It’s All Connected

A few weeks ago, we had an in-house PD day here at UNIS. At the beginning of September, the staff were surveyed on which of the whole-school goals they would like this day to focus on. The big winner (surprise!) was technology, followed by coaching and professional learning communities.

I spent a lot of time working with our Curriculum and Professional Development Coordinator on the plan for the day. We decided it would be an excellent way to introduce the entire staff to the Technology and Learning Plan that was developed (I was on the task force) last year. This plan consists of three goals: one based on the NETS for Students, one based on the NETS for teachers, and one focusing on our technology infrastructure.

Our goals for the day were:

  • To learn more about the school’s vision regarding technology;
  • To learn from each other about technology use;
  • To think about goals for teachers and students regarding technology use;
  • To facilitate discussion across the school divisions

So what did we do? I stole a page from Learning 2.010! Teachers were carefully grouped based on division, subject/grade level, gender, and comfortability with technology. After the MSHS principal introduced the Tech and Learning Plan, each group was assigned a strand related to one of the NETS-inspired goals. They discussed what they felt that strand meant to them as a way to generate some ideas. Then, they were given until after lunch (about 2 hours) to come up with some sort of presentation to the entire staff that introduced their strand.

Along the way, we modeled some different technology tools that could be used in the classroom. We used a wiki as a means of distributing information. We used Wallwisher as a parking lot for questions and concerns that weren’t directly related to the discussion. We used surveys on our SharePoint portal to quickly gather information from the group. We used Wordle to display our staff’s response to the prompt “How do you feel about technology?”

The presentation tools were varied; groups went with what they were most comfortable with – natural differentiation! There were movies, powerpoint presentations, a Prezi. One group tried to use SongSmith to emulate We’re All Connected; lot’s of groups used humor. The two Tech Facilitators (myself and my ES counterpart) were available to help troubleshoot but mostly groups just got on with it!

After lunch, we watched all the presentations and voted for the top two. We had created a very simple rubric (we are an IB World School, after all!) prior to the creation time to help guide the groups.  Not everybody was thrilled with the idea of a competition, but I really wanted to encourage groups to put in that extra effort!

During Learning 2.010 I was really struck by the enormous stress that we felt when trying to finish our group artifact. It made me really empathize with our students as we ask them to do this all the time without truly (I believe) thinking about what it puts them through. I hope this day helped to reinforce that with our teachers as well as highlight the amount of time these types of rewarding products take up.

Overall, I am very impressed with how these 100+ teachers tackled the day. It was extremely difficult trying to find a format that would suit the enormously varied needs of this large group of individuals in a way that they would find interesting, engaging and useful. We certainly asked the staff to be risk takers and to go outside of their comfort zones. They did so and then some!

Next up: Unconferences!

Some selected feedback:

“I really felt as though we each came away with SOMETHING interesting – even if it was not something practical to use for our own teaching, it may just have been a greater understanding of some things that go on elsewhere in the school, which also contributes to developing a whole school ethos.”

“I found the actual task and the working with teachers that I normally do not work with, very satisfying and I learned a great deal from them. Finding out things by ourselves was a great mirroring of how we should teach.”

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to actually ‘work’ to make our learning happen.”

“I would prefer to learn about technology through direct instruction.”

“I found the presentation method very interesting, especially in observing the behaviors of myself and everybody in the group, how the decision were taken.”

“It really got us all involved and not only discussing technology but we were teaching each other new technologies that we used.”

“I liked the fact that it ‘demystifyed’ the use of technology in class and made it clear that it can be used, with basic knowledge, as long as you are ready to use your imagination and you’re are open to make use of others (students included) knowledge and imagination.”

“I thought the idea of familiarizing everyone with the school’s technology goals in smaller, mixed groups, and then using a technological presentation to give feedback was great.”

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