Thursday, September 9, 2010

Group Work as a Teacher

I've been working with a group of teachers to instruct them in the use of MacBook computers with ActivInspire and the Promethean Activboards. It's been a great experience made even better with the book Building a Professional Learning Community at WorkTM: A Guide to the First Year by Parry Graham and William M Ferriter.

How I Learned About the Book
I've been communicating with Bill Ferriter through Twitter for at least a couple of years. Over time he has shared a wealth of information and conversation (albeit 140 characters at a time). I've looked at PDF worksheet files that he has shared and found a lot of value in them. I decided to pick up his book for summer reading. It has been a great value to me.

The Book's Focus

I really appreciated the way the book was written. It is not an easy book to read cover to cover in a short period of time. There is a lot to digest and think about. I split reading it over June and July. I read about half of the book over the course of three or four days each time.

I specifically liked that each chapter of the book starts with a scenario from a fictitious school. It put me in the frame of mind to reflect on my situation. The scenario is followed by research, ideas, and suggestions. The chapters wrap up with worksheets, surveys, and check lists.

Wrapping Up the Summer Sessions
The last session this summer was part show and tell and partially practice in hooking up the projector, speakers, board, and computer. I wanted to make sure that the group stayed focused and felt their time was well spent as we worked. Initially, I was going to have the teachers break into groups with the six boards, but due to floor polishing I couldn't.

While thinking about my approach, I decided to page through the book. The idea I found came from a chapter on Negotiating Personalities and Conflict. This chapter ends with two reproducibles called the Team Agenda Template and Team Roles to Consider. I didn't use the exact worksheet or roles, but it was perfect for my needs. It really calls to mind working with students on group projects and making sure they have clear roles to play in their learning. It shouldn't be any different with adult learners.

My Version
These are the modified topics I used.

Topic 1: Each person will connect the laptop to the projector, board and speakers. What worked well for each person? What did not work? Was it one individual, several, or everyone?

Topic 2: Each person will open a flipchart they found on Promethean Planet or a flipchart they created themselves. Others in the room will act as students. What worked well for each person? What do individuals need to learn to move forward?

Topic 3: The group will focus on student outcomes for the lesson. What student weaknesses would this lesson support? What ideas were brainstormed as a result of viewing this lesson? Do you think this lesson could help younger or older students in the building (with or without modification)?

Topic 4: As a group reflect on a lesson or lessons Ann could provide to move the learning forward.

If a lesson wasn't prepared in advance, I had bookmarked a website called Faith First as a tinyurl ( The teachers enjoyed testing it out. Another teacher shared a website her college son was using. Everyone really got into talking about the possibilities of the websites in class - both the strengths and potential downsides. They discussed the importance of trying things outside of class hours to make sure they knew what to expect.

I intended to also use the short survey of the value of the meeting, but forgot to use it.

A Hearty Recommendation
I've been leading the teachers to become more comfortable with sharing in online spaces though the use of a private Ning. The teachers helped me by posting the results of the topics, reflections, and discussions on the ning. As a result, I created several screencasts to help everyone remember how to find a flipchart on Promethean Planet, the difference between Mac folders, opening and saving a flipchart from Promethean Planet, and the difference between save and save as. We are becoming a learning community. The book has given me a wealth of ideas as a teacher leader to help others expand their comfort and knowledge.

It is a resource for an administrator helping a district, a principal helping a school, or a teacher leader helping fellow teachers. It brings up both the benefits and real work involved in becoming a professional learning community.


  1. Cool stuff, Ann....

    I'm just tickled anytime that people think something I've written seems worthwhile. I get some of the same reactions from people around my teaching with technology book---Teaching the iGeneration---and I'm always honored.

    Let me know if I can do anything to help your group, either with professional learning communities or with teaching with technology.

    Be well,

  2. Thank you Bill. I'm always looking for new ideas. The ideas in the book will be helping me all year. I'll keep your offer of help in mind.

  3. I'm adding Bill's book to my must read list.

  4. It's a great resource, Charlie. I know you will get a lot out of it for your school!