Category Archives: #NCTEChat

What Books Have Changed Your Life?

June #nctechatLast year during Independent Bookstore Day, a local bookstore in Ann Arbor where I live set up a photo booth and asked patrons to take a picture with a “Book That Changed My Life.” I didn’t actually participate in this photo booth experience because I didn’t know about it until I read the store’s blog post about it afterwards, but even with the ephemeral nature of the Internet and social media, that idea has continued to stick with me all these months later. What books have changed my life? My colleagues’ lives? And more importantly, my students’ lives?

When I was tasked with the job of planning this month’s #nctechat to revolve around summer reading, I thought about how we could use this as an opportunity to remind educational stakeholders that reading can be more than just for learning and for leisure. The right book in the right hands at the right time can be a life-transforming experience.

But so often students are presented summer reading as a job. An assignment. A way to extend the school year and turn it into yet another dreaded task to carry out with as little joy as possible. And in our effort to prevent the “summer slide” we lose sight of those other reasons for which we read: not just to learn, but to find joy and be transformed.

On Sunday June 19 at 8 PM ET, we invite you to join our #nctechat on Twitter to discuss all those life-changing books and writers in your life. But let’s also extend this conversation to the people who matter the most: our students. Invite any and all stakeholders to be a part of the discussion: students, parents, colleagues, and even the authors of the life-changing books themselves. By the end of this month’s chat, we hope you will be reminded not just of those books that changed your life, but how you can help your students find their own path to life-changing reading experiences.

Questions for the chat:

  1. Let’s begin by introducing ourselves. Are you here to share your love of reading as a teacher, student, parent, author?
  2. Let’s get to what we’re here for: Tell us about the book(s) that changed your life.
  3. How did you discover that life changing book?
  4. Is there a book you can pinpoint that turned you into a reader?
  5. Have you ever given someone else a book that changed them?
  6. Was there ever a book you assigned as a teacher or read as a student that changed a whole class?
  7. What are some life-changing books you’ve heard other people talk about that you haven’t had an opportunity to read yet? (Perhaps a summer reading goal?)


May #nctechat: The Power of Vulnerability

The Power of Vulnerability in Our Schools and Classrooms May #nctechat“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

In the book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown uses this quote by Theodore Roosevelt as the basis for her argument on why we need to cultivate vulnerability in our lives.  In this fast-paced world of “get more done in less time” and in school cultures where the guise of professionalism trumps forming any sort of meaningful relationships with students and colleagues, vulnerability can often be seen as a liability.

But in reality, vulnerability is showing up. It’s accepting accountability. And it’s stepping up to the plate after striking out (paraphrased from Daring Greatly). Aren’t those qualities we all want to see in our students, colleagues, and administrators?

Join us on Sunday at 8 PM ET for #nctechat on Twitter where we will discuss The Power of Vulnerability in Our Schools and Classrooms. Here is a preview of the questions we will discuss:

  1. Let’s talk about what we think vulnerability is and what it isn’t.
  2. Why does vulnerability so often feel like a liability in work and in life?
  3. What impact can avoiding vulnerability have on students, colleagues, and school culture?
  4. How do you or have you shown vulnerability in front of your students or colleagues
  5. How have you encouraged or seen vulnerability in your students?
  6. What are the ways kids avoid vulnerability and how can we help them see its benefits?
  7. What are the ways colleagues avoid vulnerability and how can we help them see its benefits?
  8. How can we cultivate discomfort and help our students dig out of perfectionism as a form of shielding?

Reflections on #nctechat

April #nctechat archiveLast weekend, a spirited discussion ensued during #nctechat on Twitter. With a topic like Politics and Language: Critical Literacy During an Election Year, people are bound to show up and see what others are talking about (you can access the Storify archive here).

From the news media to our own dinner tables, the fear and vitriol that the 2016 election has already churned up has left teachers wondering how they can have productive discussions with their students about the important issues facing our country. But teachers also know that the classroom is where we have a big opportunity to help nurture engaged, responsible citizens. The question is, how do we invite those discussions into our learning community without also inviting resentment and malice towards those with differing viewpoints?

What I saw overwhelmingly in our chat last Sunday was that teachers understand the need to embrace the uncomfortable. That we need to go beyond just  holding mock elections and offering students extra credit to stay up late and watch presidential debates. Instead, we need to look at the ways can critically examine our role as citizens in a democracy – with our students. It’s difficult to do that without discussing controversial and uncomfortable topics.

If you want to see some of the resources and important thoughts that were shared last Sunday, I created my own Storify of takeaways from the chat. I hope you will find some of them both useful and inspiring.

Join us for #nctechat this Sunday

April #nctechat During a presidential election year, it’s always difficult to navigate productive class discussions when politics are involved. Though it can be a volatile topic where emotions run high, as teachers we must also recognize that a sense of civic engagement can and should be nurtured in the classroom. If we want the next generation of citizens to be critical thinkers, school can and should be a place where we have those tough, sometimes uncomfortable conversations with our students.

Join our hosts Frank Baker and Kaitlin Popielarz this Sunday at 8 PM ET on Twitter for #nctechat to discuss Politics and Language: Teaching Critical Literacy in an Election Year.

Here is a preview of the questions for the chat:

  • How do you plan to incorporate the election process & political issues in your subject area?
  • What standards are you hoping to meet by incorporating the election process/political issues in your classroom ?
  • How can you use media in the classroom to teach and discuss political issues?
  • How can we encourage students to critically examine media and political rhetoric?
  • How can you provide opportunities for students to be active in local issues and elections in their own communities?
  • In what ways can we empower our students to speak up on political issues that matter to them?
  • How do we prepare ourselves and our students for discussing important but sometimes volatile issues in the classroom?

Professional and Personal Learning Networks

“What’s in a name?” – Romeo and Juliet, IIii  ‘Juliet’ illustration by Philip H. Calderon, Public Domain

You may have heard the abbreviations PLN, PLC and PLE used in teaching conversations, and they may have even been used interchangeably.  To add some confusion to the conversation, PLN can mean a Personal Learning Network or a Professional Learning Network.  What are these networks, communities and environments? Though a number of definitions exist for these uses, let’s look at some ways of defining these concepts.

Derrick Meador offers this definition of a Personal Learning Network

“A personal learning network, also referred to as a PLN, is a powerful professional development tool that allows teachers and administrators to connect with other teachers and administrators across the country. These connections are typically made through social media outlets including Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. A personal learning network allows educators to seek advice, trade best practices, or simply network with other professionals.”

A personal learning network is an informal network in which a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from others. The network may or may not be built around someone’s professional life and could be about their personal interests.

You will find this type of network relates to the theory of connectivism developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Their ideas involve learners creating their own connections and developing a network that goes beyond the people they interact with on a regular basis and which can include people they have never met personally or will ever meet in person.

The Internet and the rise of social media has created an easier way to have a far reaching network around our desires to learn.

But Brianna Crowley writes that “A ‘professional learning network’ is ultimately a personal learning network. ”

Do you have a personal learning network of online and “real world” people? Do you have a separate professional learning network around your teaching, or are they blended?

Many of us connect to other educators using public blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms. The monthly NCTE Twitter chats (#nctechat) are a good example of a part of a professional learning community. We also probably know colleagues that have multiple accounts for social media – one for their personal network, another for their professional network.

A Professional Learning Community (PLC) is a more formal network. Richard DuFour writes that:

The idea of improving schools by developing professional learning communities is currently in vogue. People use this term to describe every imaginable combination of individuals with an interest in education—a grade-level teaching team, a school committee, a high school department, an entire school district, a state department of education, a national professional organization, and so on. In fact, the term has been used so ubiquitously that it is in danger of losing all meaning.

As an NCTE member, you can participate in many online communities as part of our Connected Community. Although anyone can explore some areas of the site, members have full access to the content there. This is a professional community consisting of people who are involved in teaching at all levels and with many of the same concerns and interests.

We can contrast this with the online communities we have in Facebook for NCTE, CCCC and TYCA which are open to anyone interested. Likewise, anyone can follow our many Twitter accounts and participate in conversations.

The News and Information Literacy Professional Learning Community is a group within the Literacy and Learning Exchange that is open to anyone interested in learning more about news, information, media and digital literacy. Teachers, students, researchers and developers are able to collaborate and share ideas.

Power of the PLNIn the “Power of the PLN” NCTE chat held in 2015, co-hosts JoEllen McCarthy and Tony Sinanis, we explored ways to expand your capacity for collaboration and use your PLN as an energizing tool for facilitating and enhancing learning relationships. (These fast-moving chats are also archived.)

Of course, online communities are only a part of this professional learning. Much of what we do in education relies on relationships. The way students learn and our own professional learning relies on our personal and professional relationships. In the classroom, in the hallways and at meetings and over lunch and coffee is at least equally important.

Thinking about “professional development” as more than  an event, an inservice, workshop or conference and as more than the physical “takeaways” of documents that we are given is possibly new to many people.  Expanding PD to include social media and other digital ways to share, collaborate and learn is certainly still relatively new for all of us.  Professional and personal learning networks help support learning communities.

Among the questions considered in that particular #NCTEchat:

  • How does your PLN fuel and energize your learning life?
  • How have your extended your PLN connections beyond social media?
  • How do you show/inspire/demonstrate to your students the importance of developing a PLN?
  • What role does NCTE play in your PLN?

Finally, you might hear the abbreviation PLE used to mean Personal Learning Environments.  Rather than people, a PLE is a system that allows learners to create and manage their own online learning.  According to Alan J. Cann, a PLE system includes “providing support for learners to set their own learning goals, manage their learning, manage both content and process, and communicate with others in the process of learning.”

A PLE is often associated with distance education or formal online learning, and it is likely that you have built your own professional  “environment” using a combination of free, online services and also real world connections to people you work with and  have met online or at conventions and other professional events.