Learning Forward Conference, Day 1

Greetings from Nashville, TN! I’m attending the Learning Forward Conference, and trying to share a little bit of what I’m learning and thinking about today. In a bit of a rush, so for today at least, few if any links in the post.

The first session I attended was about virtual communities promoting teacher leadership. The co-presenters were Anne Jolly and Emily Vickery, both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for years through virtual networking, and it was wonderful to finally meet them in person. It was a great example of the potential power of virtual networks done right, as we already have a starting point and a bond of sorts, a comfort level that preceded our first face-to-face meeting. The session also included some virtual participants: Shannon C’de Baca, Bill Ivey, and Renee Moore. The common thread among them is the Center for Teaching Quality, which has also been my strongest experience with virtual communities, networking, and teacher leadership. Key take-aways had to do with the importance of participant buy-in, and knowing the scope, purpose, and community norms of your online communities. Having a skilled and dedicated virtual community organizer like John Norton makes a huge difference as well. I found the session quite useful as I have taken on some VCO work and hope to do more, and better.


I don’t mind flying in a small plane, like this one I was in last June (shown landing in Friday Harbor, WA). But it might take a little convincing to get me into a plane built by high school students!

The lunch session included several speakers, and the highlight for me was Barrington Irving, Jr., whose personal story involved an unlikely change in career aspirations; he had a football scholarship to the University of Florida, but changed his mind after a chance encounter with an airline pilot. Look him up for more information, but the best part is that he has shifted his focus to education, and does some really impressive work that helps students become motivated, especially in STEM education. He challenged a group of students to build an airplane and then go for a flight in it – talk about your high-stakes authentic assessment of learning!

After lunch I attended a session about teacher leadership and social media. The co-presenters were Taryl Hansen of the Arizona K12 Center for professional development, and Mike Lee, another Arizona education leader, now working with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. I learned a few good tips and tricks I might be able to use and share later, but appreciated that they both emphasized that social media engagement in teacher leadership is not just about metics (“Likes” and views and retweets and shares) but also about high quality engagement, deeper and stronger ties that give virtual communities their power.

More tomorrow, including my own presentation about our district approach to improving professional development (Session F38 if you happen to be here). Watch Twitter for tweets from @LearningForward and using the hashtag #LearnFwd14.

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