Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Building Professional Learning Communities

Back in November I had answered a call from EdWeek about Professional Learning Communities and any questions I would like to pose in a chat. So I sent one in and I just found out that my question had been asked in the chat!

Question from Bethany Smith, Asst. Director of Learning Tech, NC State University College of Education: Have you investigated using any social network technologies (such as ELGG or ning) to facilitate a learning community?

Anne Jolly: You, know, Bethany, I'm actually doing something along that line now! I'm working with the Center for Teaching Quality and technology guru Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach to establish Virtual Learning Communities in a number of schools. I'm learning a lot about social networking, and it's the most exciting thing I've done in awhile. I constantly look forward to it. Right now I haven't jumped into ning, but if you're doing so, I hope you'll share your work far and wide!

Anne Jolly (according to her bio) is a former middle school science teacher and Alabama's Teacher of the Year in 1994, is the author of A Facilitator's Guide to Professional Learning Teams. She is currently the project director for professional learning teams at the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

I actually had a meeting with the Director of CTQ last semester about this very idea.

Tres cool....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Economist Debate

I just recently came across The Economist Debates about Education, thanks to Ewan McIntosh's blog - he is a "formal debater" for one of the articles. I am a big fan of The Economist and am impressed with this venture into combining online polls, fact-finding, and blogging in a familiar term of "Debate."

One of the previously debated questions catches my eye,

The house REJECTED the proposition that "The continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education."

Proposition: 46%
Opposition: 54%

First and foremost the "Harvard Model Congress (Class of '94, '95) Member" in me - gets all excited about the debate format. But Secondly, I am impressed with the way the question is phrased. They do not question technology itself, but new technology. The use of technology for its own sake is ill advised, but the concept of new technology being automatically bad disturbs me. I would also be concerned about the term of new technology in education. What is New to me may be Old to someone else. Considering the budgetary cycle of education, implementing new technology is not as "lightening fast" as it may be made out to be. Overall, I am pleased that the proposition was opposed, but it is still by a close margin.

Point of Personal Privilege (I used to love yelling out that one!)

The Current Proposition is: Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?

Ewan McIntosh heads the Proposition and I agree with him in that Social Networking is not just MySpace, it is not Facebook - it is the online network we create for ourselves. The concept of Personal Learning Networks is growing, and how you may not realize you have a social network - but the blogs you check, the IMs you send and the e-mails you recieve all create a social network and connection of friends that you may have never met in real life.

The concept that Social Networking is bringing a positive Change strikes me as odd. Social Networking exists and is being brought into education by our students. Are cell phones negative in the classroom? Some would say Yes. Are laptops negative? Is the Internet? The answer to these questions all depends on the context and the way it is used in the classroom. Social Networks, in whatever form they take - are only positive when facilitated correctly.

I am looking forward to the debate....

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why did I become a Teacher?

After my last post, I've been thinking about my journey as a teacher. I find that when I meet someone new, they ask me what I do, and then subsequently how did I get there. I guess I always was a teacher, I just never realized it.

Growing up I had always been the babysitter for the neighborhood. My little brother is 8 years my junior and I was a built-in babysitter for my parents, and it just expanded. I ended up being a Basketball coach, a Baseball Coach, a Soccer Coach and a Den Sister at the age 0f 16. I loved working with the 1st graders, when sport is just so much fun! Then, as part of my high school community service I taught Sunday School for 2 years. Yet, I still couldn't see that I was a teacher or that I had a knack for it - I just enjoyed it.

Then when college came (see previous post for engineering reference)I still couldn't see it - until I started teaching E115, an undergraduate run 1 hour Intro to the computing system at State. I loved teaching that class, and thought - maybe this is what I should do.

Then, my Dad gave me a book called, "Please Understand Me," Which I now know is basically an interpretation of Myers Briggs, and discovered that my "Personality Type" was pre-disposed to like teaching. So I investigated a bit more and found the College of Education at NC State (my current employer - but more on that later).

It was there that I found how to cultivate what I was doing unconsciously, into what I would like to consider a worthwhile career. But I didn't take the traditional road - Heck - I'm still not on it.

When it comes down to it there are 2 reason's I'm a teacher 1)I found a great place to start and get excited about education & 2)I had the opportunity to work with students and enjoyed it so much - I wanted to see that "A-ha" moment on their faces. I wanted them to get it. No matter how young or old my students are, that is what drives me. To help someone else understand a concept, and most of the time teach me a new way to think about it in the process. It is not about imparting knowledge, for me it is about understanding and interpreting it.

Ok - so obviously expository writing is not my forte - more nuts and blots posts to follow :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Finding Your Way

I was so fortunate (really - I was) to grow up with parents and family that I have (although if the 16 year-old could hear me now - she would like totally wretch). I was always a very "goal-oriented" student (i.e.driven). I wanted to do well and please others. (still do) But my parents were the ones that encouraged me and pushed me in the right direction. There was nothing that they didn't think I was capable of. I mean, I helped start the Computer Club in 3rd grade and still played sport.

Anyways, when it came to deciding, "What I want to be when I grow Up?" My parents pushed me in the direction of Engineering, due to my interest in computers and building things. So I came to NC State like many freshman in the College of Engineering. I'm not sure how I got lost in it all, but I did. Maybe I wasn't capable, maybe I wasn't interested, or maybe I just plain got lost. But I found myself in Education. I didn't intend to end up there, but somehow I discovered my (which I dare to say) talent of teaching.

It is hard to work on this campus and walk by so many memories on a daily basis of an institution that transformed me into what I am today. Yet, I don't regret where I started or where I ended up, nor do I wish I hadn't been pushed.

I truly feel blessed in many aspects of my life, and if I were to hazard a guess - I think I'm in the place I'm supposed to be. As others, including my brother, lose their way in the vastness of university life I hope I provide some solace in finding your way.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NC State College of Education Website

FINALLY - after two years of committee meetings, redesigns, restructuring, 3 assistants, 3 bosses and 1 baby - We have a new College of Education Website.

This has been the pride of my job and the bane of my existence at the same time. Taking on a project of this caliber has been an interesting journey. There are some many things I would change along the way - but the final product has exceeded my expectations.

So far *most* of the feedback has been very constructive - which is all I can ask for.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007 in Review

I have been enjoying a self-imposed ban on computers (specifically e-mail) over the holidays and am now getting back to work and my aggregator. I am finding lots of "year in review" posts and thought that I too would throw my hat in the ring.

2007 was a very big year for me. I was fortunate enough to have a healthy and bouncing baby boy this past May. He has taught me so much, including how valuable time is. As part of my "return to the working world" plan I put my own professional development at the top of my list. It has not always been easy, but it has been immensely rewarding. Taking time to read and post has helped me grow in ways that I cannot explain and only encourage others to do.

I also set some other goals, including presenting more (I can hardly believe I presented 4 times at NCETC) as well as some personal challenges (I finally entered a quilt in the State Fair. 2007 also marked an end to my classwork for my Master's Degree. The ONLY thing left for me to do is conduct my research and write my thesis (we will see if I graduate in May or December - but it will happen in 08!)

As I look through my old posts - I find that very few of them are large expositions on current trends and topics. They are just my input on tidbits of information that I come across. A part of me wishes that I had a post that encompasses my education beliefs and had a profound message to carry - then the other part of me knows that a paragraph into any blog I move on. Expository writing was never my strong suite anyways!

My husband always asks - if you write a blog and no one ever reads it - is it a still a blog and more that that - is it still worthwhile?

My answer is yes. For even if no one were to visit, the process of writing this has made me a better student and a better teacher.