Beating the Winter Blahs

(A longer post. Sorry)

In a normal school cycle, the period between the return from Winter Break in January until the President’s Day Holiday is one of the toughest. We usually experience the coldest temperatures of the year, rarely see the sun, and when we do, it is dark by 5:30 p.m. (Yes, I know it is getting lighter, but not soon enough for me). There are no extended holidays, save a three day Martin Luther King Holiday weekend and semester grades are due. It can be a real downer.

So I wanted to come up with professional development ideas for teachers and staff that would enable them to beat the Winter Blahs. This year, I have suggested that they try at least of four different options.

1. Join an Online Book Group

One way to beat the Winter Blahs is to challenge your thinking. The Teacher Places Book Clubs ( offers opportunities to for you to engage with other teachers in a virtual forum, exchanging ideas and thoughts around interesting books.

In the past, this virtual book club has discussed books such as A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, Brain Rules by John Medina, and Can We Talk About Race? By Beverly Daniel Tatum.

This winter, they are currently discussing Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Thomas Friedman’s newest book. This book discusses America’s state in the global future using the problems of destabilizing climate changes and competition for energy (sustainability and global connections). It is a great follow-up to The World is Flat.

In February, the group will be discussing Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Outliers. In Outliers, Gladwell discusses and begins to define achievement and success as not being purely chance, but are factors and circumstances which can be measured. It caused me to ask questions, such as is a student’s readiness to comprehend algebra function of the birth date of the student? What are the birthdays of our most successful students? Are they the eldest? How many hours of rigor do we provide and does it reach or exceed the 10,000 hour threshold?

2. Make a Technology Resolution

New Year’s Day is a great time to set new goals and start creating new habits.

Did you set a personal technology learning goal for the New Year?

Did you receive a new camera for the holidays and you need to learn how to download or edit the pictures?

Is there a technology topic, such as setting up a course in Moodle, creating a Google Custom Search, how to create a digital story using PhotoStory or VoiceThread, how to use Microsoft OneNote, create a screencast using Jing, that you would like to learn?

Would you like to learn how to use additional features of NoodleBib?

Interested in how to access and edit Discovery Streaming Videos for use in your classes,  that you have heard about or seen and want to spend the time exploring and learning?

The members of our Library and Technology teams have committed to helping faculty and staff achieve their personal  Information Technology Learning Goal. Beginning this Tuesday, January 20th and for the next three Tuesdays ( January 27th, February 3rd, and February 10th) will are available on a drop in basis to guide those desiring to learn a new skill.

We had faculty and staff fill out a Google Form so we would have an idea what to prepare for.

3. Attend a Virtual Conference

One of the most exciting new conferences which has emerged is EduCon (, which will be held this Saturday and Sunday at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. This conference is being hosted by Chris Lehman, principal of the SLA. This clip ( sums up Chris and what he is passionate about.

The mixture of people, ideas, and conversation occurred last year at EduCon were powerful. EduCon is not a technology conference. Rather it is an education conference. The core axioms of EduCon are simple, that:

1) Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members
2) Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen
3) Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
4) Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate
5) Learning can — and must — be networked.

Since it would be difficult to arrange to go to Philadelphia at this short notice, you can attend the conference virtually. Through the use of uStream, you will be able to watch the various sessions either live, or later when you have an opportunity to do so if you already have plans for the weekend. You will be able to log in and watch one of the eight sessions during each time and “participate” in the conversation.

The conference begins with a Friday night panel, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. CST, exploring the question – “What is the purpose of School?”

Saturday begins with a keynote from 8:15 – 8:45 am., followed by sessions from 9:00 – 10:30 (, 11:30 – 1:00 (, and 1:30 – 3:00 (

Sunday’s sessions run at the same times,  from 9:00 – 10:30 (, 11:30 – 1:00 (, and 1:30 – 3:00 (

I know I will be dropping in and out throughout the course of the weekend. I hope to “run into” you at the conference. Please let me know if you are planning on dropping in, so I can look for you.

4. Attend a Live Conference

In Illinois, we are fortunate to have one of the most wonderful conferences available to us, the Illinois Computing Educators Conference, this year being held February 24-27th. In Illinois, we are spoiled to have wonderful teachers and tech facilitators such as Nadine Norris, Lori Abrahams, Charlene Chausis, Scott Meech, Henry Thiele, Carol Broos, Tracy Murdach, Steve Dembo, Meg Ormiston, Cheri Toledo, Lucy Gray, David Jakes, Ryan Bretag, Anne Truger, Joe Brennan, Michelle Russell in our backyard providing us with great insights and ideas.

This year, the conference is bringing in Dr. Yong Zhou, Jennifer Wagner, Sharon Peters, Kevin Honeycutt, Cheryl Lykowski, and Chris Lehmann to inspire us. It is a great lineup of educators and thinkers to inspire us and challenge our thinking. We do not know how fortunate we are to have such a powerful lineup available to us.

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