Beth Holland

Food for thought…


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Around the East Coast in 30 Days

I started to write a post yesterday and then didn’t. No real excuses, just didn’t get there. However, this morning, Cathy Rubin (@cmrubinworld) gave me a shout-out in her Around the World in 30 Days post for June, so I figured out my angle.

June 1 – Asking Essential Questions

Ever since I heard Jay McTighe talk about the concept of Essential Questions and read his book, I’ve been inspired about what it takes to get people to engage in deep inquiry. Leveraging the power of Visible Thinking, I spent the morning of June 1st with the teachers from the Williston Scholars program at Williston Northampton School in MA wrestling with the question:

How can the Williston Scholars teachers design a curriculum that encourages deep inquiry and exploration across cohorts as well as creates experiences unique to the individual courses?

June 3-4 – Strategies, Literacy, & Fluency

From Williston, I traveled South to work with teachers in Charlotte, NC. This group was preparing to go 1:1 with iPads next year. With a team of 5th and 6th grade teachers, we tackled questions of strategies – how to address note taking and active reading with digital tools, literacy – how to build an understanding of media and address the impact of possessing a global library inside of a tablet, and fluency – how to develop a growth mindset such that learners become comfortable regardless of the interface of various apps and tools.

In many ways, it’s because of these early workshops that I wrote about empathy as a key trait for teacher leaders.

June 6-10 – iPads & Chromebooks in Atlanta

To kick off our EdTechTeacher Summer Workshop Series, I flew down to Atlanta, GA and set up at Woodward Academy for the week. What most impressed me about that week was the amazing educators who arrived with open minds and a thirst to learn, explore, and challenge their own ideas. We continued with those themes of empathy, strategy, fluency, and literacy with a constant objective of empowering students to construct understanding and create artifacts as evidence of their learning.

With the Google & Chromebook group, we also had a chance to explore the power of DocHub for active reading and collaborative note taking. I wrote this post about it for Free Technology for Teachers.

June 17-19 – Minnetonka Institute & Skokie, IL

When I submitted my problem of practice to Johns Hopkins for the EdD program, I talked about the need to provide high-quality, sustained, professional development to teachers as a means to create lasting change. These three days helped to shed significant light on the subject.

In Minnetonka, the district has made an investment in PD. They provide consistent, high-quality opportunities inside of their schools and also invite in neighboring districts. For their institute, teachers drove from as far away as 3.5 hours (I now know where Worthington, MN is located) to take part in 2 days of learning.

After leaving Minnesota, I flew down to Chicago to kick off my first full-year program with the K-6 teachers in Skokie, IL. I am a huge fan of these learning opportunities because there is no pressure to race through concepts and ideas. We can iterate over the course of the year and build on various concepts over time. It’s after participants can begin to see the power of leveraging all technologies (yes, even paper and pencil) that they realize the power of student-centric learning. However, it’s also this experience that led me to write about the need for A New Metric for Learning.

June 22-26 – Chromebooks & PBL

Last week, I continued summer workshops in Chicago. For the first few days, I worked with a number of teachers in a Chromebook Classroom workshop. These three days reinforced my believe that we really need to address the concepts of strategy, literacy, & fluency in professional development. More on this coming soon…

With my Project Based Learning workshop, I hit a few snags – namely a misunderstanding of the concept. More on this coming soon as well.

Rounding out the Month

To end June, I’ll be kicking off an extended program with teachers in Westborough, MA as well as catching up on my homework. Keep an eye out on Edutopia (@Edutopia) as I have a new post running either today or tomorrow about The Art of Reflection.

July is going to get interesting as well!


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What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom?

As part of this month’s Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers series, hosted by CM Rubin World, I decided to tackle the question “What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom?as the blogger-at-large. Over the past few weeks, one distinguishing factor has surfaced as I’ve worked with a number of educators from across the country: empathy. The best teachers demonstrate empathy in their classrooms.

Empathy for Themselves

“Future You will really appreciate it if Current You takes notes.” I often say in workshops. Despite our efforts to encourage students to capture their learning, teachers regularly skip this step in their own professional development. However, the true leaders, the teachers who will take what we uncover during our workshops and implement new ideas in the classroom, are those who engage in reflection when given the opportunity and make deep connections between the workshop content and their own classes.

Empathy for Students

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of working with a group of teacher-leaders in a school in Providence, RI. This group wanted to push their thinking forward and really examine the role not only of technology in their classrooms, but also of how they could shift their curricula given the abundance of information now available via mobile devices. Though their students each had an iPad to support their learning, the teachers also benefitted from a Macbook. During the workshop, I explained that I did not want the teachers to use any tool that the students could not readily access – namely their laptops.

As we explored the concept of workshop archiving and note taking strategies, one gentleman came to an amazing revelation: he had never considered organization from the perspective of his students. Most times, he prescribed solutions based on what was convenient for him without considering the fact that his students navigated between seven teachers and seven different routines on a given day.

Last October, Grant Wiggins published an account from a veteran teacher who shadowed a high school student for two days. The teachers who take the time to see school through the eyes of their students assume a new level of leadership in their classrooms.

Empathy for Colleagues

I worked with a wonderful assistant (Dee Kosik, @koscikd) last week during our Summer Workshops in Atlanta. Any time a teacher had a question or needed additional instruction, she immediately provided the requisite support. On the second day, I asked her to stop doing so.

As educators, we want to provide assistance and ensure success. However, we are so used to providing answers that we forget what it feels like to develop as critical thinkers and problem solvers. By having empathy, we remember what it was like to struggle and then achieve the desired skill or concept. We want our colleagues to have the same sense of success while still mitigating some of the frustrations associated with learning. By approaching each context with empathy, we are modeling the perseverance that we hope our colleagues – and students – will attain as they gain the confidence to implement new ideas in their classrooms as well as the pedagogical approach to serve as a facilitator of inquiry rather than a disseminator of information.

In many ways, it comes down to the age-old adage: great leaders lead by example.


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5 Ideas to Kickstart Your Summer Learning

Funny thing about this post… I wrote it MONTHS ago. However, Edutopia said that people were getting fried in May and decided to sit on it for a bit. I will say that this post was a bit of a team effort. Major thanks to Suzy Brooks, Jen Carey, and Sabba Quidwai for the suggestions and ideas.

Without further ado, here are 5 Ideas to Kickstart Your Summer Learning.


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Resources added to Diigo (weekly)

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