Monday, June 16, 2014

"Innovator" Reflections, Part 1 -- "Innovator of the Month" at THE Journal--Honored, I am.

It's been awhile. I've been very busy with my work and more. Putting up our Summer School program at MNPS Virtual School, getting ready for ISTE, preparing for an upcoming EduTalk Radio interview, prepping for a June 26 webinar for THE Journal, and living life with a wife whose entrepreneurial efforts at TinWings are maxing out her time and our world!

I've also been fishing:

Catfish at Marrowbone Lake from a rented canoe

So. An editor from THE Journal, a leading publication for technology in education, emailed a query to do a phone interview because "someone" had suggested I might be a likely candidate for their ongoing "Innovator of the Month" article. This was clear out of the blue for me, and I tentatively responded affirmatively. Any given month, we're innovating at my work, as the process of building a lasting, viable, and valid online public virtual school moves along its path.

I've done my share of innovating over the past couple of decades, once I found my own path, mid-life, as an educator. Back when I was teaching 3rd grade at University School of Nashville I collaborated with a friend newly found on, Darrick Mosser, to build what they now call Project Based Learning between my 3rd graders in Nashville and his 4th graders in Japan. To do the videoconferencing part of this, I strung 50 feet of telephone line from the nearest telephone, in the office of the Learning Specialist, to my classroom, stringing it through the dropped ceiling tiles of the hallways and dropping it to my classroom Mac, on which I had installed CUSeeMe. The students met to meet their already established ePals penpals (Darrick's kids in an classroom overnight sleepover, brave man), and together we thought about what we were going to do over the coming months. We set out an interview project, focused on the time of America's Great Depression, and together brainstormed some questions everyone would ask their "elder," someone who had lived through that time. We decided everyone would produce a portrait of their elder and a portrait of themselves and write out their interview questions and their answers and we would publish this on the internet. Only then it was the Internet. We named our project "ElderQuest."

Finally, we set a date for another classroom sleepover when we would meet again to celebrate. We did, and I put up everything on the school's website (long taken down but archived somewhere on an old hard drive), and then we moved on to cursive writing. Those were the days, well before the Lower School moved on to standardize what was going on at the grade level at any time, all in the service of common practice. I don't think ElderQuest or something so organically developed would be possible today in any classroom, public or private, though I think it should be. Those were the days that the art of teaching trumped the dictated, orchestrated practice of it.

Anyway, I"m doing the EduTalk Radio show interview live on the 19th, this Thursday, and it's to be focused on my current work. What I intend to do each morning until then (just innovated during the writing of this post) is to think back on what got me here, and to write about something I did that I consider could be thought of as "innovative," one per day until I'm played out. If it goes past Thursday, it can be a resource for my related webinar on Thursday the 26th, titled "Starting and Maintaining an Online School." This'll be fun. For me, anyway.

Here are the links to the live (then both will be archived) events this and next week:

Education Talk Radio (will be linked there Thursday, June 19, and live at 11:00am CDT).
Starting and Maintaining a Virtual School, Thursday, June 26, at 3pm CDT. You can register now!

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