Monday, January 31, 2011

Unpacking Educon

I've never driven down to Educon since it falls at the start of Catholic Schools Week. This year I decided to sign up. I had planned to attend all three days, but due to some conflicts with my son's high school accepted students reception, I only made it to Saturday - but boy am I glad.

Departmental PLCs: Using Common Planning Time Effectively
I had a number of reasons for choosing this session. First and foremost, I am looking for ideas on PLCs. Second, I've been leading a cluster group meeting and was looking to learn what people do when they have common planning time. Finally, it was a chance to listen to conversation facilitators from our host school the Science Leadership Academy.

I really loved the way they planned the session. There was time for self reflection, table talk, group sharing, and moving around the room - all within 90 minutes. There was a outline of simple questions to get us thinking. The first was a self reflection turned small group share turned whole group share: What are some aspects of WORTHWHILE professional development. 

I personally enjoy professional development that:
1) can be used immediately
2) sparks an idea of use back at school
3) helps me with my students
4) helps me bring teachers at my school new knowledge
5) is personal

It was interesting hearing from the other two gentlemen at my table. Each table wrote their ideas on a white board. We then shared and learned more from the whole group.

As we were talking, I learned about something called Critical Friends that I want to explore more. It is a way to make connections within a group, share (it can be venting), and it is productive. I will write more about it as I return to the link. It could potentially be worthwhile back at school.

We were asked to think on our own about what we see as obstacles to our vision of worthwhile PD. Again, we shared with our table and, this time, added our top two obstacles to chart paper to be posted to the wall.

Great idea here: We were then given Post-It notes to walk around the room and share our ideas to remove the obstacle. 

Finally, our group met back at our chart and shared the best Post-It idea for our obstacle. 

I still have a lot of personal reflection on how I will take my new knowledge back to school.

District, School, and Classroom Structures to Support Learning
This session was led by a group of facilitators from Albemarle County Public Schools. I was attracted to the session because of the session description. "Albemarle County, for years, has explored numerous structures to support innovation. Has it made a difference? Is innovation what school systems should be looking for? Come hear some of our questions and ideas and share some of yours as we think through how to best meet the needs of today's learners."

I have been exploring numerous structures myself. This year I'm seeing a lot going on in the building. I want to keep the flow going and felt that there would be great "lessons learned" shared. I was not mistaken!

It was interesting to hear how they tested different ideas. They had started with the idea of giving the schools "points" to spend with a catalog of technology to spend the points on. This was back in the mid-nineties. They analyzed what was most requested and made sure all the schools benefited from receiving those items the following year.

Several years later, they asked the schools for proposals for technology. In this way, they could see where the most value would occur. 

Throughout the discussions, I was able to think through how I could adopt these ideas in the future.

Diversifying Your Rolodex
This conversation was meant to "explore a lack of gender diversity in the edtech thought leader space".

It was interesting hearing the perspectives of the three male and three female panelists. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach did a great job as the facilitator.

It is true, I have not heard many keynote speakers over the last four years. That is not to say that there are not many females involved in the edtech space. I do not personally feel limited. I've been "teaching computers" for nine years, but have really only been involved in the edtech space going on five years. I've only put myself in the position of presenting outside my neighborhood in the last eight months. I have no doubt that I will get involved in more and more presentations in the coming years.

Yet, it was interesting listening to everyone's perspectives as we broke off from the panel discussion to panelist-led table discussions.

The Ideas Will Flow From Here
The best thing about these conversations is that I will benefit over the next year as the ideas play out in the explorations I do back home. I already have plans for making the entire three day event next year. There are so many quick chats I got to have on Saturday that I want to turn into conversations next year. There are so many people that I am just realizing were at Educon on Saturday that I didn't even know to seek out to say hello. What a pleasure to realize there is so much more fun and learning on the horizon!

Image Citation:
SLA Educon Scrabble. butwait's photostream. 2011 Jan 28. 2011 Jan 31.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Time Travel Agency and a Unique Way to Pick Groups

For the last couple of years, I've been having the students create a presentation in which they are a time travel agent. They are assigned to a decade from 1900-1909 through the nineties. I've chosen groups, had self selected groups, assigned decades, and had them choose. This year I wanted to do something different and I was really happy with the outcome.

Choose Your Seat. Choose Your Destiny.
At the beginning of the day, I decided how many groups there would be and the number of students per group. All classes have assigned seats. It just makes it easier for everyone to know where to go when they come into the room. On the board, I had the image at the right projected. 

For each person, I wrote out a sticky note with a decade listed and attached it to the bottom of the chair. After I went over the basics of the project, I had them reach under the chair to find their assignment. Then they found who were their group members. They seemed to like the whole process.

Time Travel Agency
The project is based on an idea I found on the Internet. The links listed in The Quest section no longer lead to the correct web page. I have them bookmarked in the school's Delicious account. [Note: I need to back up all the links to the school's Diigo account just in case Delicious suddenly disappears.]

We will be using our new Google Apps for Education account to create the presentations online with collaborative editing. The students have their Diigo Education accounts to save links.They used the Diigo account earlier in the year to share links for a map of Robinson Crusoe's journey.

I have the forms I use with my students on my projects wiki

Image Citations:
Photos by Ann Oro. Screen capture from ActivInspire flipchart.