Category Archives: professional development

Google Docs on Campus

I ran a few Google Docs workshops this week to help some teachers and administrators get a better handle on how, when, and why to use Google Docs.  They seem to go well (even though some arrived asking “will I need my laptop for this workshop?”).  Overall, there are a lot more people (faculty, staff, and students) using Google Docs these days.  It’s great – students are “losing” fewer papers; faculty and staff are doing more collaboration online; faculty are sending out more Google Forms to collect information from the community.

This entertaining video came across Twitter yesterday – made entirely in Google Docs.  It’s pretty impressive and a nice response to those who say the Google Docs is not a robust enough editor.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the 1:30 minutes:

Professional Development When You Want It

Time, time, time. That is the word that comes up most often when talking about how to bring more technology professional development to teachers. During the school year, teachers just don’t have enough time to learn about new technology, get comfortable with it, and figure out if it fits into their curriculum. And we, as schools, are not good about making enough time for it.  Educators therefore have to make their own time and fit in their learning where they can.

The K12 Online Conference is a nice way to get professional development when and where you want it.  I just loaded up my iPhone with 10 podcasts downloaded from the K12 Online site on iTunesU.  The K12 Online Conference is a collection of podcasts given by educators and, this year, students from around the world.  Each podcast is a presentation on teaching and tools and how they help improve learning.  This year’s conference, that went live during the last two weeks of October, had two themes – “Leading the Change” and, for the second week, “Kicking it up a Notch”.  Among the podcast presenters are well known names like Dean Shareski, David Warlick, and Darren Kuropotwa as well as students like Ben & Ben from Yarmouth High School who talk about their own podcast show, and middle school student, Nicolas Gutkowski, who talks about “Learning on my Own”.

No matter what level or subject you teach, you can find a podcast that will fit your needs at the K12 Online Conference. I have just started to listen to these presentations and there are many good ones to choose from.  I enjoy that I can access them when I am at work or as I make my commute home.  This is just one way that you can make professional development fit into your busy life.  Check out the offerings from the K12 Online Conference; they are most easily accessible on the Schedule page or from iTunesU.

I Went to TED (xNYED)

Last weekend I made a trip to NYC (with fellow Mainer, Alice Barr) to attend the TEDxNYED conference.  When I signed up (or should I say “applied” – I have never had to “apply” to a conference before) to this conference, I wasn’t sure what kind of conference it would be.  As the date got closer, the speakers were chosen and there became a lot of twitter energy around “TEDxNYED”.  I, too, got excited to listen to these speakers – most of which I have never heard in person – and I was very interested in what they had to say as I have followed their words in the digital world.

I was not disappointed.  The speakers were terrific.  When I first looked at the schedule I wasn’t sure if I could handle the format – each speaker presenting for 18 minutes, one after another, with several breaks in between.  But I have to say, it worked.  The organizers of this event did a great job with the conference – from the schedule, to the food, to the number of attendees, and of course, to the live video feed which I heard was flawless. (The recorded video of these talks will be posted in a few weeks).  It was also the first conference in a long time when I didn’t pull out my laptop.  Sure, I was checking Twitter, etc on my iphone from time to time, but for most of the day I scribbled notes with the pen and paper they gave me when I registered that morning.

In reading some of the redux of the conference these last few days I am disappointed in some of the quibbling going on.  Some people had a problem with the conference format – that it was against what we are all striving for in the classroom (lecture) and that there was little time for conversation.  Yes, I agree to some extent but I thought it worked because we all connected with the speakers and were engaged with the content. (And who doesn’t liked to hear passionate speakers like Lawrence Lessig, David Willey, and Jeff Jarvis).  For me, it was reaffirming to hear these messages at this time of year.  Yes, they were preaching to the choir but sometimes I need that continued inspiration to remind me why I am pushing for change.  Each speaker had a different message (and maybe slightly different solutions) but to me the theme was the same – we need to push education forward, out of the 19th century where it has been stuck since the industrial age.

Here are some takeaways from the day (there were so many great one-liners, I could start a bumper sticker enterprise):

Andy Carvin (NPR) started off the day with the right tone.  He spoke to the increased ability for people to organize and rally behind a cause/disaster.  He showed the “power of participation” in the newly developed “Crisis Camps” that emerged out of the Boxing Day Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina and more recently the development of from the earthquake in Haiti.  All fantastic resources.

Michael Wesch sent a great message (one I plan to share with some Administrators) that people cannot “opt out” of the changes brought about by technology.  He told a wonderful story about living in a remote village in New Guinea and how that village (its culture, the relationships, and its people) was transformed by the development of the census – houses/huts were knocked down and reconstructed in rows to correspond to “numbering” and people were forced to have a “fixed” names.  After setting this stage, Wesch moved on to talk about how this translates in his classroom through several projects: a documentary, where each student is responsible for a small part of it and instead of a syllabus, the students are involved in creating and constantly revising a “research schedule”; in another project,he has students working on a world simulations game where each student is responsible for becoming an “expert” in a region of the world, then they are responsible for coming up with the “rules” of interaction between these countries and cultures.  Wesch described teachers roles as helping students move from becoming “knowledgeable to knowledge-able“.

David Willey (of BYU) gave a rousing call for “openness”.  He said openness and sharing is a must in education and the best educators are the ones who share the most successfully with students.  Right now, we have very powerful technology (technology that makes it extremely easy to share) but we have very outdated thinking.  He stated, “(if there is) no sharing, then there is no education”. His notes on his talk can be found here.

Lawrence Lessig hit the stage with a call to enable sharing in a way for people to have a “freedom to create while still maintaining a respect for the creator”.  I can’t possible do respect to his presentation by paraphrasing so visit his presentation here.

I enjoyed listening to Jay Rosen’s message from journalism that we “learn best by doing something that is difficult and that knowledge comes out of difficult problems”.

Jeff Jarvis took the stage by storm sans projection/presentation and (after berating the format of the conference) called for us to “move students up the education chain”.  Jarvis thinks teachers need to “do what they do best and link to the rest” – we should be using/curating the resources online for our students and turning our schools into incubators rather than factories.  Jarvis shares his notes from his talk here but wait for the video on his session, it’ll be worth it.

After lunch there were some great sessions on “practice” by Dan Cohen, Dan Meyer, Amy Bruckman, and Chris Lehmann.  All great messages especially Dan Meyer who encouraged the teaching of “patient problem solving” and he summed up his remarks with five suggestions – use multimedia, encourage student intuition, ask short questions, let students build the problem, and be less helpful. I think everyone left wishing they had Dan as a math teacher.  Chris Lehmann presented a passionate plea for change.  In it he expanded (in a way only Lehmann can) on Alvin Toffler’s statement,  “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.  What better way to end the conference?

What now? Well, I have returned to work as usual with no magic bullet for change but I have been recharged with words, wisdom, and connections from this weekend.  I will continue to make baby steps toward change, engage in conversations, and keep pushing that rock up the hill!

“Speedy” Professional Development

I’ve been thinking about summer lately.  Mostly because we still have some snowbanks that haven’t melted and I am longing for the warm sun these days, but also because I’m starting to summer wasting...plan for technology workshops for teachers at the end of the year.  I came across this post from Kim Cofino, from the ISB (Bangkok), about “SpeedGeeking”.  What a great idea.  She, and her technology team, ran a professional development workshop like a speed dating set up.  They had 12 tables, each teacher rotated around each table and heard about a technology project for four minutes, and then moved on.  It gave teachers a brief introduction to new things going on in their own school.

The buzz in the room was amazing! Teachers were visibly excited and energized by the discussion and it was obvious that everyone found at least one thing that sparked their interest in the 30-minute session.

What a great idea – I hope I get a chance to run something like that here.  Thanks to Kim for thoroughly capturing the day in her post (as usual).

Photo credit – “summer wasting…

Powerpoint and beyond

I enjoy reading and watching Dan Meyer’s blog.  He is a truly innovative teacher and I am constantly sending his material to our math department.  Yesterday, he posted a recent presentation to teachers about Powerpoint and how to use it successfully.  Throughout the presentation he also mentions a number of lessons from his class – a great demonstration on how visual cues can capture the attention of all.  Click here for the Quicktime version.

Art on the brain

A few weeks ago we devoted a professional development day to the performing arts. It was a great day with a mix of a keynote (Ellen Winner, professor at Boston College), mini workshops, and a panel of alumni and professionals. The day was designed to raise awareness about making more room for art in the academic day. I came into the day with thoughts that we should be integrating more art into the traditional curriculum but I left with thoughts on how the traditional curriculum (english, math, science, history, language) should take some lessons from the way we teach art. In general, art classes focus more or depth rather than breadth; reflection and collaboration are routine; and effort and risk-taking are central to assessment. I would like to see more of these attributes in other classes.

Speaking of art, there is a great conference in April put on by the Maine Dept of Ed. It’s called “Arts, Innovation, and Creativity.” There are loads of workshop offerings; here’s a quote from the conference write-up:

Workshop sessions will include:

  • over 30 hands-on creative and imaginative professional develop opportunities;
  • interdisciplinary connections between the arts and creative thinking in other Maine Learning Results content areas utilizing technology;
  • innovative instruction, curriculum and assessment;
  • a link between at least one arts discipline (music, dance, theater or visual art) and at least one other content area from the MLR’s (Career and Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education and Physical Education, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, World Languages);
  • unique learning opportunities for educators utilizing technology to impact teaching and learning for all students.

Check the website for details on the workshops. And best of all, you get to spend 2 days in beautiful Rockport, Maine and the cost of the conference is only $45!

Evolution of English

I stumbled across this video through a post by a Columbia professor (former Bowdoin professor). The video was created by the chair of the Rutgers University English Department, Richard Miller. He makes a compelling argument about how the study of English has to evolve with the read/write world. In it he says of the study of English in the networked world:

(the study of English) excels in human expression and in the study of human culture related to human expression – we should be the place that’s at the very cutting edge of education for students in these areas.

I am glad to see more and more conversation happening in the higher ed world.  It would be nice to engage in a k-16 conversation rather than separate k-12 and 13-16 conversations. Watch it and see what you think.