Edtech Camp: The Unconference

I was first introduced to Edtech Camp through a student in one of my classes a year ago.  She was one of those rare students whose enthusiasm bubbled forth without any effort.  I had assigned the students to start a blog and use it to examine each of the standards for school administrators in New Hampshire.  Many of the students were reluctant to “bare their souls” in such a forum and it took much coaching, listening and encouraging to get them going.  But Jennifer was so excited!  She had learned how to blog in another course, but hadn’t started her own.  She was a regular on Twitter, Facebook, and all that Google has to offer and had built up an incredible professional network.  We all knew that she will would far.  One day she came to class and told us about an Edtech Boot Camp she attended that Saturday.  It sounded pretty intense, exciting,  and somewhat insane (in a good sort of way).

This past spring I attended my first Edtech Camp in Cambridge along with 200 other educational enthusiasts.  It was a great day.  I met some new people who were so excited to share what they are doing.  I ran into an old “student” of mine who is now a principal.  We had lunch together and enjoyed catching up.

Edtech Camps are built from the bottom up.  There is no planning agenda, just a blank matrix on a large wall and once the go-ahead is given, anyone can sign up for a time to meet with others who want to talk about a topic.  There are no “real” presentations, as everyone in the room has the ability to speak, add their own”take” on things.    Most of the workshops were related technology, but others were discussions on education today, how to motivate students, how to get students to “own” their learning.  Teachers working in K-16 classrooms attended.

It’s free!  You get coffee and a bit of continental breakfast and lunch.  You are encouraged to do your own thing.  If you want to skip a session and just talk with someone you’ve met, do it.  If you don’t like the session you chose, just walk out.  No egos allowed…we are here to learn what WE want to learn, not what someone else wants us to learn.  It was an exciting and thrilling day.

This summer the Burlington Public Schools, Burlington, MA are sponsoring a series of Edtech camps, Tuesdays 9:00 – 1:00.  You need to register (so they’ll have enough food and space)…try it out.  It’s free and it’s what many teachers have been looking for.  It that doesn’t work for you there are a bunch of other Edtech camps all summer and into the fall.  Go to http://edcampboston.ticketleap.com or Google #edcampbos for more information.

Oh, and for a great blog to follow check out Jennifer Scheffer’s blog.  Hope to see you in July Jennifer…


Our friend, Betty

Betty PrincipatoToday we say good-bye to a wonderful friend and colleague.  Betty Principato was the office manager/administrative assistant in the department of education at what was then Rivier College.  Betty greeted everyone with a smile.  She worked mainly with the undergraduate students, but would help whomever came into her office.  She passed away on Sunday, June 15, 2013.

You’d never know it but looking at her desk, but she was one of the most organized people I’ve ever met.  Post-its were her best friends.  They were all over her desk.  While she might take a little time to find what she needed, she always did.  When deadlines came close, you might wonder if a project would be ready…it always was.  Betty and I often recommended and borrowed books from each other.  We would often share our responses to the books.

Betty retired a few years ago and since then has enjoyed spending some of her time with her husband, Joe at their condominium in Florida and with their three children and grandchildren.  They had a time share in Aruba (I think) and visited there each year.  Betty was diagnosed with a late stage cancer in February, 2014 while staying in Florida.  They came back to New England, got a second opinion and opted out of treatment.  Since then she enjoyed short visits with friends and much time with her husband, her children and her grandchildren.

She passed away on Sunday morning, surrounding by the family that she loved.  I know that they will miss her smiling face, her wonderful laugh and beautiful presence.  Many from the college will be reminded of Betty and her contributions to the college and to the faculty at Rivier.

Have a wonderful journey Betty.  I’ll bet she is smiling all the way.  God bless.



It’s time for transformational leadership

I believe that we need leadership in schools today that is grounded in real values, not just ones that are quoted glibly and so often that their meaning is muted and dulled.  In these days where the score on one test is used to measure how much a student has learned, how well a teacher teaches, and  how effectively a school is run, there is a need for  a clear vision and mission for schools that educators can passionately believe in and strive to achieve.  Transformational leadership  can help teachers become empowered in these times where their professionalism is diminished and disparaged and their efforts are depreciated.

In transformational leadership, principals and administrators act as mentors; they listen to concerns and needs.  They know the difference between “urgent” and “important.”  The leaders keep communication open, they show respect and celebrate the contributions that teachers make as they struggle each day to provide an effective program for their students.  With this kind of care, teachers feel respected and can reflect on how best to accomplish the important goals of their responsibility to the children.

Transformational leaders challenge the conventional wisdom of legislatures and other “non-educators” about what is best for education.  Because they are grounded in values that they believe in, they are able to stimulate their teachers to take risks, to think independently and, as Bill Asher suggests, practice “creative sabotage” in support of what is best for their students. Because transformational leaders believe in their teachers, they understand the need for individualized  care of students.  They work with teachers to encourage their creativity and help them to transform their classrooms into places where students are engaged and excited about their learning and are encouraged to wonder.   Transformational leaders expect high standards of achievement, but understand that teachers’ most important role is to teach children, not curriculum.  In fact, transformational leaders hold the highest standards of excellence for their teachers and for the students in their schools.  They know what they do encourages creativity and the need for children to wonder.

Transformational leaders pride themselves on ethical behavior that embraces diversity, seeks educational equity for all and creates a school community that thrives in respect and trust. As I observe many students in different schools I look for schools that exhibit the caring, respect and trust that are evident when schools have a leader who prides his community, who helps his teachers be the best they can be, who empowers all staff, not just a select few, with the responsibility to develop a collaborative school culture that is able to problem solve together, reach consensus (that is, all can agree that solutions can be found that all can live with ethically and professionally).  Collaboration is not compromise; it is finding solutions to difficult problems that couldn’t be solved by one person alone.  Transformational leaders work smarter, not harder.  They seek to understand all perspectives in order to effect solutions that can be embraced by all.  In order for this to occur, transformational leaders provide their staff with the time to talk together, to work together so that all are collectively responsible for decisions and continuous improvement programs that are needed by our children.  Are you a transformational leader?


Art for Water

art for water

Art for Water is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.  Check out this short video to find out about the project at  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/virtual-stream-of-conscience–3

My friends from Antigua….this might be a wonderful project to start out your new school year in August.  With the drought you’ve been experiencing and the shortage of clean water this may be a wonderful project for the children to decorate the school.

Others who read this blog…please forward the information.  Thanks  Sue

Summer Projects: The Tree Project: 2


The branches are all done!

I finally finished decorating the branches on my tree.  Most of the branches are wrapped in wool roving.  I wet the wool roving and then wrapped it around the branch.  When it dried, the wool shrunk and stayed fast on the branches .My granddaughter, Brandi, helped me complete the branches.  She decided to do her own project.  Here she is spackling her branch into a flower pot.

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A few days ago while visiting my mother, we drove to Natick, MA to go to the Iron Horse Shop, which is a wonderful yarn and gift shop.  They also sell wool roving in beautiful colors and all kinds of needle felting equipment which I needed for part 2 of the project.  I asked about books on needle felting and found the best book.

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This book by Jackie Huang is for beginning needle felters.  I have at least four other books, one written in Japanese, but this book tops them all.  For the first time I understand how to add ears, legs, noses, eyes, etc.  The explanations are great and the little creatures she has created are adorable.  Here is my first attempt:


It’s a baby penguin.  I also made a small owl (little trouble with the eyes). And finally I made a pig, but while it doesn’t really resemble a pig, it’s a cute little  thing.


They look even better on the tree.




Keepers of the Earth -a place-baced integrated education unit

One of my favorite materials that we found for the Keeper houses...the nut from a Caribbean Willow Tree

One of my favorite materials that we found for the Keeper houses…the nuts from a Caribbean Willow Tree.

As I looked over some of my research findings from my sabbatical of 2012, I wondered how teachers could be empowered to take the time to listen to students, to help them learn Standard English, and  to develop positive relationships with them so that teacher could take the responsibility to teach the students the school behaviors needed for effective learning, without resorting to negative interventions.  After much thought, it occurred to me that place-based education might to a solution to empowering teachers and students to take active ownership and stewardship of their beautiful island.

At Jabberwock Beach (north side of the island).

At Jabberwock Beach (north side of the island).

With the help of friends, Pat Howson, Betty Mulrey, Ann Ackerman and Joanne Nichols we discussed the possibility of using the theme fairies as a start in this process.  Fairies are keepers and protectors of the earth. They live in homes made only from natural, non-living materials.  They teach students about their habitat, about the animals and plants that live…the protect the earth.

Keepers of the Earth also protect the history and culture of a place.

Keepers of the Earth also protect the history and culture of a place.

When Pat and I introduced the idea of fairy houses we were reminded about some religions that don’t sanction fairies, so we decided to call the unit, “Keepers of the Earth.”  By encouraging the students to learn about their island, to know the bountiful  trees and shrubs and flowers and beaches, and forests, and their small rainforest our hope i that the students will become more aware of their surroundings and become more protective of it as they grow into adolescents and adults.


This first attempt at introducing the unit took place at the first grade at Pigotts Primary School.  The teacher there had graduated from Teacher’s College last June and was excited to get back to the classroom.  We “clicked” immediately.   I was going to read a book authored by Tracy Kane, who writes numerous books about Fairies, but I couldn’t for some reason get the power point to play.   So I told the story of a young girl, on an island with her parents, who show her an area where people had made “keeper” (we changed the name) houses.  I was pretty familiar with the story and told it like a champ.  The children were totally silent as I told the story.  When I finished the story, we talked about the kinds of things that can be used to make fairy houses…natural things that are non-living.  No man-made materials, no living flowers pulled from bushes, only things that had dropped to the ground by themselves.

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After that we looked at pictures of keeper houses that we saw at the Annual Fairy House Tour in Portsmouth, NH.  The children were quite excited,  We reviewed that they needed to bring in natural, non-living items for the Keeeper houses and met the next day to make the houses.

The children discussed what skills they need to work in teams:  cooperation, listening, collaboration and thinking together.  Each group picked the spot that they wanted to work and got going.  Many of the children forgot to bring in things from home, but between what Pat and I collected and what was available in the school yard the children did a great job.

If we were able to spend more time with the children, we would expect more work on developing diagrams of the houses, labeling the materials they used, making charts and labeling natural objects in the environment and eventually making a Keeper House Book for the classroom.  Each teacher in the project will be given a Keeper, designed by Lydia, a woman Pat and I met at English Harbour who is a crafter.


You can see that the Keeper doesn’t have a face.  This is because the keeper has many moods and can be used in many ways in the classroom.  Tomorrow I visit another school and the next day another.  The keepers will have wonderful homes for the summer. The children would have experienced a lesson based on “Next Generation” skills:  collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.  It’s a start .

While this blog entry appears on June 1, 2014, it was written last June, 2013.  Sorry for the delay.

My summer projects: Number 1: A tree


At Jabberwock Beach (north side of the island).

At Jabberwock Beach (north side of the island).

I can’t believe that it is over a year since I have added to this blog.  I never did get to finish updating about my month trip to Antigua in 2013 or even start to discuss the week I spent there in March 2014.  Suffice it to say, for now anyway, that Antigua is never far away in my thoughts.  On the last two trips, I’ve brought along colleagues, who helped to make the experience even more fulfilling! More about that later.

My tree!  Not the one in the picture above(that’s in Antigua).  A few weeks ago one of my friends emailed me a picture of a beautiful tree that had been decorated in colorful fabrics and adorned with beautiful ornaments. “That’s my tree,” I said. (This link will take you to the website and picture of the tree:http://www.artwithaheart.net).   That will be my artistic project for the summer.  What will I do with it when it’s finished?  I don’t know, but I thought I’d document the process.

If you know me, you know I’m no Martha Stewart.  I try new projects, leave them undone, get bored, finish one example and never do another. But this project is very different.  Do you remember the movie, “Close Encounters of a Third Kind?”  In that movie, a number of people have a chance encounter with something (a UFO?) which compels many of  them to build a structure that eventually is identified as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.  Richard Dreyfuss, one of the actors, brings all of this dirt into his house and begins to sculpt this hugh structure.  I have this feeling of compulsion about my tree.

I had no instructions so I  started by finding a broken off tree-branch in my son’s yard.  I decided to start small, the branch is about 3 feet tall.  Here is sits in a vase.IMG_0282

I thought that this size would be manageable.   I had a thick ceramic vase that I thought I would use, but it was going to be too heavy, so I bought an eco-friendly pot that seemed perfect.

I filled the pot with styrfoam, shaped to the curature of the pot.  Filled the empty spaces with more styrofoam and then covered it with spackle.

I filled the pot with styrofoam, shaped to the curvature of the pot. Filled the empty spaces with more styrofoam and then covered it with spackle.

After the spackle, I decorated the base with some orange cord.  I realized that I needed to add more styrofoam in a cone-shape so that there would be a more natural flow to the structure.

Almost ready to start decorating the branches, I realized that this vase was so light that I would need to add something to weight it down...the last thing I wanted was to have someone bump into it and have it fall over.  I took some beach rocks that I had hanging around and put them on the base.  I'm not sure if this is what I'll use in the end.  However, for now, it's a least a little heavier and won't tip so easily.

Almost ready to start decorating the branches, I realized that this vase was so light that I would need to add something to weigh it down…the last thing I wanted was to have someone bump into it and have it fall over. I took some beach rocks that I had hanging around and put them on the base. I’m not sure if this is what I’ll use in the end. However, for now, it’s a least a little heavier and won’t tip so easily

Ready to start the branch work.  I started to wrap tie-dyed cloth around a branch and after I did a few I realized that I didn’t really like to weightless feeling that I was getting from the cloth.  I tried some decorative ribbons and liked this better, but wasn’t happy with the result.  A friend mentioned using wool and that was the best advice…thanks, Beau!  I’m on my way.  Here’s what I’ve done so far.

Now I'm using wool roving to cover the branches.  I'm stretching the wool and soaking it in water. Then I wrap it around the branch.  The wool should shrink as it dries, so it shouldn't unwrap (I hope).

Now I’m using wool roving to cover the branches. I’m stretching the wool and soaking it in water. Then I wrap it around the branch. The wool should shrink as it dries, so it shouldn’t unwrap (I hope).

To reinforce some of the wool, I soak a paper towel in water and then wrap it around the wool and put a clothespin on it.  That’s seems to be working just  fine. I’m starting to feel optimistic about how its coming out.