Tag Archives: Personal Learning Network

A journey of 1,000 miles…

1 Mar

“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” ~Confucius

Friday afternoon, as I hung out the third floor window of the elementary school looking down at the anticipating faces of the fifth grade students below, as I carefully dangled an egg encased in a plastic cup, protected by bubble wrap, shaving cream and marshmallows, all tethered to a plastic bag parachute, as I poised to let it drop, I looked over my shoulder at our guest for the day, a computer engineer named Alfie, and  I thought…

“This is so freaking cool.  We’re doing it. Something is really starting to happen around here and the kids down there are engaged!”

When I started this blog, I promised I would document our story and share the details of our efforts as we work to plan and implement a school-wide STEM initiative. So far, I have been pretty good about posting lessons and reflecting on what I am learning with students in the classroom, but I have been negligent in documenting some of the most crucial lessons I have learned and continue to learn out of the classroom regarding this process. So here we go… I’ll start now!

My top three four tips for anyone about to take on a school-wide STEM initiative.  

(The following tips are based solely on my personal experience and not supported by any substantial studies or fancy research statistics. So you can take ’em or leave ’em. :))

1. Find partners. Don’t go it alone.

Early on in the year, I met with students and outreach coordinators at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. I shared our school goals. I shared some personal goals. I was vulnerable and totally honest about my skill set or lack of one in many areas. I listened to their suggestions and took notes on any programs we could take part in.

The folks at U Penn SEAS have been my secret strength. Just knowing I have someone I can go to with questions or ideas, gives me the confidence to take steps and move forward. If they see a professional development opportunity or if a program pops up they think might be helpful to us, or if they have students available to work as mentors with us, they pass the information along. Almost every conference or PD opportunity I have taken advantage of this year, was a recommendation from one of my contacts at U Penn SEAS.

2. Follow up.

I mean this in the most general of ways. Once people know you are looking to network and find opportunities, they will start sharing ideas and information.

When your friend says, “Oh, I know a guy who works as a mechanical engineer at Boeing.” Don’t let that opportunity go. Ask for contact information. Introduce yourself via e-mail. Invite the person to visit you and your students.

When you see something that says, “Free resources to the first 1o0 people!” Don’t hesitate too long. Find out if you can use those resources and follow-up. The worst that can happen is you don’t get them, the best is that you do!

Follow-up when you are contacted by non-profit organizations that can connect you and your students with Scientists and enrichment programs in the area. Those opportunities are priceless. Sometimes literally. As in free. Free scientists and mentors to help you!

Follow-up on invitations to collaborate with teachers. The minute they say, “I was thinking I might like to…” e-mail with a suggested meeting time and make it happen.

People are excited to share their expertise and to help students and teachers, but they won’t chase you down… you need to follow-up.

3. Once you get started, know that it’s okay to idle in neutral for a bit.

Once things begin to happen, it has been my experience that they start to happen quickly. When others see the level of engagement of the students, or when they hear about enrichment opportunities, they want to be involved and they want to get the students involved. This is great, but make sure you are allowing enough time to reflect, connect, and plan.  As a recent guest on campus recommended when talking to staff about 21st Century Learning…“Take small bites and chew.”

(Oh! I almost forgot to include the most important lesson I’ve learned to date, the one that inspired this post, and prompted me to kick it off with a quote by Confucius…)

4. Take a step. Any step. It’s how the journey starts.

Happy travels!

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If you have any tips, please share them in the form of a comment! And as always, I welcome feedback regarding content.


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5 Ways in 5 Days! Building the case for the PLN.

6 Feb

For the past year, I have been trying to convince our administration that helping teachers build a PLN  (Personal/Professional Learning Network) should be a professional development priority.

I’m making some headway, but not as much as I’d like. Later this week, I will have an opportunity to address this topic again with my administrators. This time, I plan to support my case with a clear and tangible example.

The list that follows details how my PLN has helped me, our students, and our school in five important ways just within the past five days. Please take a moment to add a comment and share at least one way you, your students or your school site has benefitted  within the last week thanks to your being an active member of a PLN.

1: A SITE VISIT GETS SCHEDULED! Thanks to a reader comment posted on this blog back in January, I made a connection with a technology teacher who works in a nearby elementary school. She clicked a link to my blog on Twitter and posted a thoughtful comment on a post. We commented back and forth and then I followed up by sending her an e-mail. This past week we scheduled a site visit! I get to have a guest, observer and helper in our classroom for two different elementary robotics lessons next Friday. What an opportunity for both of us, as well as for the school and students!

2. $1400 IN FREE MATERIALS GIFTED TO OUR SCHOOL! I really wanted our students to have the opportunity to participate in some type of robotics event this year. I decided on the MATE ROV competition. I tapped into my PLN and contacted a colleague  at U. Penn SEAS . She suggested I look into an ROV-in-a-Bag kit and offered to contact our local MATE ROV event coordinator.

Following up on her suggestion, I did a quick search for a “ROV kit”, and I stumbled upon SeaPerch.org. As luck would have it, they were offering a first come first serve mini-grant for teachers in honor of National Robotics Week. I wrote up a proposal, sent it in and Voila! $1400 in materials are already in route to our school. That’s ten ROV kits, a tool kit, and teacher training for me at no cost to our school. I tweeted my good fortune and who knows, maybe passed the good fortune on to another teacher.

3. FREE RELEVANT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY DISCOVERED! The same day that I applied for the SeaPerch grant, eschoolnews tweeted a link to a free online professional development course offered by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called “Why We Explore“. I immediately enrolled in the course and now will be more informed about the oceanic subject matter we will be exploring during the ROV project.

4. QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY AN EXPERIENCED MATE ROV MENTOR! I have no experience building submersible ROVs so I sent out this tweet:

Within less than an hour, I receive this:

I was able to ask “arnolddeleaon” a series of questions and he was kind enough to respond to each question. Our only connection? A Twitter PLN. Thanks Arnold!

5. QUALITY OF LIFE IMPROVED! I connected to a community and had at least three laugh out loud moments this week. Everyone knows laughter has been proven to improve quality of life and although the official word is still out, it has been suggested that social networking has psychological and health benefits. Just think! My participation in a PLN may be eliminating visits to health care professionals that would keep me out of classrooms and potentially increase the overall cost of health care for our fine institution. 😉

If you need a laugh check out this great math humor piece by Jeffrey J. McGovern reposted on askatechteacher.com. I enjoyed it so much I had to pass it on in a retweet…

And that retweet led to yet another good laugh when a few minutes later someone tweeted this…

(Can't find the original source. Let me know if you know!)

So there’s my five ways in five days! Please help me strengthen the case for supporting teachers in their development of a PLN. Post a comment sharing at least one way your PLN has helped you professionally in the last 7 days! I can share it with my administration and you can share it with your teachers and administrators. I can’t wait to hear your responses. 🙂

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