Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Time for the holiday celebration dance for 2 weeks of vacation!

As a former technology director, the idea of 2 weeks off comes with the hesitation to believe it is really time off. The winter holiday time for technology departments is usually when most of the work is done without interruption. You can take the network offline to do upgrades that cannot be done other times in the year (including summer because people work in summer!).

If you are reading this and you are not a technology staff member, please take a moment to call, go by, or send a card to thank your technology department for their work. They will work while there is a 2-week "vacation" and they will work long hours and over the holiday weekends because this is the best time for them to get uninterrupted upgrades complete. Technology departments and Maintenance departments do not get vacation like other staff get vacation.

Beyond time off, the end of year is the time to reflect on the past and consider the blessings through your accomplishments. I am thankful for the job I have and the people with whom I work. This place has been great to allow me to extend my ideas beyond just technical skills. My participation in non-technology meetings is more than just being the guy who makes the Powerpoint for the board presentation (though I am still pretty good at this!). Plus I have the freedom to investigate new ways of doing old things and help evolve toward innovative and creative ways to help teachers and students learn.

In other words, I am allowed to be creative and to share openly my creative ideas. I have freedom to be the creative artist I may not have been allowed to be in other places and this is my holiday blessing for which I can do that Carlton dance for the holidays.

I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season with your family and/or friends.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Getting UnTechnical

So I have been gnawing on changing summer PD to be a lot more flexible for teachers based on their learning while also rewarding those who have been taking learning into their own hands.

The Texas Education Agency and SBEC have the requirement for CPE credits to be awarded to match clock hours required for maintaining certification requirements. A standard teacher certification requires 150 CPE credits and master teachers must receive 200 CPE credits. Those numbers are awarded based on amount of hours in professional development 150 CPE credits = 150 hours of professional development.

This type of accounting does not credit teachers for the amount of time they spend working and learning outside of offered time and space professional learning. 

And those of us who offer more technical training know that the training lab has teachers at different levels of knowledge on any given offering because some teachers have really spent time practicing and learning on their own. A session offered may be a waste of a morning because it is fundamentals. But yet, this is how we've always done it. 

I want to change that. 

So this is my idea and I would like feedback. 

Our summer week is four days. I want to take 3 of those days to offer a topic-specific professional learning day. The fourth day is open learning lab where anyone can come in and work on either a topic from earlier in the week or their own topic. They can come individually or in groups. 

But the shift is this: I am not going to be providing any technical training. All technical training will be available in video form to allow the learner the ability to stop, rewind, fast-forward, skip ahead, go back, etc. at their own pace. They will also have the flexibility to do this part of the learning when ever they want as long as they get their training before the group meets together to build tangible lessons to be implemented for the year.

Here is an example week:

Monday topic may be something like Google Earth in Literature. I would then provide the prerequisites for the course in terms of training videos showing the technical part of learning Google Earth and researching Google Literature Trips. The participant has the ability to either view the prerequisite training before the training day or in the morning. They can watch the videos at home, on vacation, at a coffee house, or wherever they choose. They may choose to not watch the videos if they already have the prerequisite knowledge. The goal though is they must know how to use the tool before the second-half of the training session.

Of course, they could choose to come to the morning session to be in a lab to watch the prerequisite training videos and to get minimal technical assistance from the facilitator.

The PM session would be the meat of the professional development as teachers could work independently or in groups to design lessons using the that specific tool (or combine it with others of course).

This would be the schedule for Monday-Wednesday. On Thursday, the lab is open for anyone to come in from the week to work together or collaboratively to learn more about their topic and develop lessons. It may be just an open lab for anyone to come in from previous weeks to continue learning as well with a facilitator to connect them to more resources and help flesh out ideas for use in the classroom. 

Another topic I have discussed with some teachers is to provide training on creating, editing, and sharing videos. At the end of this type of learning, I would want to have teachers produce video content on our annual required training topics (blood borne pathogens, copyright, aup, etc.) but give them the lab time needed to develop their videos more for the range of audience receiving training. Credit would be rewarded based on the project produced outside the time and space of a required CPE training.

And another idea is to use the SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environments) to allow teachers to group together to develop a BIG question and to spend their time researching to develop solutions. Over the course of the year, this is called a committee. But imagine taking a committee and compacting all the work into one day with a resolution at the end combining the research found and discovered in their own learning.

All of this would allow for overlapping, multiple learning opportunities with more time for staff to actually develop tangible lesson materials. Time and space shift to be variables to help give teachers more of what they want in a flexible schedule for learning independently and collaboratively.

I believe by incorporating these ideas into summer, we can shift professional development away from relying on one person to be the expert to allowing everyone to be more reliable to each other, thus strengthening the system itself.

What are your thoughts or ideas? Negative or positive feedback is encouraged as this is new for me too.