It takes a village

Last week I had my midyear review with my principal. Happy to report that it went swimmingly. During our discussion she asked me how I stay so current on research and new technology in education. It was a simple answer – my PLN.

In Alec’s talk about connectivity last week he offered a definition he uses for PLN. While I think that it is fine for people to have definitions, what seems more important to me is that they are productive. Some people “google” for lesson ideas, I ask my PLN. Without my PLN I would spend a great deal of time recreating the wheel. Without my PLN I would probably never have made it to my first Edcamp, or my second, to which I roadtripped with a few fantastic educators I had met in person only once or twice but felt connected to thanks to Twitter. Without my PLN I am not sure that I would be able to maintain my same level of passion or drive as an educator. Without my PLN I would not be as excited about being a part of the inaugural #PLAYDATE happening next Saturday in three cities. Without my PLN I would probably spend a lot more time reading chicklit instead of the constant barrage of brilliance that presents itself in my Twitter stream.

As educators we often get locked into the classroom, both physically and metaphorically. The stresses of a lesson gone bad or a student that manages to irk every fiber of our being can become the whole focus of our experience. Our successes might be celebrated between a few colleagues with whom we have lunch but the reflection opportunity is quickly covered by the other important gossip or disaster of the day. In order to feel connection, we have to make a connection beyond the walls of our school buildings. We have to provide ourselves with a network of people that will share our experiences, celebrate our successes and provide feedback and support in times of need. It is often said that it takes a village to raise children. It is equally important to remember that teachers need a village of teachers who support one another and help each other be better and stay passionate. Thank you to my village.

Making Learning Visible

In the intro session last night (which I missed but felt like I did not thanks to the power of social learning!), we were asked to consider what makes learning visible. This is where my thoughts went…

This year MA instituted a new teacher evaluation system. Part of the system is that we have to identify a student learning goal, which is meant to be explored and achieved in collaboration with our prof. learning community. We also have to identify a professional learning goal, which is meant to be an individual focus. For both of my goals I have chosen to focus on assessment. This is ironic because, in general, the word makes my skin crawl. When I analyze why that is, I realize that it is not the process of reflection and critique that I loathe, but that in MA it has boiled down to MCAS and preparing for MCAS. Scantrons and unit tests ad nauseum to see if kids are “ready” for the standardized comprehensive exam. (Yes, Common Core will be replacing this, but until I see otherwise, I have no reason to believe that the change in curriculum & assessment name is going to affect the high stakes testing.) What I am trying to evaluate as I work on my goals over the course of the school year is how I can make assessment meaningful to students, and to me as a reflective practioner.  To me, this is what making learning visible is all about. We as educators should be able to create opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding in a way that is visible for reflection and critique; and in turn, the learning, as well as the assessment, should be visible to the learner themselves so that they can be reflective as well.

Some of the questions/thoughts that are guiding my consideration of assessment and learning, and that I would like to consider throughout this course, are:

* Not a point in time capture, but a series of moments and experiences that document our growth and our understanding

* What role does a portfolio have in reflection and deepen learning?

* What role does assessment have in reflection? What does the assessment have to look like to be meaningful? (This is the focus of my professional learning goal this year.)

 

Introductions

Hello! My name is Tracy Sockalosky and I am currently an Instructional Technology specialist in Natick, MA. I  had promised myself in the fall that I would slow down in the winter. It is working out well so far! I am super excited about this course, though. I have spent a great deal of time working on teaching others, both children in my classroom, as well as teachers, that I want to take the time to focus on my own learning. I am most interested in the ways that technology can promote critical thinking and higher order thinking skills in the K-8 classrooms.

About me, I have been in education for almost 15 years. I began as an 8th grade US History teacher at a school for students with language-based learning disabilities (primarily dyslexia), worked at the same school as the Ed Tech Director and am now an Instructional Technology Specialist at a middle school in Natick, MA. In my “free time” I like to work with teachers on integrating technology into their curriculum, and teach workshops in the summer with EdTechTeacher.

I am also an unconference junkie. Thanks to seeing a tweet from Liz Davis back in 2011, I signed up for EdCamp Boston. Last year I was lucky enough to join the organizing team. I have the pleasure of working on the EdCampBLC team as well. And in a few weeks, on 2/9, I will be chairing the committee for the first PlayDate Boston, a new type of unconference conceived by an amazing group of educators from Chicago.  Very excited about it!

And of course, my most important job is being a mom to three very energetic and amazing kids. My oldest is in 2nd grade this year and her experience in public school thus far has only driven me further in my passion to create meaningful learning opportunities for students, and change the direction public education has taken.

 

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My husband

My family

My extended family