The first day of ASB Unplugged was devoted to classroom visits, student showcases and discussions by some of the various R&D groups that are functioning at ASB. During that time, quite by chance, I found myself sitting around a table that included Jeff Plaman, Andrew McCarthy, Simon May, Aaron Metz and Adrienne Michetti. What happened over the next 90 minutes was PURE GOLD.
The focus of conferences, for me, has changed. It is no longer about sitting in a room and being told about/shown the “next great thing” in education. It’s now about sitting in the hallways and in the common areas and leveraging connections that I have already made through Twitter and other aspects of my PLN into deep and meaningful conversations.
In those 90 minutes, we bobbed and weaved through three major points of discussion:
1. Ownership and Exit Strategy – I’ve written about it a long time ago and it still sits somewhere in the back of my mind. How do we balance the needs and wants of teachers to create curriculum materials in spaces all over the internet with the need for the school to have continuity in that curriculum delivery? With such a large amount of transience in international schools in particular, how can schools encourage teachers to create amazing, lasting digital curriculum material that can continue to be used by both parties when that teacher moves to the next school? Related to this, what are we doing as a school to create an “exit strategy” for teachers, helping them to collect all of their digital resources to bring to their next school, ensuring that those resources are available to subsequent teachers? I’d be curious to know if there are any schools with effective checklists for the end of year related to Google Docs, WordPress blogs, and any external wiki platforms that are used. How do you keep track of all the great things that are going on in the classroom on the weeblys and wikispaces and tumblrs and…?
2. New Teachers – Transient teachers mean lots of training. Last year, there were 44 new teaching and admin staff at UNIS due to staff turnover and school growth! We spent a lot of time discussing ways in which we run our various orientations and inductions. CISHK runs a course through Moodle with teacher-created content that is accessible by their new staff prior to their arrival. Included in the course are some short ‘assessments’ on skills. If they can show mastery prior to showing up on campus, then they can skip those training sessions at the beginning of the year and spend time doing other things to prepare for the start of the year. I love this idea. I wonder if we could use Google Forms and Flubaroo as a means of creating self-assessed quizzes for incoming staff to show their understanding?
3. New Students – Student turnover is pretty constant at UNIS. Just this month I’ve seen 4 or 5 new students as they prepare to start in their new classes. Because we are a technology-rich school, students need to feel some level of comfort with the machines and the systems before they can be effective in classes. What’s the balance? How do we effectively and efficiently get these students ready to participate in classes? One things that is working very well this year in the middle school is the idea of a tech buddy. New students attend a 60 – 90 minute orientation with their tech buddy (who is also their buddy for other things, I believe). Instead of me leading the students through some of the basics of their new computer, I get the buddy to do the brunt of the work. I think this idea has great potential but I’ll need to work with the teachers to ensure that the skills that they feel are necessary from day 1 are being addressed.
I’d love to hear any ideas that you have about any of these three points. The more perspectives the better!