Inclusion Expert Lisa Dieker to Present at #BPSCon

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Burlington Public Schools is excited to welcome Lisa Dieker as a presenter at BPSCon.  Dr. Dieker is a Pegasus Professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar at the University of Central Florida.  She has authored several books including Leading the Co-Teaching Dance: Leadership Strategies, 20 Tools for the Collaborative Classroomand Strategies for Teaching Content Effectively in the Inclusive Secondary Classroom.

Dr. Dieker will present to high school and middle school teachers on Thursday.

BPSCON Gets Positive Reviews from Burlington Teachers

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Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti, addresses staff during the opening session of BPSCON

Before we welcomed students back for the 2015-2016 school year this week, over 400 Burlington educators were busy taking part in our annual Burlington Public Schools Professional Development Conference called BPSCON. While BPSCON has become a regular occurrence for Burlington educators, this year’s conference received the most positive feedback we have had surrounding our opening Professional Development (PD) days.  The collaborative efforts of the Burlington Educators’ Association and the Burlington Public Schools Central Administration made this year’s BPSCON much more of a joint endeavor than it has been previously.

This renewed collaborative journey surrounding PD in Burlington began at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year when our district agreed to be part of the District Capacity Project, a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Education, the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association, and the Rennie Center.  The District Capacity Project provided our district with both a framework and support to help guide our monthly professional development meetings with our team of teachers, administrators, and an outside facilitator.

After surveying teachers during the year and hearing that staff members were seeking a greater voice in creating their PD offerings, we put out the call for our talented teachers to propose sessions to lead for their colleagues.  Thankfully our BPS faculty members stepped up in a big way, proposing over 40 sessions for our opening conference.  

Here is what a few of the new Burlington Public Schools staff members had to say about their first three days in Burlington:

“I enjoyed the flexibility of designing my own schedule.  There was great variety and options to choose from and I thought the length of the sessions was just right.” (Jeff Pera, joins Burlington Public Schools from Natick Public Schools)

“BPSCon was the best beginning of the school year teacher workshop days I’ve ever experienced. “ (Dr. Conti’s) opening remarks were impactful, yet hilarious. I had tears of laughter which was a new and wonderful experience for me  during a superintendent’s first day back speech. BPSCon was exactly what I needed as a first-year teacher in Burlington .Having BPS educators present is brilliant and empowering. All who presented are the best experts in our field; why pay outsiders to come in? All school districts should follow this innovative model.  (Rachel Small, joins Burlington from Manchester (NH) Public Schools)

With the positive feedback from this year’s BPSCON, the BPS staff members involved with planning Professional Development through the DIstrict Capacity Project are excited to find opportunities to continue offering staff timely and engaging PD opportunities throughout the school year. Special thanks to the following BPS staff member for their hard work on this initiative: Diana Marcus (Burlington Educators’ Association President), Michael Coughlin, Rachel Gould, Carolyn Crowley, Sean Musselman and Deb Dressler. These educators, central office administration and school committee representative, Kristen Russo, have already developed a schedule to continue work on this initiative during the 2015/2016 school year.

What Quality Learning Looks Like (For Educators and Students)

I read a great post by Shelley Blake-Plock today on edSurge titled How to Move PD Forward.  I think that the post was spot on in regards to what we need and what we don’t need in regards to Professional Development for educators. 

As I read through the post, the following two thoughts kept going through my head:

  1. I have come to dislike the words Professional Development. Why can’t we just call it learning? 
  2. I know this obvious, but the qualities that are prevalent in meaningful learning opportunities for adults are the same ones that are prevalent in meaningful learning opportunities for students. Why do we fail to see this so often?
Take the quote below from Shelley’s post and substitute the word learning in place of “professional development.”  

“The point of professional development should be in helping human beings–who in this case happen to be educators–become more fully engaged and connected with their peers…”

Of course the irony here is that if we do not create this type of learning for our educators, then we will not see the necessary shifts that also need to take place in student learning.

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Connected Educator Month Begins In Two Weeks! What Will You Do To Connect?

For the second year in a row, the United States Department of Education has made October Connected Educator Month.  What is Connected Educator Month (CEM) you ask? Check out the following description from the great CEM District Toolkit created by Powerful Learning Practice:

Connected Educator Month (CEM) is a month-long celebration of community, with educators at all levels, from all disciplines, moving toward a fully connected and collaborative profession. 

 The goals of Connected Educator Month include:

  • Helping more districts promote and integrate online social learning into their formal professional development 
  • Stimulating and supporting collaboration and innovation in professional development 
  • Getting more educators connected (to each other) 
  • Deepening and sustaining the learning of those already connected
The Connected Educator Month District Tool Kit
The bottom line is that our students need to know how to create Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) that will allow them to connect with others who share their passion in a particular area. For this to happen to the fullest extent possible, we need out students to be surrounded by educators who can model the practices of a connected learner.  
With this in mind, I hope to profile one Connected Educator from my PLN on each school day during the month of October. To make this happen, I will be asking the members of my network to fill out a short Google Form and share a bit of information about who they are, where they are, and why they connect. Stay tuned…
If you are willing to help me achieve my goal of a “Connected Educator Profile” for each school day during October, please fill out this brief form.
Thanks in advance for your help!

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Top Posts #3 – 5 Ways For Teachers To Get Quality PD This Summer

This post first appeared on Edudemic and is post #3 in my reposting of my top five posts from the past school year – Enjoy!

1. Attend (or start) a summer Edcamp

For the third consecutive summer, our district will host an Edcamp each Tuesday morning in Burlington, MA. These informal sessions are open to educators from Burlington and beyond who feel like gathering to lead their own learning. Attendees assemble each week and decide what topics will be the focal point for their learning. We provide members of our Instructional Technology staff (including our high school students) to support those looking to expand their skills with technology integration. In addition, teachers from Burlington can earn in-service credits or Professional Development Points for their attendance.
This model could be replicated anywhere! All you need to do is pick some dates, provide a space, and invite local educators. Trust me – if you plan it, they will come.

2. Attend A Multiple-Day Workshop

Most of the teachers whom I know hate taking one day off from their classroom during the school year, and they would never consider missing consecutive days for a workshop of any kind. The amount of additional advanced planning, combined with the time away from their students, is just too much for these folks to bear! Well, there is no time better than the summer months to escape the guilt of missing a day of school and treat yourself to a quality learning opportunity with educators and taught by other educators. Check out the summer-long list of workshops offered by EdTech Teacher’s staff of classroom practitioners.

3. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

The beauty of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is that most of the learning opportunities can be done regardless of time and place. You can choose what you learn, when you learn, and where you learn. If you are anywhere with a wireless signal, and you want to try the MOOC experience, then your only dilemma is choosing from the extensive list of options out there.  A great place to begin your search is at, a comprehensive list of MOOC’s maintained by Stephen Downes.
If you are looking for a less intimidating option, you could also enlist a group of colleagues and run through the some of the topics from the educational-technology focused #ETMOOC which ran between January and March of this year. The important part here is to find a space where passionate educators can find a topic of common interest and share their learning journey regardless of space or time.

4. Participate in a Weekly Twitter Chat

If you are an educator, then there is a Twitter chat for you. Check out this awesome Google Spreadsheet of Twitter chats broken down by nights of the week that was created by@thomascmurray and @cevans5095.  There are literally chats for every grade level and discipline that you could imagine. My suggestion would be to speak to your district or building administrator about earning credits towards recertification for your participation (in MA we call these credits Professional Development Points). You could use storify to archive your participation in the chats and incorporate your tweets into a reflective blog post to provide documentation of your learning.
If you need help getting started with Twitter, check out Erin Klein’s great video that appeared on Edudemic last week.

5. Just Hang Out

If you haven’t experienced the capabilities in a Google+ Hangout, you are missing out! Check out the schedule of Education On Air sessions that is available to educators for free learning opportunities. Educators could also create their own hangouts for colleagues to discuss a pertinent topic, collaborate on curriculum work, or even do a book discussion. The possibilities are literally endless, and the hangouts allow you to record the sessions to have for future reference. At the very least, I encourage you to try a hangout with one or two friends to see how easy it is to set up and utilize the numerous built-in functions.
Given all of the avenues available for professional development, 2013 could be the best summer ever! What a great time to take advantage of these opportunities to advance your own learning!

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How To Make Sure Professional Development Is Not An Oxymoron

This post first appeared on Edudemic.

I have always contended that the term “Professional Development” is an oxymoron for most educators. Let’s face it, most people do not look forward to Professional Development (PD) Days in their school district due to the fact that most of these are created with someone else deciding what is most important for the learners. While there are certainly exceptions to this approach of deciding what professionals need to learn about, the fact of the matter is that most educators do not have enough of a voice when it comes to their own learning.

It is interesting to me that we focus a lot of time looking at differentiation, learning styles, and relevance when it comes to student learning but then toss these factors out the window when it comes to the learning opportunities for the adults in our schools. Maybe it is the time crunch or the ever-increasing number of mandates that we need to implement? Whatever our excuse, we need to find a way to present learning opportunities for our staff that replicate the types of opportunities we would like to see for our students in the classroom.  The question for the administrators setting up PD Days is – How would you evaluate this learning experience if it was one that you were viewing with students taking part instead of staff?

In our district, we have had a lot of discussions about Phillip Schlechty’s “Eight Qualities of Engaging Student Work.” (Graphic Below)From my standpoint, we could change PD dramatically for the better if we focused our professional learning efforts on just two of these eight qualities, choice and learning with others.  

In regards to choice, it baffles me that we do not allow more choice for the talented educators that we have hired to lead their own learning and go deeper on topics and issues that impact their day-to-day efforts with students. While I understand that a neatly organized schedule for the year of upcoming PD events looks great on paper, I know that we would never expect a teacher to create a schedule of learning for their students that was set in stone ahead of time. The reality of the matter is that some of the most meaningful “teachable moments” in classrooms occur when teachers make adjustments on the fly based on feedback and/or assessment results from learners. We need to find ways for our staff to receive the same kind of timely support based on priorities that may have come to light well after the year’s schedule for Professional Development was created. We know how important timely interventions are important to support students learning and we need to create the same opportunities for adult learning in our schools.

This leads me to “Learning with Others,” my favorite of Schlechty’s eight engaging qualities. In fact, I would contend that a Professional Development program focused on bringing educators together to share best practices on topics of their choice would be far more meaningful than most of the current PD experiences that educators experience in their schools and/or districts.  There is also a deeper issue here in regards to collaboration that we can help address here. It has been clearly stated by Harvard’s Dr. Tony Wagner and others that one of the fundamental skills are students will need to be successful is the ability to “collaborate across networks.” My concern here is that we have not done enough to foster collaboration within our school network and this inability on the part of the adults to see the value in networking locally will stifle our ability to teach students how to access on a broader level.  In order for our students to develop this critical skill,  we need to ensure opportunities for our staff members to collaborate with people both inside their school and outside of their school network and these opportunities must be both face-to-face and virtual.
With so much happening in public education with the Common Core, New Educator Evaluation procedures, and a number of other new mandates it is imperative that we take advantage of the professional learning time that we have available. So don’t forget that the same engaging qualities that we strive to create in our classrooms should be replicated for staff members when it comes to planning professional development.

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Why I’m Attending ISTE’s Leadership Forum (and You Should Too!)

When I first heard about the possibility of an ISTE Leadership Forum, I was thrilled about the prospects of a conference that would allow me to collaborate with school leaders and share solutions to the most pressing issues we are facing in our schools today.  As the October event draws closer my excitement continues to grow because I know this event will leave me with a wealth of concrete ideas to bring back home to my district. In addition, I know that the connections that I make with colleagues from around the country will allow me to grow my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and have an expanded list of educational experts to reach out to as new challenges arise.

Here are some bullets from the forum’s website regarding why individuals in leadership positions and leadership teams should attend:

  • Maximize your tech investment and stretch your dollars.
  • Leverage social media for instruction and establish a social media policy.
  • Employ technology to meet the Common Core.
  • Support and motivate your staff to embrace new strategies.
  • Engage tech tools to assist with parent communication and involvement.
Here are my top reasons for coming:

1.  Connect With Amazing School Leaders  

First off, Chris Lehmann is the opening keynote and having the chance to sit down with Chris and hear his thoughts is an amazing opportunity in itself. But more importantly, Chris and the other ed. leaders who will be there (i.e. George Couros, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and many others) are accessible every day of the week through their blogs, twitter accounts, e-mail, etc. 

2.  Michael Fullan is the lead facilitator 

Michael Fullan is one of the most highly-regarded change leaders in the world when it comes to the field of education. I had the chance to spend a full-day workshop with him over 10-years ago, shortly after the release of his book Leading In A Culture Of Change and it is still among the top Professional Development experiences of my career. More recently, Fullan has published Change Leader, another great resource for educators to rethink the traditional model of schooling that is holding back our staff and students.  

3.  Leaders Need To Model The Changing Definition of Literacy 

A few years ago the National Council of Teachers of English created a new 21st Century Literacy Framework.  The truth of the matter is that what it means to be literate in 2012 has changed a great deal from when many educators were in school themselves. In order for us to truly fulfill our role as instructional leaders, we need to understand this shift and become comfortable with this new skill-set and model it for staff, students, (and our communities). Fortunately, ISTE has a set of clear standards for administrators, teachers, and students to help us in this critical work. 

For all of these reasons, I feel the ISTE Leadership Forum will be my most important Professional Development this year.  I will have the opportunity to continue to expand my vision and goals for myself and my school and ensure that we are on the right track in providing our students with the most relevant educational experience possible.

Thank you ISTE for making this event a reality! Please spread the word to other educators in leadership positions. This is something that they will be sorry they missed!

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