Yikes. How can it possibly be February 2009 already? What happened to January? And for that matter, what happened to 2008? I know “time flies” and all, but this is ridiculous!
The last five weeks have been pretty much a blur especially because I’ve been stuck with a case of never-ending bronchitis, that seems to be finally, miraculously, slowly, ending just this week. I actually had that moment of suddenly feeling better on Friday. You know the one: you stand up, blink, swallow, and then realize you suddenly feel kind of good. In fact, you remember that this is what you used to feel like all the time before you got this illness. It’s a pretty good feeling.
At any rate, along with the coughing fits, sneezing, runny nose, and general malaise, I have also been extremely busy this past month, which explains where the time has gone (and why I haven’t been posting as often as I usually do). Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Teaching the first course in ISB’s new SUNY Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy
Thankfully, Jeff and I are partnering up on this course, so although we’ve been super busy getting things going, two heads have certainly been better than one! We started out with a one-hour introductory session after school in late January and had our first full-day session on the last Saturday in Jan (watch the archived uStream footage here). Thanks to Clarence and Chris whose fabulous guest appearances definitely made our 7-hour Saturday session even more engaging and practical than Jeff & I could have done on our own!
So far, teaching the course has been an excellent experience. We have 50 ISB teachers participating on campus (plus 5 new ISB teachers joining us virtually) with the widest range of understanding and ability levels possible. Seeing as I’ve never taught a formal graduate-level course like this before, it has been such a steep learning curve for me. I’m so conscious of the fact that we have learners at all different levels, that we need to keep everyone engaged, but not stressed, and that we need to model best practice in all of our interactions throughout the course.
Of course the fact that all 55 participants are my colleagues makes this even more interesting… And not to mention adds quite a bit of reading to my Google Reader account.
Participating in the K12 Horizon Report Advisory Board
Along with Lucy, Judy, Julie, Westley, Alan, Karen (and quite a few other educators whose names I recognize) I have been participating in the process of creating the K12 version of the annual Horizon Report. After I got over the shock of being invited to be on the Advisory Board, I realized just how exciting (and challenging) this experience would be. As much as I love envisioning the future, I’m not sure I have a real grasp on the nitty-gritty of exactly how we’re going to get there. And that’s pretty much what this report is all about.
We started off with sharing our thoughts (via a wiki) on upcoming trends in technology and which of those would be applicable to education in the Horizon Report time-line structure. I found myself much more easily able to envision 1 – 2 years out than the extended 5-years out, but I’m not sure why. I guess what happens in 5 years depends on what happens in the preceding 4 years… Either way, it was definitely the most authentic use of a wiki I’ve seen in a while, and it was absolutely fascinating to see what others on the Advisory Board see in our future.
Unfortunately I was not able to attend the face-to-face session in Dallas a few weeks ago (one of the few disadvantages of being an international school teacher), which sounds like it was a real highlight of the Advisory Board process. It certainly would have been interesting to meet all of those visionary educators in person. We’re now on to the voting stage, in order to select which trends will have the greatest effect on education in the next 5 years. I definitely don’t feel smart enough to continue hanging out with this bunch though!
Guest Speaker at Apple’s Think Ahead Roadshow in Bangkok
One of the perks of being an Apple Distinguished Educator is speaking at Apple events in your region. This will be my first time presenting at an official Apple event (aside from the ADE Institute) and I’m really looking forward to it. I attended a similar roadshow in KL a few years ago and remember being impressed with how many different international schools were represented in the audience.
I suppose you could say I’ve sipped the Apple Kool-Aid, but I have to say, I spent the first 5 years of my teaching experience in a Windows school, and the following 4 working with Macs. In comparison I would generally say I spent well over 50% of my teaching time troubleshooting those Windows machines – none of which I am doing in an all-Mac environment now. I can focus on the teaching and learning bit, without wasting so much time on the “making the computer do what we know it should be doing” bit. Yeah, that’s probably why they asked me to do the session next weekend…
Returning to Qatar Academy in Doha for a 3-day consultancy visit
Thanks to Julie and the administrative team at QA, I’ll be heading back to Doha next week for my second visit in two years. This time around I’ll be working with the Senior School (middle – high school) on building an understanding of 21st century learning. It looks like I’ll be delivering 3 plenary sessions to the full faculty (The 21st Century Learner, The 21st Century Educator, The 21st Century Classroom) and then working with individual departments to plan authentic units of inquiry which naturally embed technology. Thanks to all of Julie’s hard work, QA will be 1:1 next school year and this is the kick-off to the practicalities of working in a 1:1 environment.
Delivering the grade 4 Common Assessment on Influence
Last December, I worked with our grade 4 team to develop a common assessment for their first social studies unit of the year, Influence. We spent several afternoons designing an authentic assessment task that followed the Understanding by Design process and utilized technology tools (wikis and VoiceThread) that are developmentally appropriate and fit naturally into the assessment task.
After we returned from our semester break, I had the extremely stressful challenge of making sure that each class had access to the laptop carts for the duration of the final assessment (oh, how I dream of being 1:1). Juggling several classes, dealing with the bizarre slowness of our internet connection over the past month, and facilitating the delivery of this common assessment pretty much ensured that I was on fast-forward every single day.
In the end, I must admit, I’m quite happy with the assessment. The task was at the right level for the students, the technology was a natural fit for the task, and the students had a taste of a project based learning experience. I’m looking forward to getting some valuable feedback from the teachers so that we can revise and improve the assessment while the experience is still fresh in our minds.
Is that all?
Now I know that’s barely scratching the surface of what so many others manage to do on a regular basis (I’m not writing a book or earning a PhD… yet…) but it definitely kept me busy for the past few weeks.
How do you cope with being overwhelmed for an extended period of time and actually manage it all without shutting down?