappropriate tweet showed up on the stream and he replied “we use it as a teaching moment.”
  • Teachers are encouraged to keep a blog archiving all the great learning experiences occurring in their classrooms.  These blog posts can be shared through social media channels to keep all stakeholders informed about what’s happening in their classrooms.  This is a great way for teachers to build their own classroom brand.  Again, if you’re not telling the story of what’s happening in your classroom, that doesn’t mean there is no story.  It just means it’s likely not the story you want being told.
  • Text-message based services like Remind101 or Celly are great ways to communicate your school brand to all stakeholders.  These services provide a safe environment for all communication by keeping all cell phone numbers private.  Imagine the increase in communication that could be had by investing in free services such as these.
  • Podcasts or video conferencing can be an easy way for leaders to promote the brand at their school.  I’ve seen administrators that host a video chat each week from their school to share and talk about the amazing experiences that went on during the week.  These video chats are posted to the school’s Youtube page.  Occasionally videos are posted of students engaging in these experiences or student-created videos are posted that summarize their experience at a school event.  Podcasts are audio or video clips that can provide a similar experience to stakeholders.

Every school has a brand that captures the mission, the norms, the traditions, and the values of the school population.  The more transparent schools can be about the brand they are promoting, the better the consumers can be prepared to answer this question: “Why do I send my child to that school?”

This post was inspired by a post that appeared on Eric Sheninger’s page on May 15, 2014.

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by on May.02, 2014, under Classroom, Personal

I’m writing this in response to a meeting I was part of recently at RESA V.  I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to view videos of exemplary instructional methods that incorporated a wide variety of effective teaching techniques such as, blended learning, virtual learning, cooperative learning, and project-based learning.  The videos that were submitted were excellent evidence of high quality teaching going on in each of the classrooms.  As I sat there watching, I kept thinking of the other educators that I knew would benefit from what I was seeing.  I was not thinking of how bad other educators are in the classroom, in fact, I was thinking of ones that I know are eager to learn and improve their practice.  Call me naive, but I feel that most educators have a genuine desire to present the best possible instruction for their students.  Consider what educators are saying when they have the attitude that there is no room to grow and nothing else to learn.  The experience I was a part of last night should be one that all educators get to experience.  How would education in my area change if all educators had the best access to the best teaching methods?  I say how would classrooms change if educators had 24/7 access to the amazing things going on in classrooms all around us?

One ELA teacher put together a great video demonstrating how her video lessons allow her to differentiate for the multiple reading levels present in her classroom.  I can only imagine the rich conversations that could be had if other educators had access to ask questions, present their struggles, or share their successes with this educator.  What benefit would those conversations have for all educators involved?

One SPED teacher shared how she uses Second Life to develop guided lessons for her students to have 24/7 access to study materials and results-based instructional strategies.  She and another teacher are able to push these lessons to all students through Edmodo, a social media platform for schools.  I couldn’t help but think about the SPED and general education teachers in my own building who would love to learn more about the possibility of creating these lessons for their own students.  What impact would these lessons have on learning if they could be shared with other grade levels or even other schools?

An elementary teacher put together a video demonstrating her use of cooperative learning structures within her 4th grade classroom.  What would that video do for other elementary teachers struggling to manage their own classroom?  What ideas and resources could be shared if those educators had the opportunity to discuss their own successes and failures.

A math teacher presented his excellent use of project-based learning in an 8th grade classroom.  His video included students engaged in high quality learning experiences that required them to prepare, plan, collaborate, and communicate.  At the end the students were required to justify their problem-solving as well as their solutions.

I appreciate you reading this far because what I’m about to say is, in my opinion, of critical importance today.  This post would have little meaning if the possibilities of sharing these great experiences didn’t already exist today.  Social media is embedded in all our lives already!  Just 20 years ago, copying multiple videos, copying typed summaries, or perhaps writing a book or article would have been required to get these resources in the hands of other educators.  The conversation, if any, would have been mostly 1-way with little back and forth opportunities.  Today, the opportunity exists for educators to engage in meaningful, reflective conversations all in the name of improving their practice for students.  These opportunities are no longer reserved for those who can afford to attend a national conference or for those who have the time to dedicate to reading an educational book.  Those are, no doubt, still successful means of learning today.  However, I am writing this to encourage more educators in the state of West Virginia to start SHARING.  Start engaging in conversations about what is going on in YOUR classroom and what is going outside of your classroom.

Thursday nights at 8pm EST is the WV state-wide educational chat.  Every Thursday evening educators are using Twitter to engage in these very conversations.  In a short hour many links, questions, answers, experiences, and resources can be shared.  Most of all, connections can be made that allow us to expand our perspectives and our resources to improve our own practice.  No one joins an educational chat on Twitter because they think they know all there is to know about their practice.  Being a part of these conversations begins with admitting that there’s opportunity to learn and someone out there who may benefit from hearing YOUR story.  The most limiting factor in your classroom is you.  I encourage you to share in whatever capacity you can.  There are so many others that would benefit from hearing your story.

Click here to view my Twitter 101 post or my help page on Twitter Chats. 

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The Enemy of Empowerment is Compliance

by on Apr.27, 2014, under Classroom, Parents, Personal

A recent experience with a student of mine has reminded me that the enemy of empowerment is compliance.  I reflected on some of the policies in my own classroom.  I considered which ones were designed to empower students and which ones were designed for compliance.  If this post causes you to reflect, I want you to consider the students who traditionally struggle to comply with traditional school rules.  I’m talking about the students who don’t eat dinner every night or those who ride the bus to an empty home every evening.  Every teacher has the student who never does homework or won’t return that letter signed by a parent.  This post is for them.

I wonder how often school leaders consider empowerment vs compliance when structuring school policies.  Common consequences for homework not turned in on time or at all include reminders, after-school D-hall, lunch D-hall, or a zero.  I’m not advocating against those measures necessarily, but I’m asking, which of those measures empowers the student?  It’s been my experience that the students who these policies are generally written for, the most common offenders, are the ones who need empowered the most.  Most schools have a tiered system of consequences that accompanies one or all of these measures of compliance: exceed X days of D-hall and student will receive a day of in-school suspension, exceed X number of reminders and student will earn a letter sent home, no recess for the students that didn’t come prepared for class.  At what point does the student receive anything empowering him/her?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have secretly boycotted these measures in my own school.  I’ve tried really hard to design a class where all students can succeed, specifically the students for whom this post is written.  That’s extremely hard in a public school system where time is the constant and learning is the variable.  And success doesn’t come without failures, reflection, and my professional learning network.  I value the impact of conversations in my relationships with students.  I recently dealt with foul language coming from a student in my class.  Initially, I wanted to demonstrate my zero tolerance attitude towards foul language being used in my room, but instead opted for a short conversation in the hallway.  The conversation concluded with a surprising and unprompted apology coming from the student.  Afterwards, I felt I saved the relationship between the student and I, while also empowering the student to be more cautious of his/her language while in my classroom.  No D-hall was issued.

The issue of compliance has proven to be a touchy subject around many educators.  The thought is that without these measures of compliance, how are we teaching responsibility?  Unless we punish irresponsible behavior, students will never learn to be responsible.
So how can attitudes change from compliance/punishment to empowerment?  Because I feel that if we can begin to empower these students to realize their potential, value the attempts their teacher is making in the classroom, and respect themselves, perhaps we can see real change.  Perhaps we can begin to remove the impact that socio-economic status plays on student achievement.  Unfortunately, I believe many policies that exist in schools today only widen the achievement gap, rather than narrow it.

The following are some decisions I’ve made this year to help empower the common offenders, rather than punish them:

  • My classes are clustered, but the levels are fluid, not static.  Without this, my job would be multiple times more difficult.  I thank my administration and the guidance counselor for assisting me in making this a reality.  I only point this out because it allows me to reach students where they are.
  • I never take homework for a grade.  I’ve reflected on the purpose of homework a lot, and at no time can I justify a homework assignment being evidence of learning that is sufficient enough for me to input as a grade.
  • Incorporating standards-based grading principals have allowed me to teach responsibility, empathy, tolerance, etc but not reflect those as part of their grade.
  • Retakes are a big part of my course.  Students feel a measure of ownership in their grade when they know they have the entire year to demonstrate their learning.  They used to ask me for more grades, but now they know they may have to try an assessment 4-5 times before they can demonstrate learning at a level of mastery.
  • Slow down.  This is still my weakest area.  Allowing the students to dictate the pace is touchy.  You still have to push them as much as possible, but they are always watching with a keen eye to see if you care enough to provide them more time.  Most often, they’ve been pushed through concept after concept with no regard to whether they’ve learned it or not.  This had to change.
  • I’ve increased my efforts to communicate with the homes most difficult to reach.  Joe Mazza, moderator of #ptchat, the parent-teacher chat on Twitter, responded to my frustrations about not getting parents to attend academic functions at my school with “when was the last time you went to them?  Sometimes we have to go to them.”  Don’t expect those homes to come to you if you haven’t made any attempt to go to them.
  • I have to constantly remind myself to be cautious of the norms and behaviors of students from poverty.  It requires that I redirect language, make realistic goals, and accept the gray areas often.
  • Communication should always come after this thought: Is what I’m about to say going to bring me closer or pull me away from this person?


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The trouble with being a connected educator

by on Apr.12, 2014, under Personal

Tom Whitby @tomwhitby has wrote many times:

“Connected educators are the worst advocates for becoming connected.  Too often they are so enthusiastic at how, as well as how much they are learning through being connected, that they tend to overwhelm the uninitiated, inexperienced, and unconnected educator with a deluge of information that both intimidates and literally scares them.”  At the same time, sharing what you’ve learned through your experiences is what connected educators tell you to do in order to expose the non-connected to the connected world.  Too often I find myself walking on egg shells avoiding offending anyone.  The experience of learning and trying to grow connected educators who engage in sharing, learning, and reflecting just becomes a sour one.

I’m not an administrator in a position where modeling to staff is a critical role.  Leaders of school staff must model these new learning behaviors to develop a culture of growth within their buildings.  What then do teachers do who teach in a predominately un-connected school system where educators are patiently awaiting the next professional development opportunity to learn something new?  How do teachers like me initiate sustainable change in their school buildings?

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Edcamp Parkersburg 2014 Summary

by on Apr.06, 2014, under Classroom, Parents, Personal

On April 5, 2014 educators from the area came together at Blennerhassett Middle School for West Virginia’s first Edcamp.  Edcamp Parkersburg included educators from Wirt, Jackson, and Wood counties.  Leanna Prater, a TIS from Lexington, KY also joined us.  Leanna is a PHS alumni and heard about Edcamp Parkersburg from participating on #wvedchat Thursday nights on Twitter.  Robert John Meehan once said “Our most valuable resource is each other.  Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.”  That quote became the theme of our Edcamp.  

The morning of Edcamp begins by creating the session board.  At this time, all participants get a chance to suggest topics they’d like to learn more about, propose topics of discussion, or schedule a session they’d like to facilitate.  At 9:00 the participants scattered to the session of their choosing.  The first hour included topics like student motivation and using Twitter to build a professional learning network.  The 50 minute session flew by and immediately you could see participants extending the conversation to the hallways between sessions.  I overheard one of the principals in attendance say “Now this is real learning.”

Garnet Hillman, a Spanish teacher from Illinois and moderator of the weekly #sblchat (standards based learning chat) on Twitter, joined Edcamp Parkersburg via Google Hangout and shared her standards based grading experience with about 20 participants.  How incredible it was for Garnet to join us to help expose local educators to this alternative form of communicating student learning.  Several educators were charged to reflect on their own grading practices.  Garnet concluded by encouraging us to support each other as we continue exploring SBG.  She also invited the participants to use #sblchat on Twitter as a resource as there are many experts sharing their experience daily.


After lunch educators returned for three more Edcamp sessions of their choosing.  The afternoon sessions included topics like flipping the classroom, Google docs in the classroom, National Board & SAS curriculum integration, and classroom management just to name a few.  Sessions are very discussion-based and everyone is encouraged to provide their input.  “The group is smarter than the individual” is often cited at Edcamps because emphasis is placed on sharing the experiences of all in order for all to move forward.  Edcamp Parkersburg was about all participants improving their practice, engaging in conversations they’ve never had time to engage in before, and supporting each other in the journey.  Throughout the day, it was as if a community was being created.  That sentiment was verified at the smackdown.  The smackdown is a common event at many other Edcamps where all participants are given the opportunity to provide verbal testimony of their experience that day.  During our smackdown Tim Murray, assistant principal at Wirt County High School, shared how his basketball players were playing in a tournament that day.  One of his players texted him earlier that day to ask if he would be present for the game.  He responded with “No, I have to attend some professional development today and can’t make it.”  His player responded with “have fun” to which Coach Murray returned “It’s usually not fun.”  Tim went on to explain how Edcamp Parkersburg far exceeded his expectations and he wanted to pursue having an Edcamp with his school.  Kevin Campbell, principal at Hamilton Middle School, echoed Tim’s experience and shared how he always expects at least one aha! moment.  He explained that in the morning sessions alone, he had at least 4 of those moments.  The following are some more quotes from the smackdown, I feel they speak for themselves:

  • I willingly got out of bed at 6:30 on a Saturday on spring break and came to work and I’m incredibly happy about it.  I loved it.

  • I want this in my school now.

  • My big aha! is that we did this so well with so few.  Just imagine the resources in our counties with even more input from others.

  • I learned more through this than sitting through any guest speaker.


The participants were also encouraged to tweet about Edcamp Parkersburg using #edcamppkb and those tweets were collated at https://storify.com/Mr_Oldfield/edcamppkb-tweets.  We encourage educators to join in similar conversations weekly on Thursday’s at 7:30 using #wvedchat on Twitter.  Several local educators, others in our state, and some from across the country are reflecting, sharing, and learning each week from conversations just like the ones at Edcamp.  Look out for the 2nd Edcamp in our area coming up Fall 2014.


Derek Oldfield


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It’s Imperative: Connect

by on Mar.31, 2014, under Personal

#Colchat, Colorado’s weekly edchat that occurs on Twitter on Monday nights served as the reminder and encouragement that I needed to write this post.  I was previously convinced of this, but I was admittedly discouraged.  It is of utmost importance for all educators to engage in the conversations going on among connected educators via social media.  One person provided me this analogy recently.  He said during a triathlon when the athletes complete the swimming section, it’s most common for them to swim in groups, essentially drafting each other.  How much more efficient are those athletes when they can all swim in the wake of one another pushing in the same direction?  When compared to the swimmer who is by him/herself carving out their own current, I would much prefer to swim with the group.  The choice to connect with other educators and engage in the conversations focused on improving their practice and providing students better opportunities to learn is no longer an option.  Those educators who have chosen to join the group and share in the learning have engaged in a transformation completely unknown to non-connected educators.  The conversations have evolved so far beyond those conversations happening in classrooms, teacher-lounges, and schools that non-connected educators struggle to see the need to develop a PLN and engage in learning through social media.  Tom Whitby describes connecting to stepping on a bullet train headed to improved practice, reflection, and sharing the great things happening in innovative schools.  While not connecting is like waiting at the train station for a more comfortable train to ride.

One of my colleagues standing beside me in the trenches of my district recently said on Twitter: “I’ve learned more on Twitter than I have in any PD or college education class.”  #Colchat’s first question tonight was “Why is it important for educators to be connected?”  Expand your perspective.  Don’t try to solve problems or improve your practice looking through your own lens.  In fact, don’t seek solutions from someone else looking through their own lens.  The group is smarter than me.  In public education, truly innovative schools and classrooms involve the village.  It certainly does take a village…  Finally, this tweet was part of #colchat tonight: “A teacher not trying to make themselves better in the classroom is not someone I want teaching my kid.”

What drives you to become better?  There are a lot of ways to improve your practice, but when was the last time you were part of a conversation involving people outside our district?  State?  Who pushes you to become better?  Who is the one educator you learn from the most?  Comment below with 3 educators that model attributes you consider important in today’s education landscape.

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