PargoNet

Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

Transforming My Own Work to Transform the Work of Others November 30, 2007

For the past 2 years, I have created professional development opportunites during the summer for our teachers and any other faculty member who wished to join on web 2.0 tools and strategies to use them in the classroom. While the workshops have been well attended, I have only seen “pockets of excellence” as my superintendent calls it. In other words, the workshops have not transformed the way all teachers teach in the district. Rather, a small number of teachers have begun doing amazing things in their classrooms, but the number of teachers doing so is small.

So I have changed my strategy. While I will continue to offer summer professional growth opportunities in this area, I have begun attacking this problem with another approach – and it really is nothing radical. I have begun modeling the use of these tools for every meeting and interaction I have with teachers, administrators, and my technology specialists and media specialists. Below are some examples of the way I have modeled the use and the effects it is already having:

  1. Graduation Project – The Director of Secondary Education, Sherri Martin, asked me to work with her to facilitate a series of committee meetings to develop a 21st Century Graduation Project that will be required of all graduating seniors beginning with this year’s sophomore class – this is a state requirement. It seemed to me that if the students were going to be asked to incorporate 21st Century Skills into their project, the educators working with them better learn pretty quickly what those skills and tools look and feel like. So I did two things: rather than create a traditional web site with all of the committee info, Sherri and I created a wiki and shared the password with the committee. Additionally, the committee is divided into five work groups, each of which has a specific aspect of the graduation project to work on and a document to produce. So I set up a Google doc for each group and have them working in these docs collaboratively even outside of the committee meetings. I shared Common Craft’s video on Google Docs in Plain English with them so that they would understand why we were using this approach rather than the traditional Word Doc over email method. They were all very excited about this concept and one teacher asked, “you mean my students could use this to collaborate on their projects?” With a smile, I said “Yes they Can!” One of the administrators left this meeting to immediately set up a Google doc to work on with one of his groups, and more importantly, created a Google calendar to share with her co-workers – and another one with his wife to replace the paper calendar on their fridge so that they can keep track of what plans they have when scheduling new ones. He is totally psyched about this use!
  2. Workshop sign ups – I have grown weary of trying to explain how wikis can be used to various groups, so rather than explain, I have increasingly begun using them. I have started a series of Lunch n Learn sessions for central office administrators (and any other central office staff) on web 2.0 tools. Rather than send out in an email the lust of dates and ask them to respond if they plan to attend, I created a wiki and asked them to edit the wiki to add their name beside any date they planned to attend. Do you know I have not gotten a single complaint about using this method or about how to go in and add their name? Instead, I have had a few administrators who were so impressed with this concept they have asked me to help them set up wikis of their own to do a similar sign up with their own groups. And we have not even done the session on how to create wikis yet! I have seen more progress made in a week after modeling the use of wikis than I have in the past 2 years of trying to explain them to the same people.
  3. Organizing Work – with my technology specialists and media specialists (we have one of each in every school) I have been using so many wikis and Google docs, that I needed a place to organize them all so that they were easy to find rather than digging through emails. So I created a Google Group for each of these groups to organize the work we do. Now, rather than have them email various products to me, I have them post them in the group space. This has transformed my work significantly. I was getting bogged down in trying to track who had sent me the products I was asking for and compiling all of them – it was taking a tremendous amount of time. Now they are compiling their work for me and it is in one place for me to find – I love this.
  4. Sharing Best Practices – Each month I have the technology specialists submit a best practice use of technology in their schools. Again, they would email me the link and then I had to create a web page and post the info. very time consuming. Now I have created a wiki that they post the best practice to by the end of each month. I then send out the wiki link each month to the teachers so that they can see all the projects going on around the district.

I know this has been one of my longer postings, but in a short amount of time, I have seen major progress made by using the tools rather than by evangelizing about them. It reaffirms my belief that teachers and administrators will not use new tech tools in their work with others until they have had to use them in their work for others. We have to become users before we can be leaders.

 

I am thankful for… November 26, 2007

In the spirit of the recent holiday weekend, I wanted to share a few of the things I am thankful for these days: (cross posted at LeaderTalk)

  • The friends and family I have reconnected with via MySpace, Facebook, Geni, and good old fashioned email
  • Wikis that allow me to minimize the email messages I have to sort through when preparing for a meeting
  • Google groups to organize my work with others
  • Edubloggers who keep me current with new technologies and bless me with their thoughts and ideas on how to use them
  • Blogs that let me share my thoughts with the rest of the worlds
  • Digital photo sites so that I share as many photos of my child without feeling guilty about filling up their mailbox quotas
  • Unlimited mail box quotas
  • A school district that lets me be excited about new ways to use technology in the classroom and lets me lead others in how to use technology to transform teaching
 

I’m All A-Twitter November 16, 2007

In my previous post, I mentioned that sitting in on Warlick’s session on social networking reminded me that I had already set up a Twitter account, but had not really done anything with it. So I got back in today and added a few Tweets. I even loaded Twitbin so that I can Tweet and read Tweets more easily. But I then realized that I am suffering from what many newbies to this app must feel….LONELY.

I truly feel like I am in an echo chamber. I have clicked on a few people to follow, I can see their tweets, but no one is following me yet – so I am speaking to myself. This is why some people get turned off so quickly – without anyone listening to you, it seems pointless. I, however, am not going to give up so easily. I am appealing to all 5 of you who read this blog – if you are also a Twit, follow my Tweets so that it is not so lonely 🙂

Actually – that sounds more like a match.com pitch rather than an attempt to express my desire to get to know this app better so that I can really think of great ways to use this in the classroom.

 

NCSLMA 2007

For the last 2 days, I attended the NC School Library Media Association Conference in Winston-Salem, NC. Although I am the Director of Instructional Technology and Media for my school district, I come to the position from the field of Instructional Technology and have to do and continue to do a lot of learning about School Library Media, so this conference is always high on my priority list each year.

On Wednesday, I went to a workshop led by Peter Genco called “Assessment Leads to Focus.” I had hoped this session would help me better learn how to evaluate a school library media program, or that it would focus on assessing student learning of information skills. It really did neither. It was a very interesting workshop and I cam away with a lot of rich discussion and ideas – just not on the topic I had hoped.

Peter was also the Thursday keynote speaker and did a lovely speech about the School Library at the center for Diversity. One of the topics I am passionate about, so it was good to hear. Even more impressed that NCSLMA held diversity and cultural connections as its key theme this year.

Attended a couple of sessions lead by David Warlick. One on web 2.0 and another on social networking.  I always learn something new in these sessions or am reminded of something I have forgotten. In the social networking session, we talked about Twitter.  I’ve been a twit for a while, but not an active one. So I am trying to get back in and send out some tweets. But I thought about how this could be used with School Libraries – what if a tweet went out each time new books arrived or a new media center contest or activity occurred? This seems like a great fit for school libraries and hope to encourage mine to embrace this kind of technology.

I also attended a session on Assessment of Student Learning for High School Students – yay – finally what I was hoping to hear. Big idea here – the TRAILS online assessment for 9th graders and they are piloting 6th grade now, too.

Finally, I went to a session from NCDPI on building 21st media center facilities. Some neat pictures there – wish I could access them to share them with you.

 

Owning Wikipedia November 1, 2007

MSNBC.com has an intriguing article today on a college professor’s use of Wikipedia in her classes. In short, rather than having her students write a final paper for her class, they either have to write an original Wikipedia article or do major revisions to an existing one.  Wow!  This would be a great assignment for any K-12 classroom as well. Dr. Groom notes the quality of the work her students are doing in Wikipedia exceeds what they were doing on traditional papers.  Below are my thoughts on why this is such a wonderful idea:

1. Authentic audience = increased engagement = higher quality work

2. Student work now benefits all of the humanity rather than just enriching the knowledge of the teacher

3. Students learn to how to view information critically so that they can both create their own credible work and improve on what is already out there

What else can you add?