What a great experience it has been so far with the Reform Symposium!

While it is difficult to attend a lot of sessions with my three kids, but it has been great to be able to have the sessions going on in the background.  I have also had the opportunity to save the conversation that was happening while the session was happening, so I can go back to it later, to review what was said, to retrieve important links, and fill in the gaps of things I may have missed as I was being a mom.  It was so nice to be able to come and go as I pleased and still not miss everything. It is exciting to know that all the workshops will be archived for later use.

Here are the conferences I attended today (all or part of):

John T. Spencer – It’s Personal – from Differentiating to Customized Learning – 71+ participants

During his presentation, John talked about his frustration with differentiated instruction and how he feels he ultimately failed at being able to effectively differentiate for all the learners in his classes.  Instead, he discussed how he empowers his students to take ownership over their own learning.  To do this, he wondered, “What am I doing for the students that they could be doing on their own?”

Here are the shifts that John made in his thinking and in his teaching (LOVE these)

  • From a process to a relationship (where he engaged in real conversations with his students)
  • From a monologue to a dialogue
  • From choice to freedom
  • From rigid and specific to flexible and vague
  • From a tiered approach to a web approach

The result (goal), according to John,

  • students are self-directed learners
  • teacher gets to lead students in their own learning
  • teacher is a leader, not a manager



  • The goal is for students to customize their own plan/goals/activities.


  • The goal is to have students have the freedom in the methods, the resources, and the topics – all within a shared standard.
  • Assignments are “loose” enough to modify for individual learners and their needs.


  • Goal is for students to know exactly what they are missing or need to focus on with respect to the standard.
  • Constant dialogue with the teacher – individual conferences with teacher
  • Standards grid to refer to.

What does it look like?

  • Students develop their own problem
  • They may find a scenerio to research
  • They choose and explain their individual process.
  • Customized projects
  • Problem-Based Learning Scenerios
  • Authentic research, including community members
  • Constant interaction between student -> teacher and teacher <- student

John gave us some specific example of what this type of learning would look like in different classes: Math, Social Studies, Literature.  

He was unsure of what it would look like with younger children, however, he was sure it could be done.


Ann-Caryn Cleveland – Empowering Women and Girls in Technology – 30+ participants

  • her slides will be available on flickr. I will post the link, when I get it.  🙂
  • check out:
  • There are many money grants available:

For many of these, except for the Anita Borg grant, the applications are not due until September or October.  Worth checking out!

  • Resources to check out: – for girls – sign up for limited offer – will be online August 5 – FREE resources

Microsoft – kudo – didn’t get the exact link (sorry)

*** Ask hard questions!  When they ask for the answer – don’t tell!  Guide them, but don’t give them the answer!***

Panel Discussion – Collaboration between Leadership and Teachers – 136+ participants

I need to go back to read the txt. of this discussion. I look forward to hearing the discussion from the archives. It was just too busy around lunch time to really pay close attention.  There were some really great, practical discussion topics that were discussed.  The panel gave some great responses about how they deal with these topics at their own schools.  This was a really worthwhile panel discussion!

One quote at the end which I found to be outstanding: We need to remember the “terrific momentum of the status quo!”  No kidding!!!

Keynote: Kelly Tenkely – Twitter Academy: How a Blog & Twitter Conversation Started a School – 123+ participants

I look forward to hearing more about how this school got started. I came into this workshop 2/3 of the way through and they were still inspiring!  I want to hear more about how it all started!  Looking forward to the archives for this one!

Some sites to check out:

On twitter: @ktenkley  and #twitacad

There are so many motivating, inspiring educators participating in this symposium!  It amazes me how accessible, approachable, and “normal” these people seem.  Just ordinary people, doing extraordinary things for kids and for education!

I was glad I was able to attend some of the sessions today.  I think I will be busy with my family for most of tomorrow.  I look forward to the archives on some of the sessions tomorrow, that’s for sure! I will check out more sessions on Sunday.

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

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