Creating Empowering PD

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There are less than 8 days left in the school year. It’s Friday afternoon, the kids are gone, and I am sitting amongst collected iPads and chargers. Every year at this time I am like, “That went by too fast!” As an Instructional Coach, manager of the Innovation Space and 1:1 Initiative, I feel that there was a lot accomplished this year. There are areas that still need development and tweaking. However, I am going to share the positive, because we need more of that!

As a district we have been focusing on being innovative. Innovative in our curriculum, our practice, our technology, and our learning communities. I am sure many districts are rethinking how they are delivering content and assessment in innovative ways. Here is what I can tell you from my personal experience, innovation requires everyone to be thinking about learning environments that are conducive to creating. The classroom is going to look different, learning will most definitely look different, and this all means PROFESSIONAL LEARNING SHOULD BE DIFFERENT! If we want our future learning to be different, today’s professional learning must be just as different.

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This hangs in my bedroom to remind me of what I need to do!

Where do you begin? I think if you are truly interested in providing your students with a learning experience that is going to prepare them for a global economy, you need to facilitate the learning experiences with opportunities to seek problems and create solutions. We can’t expect our teachers to teach innovatively or creatively if we offer them professional development that is the same old same old, or mirrors the classroom of previous years.  Today’s students need to be empowered and engaged. Learning is not passive and never has been. Your professional development has to be engaging and empowering. You need to provide PD that is interesting, relevant, leverages technology and addresses the different learners. It’s kind of what we expect teachers to do, as educational leaders, we are charged with the same task. I’ll share with you how the other instructional coaches in my district and myself have created engaging and empowering PD, that allows for teacher choice and voice. Is it perfect? Nope, but it’s a start!

In our district, we provide our teachers with an EdCamp style of PD. First, we send out a survey to gauge what interests our teachers. Next, we recruit volunteers who are ready to share their experiences with the desired session topics. Teachers can sign up and attend sessions by other teachers in our district. We limit the sessions to about 40 minutes and allow teachers to move to other sessions. Yes, they get to move around! Check out this sample of our sessions. We have had great feedback from our staff. We try to facilitate our PD sessions in this format most of the time. In addition, we have allowed teachers to visit professional learning opportunities outside the district. We have a group of teachers attending the Pittsburg Fab Network 2018, and ISTE 2018 in Chicago.

George  Couros, author of “The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead a Culture of Creativity”   lists in his blog, The Principal of Change, some other factors to consider when developing PD.

  • Invite students and parents to your professional learning days. (Need to add this!)
  • Ensure staff leads sessions. (We do this!)
  • Give staff time to NOT attend sessions and collaborate with colleagues. (Need more of this!)
  • Look at the different environment to try them out. (We got this too!)
  • Time for health and well-being! (More of this, please!)

Again, we have room to grow and improve, but we are on our way. Hopefully, you can apply some of these methods for professional learning in your planning and facilitation. I know I will be suggesting some more collaboration and well-being initiatives for next year’s PD. I welcome your questions, share them in the comments. 

The Moral Imperative of Sharing

Eep-!! This blog is late! It’s the end of the school year and there are events every other day at my school and my kid’s schools. Throw in my dad having a heart attack, iPad collection, and today a softball tournament. Well it’s been busy, crazy, and I’m just sharing it ALL with you!  I think I share a lot, because I am a teacher, or am I a teacher because I like to share a lot? Ugh, I can’t do the philosophical gymnastic routine for that concept, especially tonight! What I do know is most teachers I know like to share!

The world of education has always been about sharing. Sharing ideas, resources, programs, current events, and the news. Teachers love to share, they are naturals at it. It IS what they do, pretty much all day long. Many educators want to share more. Any time I put out a survey for professional development, the teachers request time to share with their colleagues.

Why is sharing so important? Why are teachers compelled to share? Is it an obligation? How does it ultimately help our students? How can we support sharing and adding to the greater body of knowledge?

Collaboration is key! Sharing ideas, procedures, and the practice and art of teaching, helps us as educators and ultimately our students.

Where and with whom do we share?  If you’re a GAFE (Google Apps For Education) School, Google  makes it possible. Google docs, sheets, forms, videos, and blogs are great places for sharing and collaboration. Google Plus Communities venture into the Social Media world. However, the community members have to be invited or approved. It’s a great way to share information in a monitored environment.  At our middle school, our principal has created a Google Plus Community for our parents and teachers. Teachers, staff, and building administrators can post information to the community for the parents and guardians of our students.  Events, assignments, activities, athletics, and daily pictures of classroom activities can be posted. Families are invited virtually into the building, thus creating a sense of community and improving relations. As an educator you can join educational communities to gather resources and share experiences.

Another great way to access resources and information about teaching is to follow other educators on Twitter. This allows for global collaboration and sharing. This past fall I facilitated a Professional Development (PD) at our school about using Twitter for Professional Learning and Professional Growth. Why Twitter? Well, it’s personalized. You can follow topics and tweets that are relevant to your content area, grade level, or interests, You can check the tweets at your convenience. You are not relegated to an assigned seat at a PD session in your district, it’s on your time, when you want it. Think of it as Professional Learning On Demand!

The Twitter PD was well received. Many of my colleagues signed up for Twitter that day. In fact, some had trouble verifying their accounts, because  so many teachers were signing up with the same email ending. I was hopeful that my fellow educators were going to jump on and Tweet and share about their expertise, experience, and knowledge and maybe even their classes. We have rock star teachers, who do great stuff!!! Some did! We always have those early adopters who want to experiment and try things out. But, for most, they became stalkers at first, and then slowly began to tweet. Stalking is fine! As an educator you can gather a great deal of knowledge and access resources by stalking. But there is even more learning in sharing! There is even more value in adding to the body of knowledge! Why?

When we are contributing to the greater body of knowledge and accessing it as a resource, we become networked with other educators, sharers, and leaders. The networked teacher is learning forward. Adult learners need a variety of resources to be actively engaged. They need to demonstrate their voice and choice. Using social media allows them to be engaged, self-directed, and reflective about their learning and practice. The reflection is MAGIC! When do we, as educators really get to think and process how a particular lesson, activity, or day went? Maybe for five minutes in the car on the way home? It certainly is not enough. Sharing opens you up to feedback, comments, and others’ perspectives. This enriches the teaching practice. Think of it as a dance! Sure you can dance by yourself, but you can have more fun dancing with others.

Social Media can be intimidating if you are not use to it, or understand who can see your tweets. I think this may be the culprit for may educators not tweeting. I use my Twitter account primarily for education related topics. I don’t post my personal opinions, politics, or events from my vacations. I keep it focused on education. This helps me connect with other like minded educators. Educators have valid reasons for being concerned about social media, however keeping it focused on education will help you to self monitor your tweets.

Tweeting Tips

So where do you begin? Besides checking out my Twitter PD Presentation, you can also follow the recommendations on Edudemic.com. They have a great Teacher’s Guide for Using Twitter. If you don’t know  who to follow, try following  other Educators. We Are Teachers has a great list for educators to follow.  

 

Good luck, and I hope I see you in the Twitterverse!

Visionary Leaders are Connected

 

Introductions

Ugh! How do I introduce myself??? I guess the basics right? My name is Bernadette Hannah and I am a mother of two amazing girls, an educator, pit bull mommy, and lover of high heels! The last four years I have been managing a 1:1 initiative, integrating a STEAM mindset and supporting a maker space/innovation lab.

I am pretty nervous about starting this blog, but here it goes, because I have a bunch to share about educational leadership, technology, and education!

Currently, wearing these hats!

Pennsylvania Institute of Instructional Coaching Member

Pennsylvania Steam Leadership Council Member

Facilitates Professional Development for Bristol Township School District

Manager of 1:1 Initiative

Manager of Verizon Extension Grant

Mentors Student Tech Team (Tiger Techs)

Mentors Girls In Technology Group (G.I.T.)

Manages the FDR Innovation Lab

STEAM Teacher for 21st Century Grant

Educational Leadership Graduate Student (reason for this blog😱)

This is my 24th year in education. I teach in the district that I attended school as a student. It is filled with amazing, creative, and talented people. Many sections of our district are struggling financially. For many reasons, resources for our students are limited.

I am passionate about our students, public education, equality in education, equality in general, and platform wedges. I have taught as a full-time special education teacher, an elementary classroom teacher, a reading specialist, and an ELA teacher at the middle school level. My current education gig is an Instructional Coach at FDR  Middle School for Bristol Township School District. In addition, I am earning my second masters in Educational Leadership.

Closing the Digital Divide

I was a part-time instructional coach until 4 years ago. Our district hit the grant lottery for technology! The grant required a full-time instructional coach and voila! Here I am! The grant was from Digital Promise and funded by the Verizon Foundation. The grant was intended to close the Digital Divide (watch this movie Without a Net to learn more). When we received the grant, our building did not have wifi, we did not use Google Apps, we had stand-alone desktops in computer labs, and classes still sat in rows.

The grant provided 1:1 devices for each middle school student with 5g of data each month. Students would have continuous access to the Internet, their teachers, and information. This was transformative. It was scary, daunting, and overwhelming, but it was so stinking exciting! Our kids would be on a level playing field with the surrounding affluent districts, states, the country, and yes THE WORLD.

So, it’s an awesome gift to have this technology granted to your school, but how do you get ready for it? How do you prepare for the culture change that is about to happen? I will delve into the dirty details of the process in future blogs! But, for right now the most important idea to grasp is…

YOU GET CONNECTED!

As an educational leader, you need to get connected to your teachers. Just like students, they have varying levels of expertise or knowledge in technology. They will need a differentiated plan for professional development and time-LOTS OF TIME to become comfortable with the technology. Educational leaders who want successful technology integration must assess the needs of their faculty and staff and provide the appropriate supports for learning technology. The technology is a tool to be leveraged. It should not drive the instruction, the learner drives the instruction. Know your learner, know your staff, and move from there!

As an educator, you need to be connected to your students. They are different from previous students, they live in the digital world, they communicate, relate, learn, and access the world through technology. Educators can’t be the “sage on the stage”. They need to understand their students of today. Facilitating learning and allowing students to discover, analyze, and synthesize information will encourage today’s learner. Directing students to find relevant problems and solutions will help them connect to learning and be prepared for our global economy.

Our students need to be meaningfully connected to technology to access information and demonstrate their learning. Providing students with a device to complete worksheets is a mere substitution. Technology needs to transform the learning process. A focus on collaboration, creativity, expression, and communication. Technology supports these processes, but cannot completely achieve these goals on its own. Our learning environments have to reflect the workplace of today. The technology is a catalyst for this type of learning and innovation.

😎The future is so bright😎

According to ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), our students need to reflect the following attributes:

Empowered Learner

Digital Citizen

Knowledge Constructor

Innovative Designer

Computational Thinker

Creative Communicator

Global Collaborator

Integrating technology was seen as an enhancement to educational programs. Today, technology is a necessity. Educational leaders need to be able to devise and communicate a vision that empowers our teachers and students to access the digital world, technological resources, and tools. It is not just about learning, but innovating!

Here, at FDR Middle School we are constantly building capacity to adhere to our vision of innovation. Last year, we were awarded Verizon’s Innovative School of The Year. Verizon also awarded our school a Maker Space/Innovation Lab grant! So staying connected to our teachers, students, and the technological resources help keep the vision in focus!

My future blogs will share information about educational leadership, supporting teachers with meaningful professional development, starting and managing an innovation lab/maker space, and providing real leadership opportunities in technology for teachers and marginalized students.

 

Oh, and maybe something about shoes! 👠👠👠👠

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