The Look

If you have ever served in the role as professional development facilitator, you know “The Look”.  It’s what powers you and keeps you on your game.  I remember the first time that I ever noticed the effects of “The Look”.  It was on stage at the Western RCAC Symposium and I was watching the keynote address from Wayne Hulley from behind him.  As the audience responded positively to his words, Wayne stood a little taller and as they continued to respond, I swear he was up on his toes and spoke with that much more passion.  After his presentation, I mentioned this to him and I still remember his comments – this is why you present or lead a session.  You get the feedback, you feed on it as a presenter, and you take your craft to a new level.

I’ve always kept that in mind when I reflect on PD sessions that I’ve led.  For the past two days, I’ve been involved in a professional development activity partnered with the very enthusiastic and professional Zoe Branigan-Pipe.

The principal at David Maxwell Public School in Windsor had been in the audience at the OLA Superconference in Toronto.  As I blogged earlier, Zoe and I each led teams in the “Great OSLA Faceoff“.  It was a Canadian take on a Smackdown event with three periods and a Coach’s Corner in between.  In Toronto, with an audience of couple thousand, we had a whole staff behind us to make the event work.  In this case, when Joe Younan approached me about doing this, we knew it was going to be on a much smaller scale.

The audience was part of a four-board consortium with direction from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat but funding was from the boards that were interested in making it happen.  Each board sent a team (Junior/Intermediate on Tuesday, Early Years/Primary on Wednesday) and they were doing quite a bit of sharing of the project that they worked on and they were there to do some serious Read/Write Web learning with their team.  That’s where Zoe and I fit in.  The faceoff format allowed us to cover a great deal of material and content in a little over an hour.  Between periods, Joe and an audience member did their Coach’s Corner analysis of what happen in the period.  We didn’t have a sounds effect manager this time; we had Joe with a whistle commandeered from the Physical Education teacher.  And you know what?  It worked very well.

My voice was definitely the weak part of the whole event.  I’ve been suffering from a weeklong cold so my voice was just a crack over a whisper.  Thankfully, we had a microphone and speakers.  Zoe’s voice and enthusiasm more than compensated for this croaker.  But, we did have great audio visuals so you could see what I was doing as I droned along in the background.  How bad was I?  I was going to demonstrate Voicethread but all my attempts sounded so bad, I didn’t want to scare anyone.

Despite this, I was empowered.  We told the audience in advance that the whole thing was on a wiki and they would get time after the presentation to try out what we shared immediately.  But, that didn’t matter.  People had their devices out and some were going live with us.  Others were feverishly writing away trying to keep up.  I sat for the presentation to stop from going into a coughing fit but, even seated, I saw “The Look”.  From the audience, it’s the look of approval; the look of support; the look that I’m going to go back to my classroom and try this out and see if it’s a fit for my classroom and my students.

As I write this entry, I’m on a couple days of speaking rest.  I’ve got to let my throat go back to normal.  I can’t believe how much coughing exhausts you.  But, above that, I’m feeling the excitement that there will be some new things happening in the classrooms from the participants of the past two days.  To paraphrase Wayne, that’s why we do it.


Quote of the Day

“And my take on Wikipedia’s critics: The deomcratization brought by digital resources threatens to expose self-serving bureaucracies to public scrutiny, and they don’t like it.”

I ran across the above quote today on a blog post.

It seems to me that you could substitute most new resources for the word “Wikipedia” and the quote still resonates as true. Nature of change? Nature of the human condition?

In defense of those that are concerned, how do you get on the train and use whatever new technology comes along when they come so quickly and furiously? How do you know what’s worth doing and worth the time needed to understand it?

On the other hand, many kids don’t seem to have a problem with it.

Is one of the necessary skills the ability to judge a new resource instantly to ascertain its value to you or your project?

Blogged with Flock


Group Conversations

There are huge potential when all of the elements start to come together. When people talk about the Read/Write web (sometimes called Web 2.0), they get excited with the potential of anyone becoming a potential publisher of information.

Witness the explosion of blogs. In a previous life, people posted web pages and those of us who were connected and starving for information would devour the content that people took the time to post.

Next up though is the chance to post to a blog and afford those who were inspired to do so the chance to comment on your thoughts.

Time waits for nobody though and the next logical step lets you record yourself and publish audio and video and let people enjoy your efforts and comment back to you by clicking the response link. So exciting.

But, we now can go even further. Imagine adding audio responses to the original. I’ve been following this technology as an interested consumer for some time.

I’m talking about VoiceThread. It’s got your basic Read/Write web requirement. Post and allow people to respond, but this time you do so by speaking the response.

It had to happen.

But, the “new” is a real wow to me as I follow the Clever Sheep’s rants about cell phone banning. Guess what? The “new” feature is that you can now comment on an ongoing thread via cell phone.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together and all of the parts fall into place?

Blogged with Flock

Tags: , ,

Jeremy Gutsche at Symposium

After lunch, Jeremy Gutsche took the stage. He has a standard type of speech called “Unlocking Cool”. For us, he bounced in a few extra letters and modified the talk to that we was talking about “Unlocking School”. The message really didn’t have to be modified all that much. Schools face the same challenges that businesses do. Get stuck with doing things the old ways or refusing to recognize progress and you’re not going to be in a position to meet the needs of your customers.

I really enjoyed listening to the story about Smith Corona, particularly since I owned a Smith Corona typewriter. I was not aware of the breakthroughs that Smith Corona was responsible for, but ultimately didn’t stick with it enough to remain viable in the business. The big message here is to not rest upon your laurels or you too may become the company that makes the best typewriter in a world that doesn’t use them any longer.

The second big message was about how success and change needs to be viral. It can’t happen by edict. It has to be something that winds its way through an organization in such a manner that everyone wants a piece of it. I reflected upon the SMART Board successes that we’ve been enjoying this year. This truly has been a viral implementation. It’s something that people know will change the way that classes are conducted and there’s no denying the engagement and motivation of students when a SMART Board is used properly.

The third message was that you need to lose like you enjoy it. Obviously, you need to be trying new things all the time and you’re not going to be hitting home runs all the time. But, unless you’re in there swinging and learning by your misses, you’re not trying.

Jeremy’s website at and his commercial site at are excellent resources.

Will Richardson at Symposium

Symposium 2007 was last week in London. We had another terrific turnout even with the threat of bad weather. But, after 2006, we can deal with anything!

The morning keynote speaker was Will Richardson who set a terrific tone to the day. His focus was on the Read/Write web and how it has the potential to motivate students to use the web for good purposes. I had to admire Will as he was way out on a limb expecting to have decent internet access at a hotel. It’s one thing to have a presentation and step through it page by page, but to illustrate what you are talking about live is impressive.

His message was well received. The focus at the conference is on ideas. There are no vendor displays or vendor sessions. You listen and get engaged with the hope that folks would be inspired enough to say “I could do that” and then go back to their reality and make it happen. I know that after Will’s inspiration that there are lots of folks that are going to try.

And, after all, that’s the very best that you can expect from a keynote speaker.

Check out Will’s work at