Sharing and Broadening Our Thinking With a Perspective Walk

Today was the first day of our three day 2017 Lanier School Academy Institute, a professional learning experience for returning and new to the Lanier cluster teachers.  This academy provides teachers of all grade levels and subject areas opportunities to talk about project based learning across the Lanier cluster, to unpack how our cluster thinks about PBL, and to share and brainstorm ways we can craft meaningful and authentic PBL experiences for our students (and ourselves!).  I will be joining the faculty of Lanier High this July as an 11th grade English teacher, so I am excited to participate in this three day institute.

This morning we worked in small groups to take an inquiry stance on PBL (project based learning).  We began by sharing PBL experiences we had implemented as teachers and discussed insights, successes, and what we might do differently moving forward with PBL.  Next, we contemplated and discussed these questions about PBL in our small groups:

  • Benefits?
  • Drawbacks?
  • Misconceptions?
  • What’s your perspective?

After we brainstormed our list of ideas for each question, our facilitator, Dr. Kyle Jones of Lanier High, asked us to pull out the one idea from our list of ideas for each question.  He then asked us to distill the idea to its essence and to write each “essential” big idea that stood out to us as a group (consensus!) on a medium sized sticky note.  Each group then shared out their responses for each question; similar responses were “bundled” together by Dr. Jones to be placed in a slice of the perspective walk “pie”.

Once Dr. Jones had placed the responses for the first question in the perspective walk slices, we gathered in large circle around the perspective walk pie.  He then asked us to look at the responses and to step inside the slice that resonated most strongly with us.  You could not “straddle” a pie with a foot in two slices; you needed to choose one that you connected with the most.   Once we had selected a slice, we then turned and talked in our small groups about our ideas and thinking about the response we had selected.  Once we engaged in small group talk, we then had an opportunity for three groups to share out to the entire group.  We repeated this process for each question, and for each round, Dr. Jones asked for volunteers to share who had not previously shared before though you could also add to the discussion if you had previously volunteered to share.

For our last round, we first considered the question, “What is your perspective?” where we picked a perception about PBL that we found most important to address or challenging.  After we discussed this question, Dr. Jones challenged us to think of ways to change that perception, and after small group discussion, we then shared out once more.  Approximately 50 teachers participated in the perspective walk, so this is an activity you could do with a large group or combined classes as well as an individual class.  During our lunch break, Dr. Jones took each group of responses and hung them on the mobile dry erase board that is our “parking lot” of ideas (more on this tomorrow).

I found this activity to be powerful because I got to hear so many interesting ideas from my fellow teachers, and the small and large group conversations gave me food for thought and pushed my thinking as well as “idea sparks” for the upcoming school year.  This is an engaging activity with tremendous synergy that is participatory and builds on the power of crowdsourcing ideas and the social aspect of learning.  I cannot wait to try that this activity with my new students this fall!

I hope to do some additional posts about our thinking and other great learning activities we’re engaging in this week in our institute.  Kudos to Dr. Jones and all the Lanier cluster teachers for such a provocative and fun morning of thinking and sharing today!

Breaking the Ice in Creative Writing with Speed Dating Conversations


This semester I am teaching a SOAR new to Chestatee Academy that is all about creative writing.  I am delighted there were enough students interested in this topic/course for it to make!  Students will have opportunities to inquire into different genres of writing, craft different creative works, and develop his/her own writing project that will be published in our group eBook through Smashwords much like I did last year in collaboration with Amy Balogh and her students.

Our first meeting was yesterday (we officially meet on Tuesdays and Fridays between 1st and 2nd periods).  I wanted the first day to be energetic and give students a chance to talk, especially since it is a mixed group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who often don’t know each other.  I do have four students (grades 7 and 8) who also take Writing Connections with me, so I’m honored that they are enjoying writing enough for this to be an interest for them.

I thought about doing a write-around, but I honestly didn’t have enough time (or energy, frankly) to get the prep work done, so I decided to go a different direction.  Students came in and sat in groups of 3 and 4.  Each group received a question printed on neon colored paper to contemplate and respond to quietly on a lined Post-It note.   Questions included:

  • What makes someone a writer?
  • What kinds of responsibilities do you think writers might have when they belong to a writing group or workshop like this?  How can someone be a positive and productive member of a writing community like this?
  • What do you think of when you hear “creative writing”?
  • How do you feel creative writing might change the world or have a positive impact in some way?
  • What qualities and resources do you feel are important to have in order to write creatively?

I gave students about five minutes to write down their ideas on their lined sticky notes; below is a PDF of the compiled student responses.  I am missing about 4-5 as a few students forgot to give me their sticky notes as we left, but the collection below will give you an idea of what they were thinking.

We then got up, put all our bookbags in the corner, and re-arranged the room by moving the tables into one long row (thank goodness for the wheels that finally arrived in November and to our custodial staff for putting them on the tables).  The kids loved that we could fit the different sized Artcobell tables together like a puzzle to form one long table.

I then explained that we were going to do a speed dating method of conversation, a strategy I learned many years ago from one of my favorite professors at the University of Georgia, Dr. Bob Fecho.   I told students we would be sharing our responses to the discussion questions by interviewing each other using the speed dating technique.  After reviewing the procedures and then modeling a conversation with one of the students, we jumped in and began our lightning round discussions!

img_1426 img_1425 img_1424

When we finished, I then told students I wanted them to think about everything they had heard during the speed dating conversations; I asked them to think of one idea or reflection from a fellow students that stood out to them that they felt was share-worthy. We also talked about how we would share support and respect for each other by being attentive listeners.  After giving students a couple of minutes to think quietly, I kicked off the share-aloud and we then went around the table quickly.  I think everyone enjoyed this collective think aloud, and it was also a meaningful community building exercise.

Next week we’ll begin writing, but I am so happy we kicked off our first day of the course with this activity because of the thinking and positive energy it generated.  I hope to blog more about the writing this group of students will be doing, and I am excited to see what writing projects they develop.

Library Camp Kansas 2011

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Library Camp Kansas 2011, my first library “unconference” a few weeks in Manhattan, Kansas at the Hale Library on the beautiful campus of Kansas State University.  This innovative and participatory model of learning allows participants to determine the topics for breakout sessions and focuses on conversation and discussion as the medium for learning rather than formal presenter driven presentations.  As we crowdsourced our topics, participants could volunteer to facilitate the session; each session also featured a volunteer who served as a “notetaker” in Google Documents that were set up ahead of time for each session and linked to from our agenda that was created organically in the initial morning planning/session from 9:30–10:15 while we enjoyed coffee and tasty breakfast pastries.

We cranked up our creative energies after our group planning session with a round of lightning talks in which people could volunteer to share a technology tool or resource they were finding useful.  We then attended our first breakout session and followed that with lunch; lunch was followed by a riotous Battledecks competition, which included the winning tag team of Heather Braum and Liz Rea!  The afternoon then concluded with two additional breakout sessions and a final closing gathering before we left for the day.

I attended three breakout sessions on:

  • Rethinking Lifelong Learning (facilitated by good friend and fellow librarian Heather Braum)
  • TED Talks :  how can libraries use TED Talks in programming and instructional services?  How can librarians participate in TEDx events and possibly sponsor their own through their library?
  • Book Talk:  what books are inspiring you professionally or personally?

I enjoyed all three sessions and enjoyed how the conversations all focused on supporting learning in libraries in each session.  My favorite new idea I gleaned from the day was the “Silent Library:  Using MTV Programming as Library Outreach Programming” from Heidi Blackburn.  This program focuses on cultivating relationships with students and emphasizes students getting to know librarians as people as a starting point for creating enchantment by establishing a starting point for building trust, likability, and exceptional service.  I would love to adapt this idea for The Unquiet Library!  You can read more about this fabulous and innovative idea on Heather Braum’s blog by clicking here.

Not only did I get to network with some innovative new colleagues from all areas of librarianship, but I also now have experienced a model of learning I’d love to pilot with students as well as our faculty; I’m also interested in working with other Georgia librarians to create this kind of learning experience in our state.

I’d like to give a heartfelt thank you to the sponsors who made this wonderful day of learning and fun possible for all of us who attended:  The College and University Library Section of KLA, The Public Library Section of KLA, Kansas State University Libraries, and The Northeast Kansas Library System.

Supporting Transliteracy and Transliterate Conversations Through Participatory Librarianship

The talk below is a modified version of my COMO 2010 Panel Keynote that I created for a learning event involving the Hall County School District (a sister school district here in Georgia) and Dell, Inc.   My COMO 2010 talk (see slidedeck below)  is focused more on academic, public, and school libraries while the talk below is directed more toward school libraries and K12 schools.

An alternate video version is also available here on my new Vimeo Channel.