Category Archives: Teacher Education

The Problem With Privilege in Higher Education: Walking Away from Promotion and Tenure

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 12.25.32 PMAs I reflect on my growth as a learner and an educator this year, I am compelled to share my story since I spent the last decade of my professional career in higher education. Even though I was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, I walked away from it all at the end of the fall semester. Why? Perhaps it’s because my learning curve is always in the curved position and it was time for me to learn new things in a new environment or because I know I can create more substantial change outside of a tenure track position?

The truth is there’s a privilege about being an academic and I no longer wanted to be a part of it. With privilege comes exclusion and I want to be a part of an inclusive community. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for academics, my problem lies with the institution.

During my ten years, it was generally the adjuncts who brought real-world experiences to our college campus not the tenured faculty. There was a glaring disconnect between the traditional (tenure track) faculty and today’s networked students. Unfortunately, the lecture is still alive and well, as is the statement in syllabi to ensure devices are off and not visible during class. This was not the case in my courses. I never passed out a syllabus on the first class, in fact no papers were ever passed out (I was a paperlesss professor) and I encouraged devices. We live tweeted in class, connected with experts on Skype and Google Hangout and participated in as many connected learning opportunities as possible.

My call to arms for more connected teacher educators, Wired for Collaboration highlighted why higher education is no longer “higher” when it comes to innovation.

This week, this tweet is the impetus of this blog post.

I love that this is happening since I implemented iMentors, virtual mentors from my PLN into my teacher prep courses in the fall of 2011. But again, I question why this is not coming from higher education? This latest innovation is coming from the startup, Edconnective. Last week I blogged about education being more like a startup and this confirms I made the right move to walk away in December.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 2.07.06 PMAs I said during my Connected Teacher Educator presentation at ISTE 2015, I am a connected learner who thrives in an active learning community. I will always see myself as a connected teacher educator whether I am in higher education or not because empowering teachers empowers students.

Just recently, I presented at a university and a full professor shared with me, “You just brought the UNIVERSE to our university.” I thanked him and shared how I had just recently left higher ed and he said with a smile, “Well, you can’t keep a saddle on a maverick.”

As I reflect on my decision to leave a tenured track position, I continue to question the status quo and privilege in higher education and look forward to the conversation that will result from this post.

Trolls & Trolling: How Do We Empower Others?

This post is for Curt Schilling. You are my #digcit hero and an all-star dad. I want to share your story with other educators, students, administrators and parents on a digital citizenship (#digcit) chat on Twitter on 3/11/15 between 7-8PM ET and I hope you’ll join us.

In 2011, I co-founded the #digcit chat with one of my graduate students. The chat was a direct result of the digital citizenship course I created and taught at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, the #digcit chat connects educators, students, administrators and parents from around the world.

I teach digital citizenship and digital literacy courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  Just recently, both my undergraduate and graduate students completed a #creepU assignment. It was a similar assignment to what you did to find the men responsible from sending the inappropriate tweets about your daughter. The students picked a school and examined public student accounts which lead them to multiple social media tools (which were all public). The #creepU assignment was a teachable moment and by no means was meant to shame the school or the students. Last month, we hosted a #creepU chat on Twitter to share our results and urge other teachers to assign the same assignment. Here’s the #digcit agenda from that chat and the archive from the actual chat. The big take-away from the assignment was that digital citizenship is a 24/7 conversation and must be taught in K-12 schools.

How do we help our students realize that your daughter could be their sister, cousin, neighbor? friend? Our students need to be mindful of the choices they make both on and offline and learn to humanize the person next to them, as well as across the screen. I believe it starts with teaching empathy and providing students opportunities to not just read and write about it, but to do it. We need to teach our students how to think and act simultaneously through a local, global and digital lens.

Next Wednesday, I’m going to host a #digcit chat on “Trolls & Trolling” and discuss the seriousness of it, how to prepare our students to handle it (and our teachers to teach it) and best practices on how to find and confront the troll(s). I hope that you will be able to join me and perhaps co-moderate the chat.

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PS: I’m a diehard Red Sox fan too and the only official team jersey I own has your name on it! I’ll be extra proud when I wear it again to Fenway because you have now empowered a global audience to stand up to cyberbullies and trolls! Props to you #38!

What Matters Most?

photo 1My big lesson tonight in class will be simple: Our students don’t care what we know – they care how much we care.

Work on building a community of learners every single day.  Build your foundation because without it – nothing else matters. Engage your students in what kindness looks like and feels like – have them do kindness.  I used to love to read The Araboolies of Liberty Street by Sam Swope in the beginning of each school year.  I’d ask my students what made them unique and like no other – just like the Araboolies?

In today’s data-driven, standards-based era – don’t overlook the importance of building a community in your classroom.  Carve out time each day to let your students know how much they matter and how much you care!


The Tweet Seen Around the World


Dear PLN:

Please help me show the power of Twitter during the 2013 International Education Week on our campus.  I’m presenting, “The Tweet Heard Around the World” and will be sharing the benefits of embedding social media into higher education with particular emphasis on teacher education.  It is my hope that my presentation will support the need for iCitizenship in teacher education to further support global collaboration with classrooms, students and teachers across the country and around the world via Twitter.

Please leave a comment below sharing where you are from and any comments. Also, I’d be most appreciative if you would RT this blog post to see if we can get it seen/heard around the world!

Thank you for sharing your time, talent and passion with the world!

*Here’s the link to the presentation I did for the 13th Annual International Week. This entire project has been so inspiring! My 7 year old was actively involved keeping a tally on all the locations that have responded.  He looked up every place on a world map and as a result started his first blog.  He wants to keep the geography lesson going, so please take a moment to visit his blog, Around the World With Curran and leave a comment where you are from and a fun fact about your location.  Make sure you see my son as a guest blogger for Angela Maier too!

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: Practicing What I Preach

One of my all-time favorite lines to say to students each semester is, “It’s time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable!”  I’ve consistently modeled this throughout my years of teaching and like to challenge myself on a regular basis.  Tonight was the perfect opportunity to embrace the uncomfortable….

One of our faculty members needed coverage in his math methods course and although I could break out in the hives just thinking about teaching math, I took the challenge and immediately volunteered to take the course for the night.  Why did I do this?  First and foremost, I have the disposition and willingness and secondly, I love a challenge!

Serious props to two amazing and innovative educators for inspiring me!  Hands down @KatrinaKennett has transform the way I teach.  I first met Katrina at EdCampCT and later at EdCampBoston when she ran a session with her high school students on how to host an EdCafe in your classroom.  I have completely embraced EdCafes in my teacher education courses.  Couple this approach with my #iMentor model and I have a winning combination.  A special thanks to @MrBrotherton, one of my iMentors for giving me the courage to see math through a new lens this semester.  His new #MathLiteracy course designed specifically around #MinecraftEdu was just the content I needed to prepare for tonight’s math methods course!

Tonight was a huge risk.  I did not know a single graduate student enrolled in the course and they knew nothing about me. How was I going to be able to build trust, help them unlearn traditional roles in education, and introduce math through social media?  Easy — introduce my PLN, Twitter, Math Literacy, EdCamps and Edcafes: Twitter Meets Math Literacy and EdCafe.  The best part of tonight?  Modeling and practicing what I preach!

As we embrace #ce13 #CEM, take time to try something new, something that makes you uncomfortable and own it, embrace it!  Model what it means to be a learner first and foremost – it is without a doubt, the best thing we can do for our students!