I have been saying for some time that Google+ has supplanted Twitter as the network I turn to for my self directed professional development. A few days into Connected Educator and I am realizing it isnt about supplanting but augmenting. Twitter does some amazing things for connected educators and that is where most of the connected educators I know reside.

The following is a cross post from a Google+ conversation in the #ooe13 Community on Google+

From Roz Hussin

+Debbie Morrison +Brendan Murphy +Debbie Fucoloro +Michael Walker +Rhonda Jessen +Greg Mcverry +Jeanette Melee +Eric Sheninger +Christina Hendricks +Karen Young +Julie A.C. Balen and I think there are a bunch of other names that I totally lost count.

OK folks… help me out here.

Six months ago, I decided I was going to learn this thing called G+ and Connectivist Learning. Then, it turns out, I found out that I was already a Connectivist, but didn’t realize that what people call “Connectivism” today, is what I called “Osmosis Learning”, way back when I wrote my thesis. Same stuff, different title. So anyway, six months ago, with the help of people like +Laura Gibbs and +George Station , and many others, I dived deep and binge learned everything there was to learn about G+. I did a 48-hour non-stop no-sleep immersion, and an intensive 2 month no-barriers no-limits full throttle. Blog post that described my G+ binge learning experience:
Discovery Learning

Today, I think I’m pretty comfortable in G+ and can coach others how to maximize its benefits for applied online Connected Learning.

But this thing called TWITTER….
I feel like such a Neanderthal!!!

Someone… please help me… I’m a “Cognitive Refugee” (Hussin & Kim, 2013) who needs someone to give me ZPD coaching (Vygotsky, 1978)… Pray tell… WHY is my brain NOT comprehending the LOGIC behind this thing? FYI, my thesis was a human interface study on SMS (short messaging system) -ie text messages. So I’m pretty good at the syntax shortening. So that is NOT my Cognitive Handicap with Twitter. Instead, what I don’t get is the non-linear non-sequential random dialog stream….

How do I respond to all the pings that flood my email inbox? How do I re-route those to somewhere else so that they do NOT flood my email inbox? How do I access what I want to access, and not have to scrounge around? What do I need to do to be efficient?


My Reply

Roz I use a metaphor from @paulbogush to guide my Twitter experience (well I learned his metaphor captured what I do).

Twitter is a large flowing stream. Most of what happens when you come to the bank happens in real time. Most of the time you do not care about the water that flowed before you were there or after you there.

Yet you may need to redirect the stream to water your plants or you might identify folks who you want to join you around the water hole.

Irrigating your Thoughts

This comes about from taming the stream. To do this use #hashtags and do not use the native twitter clients or website. On chrome I use tweetdeck and on Android I use Plume. This allows me to set up columns following specific hashtags. I currently have 18 irrigation pipes in my hashtag filtering down only the content I want.

Gathering Around the Watering Hole

You should follow people. In fact I reccomend looking at the lists of followers of people you respect. Yet edventually and very carefully the stream starts flowing fast. You need to decide who you want to join you for a cool sip of knowledge. This is the point of lists. I have list of literacy researchers, funny people, news sources, etc. Another strategy is to identify the people you interact with the most and create a list just off those.

Notification and Emails.

Simply put you can just shut these off. I leave them on when I am on Tweetdeck and Google now filters them all to my social tab so I can ignore them.

Still Paddling Upstream?

Who cares. You are awfully skilled at Google+ and Google+ does what Twitter does but better. You can cross post from Google+ to Twitter using Friendsplusme.

You would miss out though on a rather large community. This is especially true during conferences and live twitter chats.

During conferences I see Twitter as a collaborative and distributed tool for note taking and reflection. I often attend conferences I am not physically at or interact with people in other sessions.

I do live Twitter chats a few times a week. Even though they have an echochamber effect I find them reinvigorating. The key to these is again let most of the stream flow by. Choose a salient idea a few folks and discuss the topic more indepth.

If you do never get that is okay. Google is for me becoming a better differentnaffinity space for self directed PD.

My goal for both #ooe13 and #CE13 is to be a better blogger. I do not mean more hits and shares. I want to continuosly strive to be a better writer, a content constructor, a multimodal composer.

To this end I am working in two initiatives my site here and launching a Netcasting Network (more on that later).

For tonight I wanted to try live blogging. I have always used Twitter but that feels so ephemeral. I wanted a little more permanence.

There were of course trade offs. I did not have the tweets of others to build a distributed note taking and reflection tool. I do hope to back through the feed though and some of those reflections later.

I did not not support Connected Educator Month (#CEM) last year. In total I logged on to three or four events as I respected the panel of speakers. Still I doubted the motives of the Department of Education. I felt we needed to boycott the events if we supported digital teaching and learning. I was wrong.

It seemed like a shell game. A fraud to hide the truly damaging nature of many of the Department of Education’s policies. These DOE plans in no way aligned with principles of Connected Learning or with the use of digital teaching and learning. Simply put I was a skeptic and thought that if members of my PLN gave credence to #CEM then we were complicit in pushing pedagogical choices that conflict with what we know about connected learning.

I thought the DOE served as shell man while we connected educators sat in awe trying to find the hidden pea. Yet like any con we would come up short. Under the shell the DOE had stuff one bad policy after another that hurt educational technology. Under the leadership of Arnne Duncan Enhancing Educational Through Technology grants dried up, Race to the Top pushed the Common Core State Standards on to states before states had a chance to increase technology requirements, and district level RTTT envision technology as a way to “personalize” education through adaptive testing. Simply put these bad policies do not align with better practices made possible through digital teaching and learning.

E2T2 Grants

Enhancing Education Through Technology Grants grew out of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed under George Bush. The law required, though did not define nor suggest how to measure, that all students be technologically literate by the end of 8th grade.

In an effort to help states and local LEA reach this fuzzy goal the E2T@ grants were distributed. According to the goal of E2T2 was to:

improve student achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools. Additional goals include helping all students become technologically literate by the end of the eighth grade and, through the integration of technology with both teacher training and curriculum development, establishing innovative, research-based instructional methods that can be widely implemented.

One of the first actions by Arne Duncan’s Department of Education was to cancel the E2T2 money and funnel the funding into grants to develop testing for the Common Core or to award districts who adopted untested teacher evaluation methods.

How does this support Connected Educators? How does this align with the principles of Connected Learning. So last year I felt that we were getting the raw deal with #CEM. All talk and no support. E2T2 funded many great programs and now those funds simply pour into more test development.


Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s crown of educational reform was RTTT. Once again this bill did little to serve connected educator. Instead of passing meaningful legislations the DOE has instead decided to host a couple webinars. Does that not feel like a bait and switch?

The first round of RTTT required districts to adopt the Common Core State Standards (effectively nationalizing the CCSS) and adopt outcome based teacher evaluations that used yet to be developed tests. The second round of RTTT went to consortiums to develop these tests, that no one has seen, that will determine who gets hired and fired. Imagine the federal government telling the states that every hospital must judge, and possibly dismiss, their doctors based on a medical exam no one has ever seen and no one has ever tested. This to me does not align with principles of connected learning.

To be fair on outcome of RTTT was schools are now in a race (which they will lose) to purchase tablets or laptops and beef up their networks in order to be ready for Smarter Balance or PARCC. This could be beneficial. Yet I fear those machines, especially in low performing districts, will be viewed as testing tools and not mobile learning device.

RTTT lead to Common Core adoption at a break neck speed. This has not allowed states to cater the standards. This has not allowed states to increase digital learning expectations. Under RTTT states could adjust up to 15% of the CCSS. I have long argued that states should use this to increase the amount of technology in the curriculum.

The CCSSS mention online reading and media skills in one paragraph on the fourth page. They then discuss multimodal composition, in a round about way, in the writing anchor standards. There is very little in terms of interactive reading, speaking and listening. No mention exists for computational thinking. States in a rush to get RTTT dollars (that very few received) did not develop plans to revise or train staff on implementation.

So now we have new standards, new teacher evaluations, new tests, and no plan. Not really the recipe for connected learning.

Personalized Learning

The final round of RTTT went directly to districts. In order to qualify districts, those large enough to keep grant writers or hire consultants, had to demonstrate a plan to personalize learning. This sounds like connected learning. This aligns with many connected educators I know. Yet f you dug down deeper into the RFP it required technology to be used not for digital learning but for more testing. The goal was to sit kids behind a terminal with a computer adaptive curriculum. Rote skill reinforcement. Does that sound like connected learning to you?

Why the change of heart?

The final report from last year’s #CEM described the goals as:

Five Broad Goals of Connected Educator Month
1 . Raise the visibility and showcase the benefits of online social learning and collaboration.
2 . Encourage unconnected educators to get connected and give connected educators
more ways to broaden and deepen their participation.
3 . Promote the practice of being a “connected educator” as central to what it means to be a member of a profession that demands
continual learning and growth.
4 . Support innovation in an emerging and promising field .
5 . Encourage more collaboration among organizations and individual educators and to
accelerate progress toward a more seamless, connected education community.

Yet as outlined above, based on the actions of the Department of Education it is simply lip-service. Clearly, and pardon another cliche, the DOE did not put its money where its mouth was.

Yet as a an instructot pre-service teacher, as a researcher and instructor focused on multimodal compostiion, as a member of my Universities Writing Across the Curriculum committee my responsibility to my students must outweigh how truly disappointed I am in the educational policies of the Obama administration.

I want my pre-service teachers to be connected educators. I want my students well versed in the rhetorical decisions of multimodal composition. To do this I know I must model, model, model.

Therefore as part of #CEM and the #OOE13 MOOC I set two goals for myself. 1: Become a better blogger. 2: Learn Arduino

Better Blogger

I launched my blog in 2007 after a presentation at NCTE on multimodal writing through blogging. I took a hiatus during my dissertation work but I am back to posting. I want to build my network. First by writing and then by commenting on the posts of my peers.

To be a better blogger I will further develop myself as a multimodal writer. To do this I am working on creating a teacher netcasting network with Ian O’Byrne. We will be producing and publishing vodcasts. I will launch with two shows. Ian will also produce and host two shows. My fist show, Spherical, will focus on bloggers that I admire. I will interview author’s of posts that I enjoy. I will focus on their decisions as a writer and what it means to liver the bloggerly life. My second show TechTrenches will focus on innovative in practice teachers. I will host a conversation with practicing teachers.


I want to also model the maker movement for my students. It is an area that I have not developed in a long time. In order to do this I am trying to build with Arduino. I will document this learning effort here on my blog. I have found support. I have attended the Geekouts hosted by HOMAGO.


I have a responsibilty. I am preparing the future teachers and writers of tomorrow. They need to be connected educators. Therefore I will get involved in #CEM this year. Some may disagree. Some may say that a boycott of bad policy would be a better model for engaged and connected citizens. I would disagree simply because I know all the value I get from being a connected educator.

I try to stress one lesson when teaching pre-service teachers about assessment: your assessments should be be used to judge your practice more so than the abilities of your students.

After all it is almost impossible to know all that students know. So instead of warping assessment by conflating it with grading I try to encourage students to use assessments to improve practice. For me assessment should be about reflection, growth, and goals.

So when I design student assessments I also try to build in reflective practices to teach me about my teaching. I also try to build an assessments that will allow students to reflect on their own learning and set goals for future learning.

This, at least I hope, is evident in two of the assessments I assigned as part of the disciplinary literacies classes I taught at UCONN this summer.

The first idea I stole from a colleague Sue Ringler-Pet. Students had to complete a brief exit slip by writng a journal entry to this prompt:

“So why should I hire you?” The principal leaned forward in her chair eagerly awaiting the response from the newly graduated teacher. “The state has a new tough curriculum, adopted from the Common Core State Standards. And our kids are struggling in all of our subjects. Some of our kids can’t read or write very well. What can you do for us?” (Conley, 2012, p. 141)

It was great to see the growth of students each week. They moved beyond the idea of teaching content, and even content area reading into the realm of disciplinary literacies. Yet I wanted a summary of the responses.

Using Word Clouds as Reflective Assessment Tools

I took all the responses over the five weeks (it was an intensive 8 hour six session class, they completed the reflection for five of the classes, and popped them into Taxedo.

While totally unscientific, but high on awesome, the word clouds allowed me to look quickly at the patterns in their growth and reflect on my own teaching. I like that concepts such as modeling, vocabulary, writing, strategies grew each week while the dominance of teacher decreased in size. I also saw important teachign strategies such as annotations and note-taking show up with greater frequency as the class went on. I would have liked to see “disciplinary literacies” and think-aloud show up with greater frequency.

Using Reflective Think Alouds and Vialogues

The other reflective assignment we used as having students read a text on the first day as if they were to teach students how to read an article from the National Geographic on the Prime Meridian. The students were given time to first annotate the text and plan their videos. They then recorded a short video explaining how they would teach students to read the article.

They then repeated this task six weeks later. Across the board the students demonstrate growth. Most importantly it is evident that they all encourage students to read with a purpose.

Pre Think Aloud

Post Think Aloud

Pre Think Aloud

Post Think Aloud

Pre Think Aloud

Post Think Aloud


Do not make assessments extra work for you. As a teacher make an assessment WORK for you. They should give you insight into your practice and help you determine goals for your students.

It works. Simpicity in design. Simplicity in workflow. Google Apps as a free LMS just works. That is at least according to the early feedback from my students.

Let’s contrast this with the recent launch of Blackboard’s Learn 9:

Message Three

We have discovered a problem in Learn 9 that is causing issues in Discussion Postings.
In some instances, student replies to other student posts are appearing empty. In testing the issue, we have found the problem is occurring because the initial post made by the student was copied and pasted from Word into the text editor.
Until a permanent fix is found, we ask that all students avoid copying and pasting from Word. If you wish to work offline, you can save your Word document as a .txt file and then copy and paste. This will strip any offending code from the text prior to copying and pasting.
For any faculty who have already discovered this issue in their course discussion postings, we do have a fix that can be applied so all the discussion replies can be seen.

Message Two

Dear Southern Connecticut State University faculty, staff and students,

In the eventuality that we continue to experience instability on our learning management system, Blackboard Learn, we are providing some information and a few suggestions that may help minimize the effects of not having access or having slow access.

For Students

· Do not wait until the last minute to submit.
· Keep a copy of all submissions for safekeeping.
· If you timeout while taking an exam, try to immediately log back in. In most cases, you will be able to continue where you left off.
· Compose items offline using Microsoft Word or plain text editor.
· Report all issues to your professor.

For Faculty

· Be flexible
o Provide a larger window of availability for items.
o Accept submissions via email when the system is unavailable.
· Do not select “force submission” when creating tests. This allows students who timeout to go back into the test and resume.
· Download assignment submissions and work offline: download assignments
· Download the grade center for safekeeping: download grade center
· Use Banner to email your classes
· Contact the helpdesk ( 203/392-5123) for assistance in troubleshooting issues that you or your students encounter.

In the meantime, the System Office and the ConnSCU institutions are continuing to explore permanent solutions, and we will keep you updated. Thank you for your patience

Message One

Dear Southern Connecticut State University faculty, staff and students,

As you know, the Blackboard Learn 9 learning management system in use by all institutions in the ConnSCU System is working intermittently, unreliably and slowly. The System Office and all the institutions in the System are exploring possible solutions. Regrettably, it will most likely take months to solve these problems. We will keep the community informed as new information becomes available.

As you can see BB Learn 9 does’t work, at least not well. To be fair this has more to do with server issues on the State of Connecticut side than it does with the learn 9 platform. In Connecticut all of our universities and community colleges were merged into one behemoth bureaucracy. This of course lead to IT nightmares. UCONN, where I also teach, was given autonomy from the ConnSCU and Blackboard does not have as many issues (Each school in UCONN also has an IT staff almost equal to the size of our entire University so this may help as well).

To the students the cause of the problems do not matter. For the students Learn 9 does not work. For my students, however, Google as a Free LMS does.

In fact, after two weeks of the course I posted an anonymous, and optional survey for my students to complete. Overall the results were very positive. Students love the hybrid approach using Google Apps. They are slightly overwhelmed with the number of tools involved. Finally they prefer to have direct instruction (via recorded lectures) included with the hands on performance assessments.

Students ranked the tools on a scale of 1 (lame) and 5 (Totally awesome).

Tool Averge
Google+ 3.285
Google Groups 3.14
Blogger 4.14

Too many Tools?

I then asked students if there were too many tools. All of the students, except one, expressed some confusion over Google Groups or asked that we just use Google+ instead.

I can’t lie I am slightly hesitant. As you know I do not think stackable Social Media posts have the best affordances for ongoing student discourse. A quick, and unscientific, content analsysis confirms my belief. The posts on Google Groups are much more in-depth and cite the readings. The posts on Google+ appear to be more one offs with very little follow ups. This of course could be an artifact of how I segt up the class. If I asked for students to reply to prompts fromt he readings on Google+ maybe it would be different.

We as the Google as a Free LMS should study this issue.What happens when the same prompts are given in Google Groups and in Google+? How do the students feel? Are they overwhelmed by the tools?

Due Dates and Module Learning

I also tested up two different set ups for my expectations. In the first module I had strict benchmark due dates throughout the module. In the second module I just had a targeted date to finish the module. Based on the results of the survey all but one student preferred the benchmark due dates rather than the flexibility of just one end date.

Supporting Student Learning

I also asked about ways to support student learning. The students, with a mean score of 4.28 all wanted me to record and post lectures. This suprized me. I did not believe students wanted to sit through 30-40 minutes of direct instruction on their own. Yet the hits on my YouTube channel confirm that they are watching. The students, also with a mean score of 4.28, like text based tutorials over video tutorials for any tool or assignment (I used Skitch and Google Docs).

I was posting the lectures as my introduction videos. Yet students with a mean score of 3.85 asked for short introductory videos describing each module.

My Plan Moving Forward

I am going to stick with the class as I built it. The students woould like a reduction in tools so I may try moving the discussions to Google+ for one or two modules later in the semester.

I will continue to record full lectures for the class.

I will start to record short 5-10 minute introductory videos explaining the expectations and objectives for each module.

I will post the discussion questions for each module ahead of time to give students a purpose for their reading.


Hello everyone. I am Greg McVerry. I am a researcher and educator at Southern Connecticut State University. I am looking forward to this class.

We discussed Open as an unstructured and self-directed learning experience.

I am attending the first synchronous section of the Open Online Experience.


We are currently discussing strategies for surviving MOOCs:

Some advice I got:

  • Choose a personal goal.
  • Choose a platform. You do not have to join every network.
  • Know you do not have to do everything.
  • You will not read everything
  • Connect with those who have similar goals.
  • Try to accomplish one thing a week.
  • Comment on blogs that you read.
  • Lurk.
  • Summarize before you curate.


Tools to share and track your learning:

  • Evernote. Create a notebook for each MOOC you take.
  • Create some portfolio
  • Use the Twitter hashtag when sharing post.


My personal goals for #OOE13

  • Learn to use Evernote to organize my brain.
  • Be a better blogger. I am new to blogging and want to learn the ins and outs of WordPress.

Ending thoughts

  • Dedicate time
  • Add your goals to you Google calendar.
  • A MOOC only works if we are blogging, sharing, and commenting


It is over. I am done. I want to in no way support the idea that we “need to raise digital citizens.” In fact I officially renounced my digital citizenship. I just need to go to the embassy and fill out the requisite forms.

Is it at Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google+? Maybe I need to visit AOL Online. Nope. Its probably located at Prodigy. After all that was the first place I started to interact with folks in online spaces. Yet I can’t go there at all, let alone go to renounce my digital citizenship either. Why?

Because the idea of digital citizenship is an empty and hollow construct. It has done as much damage to the integration of digital text and tools as the idea of Digital immigrants/natives.

I have had this thought for quite some time. Yet it really gelled in last night’s #edtechchat.

My brief Uneducated History of Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship has long been the darling of the #edtech community. In fact they are enshrined in the ITSE standards:

5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal
issues related to technology and practice legal and
ethical behavior.
a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible
use of information and technology
b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology
that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for
lifelong learning
d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship

ISTE will even give a seal of approval to educational materials that help to build digital citizenship.

I do not know when the term became en vogue, but the idea of digital citizenship seems enculrturalted in computer classrooms especially at the elemenrary level.

A Product of Fear

I believe the idea of digital citizenship was born out of fear. Fear of content producers who wanted to control the channels of production and distribution. In the heyday of Napster they wanted to codify the idea that stealing was wrong. If only we knew this before the Internet. If only someone put this in their learning standards eons ago (oh yeah they did…see the 8th commandment.)

Digital Citizenship was born for a fear of child safety. As soon as the World Wide Web was born every parent feared that Chris Hansen of Dateline needed to be on the other end of a dial-up connection. There are truly awful people in this world and children need to be protected. That doesn’t mean, however, fear should drive our technology curriculum.

A false dichotomy

I also believe digital citizenship creates a false dichotomy between our offline and online spaces. Am I truly to believe that someone of high moral character will act in ill-refute once they log on to Facebook? Is a troubled student posting bullying messages online a picture right out of Norman Rockwell when they head to Sunday School? No, that is ridiculous.

Being a good person should be your goal both online and and unplugged. When we push digital citeznship too far we get too much government oversight. That is, in fact what citizen means. Citizen means the “inhabitant of a city.” And with the suffix “ship” citizenship is defined as “status, rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a citizen”.Thus citeznship requires government and since “digital citizenship” was born of fear it leads to an overprotected government such as school districts that spy on their citizens. After all we need to protect our citizens.

If not Digital Citizens then What?

I have long advocated the building of digital footprints. In fact I write about here on my blog.

I do believe we need our students to create an online identity by building an online space or digital hub

I also believe what you do online has real life consequences. Just check out this infogrpahic from Mashable:

Screenshot 9:17:13 10:52 AM

Clearly recruiters consider your curated identity (I am done in for by the grammatical mistakes). So there are implications to what we do online.

Connected Learning rather than Digital Citizen

I prefer the construct of connected learning. I have been involved with the community around Connected Learning for a little over a year. The group is constantly pushing my thinking forward. It revolves not around fear but engagement. Not around protecting content producers but encouraging content creation. Connected Learning isn’t about a silo of safety but rather a tool of peer engagement.

So I am no longer a digital citizen. Instead I am a connected learner. I hope to reach new understandings in both online and offline spaces through: interest powered, peer supported, and academically oriented learning spaces.


The image is a remix:

Passport By Rich Bowen (originally posted to Flickr as Passport) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Digital Revolution By Marfia Adlina (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Like most lessons in life the best ones come through serendipitous learning. I came to my use of recorded feedback, both audio and video, through a session I stumbled into at the Literacy Research Association. I had no plan to attend the session. I just had no where to go so I opened a door and sat down.

There a colleague, whose name I can never got, changed the way I fundamentally teach writing. The speaker send students auido recordings using digital tapes. I immediately began to use screencasting software for Word Documents. If I was using Google Docs, I used a Chrome Extension called Voicecomments.

It was “Good Change.” My time assessing writing went down. Students commented that the recordings help them to become better writers. In essence I enhanced my pedagogical tools through technology by making assessment more effective and efficient.

Kaizen. Japanase for “Good Change” Also the philosophy behind 121writing rebranding, redesigning, and relaunching of VoiceComments into Kaizena.

I was lucky enough to join a #PATUE and simultaneous event when Kaizena was launched. Immediately the Kaizena team blew me away. Nothing but “Good Change.”


Great Update

The update is full of good change:

  • A dashboard to track feedback.
  • Ability to notify different collaborators.
  • Ability to highlight text, record, tag, or leave a comment.

Screenshot 9:13:13 10:48 AM

The Kaizena Dashboard

Pedagogical Uses

The place in a GAFE, or any classroom for Kaizena should be front in center. I see immediate uses for teacher feedback, peer conferencing, retrospective think alouds.

Teacher Feedback

I am a big proponent of limiting the number of goals a writer works on at one time. Through conferencing the teacher and student should develop targeted areas of growth. fits this method perfectly. As a teacher I can go through and discuss the piece with the student. I can evaluate how well they met their goals, discuss revisions, and plan for future drafts.

If I was doing a collaborative writing assignment, which every good writing instructor knows they should do often, I can now give feedback to individual authors and the team as a whole. Good change.

Peer Conferencing

Kaizena will also be one of the most powerful tools for peer conferencing. Students could be given a rubric, or be aware of the author’s targeted areas of growth. They then use Kaizena to provide feedback. As a writing teacher this will help end the empty feedback loop often common during peer conferencing. Now as students have to highlight segments to record their feedback must be directly connected to evidence. This is a skills my students often struggle with.

I will also have a digital archive of the feedback writers give each other. Modeling and teaching peer conference is critical and almost impossible in a room full of students. With all the work archived I can go back and assess not just the product of writing but the process. Good change.

Retrospective Write Aloud

I stress to my preservice teachers all the time that they need to make their thinking as a writer evident to students. I also teach my preservice teachers taht their students should also conduct write alouds.

Write alouds do not have to be completed as we draft pieces. In fact that can often take us away from the deep thinking required to stitch ideas together in a set of coherent clauses. Instead I often encourage students to do retrospective write alouds once they have completed a piece.

Students are gvien a goal or choose one element of writing they want to highlight. They  have to use their piece and explain their design choices and their thinking as a writer. Now with Kaizena I can have students record their thinking. Once again their comments will have to be directly connected to evidence from their writing because of the highlighting tool. Good change.

I will be piloting these three methods with students in my writing intensive class this semester. I hope students will volunteer to share their work and I will share our progress here.

Once again a huge shout out to the Kaizena team.




I spend, thankfully, countless hours in schools. As part of my job I travel around the country to support teachers in the effective use of digital teaching and learning.

Something caught my eye in the many staff and conferences rooms as I sat in. All over the walls teachers and school leaders hung posters describing local professional learning communities. This got me thinking can Communities be created from the top down?

Then on Twitter I had a wonderful discussion with Jenn Oramous about PLN. She was looking for a book to set up my PLN’s

I could have recommended Du Four’s classic work on the issue. But I think again this reinforces the idea of a top down model of learning community.

If any book supports the ideas of learning communities I would suggest Lave and Wegner’s work (1998) Or Rebecca Black’s work with FanFiction. These book detail real communities of practice. Communities that did not develop because your boss made you. These are communites that grew out of a shared passion. They had varying levels of expertise and low barriers of membership.

When I see PLC’s built in school I see Pretty Long Committee meetings NOT Professional Learning Communities.

DuFour outlines three big goals for Professional Learning Communities (2004):

  1. Ensuring that students learn
  2. A culture of collaboration
  3. A focus on results

I just do not think these goals are enough to sustain and build a community of learners. I really do not believe that community can be dicated or required.

I would add (or even substitute) four additional requirements:

  1. Self choice
  2. Hybrid pedagogy
  3. Network Agnostic
  4. Committed Learners

Self Choice

I think the problem with most “PLCs” in school sis they are outcome driven and the need created by external forces. I could see the conversation going like this, “Our scores are down on standard three! Let’s start a PLC to address this issue.”

That will never create a community. Instead teachers and school leaders should self organize around student learning goals or improvement plans of their own design.

Hybrid Pedagogy

While face to face meetings remain powerful I think effective PLC’s require an online component. In fact I do not really see the point of dividing PLC, professional learning communities, from PLN, professional learning network.

I think effective self choice and self directed PD must utilize hybrid approaches such as blogging, video conferencing, and creating digital artifacts.

Network Agnostic

Given that I believe effective PLCs require a hybrid approach I support an agnostic approach to the digital texts and tools being used. Instead of saying we will all meet on Skype, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc members of PLCs should be encouraged to reach out across networks. Sure there will be a digital hub where the PLC meets but there is no one approach.

Committed Learners

In order to avoid  pretty long committee meetings members of a community need a desire to belong. Communities require active citizens. Commitment cannot be forced from the top down. This of course requires us to rethink professional development. I think here in Connecticut we are moving in the right direction. we will no longer issue CEUs for sitting in a seat. teachers are now empowered to take charge of much of their development. Hopefully they will become active members in a learning community.