I'm excited to have the opportunity to lead some professional development on Google Apps for Education at my school in the next few weeks.
Back in early March, I presented on Hangouts and Scripts at our Ottawa Catholic School Board IT conference - SummIT X. As someone who is passionate about Google, it was lots of fun to present on the advantages of using GAFE! If you're interested in my sessions, check them out here:
Since Windows XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft next year, our focus is really on using GAFE, which our board has been using for a few years now. In order to help my colleagues make the transition, I am offering some brief sessions. I will be doing my best to Hangout on Air for most sessions so keep your eyes peeled for later posts!
Google “Docs” 101 - Beginner Session (April 24)
Are you interested in learning how to log in to Google docs to create documents, make folders, upload your files from your USB “to the cloud” (on Google!) and share and edit documents with anyone in the world? Want your students to submit their work online and you can see exactly what time it was submitted and when it was last edited and by whom? Want to create a document that several people can work on at once, and be able to see exactly WHO typed what part of the document? Join us for this session all about how to get started with Google Docs!
Google Forms 101 - Beginner (May 15)
Are you familiar with how to log into your Google drive? Are you comfortable using Google docs but want to learn more? Do you want to learn about how to make surveys and even quizzes using Google forms? These are a great tool for formative assessment - and they are quick and easy!!
Google Hangouts 101 - Beginner (May 29)
Have you heard of Skype? Are you interested in having the ability to video conference with anyone across the world, for free? You can not only video call together but you can work on shared documents (from Google docs) WITHIN the call and work together! You can also use this to call other classes or do PD/meetings from home!
Simplify your life with Google! - Intermediate (June 5)
Are you feeling comfortable with the basics of Google? Do you want to find some cool tools (apps/extensions/scripts) that will make your life EASIER?! Join this session to learn about tips and tricks that will save you time!! You’ll learn how to clear a page of ads, screencast, block ads on YouTube videos, automatically “mark” formative assessment quizzes and more!
Yesterday was the second part of my teacher performance appraisal (TPA) - some of you probably call these teacher evaluations. Ours is a multi step process: an initial meeting to discuss objectives/criteria and sharing session, in-class observation and follow up session.
For my TPA, I asked my vice-principal to come and observe two of my classes - my Grade 10 Applied History class and my Grade 9 Academic English class, as these classes have very different dynamics. My Grade 10 History class is a very energetic group. Sometimes we struggle with focus, attention and staying on task. This is all a part of the reality of teaching and so I didn't shy away from having this class as one of my 'observation' classes.
It got me thinking of something that Jennie Magiera said at the GAFE conference this week (Trust me... she said it better - she's way more witty than I am... but you'll get the idea). She said that she used to be so excited and proud when the principal would walk by her class and all the students were completing silent, working away in their rows with their books. Score one for the teacher being in total control! Woo hoo! And yet, she said that same thought now makes her shudder! The idea of someone walking by her class and seeing rows of children in complete silence is the exact opposite of what she wants to represent her as a teacher! And I feel the same way!
Why is it that we still have this outdated, archaic idea that a quiet classroom is always a better classroom? Sure, we don't want kids swinging from the ceilings, throwing things across the room and yelling obscenities! But, what about "productive" noise? Is it better to have rows of silent students pretending to do worksheets or is it better to have lots of noise coming from students who are learning?
Here's a little clip of my students engaging in "productive noise". Instead of doing "comprehension questions", we do "learning stations".
What does this have to do with my performance appraisal, you ask? I told my students that the vice-principal was going to be dropping in to observe the class; I didn't elaborate because I didn't want the students to act differently (better or worse!) based on his reason for being with us. I just wanted them to not be surprised when he showed up. I explained to them that I welcome admin to come visit us anytime to see the cool things that we are learning!
Before class started, a student approached me and said: "My brother made a bet with me that you are going to act differently today because the VP is here". What?! - I thought! I asked her to explain that to me. She said that they thought that I would be "more traditional" because admin was coming to my class! I assured them I would be doing nothing differently than I normally did!
At the end of the day, I asked him... so, did I act differently?
Well, PHEW! I would hate to think that because admin comes into my room, I go from energetic, bouncy, joking, smiling, modern connection making, team work loving teacher to some kind of robot... some "non tolerant" teacher! Strict? I don't need to be "strict" by the definition they go by... my students know my expectations! They know that my classroom runs on respect and relationships! I don't need to yell or tell them all to be SILENT; they know when to listen (usually! They are STILL kids - they have their moments!) and when to get learning! I have MY style that works for me and my students! It's not about what other people do or don't do... it's not a competition or a comparison! I know what is going on inside my four walls and I adapt my teaching and learning according to my class dynamic! I wouldn't change just for the sake of perception! We are who are! (Sorry, didn't mean to make a Ke$ha reference.... #edufail).
But I have to wonder... why did they think that I would change? Is my way of doing things so 'uncommon' and 'untraditional' that they think what I am doing is something I need to cover up or hide from the higher powers? Where do our students get the messaging about what teaching and learning looks like? Do they think there is only one style that is okay? Do they think that people perceive noise and movement as bad? And on that last question... are they right?
This was a very interesting experience for me; not only from an evaluation standpoint but because of what it taught me about my students' perceptions and certainly, it re-affirmed for me, that many of them enjoy the way I do things.
(Photo courtesy of Edutopia.Org via Lisa Dabbs. No copyright infrigement intended.)
Here's something that I have been thinking about for a while... professional development. I have so many things to say about refining, revamping, re-assessing professional development opportunities for educators.... but I'll try to keep the focus narrow this time on one or two aspects.
The realm of professional development opportunities have been greatly opened, enriched and enhanced by the power of the Internet. Web searches, podcasts, resource libraries and sharing, websites, Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, virtual conferences, online libraries web 2.0 tools are just a small sample of the amazing ways that educators can connect online as never before, opening a whole world of collaboration and learning that was not available before!
I love my PLN. I have learned so much online through the amazing educators that I connect with. In fact, I love them so much, I wrote a thank-you letter in an earlier blog post! For that, check here: http://assessmentforlearning.weebly.com/1/post/2013/11/to-my-pln-what-i-need-you-to-know-ce13.html
But here's the thing... I appreciate traditional PD also. There are some really amazing conferences out there. This year alone, I can name 5 that I would like to have attended. What's the barrier? Funding. The biggest barrier, for me, is the lack of funding available for professional development opportunities. Take the GAFE summit in Montreal, for example. It's taking place on Saturday and Sunday, December 7-8. Transportation there/back (either fuel and parking, or train ticket) is about $100. Add in a night or two at a hotel (if I take the train, I'd have to go Friday night, because it doesn't leave early enough on Saturday) at $120 a night. Top that off with the conference fee of $249 and even eating thrifty costs money and a weekend conference costs almost half a grand! That's a weekend conference with no supply cost built in! ECOO happened in October in Niagara Falls. Again, same situation! Transportation, hotel, food, conference cost, supply teacher cost... you're looking at almost $1000. Don't even get me starting about ITSE in Georgia this year. The plane ticket alone is almost $500... add in 4 night of lodging ($600) plus food (~$200) and conference cost ($380), you're looking at closer to $1500.
The point? I can't afford $3000 in professional development costs a year. I wish I could. I am passionate enough that I will give up weekends and summers for PD (in fact, I often spend evenings and weekends at free PD, such as EdCamp Ottawa on November 23 of this year!) but I can't shell out that kind of money, on top of all the other expenses in my life and in my profession. When the only funding available is a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split every 2 years, I appreciate this but I can't keep up with all the new and amazing opportunities available without breaking the bank!
And I get thinking... so many other organizations provide opportunities like this free of charge. As someone with many close family/friends working at various levels of government, I know that they often go on all-expenses paid professional development, across the province, country and even world. They are not asked to pay conference fees... not even their own food cost or flight cost. Meanwhile, if I want to attend a really great conference... even if it requires me to miss NO days of work, I'm still shelling out $250-$1500. And I think this is an issue. I think it's hindering me from becoming the best I can be.
I think if you want teachers to be better versions of themselves, you need to provide tangible opportunities for growth and inspiration. And in my board, I am lucky that we have great consultants and board staff who travel to conferences and bring back learning but here's the reality: sometimes, teachers get tired of hearing all the great conferences that consultant X went to and all the great things that department X wants teachers to now use in their classes. If you want your teachers to get inspired and motivated and excited, you need to send THEM to these conferences. Let them network and see awesomeness (yes, I used that word) in ACTION! Let TEACHERS come back from these conferences and share their learning with their colleagues.... showing how they are implementing these great things in a classroom. And while it's important for consultants and superintendents to learn about these initiatives and share them with teachers, sometimes it's even more important for people who are in the classrooms every day to learn these strategies first-hand and implement them and share with everyone else: "this is what I'm doing and it's working and I can help you do it too!" Because lateral professional sharing and collaboration is powerful.... usually much more powerful than top-down sharing.
And I say this from experience. A few years ago, I had the amazing experience of an all expenses paid trip to a Ministry Differentiated Instruction conference in Toronto. And it DID pump me up! I came back SO inspired that I created this DI strategies booklet (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3R3CWEwwMLYMk1kRlp2b25seUE/edit) in one weekend! It has been shared with my staff, other schools in our board and even given out as a resource by the Student Success department at my school board to all DI teams. THIS is the power of PD!
And so I hope that maybe, someday, we are able to revamp and reassess the access to great PD that teachers have. Are we meeting their needs? How are we hindering students by not providing teachers with ways to access opportunities to improve themselves? What can we do to challenge teachers and keep them motivated, invigorated and passionate, like I was when I came home from Toronto and when I reached out to my online PLN.
Because sometimes, we need to remember that money spent on PD is not an expense, but an investment.
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!