Tuesday, September 18, 2012

From BLAH... to TAH-DAH! Go "EdCamping" for Your Staff's Next PD Day!

From THIS...

Inspired by Knapp Elementary Principal, Joe Mazza (@Joe_Mazza) and the increasing numbers of "edcamp un-conferences" happening around the world, we shifted the "professional learning paradigm" at our high school recently. True confession: I have not attended an EdCamp myself. I have followed several of them through the Twitter hash tag world, however, and I have officially registered for my first - #EdCampKC in November. For a traditional professional development junkie like myself, I consider it a substantial change for me and our school. It was strange to release the control for our staff's learning almost completely. I referred to Mr. Mazza's blog post about his school's experience multiple times, presented the concept to our teacher leadership team, and we went for it. We liked it so much, we plan to make it the mainstay format for all of our scheduled late-start professional development days for the school year (5, two-hour sessions). Here is what we did based on Knapp Elementary School's model by Principal Mazza.

1. Set the time. The district has five, two-hour late start days set aside for professional development each year. For the high school schedule, this is 7:10 am to 9:10 am with students arriving for a shortened day by 9:40 am. During my years as the principal, I have almost always planned and conducted those learning sessions. To not know exactly WHAT or WHO was going to be doing professional development was a little nerve racking for our administrative team.

2. Draft the Big Board. The one pictured below is our completed version that was projected at the beginning of the day for the entire staff after all of the sessions were confirmed. We utilized what was available, free, and effective - Mr. Mazza's google doc! Here is a copy of ours for anyone interested: Final Schedule Board

3. Make suggestions for session topics. Given this was my first real release of staff development control, I felt that we needed to provide some suggestions for topics to get the ball rolling. Together with the teacher leadership team, we proposed the following topics:

BYOT (more on this later)
Social Media
Web Tools
Learning Stations
Teacher Web Sites
Power of I (academic interventions)
Flipped Classrooms

As you will see from the final schedule board, not all of our suggestions made the cut. I was pleasantly surprised at some who offered up other topics and facilitated a session. This may not be exactly like the process the EdCamp creators originally designed, but the scheduling process became a lot like an NFL draft. Teachers would throw out a topic, chatter would ensue to gauge interest, then someone would volunteer to lead the session. Boom. It's on the board. 
Our completed schedule board projected for staff.

4. One unique session. Our school is launching a BYOT program. At the time of our first #EagleEdCamp, we were on the verge of ready to open up access to the wifi and begin the use of students' personal devices.The Assistant Principal led a session that was offered during both time slots for any teacher interested in piloting any kind of BYOT in their classroom. We decided to make this a requirement prior to launching the initiative in a way to make a teacher "BYOT certified." (This was not the first introduction to BYOT for these teachers, of course)

5. Once the schedule board was complete, teachers made their selections and headed out for their morning "un-conference." 

6. Build in reflection and more sharing. I created a basic google form to survey teachers' reactions to the #EagleEdCamp format and asked they complete it by the end of the day. Questions were short and simple such as 1)What will you begin or change in your classroom as a result of something you learned today? 2) How can we improve #EagleEdCamp for our next late start? 
Some of the comments included: 

"I like the EdCamp format. Great to learn from our colleagues and grow together." 
"Great day. Inspiring!"
"I thought it was cool that we had teachers leading sessions and we all had input on our own PD topics. Can't wait until next time!"

We also encouraged teachers to "tweet" about it before, during, and after the process to ask questions, reflect, and share links and info for additional learning after the morning was over. We used the #EagleEdCamp hash tag. 

Overall, an outstanding day! Many thanks and credit to all of the EdCampers out there and especially to @Joe_Mazza! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

One More "Pinteresting" Way to Connect Educators

Becoming a "connected educator" has undoubtedly changed the course of my career and is always evolving. First FaceBook. Then Twitter. Then blogging. Tweet chatting. And, now Pinterest.

A friend who is also an elementary teacher sent me the "invite" to join Pinterest (it's open access now). I accepted and started exploring. At first, it was just looking at crock pot recipes, exercises I should be doing, and funny and inspiring quotes and E-cards. (If only my real life was a true reflection of my pin boards) I browsed the "Education" category mostly finding elementary teachers and their awesome creativity. But, not so much to share with high school teachers I feared. Then, I started noticing other Edtech professionals - familiar names from the Twitter network. And, lately, I've started using the search features to find  high school teachers  and topics of interest to follow like BYOT or flipped classrooms. They are out there! Math, Science, Langauge Arts, Foreign Language, and many more educators who are sharing their expertise and resources through pin boards. It's exciting to repin and share resources for teachers in my school as well as the rest of the cyber world. Like other forms of social media, the possibilities for professional networking and sharing are unlimited. So, why do I like Pinterest to connect educators?

  1.  It is appealing to a "visual" audience in a way that Twitter isn't. Yet, when I find something I want to share from Pinterest, I can click the "share to Twitter/Facebook/Email" to reach other audiences.
  2. It's a permanent storage area for links and resources organized by my own categories.
  3. I can find a recipe for dinner and read a professional article... all within the time it takes to stand in line at the grocery store. The people and boards I follow direct the content I can peruse via the main board with a timeline of pins.
  4. It's a great conversation starter with teachers..."Hey, I saw you repinned me yesterday... what did you think of that Algebra II activity? Would it work for your students?"
Although Twitter will always be my first love for connecting with others, I find great value in the art and science of pinning too. (The Google Chrome Extension for Pinterest is a MUST) One teacher compared Pinterest to online hoarding. Whatever you call it, I see Pinterest and my other social media tools as keys to getting better at what we do! Will you join me in a "pinteresting" adventure to connect and grow as an educator?