Monday, May 7, 2012

Celebrating Professional Development For Teachers, By Teachers

Recently I have been reading some email exchanges where some teachers have been emailing their thoughts about our Learning Team Celebration to all the teachers in the district, as well as all the administrators and the District Leadership Team.  I have had to use the district distribution list, but only on a few occasions to inform teachers about professional development events happening in the district.  I don't think that it is an appropriate place to begin political discussions.

I am going to use my blog to weigh in on the matter.   I don't know how many people read my blog, but I know they come here because they choose to.  I will put it out to twitter, and let people who follow me know that I wrote a blog post in case they wish to take a few minutes and check it out.  I don't expect my employer to provide me with a vehicle to share my opinions with every teacher in the district. 

For those of you not familiar with our district, we use an Action Research model for teacher professional development when we run a learning team.  Teachers can apply to be on a learning team, where they would like to examine some sort of inquiry over the course of a year.  It could be something to do with technology, examining the way they teach math, or something related to assessment practices.  It is something that each teacher chooses for themselves, and it's based on the needs of the teacher and of the kids in front of them on a day to day basis.

Learning Teams meet 6 times a year, and are typically provided release time for 3 of those sessions, matching it with 3 meetings on their own time, usually after school.  I have had the pleasure of working with 8 learning teams this year, with the teachers on these teams focusing on an inquiry around how they are incorporating technology in their practice, and how it impacts student learning.

Every year in may, all the different learning teams gather at Winslow Center in mid may, and put up displays and pamphlets and videos / slide shows based on what they learned that year, and how it made a difference to their students.  There is a buffet, and teachers have a good time networking, exchanging ideas, and gathering new ideas for next year.  The executive members of the Coquitlam Teacher's union and the District Leadership Team and honoring the the work of these teachers.  It is deserving of a celebration.

Under Bill 22, the ministry of education has said they will write our contract to ensure the alignment of professional development with teaching needs.

What will that look like?  Does this mean that the Ministry of Education, they will dictate to teachers what kind of professional development teachers do, and how they do it?  If so, how can they ensure that this meets the needs of individual teachers, who are trying to meet the needs of the students in front of them?  I am in favour of professional development for teachers, by teachers.

I hope to see you at the Learning Team Celebration on May 15th so we can recognize the efforts and achievements of the many great teachers in our district.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teachers Learning to use SMART Boards need the Right Photocopier

(from SMART Technologies)

I had great conversations with some elementary teachers on a learning team today.  Their team is adopting SMART boards in their classroom practice.  Some have a bit more technology in their backgrounds than others, but all are fine teachers.  One of the most interesting comment I heard today, (and yesterday, and in a few other sessions recently) was the lament that some really great activities took a lot of effort to produce, but were very quickly "consumed" by the students.  Half an hour to make, 5 minutes in front of the students.  Reminds me of when I make pasta for my family!

Learning new technology can be a challenging and even intimidating.  But having to create your resources from scratch?  A really depressing thought.  No wonder some teachers are reluctant to take on new technology. 

One piece of technology teachers in our district should get familiar with is our new photocopiers.  Just got them last month.  But not because they print really sharp copies.  It's because they scan. 

(photo by fplgnome @ flicker - CC licenced work)

When you put a page, or more importantly, an entire file folder of pages on the feed tray and hit scan, the new copier asks you to put in an email address, such as your own.  Then, you get your scans as a PDF file in your inbox.  I timed it - took less than 30 seconds for a single file to get to my phone.  Now - throw the paper file in the recycle bin. 

Don't flinch.  You don't need it anymore.  It's now an electronic copy, and is on a server backed up by another server.  It's safe.  And easier to share.  And - you can put it on your SMART board. 

This means that teachers can learn how to use a new tool, but use resources they are familiar with. 

I don't believe in taking new tools and try to make them work in the same old ways.  I think that we should use technology to do some great teaching in ways we couldn't do before we had it.  But, in order to help teachers adopt these new technologies, I think it would be a good practice to take lessons and resources they know, and put them on the SMART board. It helps them to focus on learning how to use the tool, and feel comfortable that they are are going to be able to offer the same quality of instruction they did before they had the SMART board. 

Besides, who knows how their old lessons will evolve once students and teachers can write all over them on the SMART board, add clip art, video, and link out to current resources on websites.

Who would have thought that the right photocopier can help shift teacher practice?