Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

cc licensed image shared by flikr user pulihora

Forty two million new web pages were created last year and educational technology expert Adam Bellow recommended in a session at ISTE (Interational Symposium on Tech Education) trying just one. Perhaps small is the new huge.

Thinking small, or rather thinking focused, is an initially counterintuitive insight to have taken from a conference of the massive scope of ISTE. I went to San Diego, guided by numerous blog posts on how to avoid being overwhelmed by the immensity of the event: plan “must dos” in advance, leave time for serendipitous conversations, and wear comfortable shoes so as to be able to cover as much ground as possible at least literally if not figuratively.

Taking the advice seriously, I planned my ISTE strategy, making the deliberate decision to  veer away from the “big names” of ed tech (although I couldn’t resist learning at sessions with several ed tech leaders whose writings have guided me). Instead, I sought to connect mostly with by no means “small names” but with important voices not necessarily acclaimed; in the trenches teachers striving to make a positive difference in their schools by integrating technology to improve the quality of learning for their students. I was profoundly inspired by the array of talent among presenting teachers who are engaging students in blogging, electronic portfolios, collaborative writing, multimedia presentations, and global collaborations. I was similarly impressed by the tremendous ability and accomplishment of participants at the conference learning together.  I  found guidance and wisdom in areas of great interest to me.

I returned home and reflected, intending to make some initial decisions on how I might bring my learning at ISTE back to my school, wondering whether I as a principal might potentially teach courses in which students create and collaborate through blogging and electronic portfolios.  Instead of rushing forward with plans, I gave myself permission to slow down and with the more relaxed pace of summer, allow learnings at ISTE to unfold and take shape in my mind without deadline. As the days and weeks passed, and the blog posts I intended to write about my experiences at ISTE swam in my head without making their way quickly into writing, I kept hearing the conversation beneath the conversation at ISTE – the passion of teachers, the gratitude toward principals who nurture and support teachers’ passions, and the frustration with principals who do not nurture and support teachers’ passions as effectively as they might.

I had come to ISTE with the essential question “how can I as a principal more effectively support teachers in my school to improve learning?” I wondered whether in answer to that essential question, the greatest insights might come not from the content of sessions, but rather from the emotions and longings teachers expressed quietly between the lines and beneath the content of sessions. I imagined what teachers at my school might present at a conference like ISTE and recognized a plethora of possibilities: using interactive white boards interactively in kindergarten and first grade, ipads as assistive technology for special education students, social media with training wheels: edmodo as a tool to introduce elementary school students to on-line creative collaboration,  engaging families and students in learning through engaging teacher web pages, from voice threads to voki: giving voice to student voice, and flipping the classroom for the tech tentative teacher. The potential for creating a platform for teachers to share and to shine was sounding more and more  compelling.

Paradoxically, perhaps the greatest gift I received at the ISTE mega conference was a new set of lenses through which to look at professional learning; focusing on small as the new huge. Forty two million new web pages were created last year. Even the most tech tentative among us can try just one.  Perhaps that humble beginning will make a potent difference. Perhaps, just perhaps, small is the new huge.

Comments on: "Perhaps Small Is The New Huge" (10)

  1. “Small is the new huge” is a felicitous phrase to say the least. I applaud your sensitivity and serious thinking regarding your ISTE experience – and I envy your teachers for your vision and leadership. Kol Hakavode Lach!

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Thanks so much for the encouragement! I am hoping to make it a year of “small is huge”; celebrating successes and experimenting with a playful spirit.

  2. Jennifer said:

    What truly thoughtful reflections! I am still wrapping my mind around the all that I learned from ISTE, and your insights have inspired me to start by looking at the “small.”. Thank you!

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      It has taken me so much time to wrap my mind around all I learned at ISTE and to consider ways of making real progress without being overwhelmed or overwhelming others. I’m heartened by the possibility of thinking small in order to achieve large. Please keep me posted on your insights. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

  3. I am glad that you decided to post your thoughts here. I love the attitude that you took to ISTE. It is a principle that we all could apply to our individual experiences. Your blog captured my approach to developing a PLN on Twitter. One step at a time. I am very glad that I came across this blog.

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Hi Dave,
      I’m very glad you came across the blog as well. Working step by step to develop a PLN, or to implement any new practice, is wise. And, over time, as we measure the impact of each step, we do make great progress. Thanks for the feedback!

  4. Faige Meller said:

    We encourage and applaud children with their little steps, maybe that’s a good place to start with anything that appears overwhelming. Not everyone can jump into the water with both feet and hope for the best. We each must find ways that’s a “good fit” for us. Starting small worked for me and helps me take more and more steps. I benefit and my kindergarten children as well, I think.

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Hi Faige,
      Permission to encourage and applaud ourselves for our little steps is a gift I hope to embrace more fully. Your experience inspires and I appreciate the ongoing sharing. Thank you!

  5. Hi Shira,
    great to finally meet you at ISTE. Thanks for this post. I agree, despite the overwhelming amount of resources/ideas/technology offered at ISTE (and many other conferences), translating all of that into the day-to-day life of a school is challenging. I like your suggestion–of thinking about how your teachers would “fit” at ISTE and what your school might share. This vision is aspirational too–not only considering what teachers could share now, but also what steps would be necessary so that the faculty could share and contribute more in the future. I look forward to following how all of this develops…

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Hi Renee,
      It was great to meet you at ISTE as well! Striving to look at our school’s vision through the eyes of individual teachers and individual students has the potential to propel us forward with a balance of energy and support; dreams and celebrations of strengths. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, sometimes we must travel far to recognize how much we have at home. I look forward to continuing our sharing.

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