Fuse MA Blog

Fuse MA Cohort 2 Summer Institute

August 7, 2020

The format for delivery may have changed, but this year’s summer training for Fuse MA Cohort 2 still had the essential elements: community, collaboration, and content!

On August 5 and 6, 2020, Program Manager Meg Smallidge and Services Manager Maeve Murray, along with their Highlander Institute colleagues,  planned an informative and empowering two days of virtual Professional Development for all of the participants.

On Wednesday, the Fuse MA Cohort 2 Fellows were welcomed by Executive Director of The Education Cooperative (TEC) , Liz McGonagle, and Highlander Institute’s Executive Director, Dana Borelli-Murray. Heidi Vazquez provided an “Introduction to Strategy Cycles” workshop that helped fellows clarify the work that they will be doing over the remainder of the fellowship.

The next workshop, “Making Online Tasks More Meaningful”, was led by Mike Miele (Educational Strategies Specialist at Highlander). Fellows were given resources and suggestions for how to differentiate between virtual assignments and virtual instruction, structure, feedback, offer authentic assessments, build community virtually, and more. The afternoon provided time for the fellows to begin working on their plans for the remainder of Cohort 2, which concludes in December 2020.

After an energizing first day of workshops and work time, Fuse MA Cohort 2 Fellows returned for the second day of Summer Institute on Thursday, August 6. Joining them were a number of Pilot Teachers and District administrators. This larger group had many opportunities to learn and collaborate around the work that will be done as they return to school, in whatever form that may be! 

Welcoming the group, and helping to build this new community, was Malika Ali, Director of Pedagogy at the Highlander Institute. Participants used a Google Form to check-in with themselves, head and heart. Then, using Jamboard, the fellows and pilot teachers revealed some of their thinking and discussed what they might need in order to get the most from the day ahead. In breakout rooms, smaller groups discussed on their thinking and considered how it could transfer to their classes, both online and in person.

Following lunch, participants were introduced to the “unconference” format of the afternoon. This opportunity to learn from each other started with a brainstorming topics that participants wanted to learn more about or had some idea/expertise to share.  Program Manager Meg Smallidge and Services Manager Maeve Murray quickly sorted and categorized these ideas into four groups and the network shared questions and ideas around building community, engaging students using Google Meet, setting expectations and providing feedback.

Collegial relationships were fostered, information was shared, and educators continued their own professional growth. It truly was a successful two days of virtual professional development!

Ken Toomey
Ken Toomey

Fuse MA blog posts written by Ken Toomey, ktoomey@fusema.org
Fuse MA Fellow, Cohort 1
Fuse MA Coordinator
Twitter: @ken_2me

Cohort 2 in the Time of Covid-19

June 1, 2020

Mid-March 2020 forced Cohort 2 Fuse MA Fellows, and indeed all Massachusetts teachers, into a whole new world. With the closure of schools because of Covid-19, educators across the commonwealth had to find new ways to reach their students, both on a personal and educational level. The switch from in-person to virtual teaching and learning required a new mind set, and Fuse Fellows were ready to lead the way!

In the first official week of school closures Fuse MA held a virtual face-to-face meeting. The initial focus of the meeting was to check in on the Fuse family. There were a wide range of emotions and thoughts, as the reality of the work ahead started to come into view. With the support of staff from the Highlander Institute team, Program Manager Meg Smallidge invited Cohort 2 to think about and discuss four topics: Equity & Access, Long Term Thinking, Alignment with Co-Teachers/Other Staff, and Social-Emotional Supports. Fellow’s thinking was collected to support not only themselves, but all educators.

Highlander Institute’s 4 Key Considerations for Distance Learning

Just a few weeks later, the fellows met for their April virtual face-to-face. A main focus of this meeting was to look into Highlander Institute’s 4 Key Considerations for Distance Learning. The purpose of this resource states, “As we brace for a longer engagement with distance learning, we want all leaders, coaches, and teachers to think through four key considerations that will help ensure greater equity, scale, and sustainability during this time of national crisis and compassion.” Using Project Zero’s Connect, Extend, Challenge thinking routine, groups of fellows dug into the considerations to see how they connect to the work they are doing, and how they could be used going forward.

May’s virtual Cohort 2 meeting found the Fuse MA fellows faced with a new challenge. The reality that schools would not be reopening in the 2019-2020 school year meant that the work within their own districts as well as in their partner districts needed to evolve into something a little different. After taking stock of their current work situations, the fellows began to develop recommendations for their partner districts around the priority practices selected prior to Covid-19, considering how these practices and their accompanying strategies could shift to a distance learning, what pivots felt useful and what this would look like? These recommendations and suggestions will be presented to the partner districts at a virtual, end-of-year meeting. Cohort 2 Fellows will continue to be flexible and reflective, finding ways to be resources for both their home and partner districts and leaders in our new reality.

Ken Toomey
Ken Toomey

Fuse MA blog posts written by Ken Toomey, ktoomey@fusema.org
Fuse MA Fellow, Cohort 1
Fuse MA Coordinator
Twitter: @ken_2me

Spotlight on Fuse MA Fellow: Rachel Dudley

May 15, 2020
Rachel Dudley
Rachel Dudley

Among the seventeen educators who gathered at The Education Cooperative (TEC) in Walpole, Massachusetts in February 2018 was Dedham teacher, Rachel Dudley. As a fellow in Cohort 1 of Fuse MA, Rachel used  her experience and expertise as a high school Social Studies teacher to coach educators in Norwood. Here, Rachel shares some of her thoughts and memories of the Fuse MA Fellowship.

What are your memories of the fellowship? How did your experience change over the year and a half?

R.D.: I really enjoyed working with teachers from other districts, both other fellows and my partner teachers. I didn’t know what to expect going into the fellowship, so the role seemed to evolve throughout the experience. 

What successes and challenges did you encounter?

R.D.: The successes were definitely working with other teachers, learning as much as I was helping others. One challenge was definitely keeping up with the work while doing my job in my district.

How has being a Fuse Fellow changed how you approach your current role? 

R.D.: I think much more about personalization now and giving students more choices in their work. I always gave some choice on things like projects, but I have included more choice in how students complete assignments–one small example is allowing the students to complete test review sheets on paper, Google docs, or Quizlet.

What advice do you have for future Fuse MA Fellows?

R.D.: You will probably learn way more than you will “teach”. The staff at Highlander is great — when you feel like you’re getting behind or not sure where to go with your partner district, reach out to them — they are so helpful!

Ken Toomey
Ken Toomey

Fuse MA blog posts written by Ken Toomey, ktoomey@fusema.org
Fuse MA Fellow, Cohort 1
Fuse MA Coordinator
Twitter: @ken_2me

Spotlight on Fuse MA Fellow: Julie Lowerre

March 1, 2020
Julie Lowerre

In February of 2018, seventeen educators gathered at The Education Cooperative (TEC) in Walpole, Massachusetts. This group would form Cohort 1 of Fuse MA. Among this group was Medfield teacher, Julie Lowerre. 

When she began the fellowship, Julie taught fifth grade at the Dale Street School in Medfield. Now, she is the school’s Innovation Integration Specialist. As a fellow, she coached in the Norwood Public Schools.

Here, Julie shares some of her thoughts and memories of the Fuse MA Fellowship.


What are your memories of the fellowship? How did your experience change over the year and a half?

J.L.: My memories mostly have to do with the wonderful connections I made with my fellow Fellows, Highlander members and with the teachers I coached. Having a team that worked well together was critical to the success of our mission.  Rachel (Dudley) and Jimmy (Odierna) were not only amazing professionals, but also fun to work with.  I will never forget preparation for the district meetings.  Many times we were on our computers late at night the week of the meeting collaborating and planning. 

 I also learned so much from Jill (Milton), who was the fellow at school where I coached, and Ken (Toomey), who was the fellow that came to my school to coach.  Lots of great memories talking, sharing and laughing.  They helped push my thinking, provided wonderful support and become friends who I know I can continue to bounce ideas off of.  

BUT I will never forget the second day of boot camp when we had to do a practice presentation and be evaluated.  None of us had any idea what we were doing!!  It was daunting to look ahead, and I know I wasn’t the only one questioning the decision to do this.  The biggest change would have to be the feeling from that day to the feeling of pride that came from the last day.  What a great accomplishment and growth for us all.  Going through each step with these amazing people feeling supported and valued certainly helped me be more confident as an educator and also more skilled.   

What successes and challenges did you encounter?

J.L.: The biggest successes came from the teachers I coached.  They were a group of educators ready and hungry for change.  They moved mountains at their school and it was such a rewarding partnership and experience. We grew together. I felt so honored to join their work.  

The challenges were always trying to keep up with expectations and being fully prepared for coaching days while keeping my own class running smoothly.  Doing both and having additional responsibilities in my district were at times hard to manage.   

How has being a Fuse Fellow changed how you approach your current role? 

J.L.: I have a new role this year and I have needed many skills that I developed as a Fuse Fellow (leadership, facilitating, coaching).  I approached my current role feeling more confident because of all the supported work I completed as a Fellow. 

How have you kept the work going? Have you provided any professional development opportunities?

I ran a PD session on playlists with our 5th-grade teachers.  I have created and shared social studies playlists with our 4th-grade teachers.  I presented at MassCue on blended and personalized learning as it relates to the use of playlists.  I am working closely with our reading specialists to create more engaging ways for their students to respond to reading using technology and the makerspace. 

What advice do you have for future Fuse MA Fellows?

Keep plugging away.  Embrace being out of your comfort zone.  You will be amazed at your professional and personal growth at the end.

Ken Toomey
Ken Toomey

Fuse MA blog posts written by Ken Toomey, ktoomey@fusema.org
Fuse MA Fellow, Cohort 1
Fuse MA Coordinator
Twitter: @ken_2me

Fuse MA Fellows Represent at MassCUE

October 25, 2019

Being a Fuse Fellow involves much more than attending monthly meetings and coaching pilot teachers. So much is learned, discussed, and experienced that fellows feel the need to spread the word!

Playlist presentation image

On October 23 and 24, 2019, educators from around the country gathered at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts to attend the fall conference of MassCUE (Massachusetts Computer Using Educators), co-sponsored by M.A.S.S. (the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents). Following a key-note address, attendees had the opportunity to choose from a large number of workshops geared towards improving the student and teacher experience. Fuse MA was well represented, with many attendees and workshop offerings.

Wednesday found Cohort 1 fellow Julie Lowerre presenting a workshop entitled “Playlists: Properties, Process and Parties.” Also from Cohort 1, Jill Milton presented “Personalized and Blended Learning in the Inclusive Classroom” with Norwood colleagues. From the current Cohort 2, Christine Casali presented “Miss Frizzle Style Field-Trips by Incorporating Virtual Reality into Your Classroom.” Fuse MA Project Manager Meg Smallidge, along with Cohort 1 fellow and Fuse MA Coordinator Ken Toomey, led the workshop “Teachers as Change Agents: The Power of Collaborative Coaching.” 

Personalized Thinking image

Chris Nardone, also a Cohort 1 fellow, co-presented “Blended Learning Playlists” on Thursday. On the same day, Cohort 2 fellow Maura Condon presented “Are Your Classes Sinking? Let’s Revamp Them with “Personalized Thinking!

So much knowledge and experience was shared by these Fuse MA fellows! There are many more examples of the great work being done by the cohorts. Keep watching this space for updates.

Ken Toomey. ktoomey@fusema.org
Fuse MA Fellow, Cohort 1
Fuse MA Coordinator
Twitter: @ken_2me

Fuse MA Enters Year 2

September 26, 2018
Fuse MA

Fuse MA kicked off Year 2 of our first cohort with a summer Boot Camp on July 25 & 26th. The 17 fellows gathered to prepare for a new school year of blended and personalized learning strategies, resource sharing, coaching, and cross-district collaboration.

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