Tag Archives: Tom Whitby

Talking #ILEdChat

I’ve developed this pattern of reflecting on the awesomeness that comes from my Personal Learning Network (PLN) Monday nights at 9 p.m. CST. This is right about the time #iledchat wraps up for the week. We’ve just passed the 5 month point since we started a weekly chat initially rooted in Illinois education topics. ‘We’ includes the planning team of me, Jill Maraldo, Kevin Rubenstein, Bob Abrams, and other educators from both within and outside of Illinois who are so gracious to join us in learning. Sometimes the conversations mean encouraging and agreeing, and sometimes they mean challenging and pushing back; often they include both. I know we learn from both, for sure. Just tonight, we were glad to welcome Chris Wejr from a couple time zones away as we talked about awards in schools; be sure to check out his blog for some thought-provoking reads.

Leading up to the start of #iledchat, a few factors coincided:

  • I’d started a Google doc to track local educators that used Twitter. I loved connecting with educators from all over the globe, but my curiosity also led me to see what local people were Twitter users. 
  • I had gotten more involved in my region of the Illinois Principals Association, so I was both connecting with more people in person and wanting to share the amazing connections and resources that they could access.
  • Illinois administrators had just endured the evaluation training modules and we were getting ready to administer the 5Essentials survey to our staff and our parents, both were a little stressful and uncertain.
  • I’d noticed and jumped in on some other state Twitter chats like #IAedchat; you can find a list of many chats here. Months prior to that, I’d had my first chat experience with #PTchat.

When Jill asked if I’d like to be part of a team to start this, I didn’t hesitate at all. Backing up to that #iledchat team, I’d only met Bob in person before this started. I met Jill a full month later, and I’ve yet to meet Kevin face-to-face. Weekly, however, we collaborate on a shared document, share resources, and offer both positive and critical feedback to one another as we prepare to facilitate the chat. I’ve been excited to have other local colleagues join in the fun, too, as they reached out as newly connected educators.  We’ve also added a Google+ community where you can find our chat archives each week along with related resources! Check it out and feel free to share there, too.

We tackled the 5Essentials survey as our first topic(Coincidentally, those results just came out.). Like tonight, though, many topics are global in nature, and I enjoy learning about school systems in other states and countries. Both local and global topics benefit from sharing varied perspectives. You can check out the much larger #edchat and some thoughts from Tom Whitby for the background on that, too.

If you found this post through Illinois Principals Association and a chat is new to you, check out these resources to learn more about participating in a chat. You can also use the #iledchat hashtag throughout the week to share. Again, while this has enhanced my global network, it has also undoubtedly enhanced my local network. That translates, in simplest form, to enriching my school community through people, resources, examples, and conversations of what is truly possible as we seek to best serve our kids. Thanks to everyone who has joined us and we’re excited for those of you who will join us in moving forward in connection, reflection, and action!

Using the ‘A’

Last weekend I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the ASCD’s annual conference in Chicago, just a short drive away. This conference boasted some amazing speakers, but it also provided an opportunity to simply spend time with educators I’ve met through my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter. Outside of the prescribed conference sessions, I enjoyed meals and conversation (and even a little karaoke) with some educators who have pushed my thinking and helped me see what is really possible when we work together and encourage one another.  I was also with some educators I have the privilege of working with on a regular basis in my local school district and immediate community.

Perhaps one of the best ‘non-session’ conference sessions came in the final hours of the conference when my assistant principal and friend, Katy Schafermeyer, and I sat to catch up and talk about what we had experienced over the course of the weekend and what we might contribute at a future conference. Before long we were sitting with George Couros and Tom Whitby talking about being connected educators and the compelling need to share with one another for the sake of improving our practice. George and I had connected on Twitter and met in person at the ISTE Leadership Forum. Tom and I also had connected on Twitter through mutual acquaintances and met in person the day before we served on a connected educator panel at the ICE Conference earlier this month.

In the hour and a half or so we spent together, George talked to us about staring Connected Principals and Tom shared about the beginning of #EdChat. Before long, what started as reflection moved on to action. For Katy, it meant starting her own blog. Over the course of this school year, Katy got started with Twitter. George’s perspective that afternoon reinforced that people who don’t know Katy could learn from her through the public sharing a blog provides. We talked about some of the ‘uncomfortable-ness’ that comes with public declaration of our thoughts. A barrier to my own writing has sometimes been my concern with making a blog post a finished piece of work rather than simply my thoughts at a point in time or an experience I’d like to share. I’d also sometimes  gone from considering too many topics to write about to not writing about any at all. Interestingly, I believe that the steps I’ve taken with blogging and Twitter have made me much more comfortable, confident, and purposeful in some face-to-face conversations with other educators.

For me, that time with Katy, George, and Tom also resulted in changing my Twitter handle and moving my blog to my own domain. That’s where the ‘A’ comes in to the story. My principal title was part of both my blog address and my Twitter identity as I used @principalkmelt.  As George and Tom explained, changing both to a version of my name allows for me to claim that space for the long term regardless of the role I hold and makes me more easily remembered and accessible to others. Likewise, that change keeps the focus on me as a learner rather than me as a title. Admittedly, I got a little held up on the Kathy A. part, as I’d rarely used my middle initial, especially without my full name of Kathleen. So I could continue to think about it and possibly lose that space or I could go for it. Why not?!

Learning a new blog platform has been challenging, but the key is that I don’t have to learn it on my own. In the past couple of days, I’ve reached out for help and recommendations and have not fallen short on replies (Thanks, too, to Dean Shareski!). When thinking about my PLN, I am consistently amazed at the willingness of individuals to share their time and their resources with people, in some cases, they have seldom or never met face-to-face. At the core of that willingness is an unwavering commitment to support learners in the ranks of students, parents, and educators.  I want in on that. You should want in on that, too. That ‘A’ (stands for Ann, in case you were wondering..) now reminds me to take that Action.