Purpose Driven Meetings

Faculty meetings. Department chair meetings. Meetings, in general. We’ve all been there. But how many times have we walked away from those meetings inspired for the rest of the day? How many times have we engaged in active discourse with our peers? How many times have we said, “That was fun, I can’t wait for the next time!” I bet that you and I could count those times on one hand…together. And if you cannot, consider yourself lucky because you are not the norm.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more possessive of my time. You can never, EVER get back lost time. So I have very little patience for things that do not add value to me, to my craft, to what I do with my students, or to my professional goals. I fail to see the purpose in coming together to simply be talked at. Dissemination of information does not need to be done face to face. 
I mean, we’ve spent all of this time and energy discussing ways to make learning engaging for our students. In fact, it’s an expectation in my district that the teacher is not the center of the learning process. Sure there’s a time and place for DI but that’s not what I’m talking about. In a 21st century classroom, learning is student-centered not teacher-directed. And for those of us who conduct PD, engagement is an instrumental part of the PD process otherwise all you will have are a bunch of angry teachers giving you dagger looks as you waste their time. The whole idea of bringing 21st century learning into the classroom can and should have a place in meetings. We shouldn’t simply be talked at, but rather this valuable face to face time should…no must include some of the very skills that we want our students to acquire: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. 
Sure communication may be in the form of talking…but productive communication is a two-way street. Why not approach these meetings with the intent that teachers will be active participants? Why not bring in topics that foster collaboration between teachers and admins? Why not take the time to introduce a topic that might elicit some type of problem-solving or maybe some type of task that involves creativity?
I don’t have my administrative credential for a reason. I like being with my students but I do consider myself a leader. In fact, I’ve served as department chair for 19 years (at two different school sites). Needless to say, I’ve conducted my share of department meetings and collaborations. But when I create the agenda, it’s done after talking with department members. I take what we’ve discussed in emails or in passing and put that on the agenda to discuss when we have a formal meeting. But the key thing is…these are mutually determined topics. Anything that is purely informational is written on the agenda and my colleagues can ask for clarification (or not). The majority of our department meetings are spent working on lesson ideas, discussing common grading practices, reviewing student data/achievement, etc. We utilize our entire 60 minute collaboration meeting time and then some. And I can honestly say that when we leave, we’re revved up, inspired, and usually still discussing topics as we walk out the door to start our day. Our meeting time is collaborative, includes a great deal of communication (sometimes it’s even a bit spirited…we’re history teachers, what can I say?) and problem-solving as we continue to develop lessons and activities that are not only rigorous but engaging for our students (and to the same extent, us). 

Can “other” meetings be run the same? I ask, “Why not?” Why can’t faculty or department chair meetings be conducted more like an opportunity for PD? There’s an increasing amount of research out there about adult learning theory which is why there is a such a huge need for personalized PD. But since there’s never enough time in the day for all of the things that we want to do…that we need to do…why not change the purpose of those meetings so that we leave feeling that our time together added value to what we do with our students (Barth, 2013)? Information can be relayed via email. It’s done all of the time. And sometimes too much with the “reply all” feature, if you know what I mean. But I digress.

I think we need to move beyond bringing people together for a sit and get…and utilize that valuable time together to help each other grow professionally (Hagan, 2014). To figure out how to solve-problems that may be plaguing our campus. To discuss ways that we can help our students attain 21st century skills. Those are all value-added options and something that would give us (the participants) a purpose. 
Here’s to purpose driven meetings.

Barth, R. (2013). The time is ripe (again). Educational Leadership, 71(2), 10–16.

Hagan, D. (2014). Catholic school faculty meetings: A case study linking catholic identity, school improvement, and teacher engagement. Dissertations. Paper 58.

Where Learning Matters

Like last summer, I was brought in as part of the technology team to plan, present, and facilitate professional development for teachers in my district.  Because of the size of our team, we were able to host a variety of technology PD for all teachers in our district K12.  However, we were not able to host as many repeat sessions this year because we simply did not have the man-power or space to do so.  In fact, I was told that the sessions quickly filled to capacity when Super Week sign-ups opened at the beginning of June.  This was a good sign.

Last week was the start of Super Week (#superweek2015) for our district.  I’m not sure how other districts run their PD, but in my 20 years we’ve always had PD before school starts.  Some years it’s a full week, last year it was a week and a half (dubbed Super-Duper Week, no hashtag).  But what I really enjoyed about this year’s Super Week was the addition of K6 teachers to the mix.  Prior, we only concentrated on secondary teachers (7-12 Instruction) which made sense since we were all from the secondary level.  But this year we added a few elementary teacher presenters and facilitators which brought new insight into how technology could effectively be integrated into the curriculum.

This year, I presented on a variety of topics:

  • Presentations that Inspire – Slides, Prezi, PowToon, HaikuDeck
  • Advanced Flipped Learning – EdPuzzle, Movenote, Educreations, Camtasia, Screencastomatic
  • SAMRai – UpLeveling the Learning
  • Let’s Get Appy – Web Apps for Everyone
But what I love most about presenting is the learning that occurs on my own end.  I enjoy lively dialogue with teachers about how best to use technology with their students.  It is exciting to see the passion reignited in teachers when they see the power that technology can bring in order to transform the learning process.  But it’s not just on their end.  I always pick up several cool ideas that I could bring back to my own classroom which will not only benefit my students but my department as well.  Learning is a two-way street and delivering PD is one avenue to the process.  

Fun with GHO

So today I met up with my co-presenters for the Think.Create.Share conference.  We were talking about the student work that we planned to include and how best to share that work with attendees considering the fact that we cannot share outside of our GAFE domain.

But as usual, when getting together with passionate teachers…the topic evolved into a share-faire of new technology tools and how we could use those with colleagues and our students.

First up, GHO.

A couple of us have tried using GHO on a school device using the district wifi.  It seemed to work, but the video lagged here and there.

Today?  It worked beautifully.

The three of us (@PrimoHistory @WHistTeacher) joined a GHO using our GAFE accounts.  Now anyone who knows me knows how much I HATE being on video.  I love that I can turn my camera off during a GHO and just have my profile pic on the screen.  But today amongst my friends I learned how to let go of my fear of being on camera.  In fact, there were even some points in the conversation when I even forgot that I was on video.

When we all first joined in…I shared what I learned about GHOs from last summer’s #edcamphome.  I showed my friends how customize their lower third and explained a bit about Google Effects.  I chose to wear the princess crown which went well with the devil horns from @WHistTeacher.

And then we discovered the Draw tool.

I’m not sure how long we played around with that tool on each other’s pictures, but it offered us a much needed respite from testing and end-of-the-year burnout.  In fact, I don’t think that I’ve laughed that hard at work in awhile.  In hindsight, I should have taken a couple of screenshots of our handy work.

Oh well.  Next time.

While we were laughing and playing around with adding features and text to each other’s faces in GHO, we were also brainstorming about how this tool could be used to foster collaboration with peers.

After all, it’s not just fun and games with us.  We actually do look at the practicality of things.

In fact, earlier this week I was talking with another colleague about the possibility of using GHO to replace a face-to-face PD session.  The conservative nature of my district doesn’t allow for teachers to work “at home”…it’s like we have to be physically present in order to earn a stipend or get credit.  But it’s that kind of mind-set that is preventing us from being #FutureReady.  If we’re on video…and “they” can see us…then why do we have to be physically present in a meeting?  Any seasoned teacher knows that students can be physically present in the classroom and not hear one thing that the teacher is saying.  Being physically present does not equate to active participation.  But in a GHO…if a participant is on camera then there’s not much difference where the participant is in a physical sense.

I can see the power and usefulness behind using GHO for PDs and collaboration.  First, it would allow teachers to meet with content area peers who teach at a different school.  No longer should a singleton art teacher have to sit through a collaboration with other singleton subject-area colleagues who each have a different content specialization.  Second, it would allow more opportunities for vertical collaboration.  How easy would it be to set up a 30 minute GHO to share best practices?  Think about the value of the whole process.  We’d be using a new technology tool and unleveling the PD at the same time.

Sounds good, right?

Geeking Out at #CUE15

If you’re looking for a place to recharge and reconnect, the CUE Annual Conference is the place to be.  Like last year, I had a blast!  It was great to meet new techies colleagues, reconnect with old ones, and share the triumphs and pitfalls of technology integration in the classroom.

This year’s offerings were larger than the last.  There were SOOOO many workshops and not enough time.  In fact, when I set up my Sched, I actually booked two to three workshops for each time period so that if one room was full, I had backup options.  And believe me when I say that I’m thankful for those backup options!

My take-aways from these past few days include…

  • Interest-based learning –> “What matters to you, matters!” – Glenn Warren
  • Voxer is a means to connect & collaborate
  • Finding the citation for an image taken from the Internet is quite easy
  • Bring humor into the situation when someone asks a question that is Googleable (yes, I know that is probably not a word) –> lmgtfy.com
Though this type of conference can be taxing on the mind (there is so much to remember and process…), it was totally worth it when one factors in the relationships built over shared triumphs and frustrations when integrating technology into the curriculum and PD. I left Palm Springs this morning with a heavy heart because I know that I have to wait a full year for the next CUE conference.  Having said that, I am confident that the connections made this past weekend will continue to grow as we reach out to each over over Twittersphere…and perhaps maybe Voxer.  😉

Tech PD Marathon, Done.

Today marked the end of a marathon technology professional development week (for me)…with one more day for a couple of our teams.  Eight technology sessions ranging from Google Basics all the way to Power of the LMS, done…with one specific session devoted to Digital Literacy in the History Classroom (my personal fave).  The technology team (@ggusd712tech) at my district worked for two weeks during the summer, planning, revising, talking, rehashing all of the things that we thought would make a successful PD workshop for teachers eager to learn how to effectively and efficiently integrate technology into their classroom.
The range of attendees were from complete newbies to experienced tech-users.  It was my goal that teachers would leave our session with at least one thing they could apply to their classroom.  The feedback (both on the eval/GoogleForm and F2F) was positive.  So I think we may have hit our mark there!  =D
Now the true test will be…will the teachers be able to integrate one new technology tool?  The other test?  Can our district provide on-going PD to support their learning?  I will be anxiously awaiting the results…
I hope that these sessions start the crucial conversations that teachers and administrators need to have in order for us to move more fully into the 21st century learning environment…because we need those conversations and 1:1 access for every student.  It’s not too much to ask, is it?  

#EdCampHOME – Best.PD.ever.

Still riding the high from attending EdCampHOME 3.0.  I lurked during my first one…meaning, I basically followed the conversation via Google on Air.  But this time around, I wanted to participate.  The problem?  I would have to be on video.  Argh!  I hate being on video.  But I had to get out of my comfort zone and just deal with it.

I practiced setting up a Google+ Hangout (with myself – I know how that sounds, but it wasn’t weird…well, it wasn’t too weird anyway) and I played around with the add-ons.  I shifted my laptop around on my desk to figure out the best position so that my face wasn’t in a shadow and so that participants couldn’t see my mess of an office.  But I digress.  And then I decided to add the Lower Third (per @davidtedu).  Much to my surprise, the text was backwards.  Really?!?!  Well, I’m not one to shy away from clicking around so I figured out how flip the screen so that the text was readable, but then to my dismay I discovered that my camera was no longer a mirror of my actions.  It had flipped me too!  Boy, you want to talk about mind games.  I am a visual learner.  I’m very good at spatial everything.  But trying to figure out the mirror/reverse on the camera threw me for a loop.  I left a feeble message in our G+ group and was happy to discover that there were people so willing and able to help.  Two people created visuals for me.  Well, not exactly for me.  But I felt like it was for me.  =)  I totally appreciated it.  A shout out and HUGE thanks to @DAliceMarsh and @2footgiraffe!

When I finally got into the first session, the non-mirrored view of myself was not a problem.  In fact, I didn’t even really see myself because I was always small on the screen.  Thank GOD!  I don’t think I could have concentrated on the conversation at hand if I was face to face with my face really large on the screen.  But it was ridiculous.  I had two laptops and my iPad on my desk and I was trying to follow the feed on Twitter as well as take notes.  Talk about multi-tasking.  It may have looked like (to the participants) that I wasn’t paying attention, but I was.  I totally was.  Copious notes.  =)

The first session was great.  In previous Twitter chats, there was discussion about using students to help deliver PD…so naturally I wanted to learn more.  At the end of the school year, I had a couple of NJHS students create tutorials on how to use Edmodo and MyBigCampus.  I was thinking that I could put those on my class website for next year.  I mean, what better way to learn than from peers?  With little direction, my five students did an awesome job!  And…they earned community service hours for it.  Bonus!  I’m thinking that I can tap that resource to help with PD for this coming school year.  But more importantly, I’m thinking that I could use a few of them to help out at our Staff Development Day in August.  And the wheels are turning…

My second session was almost a bust.  I soooooo wanted to attend the Genius Hour session to hear about how people were implementing GH in their classrooms.  But after about 20 minutes and no help on that end…I saw a tweet from @SLOKevin about there being room in their GHO on hosting/preparing for an EdCamp.  I jumped all over that because that was one of my four votes for this EdCamp anyway.  Though I missed out on the previous 20 minutes, luckily all sessions were recorded so I plan to review the conversation at a later date.  I already set up a GoogleDoc with information on setting up and hosting an EdCamp for our district.  I shared the EdCamp info with our new Director of Technology and another fellow tech-geek.  So hopefully I’ll be able to tweet that our district is finally joining the EdCamp movement.  =)

I see a lot of value in EdCamps.  It’s informal, it’s democratic, it’s collaborative…and boy, is it informative.  What’s not to love about FREE PD with like-minded educators?