Sunday, April 29, 2018

Looking back at our TLLP

What a great opportunity to reflect on a truly transformative experience!
I was fortunate enough to be a member of the very first TLLP cohort. I was teaching grades 7 and 8 at a rural and northern middle school. We were a large school for our district – but small compared to other locations at about 250 students.
When our principal got the email, he said we should think about applying, but that he couldn’t and wouldn’t get involved. He put some chart papers up in the staff room for us to post our ideas, and to add our names if we wanted to be involved.
With my strong competitive streak, I told my colleagues we needed something “sexy” so we would get chosen. They hooted with laughter, and not really in a good way:)
I put up the words Blogging for Literacy, and despite the fact that no one knew what a blog was, about half our staff signed up. I became the project leader because I had about five minutes experience with blogging; I had once posted a reply on another person’s. And I love doing grant applications.
Our group of seven teachers brainstormed some basic goals, submitted, and was accepted.
Our learning and leadership opportunities were pretty much endless, due to our starting point. We had enough release money for six or seven monthly half-day meetings. I now think of the T-PACK model and can see that our success was in part due to very strong pedagogical and content knowledge. From there, we learned how to use the Edublogs platform and dove into day-to-day blogging with our students. We had a great blog site, with group areas for each participating class and lots of tags. We posted what would now be called Digital Citizenship tips in our computer lab. Most of us used the blog in conjunction with our English classes. One teacher used it extensively for math thinking and communication. After a few months, two teachers who had opted not to join our team, asked if they could put their classes in. We also had a French teacher use it.
Meanwhile one of our original members had moved to another school, and we were able to have an authentic blogging communication with her students – beyond our walls. Pretty powerful stuff in a pre-Skype era.
For me the biggest learning had to do with mentoring adult learners. Because we were already friends, the initial discussion about norms was very frank. One person said don’t go too fast, don’t assume I understand what you are asking me to do. I stopped sending suggestions and tips via email and waited until we were together, so we could go through steps visually, and model the ideas and results. I would say this really brought the concept of DI home to me. Having learned this from my peers, it gave me practical knowledge when the term began to be used for classroom instruction.
The TLLP was an essential stepping stone for someone like me, with “lone wolf” tendencies, in order to achieve my career goal of being a TELT contact and program coordinator for my board. Yes, I have always been an early adopter, but the TLLP showed me a path forward as a facilitator in my school, which in turn benefited others.
With my students, I used blogs extensively for several years. Sometimes they had their own, sometimes we would contribute to a single class blog. Mastering one totally new platform made me much more confident in introducing many more in the following years.
This project had a huge impact on our whole school, moving forward. The idea that we as teachers could form a group, devise a long-range plan, implement and monitor put us in a good place when we had to start doing CIs. It really built trust between me and the other teachers, such that a few years later my principal fostered a project that permitted me to be in all English classes once a week for a tech-based CI. The co-planning, co-teaching and moderation of this project was another huge learning and leadership experience for all of us.
In addition, at the Toronto PD sessions, I met two teachers from Ottawa Catholic DSB who also had a technology project, and we are online and in-person friends to this very day.

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