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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Heart in Ed Tech? You Bet!

A real Alaska Bushman.
He's available for parties.
As many of you know, last month I had the opportunity to visit Anchorage, Alaska to work with teachers in the newly created Alaska's Learning Network. I was excited about this opportunity for two reasons. One, I had never been to Alaska and it's always nice to go somewhere new. Two, when looking at the agenda for the two and one half days it looked like there was going to be a lot of time for participants to actually dig-in and try out new things.

I arrived in Anchorage in the late afternoon, checked into my hotel and sent a text to AKLN's executive director Steve Pine to confirm dinner plans. While waiting for Steve I was met by Christina Hum, Ryan Stanley, Shelby Burrous, and many of the program's participants. On the walk to dinner with the group (about 35 people in total) I knew that this wasn't your everyday ed tech workshop. What was different about this group? Everyone there had to apply to participate. Being accepted meant that all your expenses were paid for participation (in most cases this meant airfare - sometimes in bush planes - hotels, and meals) and you could earn graduate credit at no cost. So I had to ask how they chose people for this opportunity, Ryan told me, "we didn't look for people with technical skills, we looked for people that had the heart for learning."
AKLN Staff at Thursday night's dinner.
Friday morning I took the stage to give a short presentation about three tiers of technology integration. It was an intimate setting that really allowed me to read the room as I talked. What I noticed most in the eyes of those in attendance was curiosity. Most of the folks in attendance were very new to Web 2.0 tools and I would have understood if they had looks of confusion, but they didn't, they were curious. Ryan's criteria of "heart for learning" showed in the people AKLN selected.

After my presentation I spent the next couple of hours going from table to table talking and working with program participants. It was great to have some one-on-one time to follow-up with people who had questions and wanted to learn more about things I mentioned in my presentation. I truly wish that I had had more time to meet with everyone in attendance. At the end of my time with AKLN I walked away with the feeling that this was an exciting group of teacher learners and their students are going to benefit from having them as teachers. What made this happen? People who have the heart for being teacher learners and time to dig-in and try the things presented to them. Too often PD is a day of prescribed activities that have no immediate (if any) value to the educators forced to endure them. That is not the case at AKLN. If you're looking for a model of effective PD look no further than the 49th state in the US.
AKLN teachers digging-in to try out new tools for their classrooms.