Yesterday was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, as a presenter, co-learner and colleague.
Although our board has been at the forefront of supporting teachers in integrating technology into their practice, it has seemed like a very long time getting to the point where we are talking about leveraging digital for teaching and learning. As opposed to learning the basics of our tools and how they work.
For four years, we have had the Tech For Teachers program to provide a device to all full-time teachers. We have supported these teachers from year to year with regional sessions on Intro to MacBook, or iPad, for example. But we have never had the chance to meet to think deeply about using tech to meet specific student or teacher needs.
With our MISA grant complemented by board funds, we not only had the chance to present two regional events to explore these ideas, but the money to support teachers with ongoing learning in their schools.
The event was very well received, and a number of participants even lingered afterwards, to continue their discussions with each other and with us. Tech experts and new users alike were engaged and inspired, it seemed to me.
The first sign that this was going to be a popular program came when we sent the original email to principals. We were seeking five teams of two from each school. Half an hour after I clicked Send, these spots were filled, and requests to participate continued to flow in over then next days and weeks.
The original email read as follows:
The project will include an exploration and implementation of our board’s Office 365 tools, including some or all of: Mail, Calendar, Sway, Word, Powerpoint, Excel, One Drive, Forms, Planner, One Note, Class Notebook, People, Tasks, Video, SharePoint, Delve, Newsfeed and Skype, as well as the Office Lens app. Learning will address teacher and student productivity as well as 21st century competencies such as Communication and Collaboration.
We are seeking teams of two teachers from schools. Teachers will be able to support one another, and will be sharing release time to plan and reflect.
Teams will meet on Tuesday, February 28 for a full day of PD. Half a day will focus on the apps and their potential, followed by half a day of classroom-focused personal planning to narrow the focus of learning and application for the teams. (PD location to be determined based on participants.)
Between March 1 and May 31, schools will be allotted several release days to continue activities such as planning, co-planning, observing, and reflecting. Teams can use this time as they wish. Examples of activities might include meetings, co-teaching opportunities, or releasing other teachers within the school to work alongside the team.
ET Department staff will be available upon request to support the teams during March, April and May.
We will ask teachers and their students to complete a brief survey on February 28 and May 31.
We could never have guessed that this seemingly simple project would generate so much enthusiasm.
Obviously, before starting to plan the details of our introductory sessions, we knew that we had tapped into a demand for information on these apps, but we were looking for a way to go beyond the “how-to” approach. We also knew that we wanted to to have the follow-up release time used in a self-directed fashion.
With everyone more or less familiar with the terminology of the Collaborative Inquiry, this seemed like a logical way to plan. We had also recently enjoyed PD with CI guru Jenni Donohoo. We were give her second book as a resource, and I went out and bought the first one as well. Both were invaluable in getting me back into the CI process, and also to give me ideas and values as a facilitator.
Our keynote for the day described our Near North environment and vision, and also referenced Fullan’s 6Cs and the ministry foundation document: Towards Defining 21c century competencies for Ontario.”
We followed up with an activity where teachers used sticky notes to write down a series of personal needs: urgent student need, professional need, digital citizenship need, curriculum expectation that could be adapted with technology, etc.
Then, several teachers were asked to come forward and transfer all the sticky notes from the whiteboard onto chart papers with the headings: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Citizenship.
At this point, participants could graphically see that their needs, which might be fulfilled by various O365 apps, also fell into categories of 21c or global competencies.
The next couple of hour were spent exploring several apps: Word and One Drive, Sway, One Note and Class Notebook, Lens, and Skype for Business.
Then, participants had a quick refresher on the CI process before starting to work on their own plans.
When everyone shared their ideas at the end, the vision and creativity shone from each team, as a wide array of ideas, questions, strategies, success criteria, grade involvement and use of release time was revealed.
This whole day far exceed my dreams and expectations, and I can’t wait to see the great things that are accomplished at the school level in the next three months.