Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Use Members of Your PLN for Great Professional Development

I want to inform everyone of an event that took place at my school last week, and let you know that you, too, could easily (with a little work) provide the same for your community.

Last Thursday, April 7, 2011, over 100 educators from public and independent schools in Memphis, TN, convened at Presbyterian Day School (PDS), for InnovatED, an evening of professional development unlike traditional professional development. Where typical professional development sessions are an hour in length and tied to a day or more of a conference, InnovatED (a play on the words Innovate and Education) took place between 4:30 PM and 8 PM in 4 rooms where 4 sessions were going on simultaneously for 20 minutes each for a total of 36 sessions. The event began with registration and pizza provided by Presbyterian Day School from 4:30-4:55.

In addition to the 100 plus attendees on campus, others could attend virtually by following the #InnovatED twitter stream or watching on the uStream.tv channel, since each presentation was streamed live. Our headmaster Lee Burns watched two presentations via uStream while out of town!

Presentations were made by educators from Shelby County Schools and independent schools including several PDS teachers. What made this event even more unique were the several presentations made by educators in other states and outside of the U.S. via Skype. These included Rory Fundora, CIO of Todd County Schools in Kentucky, Edna Sackson, Teaching and Learning Coordinator from Mt. Scopus College in Australia and writer of the popular blog What Ed Said, Jerry Blumengarten from Florida who shared his very popular Cybraryman website, and Jen Wagner, creator of Projects with Jen. There were several other educators outside the Memphis area who also presented using Skype. To see a complete list of presenters and their topics and websites, check out the event wiki.

The event was open to teachers, administrators, college education majors, home school educators, and anyone interested in education. InnovatED was organized by a committee of public and private school teachers in the Memphis area, including PDS Technology Coaches Cindy Brock and Melissa Smith who committed much time in helping lead and organize this very successful event. One of our athletic coaches, Spencer McLean, also created the great logo for the event shown at the top of this post!

You could do what Cindy and Melissa did. Through their use of social media, they promoted the event and asked others to promote the event. Originally they had thought they would use only two rooms with presentations taking place in each room during each time slot. As more people signed up to attend, they continued to add rooms and presentations. Once they asked local educators to present, they began asking educators in their PLNs if they would present via Skype. These educators readily agreed, and we appreciate everyone’s participation.

With presenters Skyping in from other states, Canada, and Australia, and with some attendees “attending” the event through a twitter stream and through uStream, what might have been a local affair turned into a night of global interaction and networking, which will benefit many, many students across the world!

As a side note: InnovatED was a form of a TeachMeet. Wikipedia describes a TeachMeet as an organized (but informal) meeting for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology. Participants volunteer (via a TeachMeet website) to demonstrate good practices they've delivered over the past year or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice. TeachMeet events are open to all and do not charge an entry fee. The first TeachMeet was conceived in 2005 in Scotland.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Teacher Reflections

Last week, I was honored to make a presentation at the ERB conference in New York with 3 of my colleagues. The presentation was called Integrating Technology Into Your School's Culture. It shared our school's experience with leading change and highlighted the challenges and opportunities of integrating technology into our school's culture. Part of the presentation included a video we made of some of our teachers reflecting on their use of technology. I purposely chose some teachers who have been here long before technology invaded our lives as well as some teachers who were maybe a little reluctant about making the change. What struck me is that these teachers used no script. Technology has become such a part of our culture that they just started talking, and I was amazed at the incredible things they were saying. Unfortunately, I had to edit the video to approximately 9 minutes for the presentation, but I wanted to share it here because it is always so powerful to here directly from the teachers. Click here and enjoy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Skyping With the U.K.

When one of our second grade teachers wanted to Skype with a class in another country, her Tech Coach turned to Twitter to ask if there was another teacher outside of the United States who wanted to Skype with a second grade class in Memphis, Tennessee (Elvis country). She found a first grade teacher in a school just north of London. It can be a challenge communicating with a class in another country due to the differences in time zones. But we scheduled a Skyping session for 9:00 AM Memphis time, which was 3:00 PM U.K. time - right before their dismissal. We had some slight communication problems in that we saw and heard them but we couldn't seen them actually moving. It was fun for our boys from an all boys schools to see a coed school and to listen to their accents. We got a chance to exchange some questions also. We asked each other about the current weather. Interestingly enough, England was warm and sunny and we were overcast with drizzle, which is just the opposite with what you would expect. One little girl asked if any of our boys had been on any interesting trips. One of our students told of his trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, and told them of the huge chocolate bar he had. When asked if the children in English had Hershey bars, they said, "No." I have to admit that I was a little surprised by that. I think that if we had had enough time to ask if they had Hershey "Kisses" they would have certainly answered with a yes!

Back to School Night Puts Parents Into Students' Role

One of our second grade teachers decided to put the parents in the role of the students during our back to school night. We use Photo Booth on our MacBooks quite often with the students. This teacher decided to let the parents see the ways that the students use Photo Booth. She asked them to think of their most favorite school memory and record themselves using Photo Booth. Parents had a great time with this "assignment" but did want to make sure that their recordings would not hit the Internet. No, not the recordings, only a picture!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Please Don't Leave Me, iPod!

That's what one boy said as his class ended their lesson with the new iPod cart for the first time. The boys told our 1st-3rd grade Tech Coach that she was the most popular teacher for the week, because she had the iPod cart! We are a 1:1 laptop school where each boy from the 4-year-old classes through 6th grade has his own laptop. But this is the first year that we have incorporated iPods. I'm anxious to see what iPods can add to classrooms where there are already laptops. Right away I know it's important to give the students practice with a touch screen and the use of apps. I don't get this question much anymore, but on occasion I'm asked why we don't formally teach keyboarding. We have offered keyboarding as an after-school enrichment, but our day is so full that I honestly don't think it's necessary to try to fit in keyboarding - especially if we can't fit in a daily keyboarding class for several weeks in a row. The boys begin using laptops even before they come to our school, and we use them with our 3 and 4 year olds. That's too early to teach the standard keyboarding class. Their hands are just too small. And now with touch screens, I really believe that these children will be using touch screens almost exclusively by the time they are adults.
Today the tech coach introduced a "monster-making app." She told them that aliens had landed and they were to create their own monster/alien. The students had no trouble using the iPods. Most had already used an iPod or an iPhone at home. There was such excitement as they created their own alien. They then emailed their picture to their teacher, which she printed. This was followed with a thinking routine where the students had to create a headline for the "front page" of the paper announcing that aliens had landed. The first iPod lesson was a success as I will continue to evaluate the use of iPods in the classrooms.

Skyping With a Classmate

In one of the third grade classrooms, a student is missing the first few weeks of school to be with his family in the country of Grenada. Not to worry! By using Skype, the student is still part of the class as he Skypes in regularly to share lessons. This day, the boy and his family shared information about all the different types of trees they've seen in Grenada even showing examples of some of their findings as you can see in one of the photographs.

We All Learn Differently

One of our 6th grade teachers uses Diigo to bookmark important websites where she highlights the important points for her students. You can see in these pictures that she also encourages the boys to choose their own way to take notes to study. Some choose note cards, some regular notebook paper, some enter notes into Word, and others use Diigo accounts. The students have their own Diigo accounts so that they can collaboratively take notes and share highlights and sticky note annotations.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Daily Glimpse at Educational Technology or It Takes a Village

Several years ago, one of our Technology Coaches at the time was helping organize one of our first collaborations (video conference) with another school through an iSight camera, a microphone, and a video projector all attached to her laptop in a Senior KIndergarten classroom. The school was just down the street, and we both used iChat on our Macs.

We were discussing what our students had learned about Ireland, and I really don't remember what the other school was sharing. We decided we should hook up to ethernet rather than use the wireless network to make a better connection. We rolled a mobile interactive whiteboard in to use only as a projection screen. Cables and cords were everywhere, but it was an incredible first experience and the students (and the teachers) thought it was magical.

But what I will remember most about that experience is what the Tech Coach said to me as we rolled everything out that we had just rolled in and disconnected everything that we had diligently connected. She said, "Technology! It takes a village." I loved that. I laughed because she was so right. What we did was new to us, and it did take so many people and so much equipment to make it happen. I still recall her saying that and use it on occasion when something is a little more laborious than I had hoped while integrating technology.

It's even more special to me, because that Tech Coach became ill later and passed away at a young age. So I think of her fondly often and use her famous line at least twice a school year.

And so what if integrating technology takes a village. The inhabitants of our village share and collaborate and help each other to continue to grow and learn. I've been in educational technology for almost 20 years, and the early naysayers worried that technology would isolate the student. As we know, that can't be further from the truth. Technology connects us in ways that we never could have imagined. It connects us to the global village.

This school year, I hope to snap a few pictures of our villagers helping one another - specifically in integrating technology into the classrooms. Hopefully we can all take a little snippet away here and there!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today we distributed laptops to our 5th and 6th grade students. This is the 10th year of distributing laptops to our 6th graders but the first year for the 5th graders. We have been a 1 to 1 laptop school for awhile. But until today, only the 6th graders brought them to and from school. We opened this up to our 5th graders this year.

We refresh laptops every 3 years. This happened to be the year for new laptops. Our students received the latest white MacBooks from Apple. They were so new, so clean, so white, and so sleek. I've never seen so many 5th and 6th grade boys ooohhh and aahhh so much.

One thing I want to share today concerns our Internet filtering software. Since these are young boys in an elementary school, we do feel that it is important that we filter the Internet. Until this year, our Internet filter wouldn't work outside the school building. We let the parents know that the filter would not work away from school and that we would support them and help them if they wanted to purchase and install a filter that would work at home. Few, if any, ever chose to do this.

With the number of wireless networks in the home and other locations, we felt that we were doing a disservice in not providing this for our students when taking the laptops off campus. This year, we chose Lightspeed Systems, and we are very pleased with the outcome. While we all know that no Internet filtering system can ever block all objectionable sites, the filter works beautifully at school and picks up any wireless network and continues to filter as it did while the students were on campus.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Update of My Blog in the Works - Really

Today is April 18, 2010. As you can see by my previous post in 2008, I had hoped to begin blogging again by now. I am beginning to give out the URL on my blog as I join various Nings, etc. I will begin blogging about Technology Integration in the schools - particularly what is happening in my school, Presbyterian Day School (PDS). PDS is an all boys independent school located in Memphis, Tennessee, serving boys ages 3 years old - 6th grade. We have 636 boys, which makes it the largest private all boys school in the United States. Our school is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Please check back in a month or so as I begin to blog again. I will also Tweet when my blog becomes current. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And Time Passes........

It's been more than a year since I've blogged on my site. I initially used blogging to share my experience in China. Much has happened in the year since I visited China. Our school has decided to teach Mandarin beginning with the 2008-2009 school year. I am also part of an independent school cohort learning Web 2.0 tools. Hence, I thought I should pull up the old blog and start anew. I'll post back shortly.