Most Memorable Blog Posts of the Year – 2013

Last year I wrote a post with the same title. Of all my posts, this one garnered the most views. I think one reason is it was about other people and not about me. I also think it gave educators who were new to social media a short list of who was connected. Whatever the reason, the post was popular.

That’s why I am doing it again, on the “blogiversary” of my own webspace. For two years now, I have been posting my thoughts, aspirations, and reflections regarding education. The following posts have helped me become a better learner, a better writer, and a better person. I curate them here so they are easily accessible for you and me.

Note: All of the bloggers from last year’s post are not included here. I could have, but I didn’t. My goal was to bring more diversity to our personal learning networks.

Why I Don’t Show Movies Before Breaks by John Spencer (@edrethink)

John’s message about treating his instructional time as sacred is refreshing. Through his post he shows how much he thinks not only about his classroom, but what his students will be doing once they are dismissed. John’s beliefs about learning and the strong message he quietly delivers to his students sets a strong example for any educator as they prepare for learning.

Beginnings by Lyn Hilt (@lynhilt)

Lyn reflects in this post about where she has been and where she wants to be. Her life was disrupted in the best of ways (her first child). Lyn could have rationalized why the lack of time she had did not allow her to stay connected. Instead, she reexamined why she was connected in the first place. While she conceded that there was a recycling of information within her current PLN, she looked forward to the positivity that newly connected educators bring to her professional life. A great post about priorities.

Necessary by Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann)

This post completely describes my own philosophy about technology. We use these great tools for learning, but too often neglect to share how we use them with students. As Chris states, it is no longer about adding these technologies to the classroom to provide students with additional/better learning opportunities. These devices and connections should be an expectation.

Sometimes It’s Hard by Shelley Wright (@wrightsroom)

What I most appreciated about Shelley’s post is her complete honesty about the challenges of being connected. She admits that it is harder work. But she also believes that it is the right kind of work. I imagine Shelley plans her instruction each week thinking of herself as a student in her own classroom: Would I be engaged in this lesson? Will this motivate me to reach for my potential? This is a mindset that all educators would be wise to emulate.

Read Aloud as Intervention (Part 1) by Jan Burkins & Kim Yaris (@burkinsandyaris)

Reading aloud is something that is very important to me, as an educator and as a parent. I have seen and experienced the direct results of this powerful practice with my former students and my own children. As a principal, it is something I continue to model in classrooms. What these two educators do is highlight a story that shows how this simple practice can change lives in our most reluctant and/or incapable readers. Their final question (“Why is read aloud rarely considered a valid intervention in RtI?”) should give any teacher or administrator pause as we consider what is best for our students in the quest for being evidence-based.

Tech’s Best Feature: The Off Switch by Tiffany Shlain (@tiffanyshlain)

After reading this post, along with William Powers’ bestseller Hamlet’s Blackberry, I have committed to taking one day off a week from being connected. I don’t check Twitter, email, or Facebook. I read real books and articles on real paper. It gives my mind a day (usually Sunday) time to recharge and reflect, as well as being more present for my family. This exercise in self-discipline has helped me keep my personal and professional life in balance. I recommend that all educators take tech sabbaticals. Your brain will thank you.

2nd Graders Teach Our Senior Citizens by Merri Beth Kudrna (@mbkudrna)

This post could easily be read and forgotten. It shouldn’t. Merri Beth’s description of how 2nd graders taught senior citizens how to use iPads is exactly where we want to position our students – as agents and owners of their own learning. My favorite part of this post is when the students deviated from the script and individualizing their instruction for their “students”.

PowerPoint and Other Stone Age Tools by Sean Junkins (@sjunkins)

This post is not necessarily a knock on PowerPoint alone, but on outdated practices in general. Sean questions the lag that some educators have shown in implementing these tools for engagement. Sean is also a great person to follow on Twitter, sharing relevant thinking as well as consistently recommending newly connected educators.

Junk Food, Brain Food, Soul Food by Shelley Krause (@butwait)

I appreciate Shelley’s question: Is all screen time created equal? I have asked myself this same thing with my own kids. She smartly compares two similar activities, one with technology included and one without, and asks, What’s the difference? My wife and I do our best to keep our kid at or below a two hour screen time limit per day. But Shelley is right to question the effects. We are no longer comparing apples to apples.

The Dynamics of Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson (@sirkenrobinson)

How Sir Ken Robinson writes is how he talks (and thinks, I presume). He provides a clear perspective into the lives of creative learners in the 21st century. I appreciate his astute observations of how innovations can lead to unanticipated creative work by others. Sir Ken calls on all educators to create learning environments that encourage imagination and risk taking.

Assessment Transformations: Going Digital by Cathy Mere (@cathymere)

Do you know a person who seems to be one step ahead of everyone else? For me, that person is Cathy Mere. She uses technology such as Evernote in a way that allows her to be responsive to and accountable for student learning in a way that was not possible even five years ago. Cathy is constantly pushing the envelope for what’s possible with digital assessment.

Bad to Good and Good to Great by Michael Petrilli (@michaelpetrilli)

Michaal is an executive vice president of the Fordham Institute. In this post, he describes how choice and charters could better serve all students. I appreciated his willingness to share how his thinking has changed regarding complete autonomy of schools. Michael’s ideas on alternative school assessments are innovative.

When SMART Goals are Useless by Justin Baeder (@eduleadership)

Justin rethinks the use of SMART goals in this post. His concerns about lack of follow through or not tying the goal to strategies that will lead a team to success are legitimate. “A goal without a strategy is only useful for motivating yourself, not for changing the behavior of large groups of people.” Smart advice.

Appreciating Growth Mindset on the Baseball Field by Clare Landrigan (@clareandtammy)

I’ll admit, I am a sucker for sports analogies. Clare, co-author of Assessment in Perspective (Stenhouse, 2013) compares the day-to-day formative assessment her son’s baseball coach provides with classroom feedback teachers should be providing for their students. Athletics has much to teach the observant educator.

Why We Need Principals by Shira Liebowitz (@shiraleibowitz)

I was finally acquainted with John Hattie’s necessary resource, Visible Learning, through Shira’s post. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the large effect that principals have on their schools when they act as a learning leader. Not only did I purchase Hattie’s books because of this post, but I felt affirmed about sitting alongside my teachers during professional development.

The Power of Choice by Joe Sanfelippo (@joesanfelippofc)

Joe showcases his leadership skills here as he describes how he organized an Edcamp-style professional development day for seven surrounding school districts, including his own. It must be inspiring for Fall Creek staff to see their superintendent taking the lead in teacher training. Joe is an excellent example of what it means to be a lead learner.

So there you have it. Sixteen posts from sixteen bloggers that have made an impact on me. I hope you find, just as I do, that their thinking makes you smarter.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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