Saturday, November 16, 2013

Envisioning Team, Reading, & Webinars

I was recruited for our "Tech Envisioning Team", which gradually morphed into the "Learning Envisioning Team" that prepared a unique Professional Development Day for our staff of over 200 teachers. We met over the summer and started out with the question, "What would be the ideal learning experience?" We decided not to let perceived problems limit the discussion. Then, it got exciting, as all of us agreed that it should be experiential and totally "out of the box" from the moment teachers and administrators came through the door: a) they would be sorted by QR code scanning, so people of all grade levels would be mixed up; b) there would be embedded experiences that staff would rotate through with peer and student facilitators; c) afternoon break out sessions would give everyone the opportunity to dive deeper; and d) we shot for the best, most inspirational speaker we wanted, and he actually CAME (well, via Skypecast)---Dave Burgess, the author of Teach Like a Pirate. In the fall, everyone broke into groups to prepare the experiences and road test them. "The Harness Method" was the one I affiliated with, mainly because I was out recuperating from surgery for the first part of the fall meetings, but also because I dearly love deep, Socratic discussions. Another innovative session involved a "Minecraft Exposure", opening teachers up to the possibility of Minecraft EDU. We used high school students to create a Minecraft game that forced teachers to collaborate as they explored the different levels of the game. We also had a "Ted Exposure" with "Ted Talk" videos, "Google Apps Investigation", and "Google Research". All of this required a lot of technology, so teachers were encourage to BYOD (bring your own devices), but ample Chromebooks, the HS Mac lab, "Makers lab", and HS tech lab were made available as well as iPads. Each exposure had Smartboard set up to run instructions so the facilitators (the Envisioning Team) mostly were out of sight unless there was a problem. It was pretty exhausting, actually, as we were all keyed up and nervous about how people would feel about the innovative presentations in the face of all the Common Core and Teacher Evaluation System changes. Our goal, I guess, was to get staff to come around to the idea that these changes should not limit us, not keep us from creating engaging learning for our students. At the student roundtable after lunch, the high school students basically reinforced this idea! What really made the most impact, though, was Dave Burgess. This guy does a super cool trick with cards that totally pulls you into the "pirate" mentality, and as I was the Twitter feed moderator for the Skypecast, I could see how genuinely excited the teachers were getting as the discussion progressed. I had fun giving out Amazon gift cards to teachers for "first question tweeted", "first photo of their X card tweeted", etc. We also set up a "Today's Meet", and that moderator was able to get the flow of how teachers were collaborating during the Skype feed. A lot of planning for our PD Day was online, through Google Community, which worked very well for teachers from multiple buildings on different bell schedules.

So, I decided to keep my own inspiration rolling, and got two more books to keep me going: Sir Ken Robinson's updated edition of Out of Our Minds: Teaching Creativity, and Tony Wagner's Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. I also signed up for another Burgess webinar.

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