On Monday, I will be part of a caravan crossing Pennsylvania en route to the NCEA 2014 Convention and Expo (#NCEA14).  This is my fourth NCEA Convention (Philadelphia ’05, Boston ’12, Houston ’13 and now Pittsburgh ’14) and it is the third where I have the privilege to present.  On the eve of this busy week, I wanted to share why attending this convention is so meaningful for me.


1) Shared Mission  As a teacher in a Catholic school, it is a unique and special opportunity to spend time with others “working in the vineyard.”  In March, Pope Francis tweeted his gratitude for Catholic teachers with the words, “Let us thank all those who teach in Catholic schools. Educating is an act of love; it is like giving life.”   This followed up his words in November, his first remarks on Catholic Education, when he wrote, “We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data—all treated as being of equal importance—and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment.  In response, we need to provide for our students an experience that fosters critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.”  How powerful it is to have one convention with its attendees devoted to increasing critical thinking and developing moral values as an act of love!  This faith and fervor is perhaps a major reason while the liturgies at NCEA are always so moving.


2) Shared Innovation  Catholic schools across the country are laboratories for innovation.  NCEA 2014 lends itself to fostering an environment where innovation is championed and shared.  The tracks of the convention such as Research, Technology, Governance, and Strategic Planning offer many sessions that herald cutting edge ideas to continue growth in this fast-paced 21st Century.  The keynote speakers are Cardinal Donald  Wuerl of Washington, a Pittsburgh native, and former chairperson of the NCEA Board of Directors and Dr. Robert Marzano, author of The Art and Science and Teaching.  These speakers frame the daily sessions, delivered by cutting-edge Catholic educators from across the country.   In these sessions, attendees are certain to find strategies and best practices to benefit students and schools.  Innovation does not thrive under a bushel basket, it is best when shared.

3) Shared Friendships  The last reason is profoundly personal.  At this gathering, I renew relationship with dedicated educators from across the country.  From Florida to Nebraska to Texas to California, I can now count on meeting dear friends from across the country at NCEA.  In nearly twenty years, the only times I have seen a college friend of mine are at NCEA; not once, but twice.  In recent years, some of the professional and personal relationships I have built on line for my professional learning network are cemented at NCEA.   That professional connection, leveraged through tweets and comments on blog posts, becomes very real when sharing a laugh or two face-to-face at NCEA.  As valuable as the learning is at NCEA, sharing a laugh or two with a friend is just as important.

Whatever your reason for attending #NCEA14, may it bring you both professional and personal joy, and maybe I’ll see you at a session or two.

Twitter Tuesday: Students Finding Their Voice

In case you don’t know this already, today is Tuesday.  Twitter Tuesday, that is.

In our AP United States Government and Politics class, also known as #arapgov12, every Tuesday is Twitter Tuesday.

Every Tuesday, at the beginning of class, the students Tweet in response to a prompt.  It’s the warm up assignment, but really it’s much more than that.

It’s about students finding their voice online.  Students who find a voice that is public and transparent.  Students who grow in confidence to us that voice again and again and again.

At times, I hear people lament about the “youth of today.”  Apathetic. Lazy.  Selfish.  Inappropriate. Self-interested.  I hear that lament, but I respectfully disagree.   To those who worry about the youth of today, I invite them to follow the conversations generated by #arapgov12.

In these conversations, I see students who are finding their voice.  I see students who care.  I see students who get involved in the conversation.  I see students who are far from perfect but who are eager to contribute.  I see students who have a sense of humor and know how to use it (most of the time).  I see students who are Tweeting seven days a week, not just on Tuesday.  I see hope.

In an age where social media use by our young is pervasive and growing, why not use a medium like Twitter to grow positive student involvement online?  Why not help our students build their digital footprint?  Instead of blasting the web as a cultural wasteland, why not direct students in a way that provides genuine and real contributions to the conversation?   If this where our students are anyway, let’s show the way.

It’s Twitter Tuesday, after all.

Be a Connected Educator

For teachers, at times, the classroom can be a lonely place.  In an effort to bring teachers out of isolation, schools and districts have brought teachers together in one venue for professional development.  PD, at its best can be exciting and inspiring, allowing teachers to interact, collaborate, and arm them with new and innovative ideas.  At its worst, PD can be boring; a time waster, where teachers are spoken at in a warehouse setting, with little hope of collaboration or inspiration.

In their recently published book, The Connected Educator: Leading and Learning in a Digital Age, authors and educators Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall provide a road map to guide teachers to connectivity in the ever-changing world. Nussbaum-Beach and Hall use their years of practical experience and unique understanding of our changing times to give teachers powerful ways to break through the isolation of a solitary classroom to use powerful resources: one another through powerful technological tools.

The authors recognize that teachers are at different places with their own teaching, learning, and comfort with technology.  To meet teachers where they are during their own individual journies, each chapter is systematic in its approach and provides three common sections:

-Where Are We?

-Where to Now?

-Get Connected

To engage the reader, the chapters also present the authors’ personal stories and “Think About” boxes.  This approach enables the reader to learn and grow through a conversation yet professional style with the authors.  This book truly provides professional development that is interactive and engaging.  It gives the teachers the tools to travel down their best avenue for PD.

As we begin 2012 and want to learn and grow as educators and learners, The Connected Educator, is a necessary “How to Guide” and a must have for our personal and professional libraries, Kindles or iPads.  Be a connected educator!

Dusting Off My Google Reader

     Like an old college textbook, my Google Reader has been left on the shelf to gather dust.

     Not a lot of dust, but dust nonetheless.

     Why did this important piece of Web 2.0 technology get cast aside into the dustbin of cyberspace?

      Blame it on Twitter.

      My use of Twitter to expand my learning network pushed my Google Reader out of the way like a Slinky on December 26 or a Betamax.  All of the bloggers I followed were Tweeting their little hearts out and when I need more information, I relied on the good old fashion favorite bar or (gasp) I even just typed out the URL.  Actually, I was happy, or, better put, I didn’t know what I was missing.

     As part of the PLP Pregame activity, I dusted off my Google Reader.  What a happy reunion it was!  There was my news feed, rolling down the page in an organized manner.  There were my hand-picked bloggers, busting out tomes that were over 140 characters!  I immediately felt guilty for cheating on my G-Reader.

     Here’s a thought: my Google Reader can complement Twitter.  Both can complement the other to create something more exciting, a happy accident, like chocolate and peanut butter.  So Google Reader, I pledge to never shelve you again.  I pledge to use to enhance my PLN.  I pledge to not cast you aside like a busted Slinky.