Yesterday's professional development experience after school turned out very well (the ustream broadcast from the demo portion is included at the end of this blog post). At University School we typically have a "Division" meeting each month - this time is usually devoted to professional development of some sort, announcements, etc. December's meeting centered around the topic of 21st Century Tools. I appreciate Pam Nosbusch, our Head of Middle School, setting time aside to allow us to take a look at some of these tools and concepts.
Highlights from the PD Experience:
We had ten students stay after school and join us for this meeting-the kids were great! Students were assigned to work with the different department teams - they really like to teach the teachers. I popped into the math department to see how everything was going and Alex B, an 8th grade student, was busy using the smart board to show the teachers how to add photos and comments to a voicethread project.
I'm fortunate to work at a place where teachers are so willing to try new things and take risks. It was so much fun to walk around during the break-out sessions and watch each department team in action. They were working together, talking and engaged in the process. It was great to see-I consider myself quite fortunate to work with such a creative, talented, and professional group of people. See some of their complete projects online at the Middle School professional development wiki.
Skype Call Reflection
At the end of the experience, we did a skype call with all of the departments who were in different locations throughout the Middle School. Each department summarized their experience during this call-at the end of the call, Pam thanked everyone for their work and was sure to thank our special guests and student helpers. Even though this was a little forced, I'm glad we did this because it gave everyone the chance to play with skye a bit more.
Skype calls to St. Louis, Oakland and New Zealand!
The Skype Calls might have been the highlight. Our first conversation was with Elizabeth Helfant, the Instructional Technology Coordinator at Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School. Elizabeth was a wonderful guest and talked about everything from how her school is using Skype to some of the asynchronous tools that the teachers and students at MICDS used for the flat classroom project. We then skyped Gene Yang, author of An American Born Chinese. Our 8th grade English Teacher, Laurie Barth, led us through another very interesting Q/A session with Gene. The third call was to Chrissy in New Zealand, who teaches a year 11 classroom in Hawkes Bay. Chrissy was great-she talked about how they use skype to make connections and bring people in from all over the world. I love how she uses this tool in her classroom-she leaves it on all day long and is regularly receiving calls from all corners of the world. If they are in the middle of Math, they stop what they're doing for 10 minutes and interact with their classroom 'visitor.' What an authentic way to learn.
These went well, but we clearly didn't have enough time. I think we did our best to provide the opportunity for people to talk, play, collaborate and create. Even though most groups did not get a product created due to not having nearly enough time, everyone appeared to be talking and engaged in the process. Additionally, the characteristics of these tools allow the projects to be worked on at any time in the future. See our english department's work sample online now!
Things I wish we could've done more of:
Reflection/processing time. This is about the only thing I wish we had more time for (although I did cut out the viewing of the "Did You Know Video" which I really wanted to share with the faculty). While we did have some time in the form of the skype call, I wish we could've done more processing, reflecting and sharing.