Note: this is the first in a series around my professional learning goal at YIS (more below)
At most international schools (and probably most schools in general), each year teachers are asked to create one (or several) goals for the year. In some cases, I’ve had to create three: a personal goal, a team or department goal, and a goal related to a school-wide initiative. Although I always have many ideas for things I want to improve or explore each year, I often find the creation of these types of goals a little artificial.
Starting with the end in mind
For starters, I pretty much always select a goal I know I will be able to accomplish – something that’s basically part of my job, but maybe a little bit above and beyond. If it’s not something I know I’m going to do anyway, then it often ends up being something practical that I know I should be doing, but can’t always force myself to make time for it. And in the worst case, it’s something that’s easy to document (and often easy to do), just to be able to say I did it at the meeting at the end of the year.
This is not to say that I don’t have my own goals that I’m really interested in or passionate about, just that those usually aren’t the ones I document because they may be too vague, or I’m not sure if I can actually do it, or I don’t know exactly what successful completion of those goals look like. Those are the more interesting ones, for sure.
In the end, I always meet my documented goals, and certainly make progress on my own (vaguely formed) individual goals. But those documented goals often feel like hoops I have to jump through, rather than an authentic learning experience (even though they could be perfectly practical and important things for me to do).
Enter the YIS Professional Growth Plan
So, this year, I’m super excited that we have started a whole new process for teacher goals. Last year a team of teachers and our then Head of School, James MacDonald, worked together to develop a plan for professional growth that is authentic, relevant to the teacher, collaborative, and individual. We called it the Professional Growth Plan (or PGP for short). This is our first year of implementation, and it’s already been a great learning process.
Here’s what we’ve done so far:
In a very organic fashion (using a Google Doc) teachers added ideas for what they wanted to learn about this year. Some themes were:
- Service Learning
- Making Thinking Visible
- Blended Learning
- New Literacies
- Design Thinking
As those themes appeared on the shared Google Doc, teachers added their names to a group they were interested in. We had about a week or so to select our topic and join a group (of course we could change and move around during that week if we wanted to). Personally, I really liked that the doc was open and that we had time to finalize our choices – this helped me select a topic that I was interested in, and a group that I knew I would work well with, stay focused, and could really support me in my learning.
Once we had our themes, we had our first full PGP-focused faculty meeting, where we were able to meet in teams and start thinking about our chosen topic, and how that central theme can be applied to an individual goal. At this time, our group opted to create a Google+ Community to stay connected throughout the project and share relevant resources in a central place.
Over the course of the year, we’re responsible for moving forward with our individual goal and documenting our progress in any format that works for us. The purpose of the group is for support, feedback, inspiration, and to learn from each other. As you might have guessed, I’m going to be documenting my learning and thinking here.
Here’s the timeline:
For me, the selection of the topic and group was really exciting. Because this process is so authentic, and so focused on individual teacher professional growth (rather than a specific task that can be explicitly measured throughout the year), I decided to take somewhat of a risk in my topic group. When I looked at the topics, there were quite a few that would be obvious for me, and I could see myself thinking along the lines of a more traditional school goal. However, instead of going the “safe” route, I chose something I feel like I don’t know much about, and am really interested in learning and exploring more: Design Thinking.
I’ve heard the term quite a lot over the last few years, I know lots of people have been talking about the concept and it seems like a natural fit for me, teaching MYP Design Technology. But, I really haven’t taken the time to explore it much further than that. That means that this is the first time, ever, in my 14 years of teaching, that I have identified a topic for a goal that I actually don’t know how it will end up. I really have no idea what I’ll end up doing with design thinking – either in my classroom or as a technology coach – and that feels great! This is what learning really is: an opportunity to explore a new idea with a group of collaborative and supportive colleagues who genuinely want to learn, grow, and be better teachers. I couldn’t be any luckier with my group either – I’m working with Rebekah Madrid, Clint Hamada, and Mariko Jungnitsch. All superstars (and COETAILers) and some of the most thoughtful and pro-active colleagues I’ve ever worked with!
An Unknown Goal
So, now what? At our first meeting we talked about what we want our individual goals to be, within the theme of Design Thinking. For the first time, I really didn’t know what my goal could/should/would be. We talked about the ways that Rebekah plans to bring Design Thinking into her classroom, how Mariko wants to use the process with her EAL students, and the ideas Clint has to refine some projects in MYP Tech using this process. Rebekah and I talked it through for a little while as we explored useful resources and added them to our Google+ Community, and I decided I think I like the idea of using Design Thinking to help teachers develop their goals for learning with technology this year, maybe to use the process in some of our PD events, and generally to find ways to really make sure that teachers are individualizing their technology related learning in a practical and useful way.
While I like the sound of all of those ideas, I’m still not sure this is exactly the direction I want to go. What do you think? Have you explored design thinking as a professional learning format? Is it useful? Or is there something else I should/could be doing?
It feels a little crazy not to know the destination yet, but I think that’s all part of the learning journey!
- Racers cross finish line in 5K run for Navy Chief birthday. cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Official U.S. Navy Page.
- The Gentle Path to the Beyond cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Trey Ratcliff
One of my favorite things about being a technology coach is that the primary focus of my job is talking about learning in many different subject areas. I’m a bit of a geek, I know. Sometimes, though, I find myself gravitating toward certain subject areas or grade levels because those are the ones where I feel like I have the most ideas or the most experience.
So, when Clint and I were talking about the various ways that we can support teachers this year, we decided to add something new: The Pop-In.
First, here’s a quick overview (from an e-mail sent to teachers at the beginning of the year) of the ways we’ve been supporting teachers (and will continue to do so):
We are available (and ready!) to co-plan lessons and units with you, as well as co-teach (or demo) in your classroom. If you have a new idea you’d like to implement, but are not sure how, we’re here to help!
We have each set up an appointment calendar in Google Calendar so that you can schedule an appointment with either of us and know that we’re available. Appointment calendar is great because it layers our free appointment slots over your calendar, so you can see at a glance when would be a good time to meet.
The Tech Pilots team meets regularly to share new ideas about teaching and learning in innovative ways. It’s an informal group and a great way to get regular PD with like-minded teachers at YIS. This year we hope to meet both in school and outside school (Starbucks? Mizumachi bar?) If you’re interested in joining us, learn more here.
Subscribe to this calendar to see when Kim or Clint are outside Mark and Susie’s office for quick drop-in questions and support. Come by for help with a specific app or to talk about an interesting article that you’ve just read! This is a great opportunity for individual PD, to learn new tools, or just to get support with already established tools at YIS like the blogs, Google Apps or Veracross.
If you’d like one of us to come to one of your meetings, either as a one-off or on a regular basis, then let us know. This can be for a department meeting or for a planning meeting or any other kind of meeting.
Optional PD Sessions
Over the course of the year we’ll be offering optional PD sessions both after school and within the school day. Sometimes these sessions will be run by Clint and/or Kim, other times by other teachers. We’re still working on getting the schedule sorted, and you can add it to your Google calendar here (new additions will pop up whenever you refresh the page). If you have a topic you’d like to share with others, please let us know!
All of the above is a continuation from previous years, which has worked well for those who opt in. However, both Clint and I wanted to challenge ourselves a little bit this year, to move out of our comfort zones and to help others do the same. So, we decided to try something new:
One of the ways we’d like to support you is through classroom visits and curricular development. To help us get started, we’ll be visiting different classrooms just to say hello and see how things are going. This will help us get more of an idea of what learning is taking place in different classrooms, and how we can better support you.
We’re hoping that these visits will give us a better insight into how we can support all teachers, as well as the different and exciting ways that they are already using technology in their classrooms. One of our three goals for this academic year is “Learning From Each Other”, so we’re also hoping that by opening classroom doors and talking about learning with a variety of teachers that we’ll create a buzz within different departments and groups of teachers that may not have been part of these conversations before. We all have something interesting and unique to share, and often those ideas are held behind closed doors.
Here’s how I’m planning to get started:
- I’m going to set aside a chunk of time in my weekly calendar – maybe one or two periods in the morning one day a week. I always love reading about #noofficeday from Dave Truss and so many others, and although I’m not an administrator (nor will I be evaluating teachers in any way during this time), I’m excited to see what’s happening behind those closed doors!
- I’ll decide in advance which teachers I’d like to visit for that week, and let them know at the beginning of the week. (I like the idea of popping in, but especially at the start, I think it’s nice to give some warning so teachers know why I’m there).
- I’m not planning to write anything down while I’m in the room, but I’d like to use some of my Looking for Learning experience from ISB to see what and how the students are learning.
- I’ll document my thoughts after I’ve left the room, so that I can share with the teacher later that day/week. I want to make sure my visits have something productive or useful for the teachers so they can see the value of having someone visit them.
- I’d like to try to visit different subject areas and grade levels each time so that I’m getting an idea of what’s happening in different parts of the school each day I do classroom visits.
Here’s what I’m hoping will happen:
- Visiting other classrooms will give me better ideas of how I can support teachers.
- Sharing my ideas with teachers, preferably in person (but via e-mail if necessary), will help start conversations with a diverse group of teachers.
- I’ll see connections between what different teachers are doing, and can put teachers in touch with each other.
- We’ll have a better idea of what technology support is needed by the whole faculty and we can better plan PD sessions.
- We can deepen our conversations with teachers who are already taking advantage of the support we’ve been offering, to take our coaching to the next level.
I’m really excited about where this may take us! In the past three years we have grown by leaps and bounds, both in our use of technology to enhance learning, and in our collaboration around learning. We are so lucky to be working with a staff of enthusiastic and engaged teachers who welcome new ideas. I think this will help us continue to develop and spread the learning love even further!
Have you used the “pop-in” strategy with your staff? What did you think? Are there certain strategies or approaches that work best?
Have I mentioned yet how lucky I am to be working with Clint this year? It’s been a busy start to the year, as usual, and as we look ahead to see where we would like to be by the end of this academic year, one theme keeps coming up again and again: elevating the use of the tools we already have.
We’re in year 3 of our Connected Learning Community and we are really hitting our stride with our “big 3″ tech tools: blogging (WordPress), Google Apps for Education, and Veracross (our new student information system and reporting portal, implemented last year). It always makes me smile when I hear teachers, students or administrators request items shared as a Google Doc (rather than an e-mail attachment), or send meeting requests via Google Calendar, or start a new blogging project for a Field Studies trip. To me, this means that overall, as a school community, I think we generally feel comfortable with these tools.
And when we think about what’s next, we don’t feel the need to add more and more new tools. In fact this combo can do quite a lot already. It’s more a matter of enhancing how we use the “big 3″ rather than adding something new. So, Clint and I have been backwards planning and brainstorming where we can go and how we can focus our support (for teachers) for the year.
Here’s what we’re thinking:
Note: this post focuses on the teacher side of these tools, I’ll come to ideas for students in a later post.
Elevating our Blogging
When we started implementing blogs as our primary means of school-home communication, the example we would often give (three years ago) is that it’s a great way to post homework and share resources, and teachers are doing a great job at this. However, now that we’re three years into the process, we can start to think about blogging as more than just posting homework. Plus, we now have Veracross, which does exactly that. So, its time to start thinking about teacher blogs as more of a blended learning environment and reflective space, rather than just a long list of homework. Here’s what we’re hoping to highlight this year:
- Highlighting interesting, successful, or unique pieces of student work within a unit by linking to student blogs in a reflective post by the teacher.
- Posting extended resources that continue the classroom conversation outside the classroom – videos, interesting articles, examples – and then prompting discussion through questioning.
- Teacher reflection on learning appropriate for a student or parent audience.
- Tutorial videos for (or by) students to help support classroom learning (or make in class time more efficient).
- Documenting classroom learning with the intention of sharing with a wider audience (through photos, videos, or just note taking) – could be done by the student or the teacher.
- Feature student blog posts and learning in a central space, edited and organized by a student team.
- Making long-lasting and authentic connections with other classes around the world.
We are fortunate to have a number of teachers already doing many of these things (mostly COETAILers or COETAIL graduates, naturally), so we have plenty of examples. We just need to strategize on how we share these examples and how we promote the use of blogs in this way. This will help those teachers that haven’t started thinking about their blogs like this to see the difference between blogging and Veracross, and to recognize the value of having a blog beyond just a space to post homework.
Elevating our use of Google Apps
We are awesome at creating docs. We are awesome at collaborating on docs. We’re not so good with the organization side of things. I think that’s the biggest frustration for our teachers – where to find documents that have been shared, especially if teachers have not yet created a filing system. So, we’re thinking we can:
- Make more effective use of Google Sites to organize and navigate through important documents. We already have quite a few, and now that we’ve started to see the value of Google Sites for organization, we can continue to spread the word.
- Share folders rather than individual files. This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes you don’t realize how many files you’ll be sharing around a specific topic, so you start off file by file. After three or four of those, it just makes more sense to have a folder.
- Start using the extension apps in Google Drive. I just spent some time with our Humanties department on Friday and we explored Lucidchart, MindMup, and Kaizena. These are not new, but they’re new to us and I think teachers will find them really helpful.
- Start using scripts. Jay Atwood, we need you!
- Use shared calendars for faculty-type meetings. We already have a Tech PD calendar that teachers can subscribe to, as well as a Tech Support Drop-in Room calendar. Now we need one each for regular faculty meetings, assemblies, and special events. This way it’s always up-to-date and we always know where we need to be.
- Select the right type of file for the task. We tend to do most things in Google Docs. Sometimes a spreadsheet or a form would be better. Sometimes we need a presentation. We need to do a little bit of exploration and organization to make sure that we’re using the right tool for the task, not just the one we know best.
- Collate and share student work uploaded in these spaces, particularly on YouTube. We have lots of students making videos and publishing on their own blogs, but it can be hard to find them because it’s not one central account.
- Google Hangouts for learning. Exam revision, typhoon day activities, connecting with other classes. Now that we have this turned on for HS students (and all teachers), the possibilities are endless!
It is amazing to see how quickly we’ve adapted to the use of Google Apps. It’s hard to believe that we didn’t have it when I got here three years ago, and I really can not imagine how the school would function without it now. Once we start taking advantage of some of these ideas, I think it’s only going to help us be more efficient and effective with our time.
Bringing it all Together
At our first tech-related PD session of the year, we wanted to focus on the strengths of these three tools, to help define why we have three, and how each compliments each other. We started off with a shared Google Doc for brainstorming (in table groups) ways that teachers have successfully used (or seen successfully used) blogs and Google Apps. Once we had a long list of successful strategies, we created a Venn Diagram together to see where the tools overlapped, and added in Veracross so we could get a good overall picture. Here’s what we came up with:
We’re very fortunate to have access to all of these tools (with super speedy internet too!), so now that we have some goals for moving forward and taking them to the next level, I can’t wait to see where we will go!
How are you taking blogging, Google Apps, and your student information system to the next level? What should we be trying out here at YIS?
Note: Hopefully, you’ve read Part 1, and have been warned that this is primarily about me (and what I’ve been up to in the last year), but at least this post has some fun technology and fitness additions. (Hmmm… I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used the word fitness on this blog.)
It came about in bits and pieces, and I should definitely say that I did not set out last year to lose weight (or even to become more fit, to be honest). As each thing happened over the year, I felt a little bit better and a little bit better so I continued. As much as this might seem like a “plan” now, it really wasn’t when I started, but overall, I’m really excited about this intersection of tech and health and fitness that I’ve discovered for myself!
Here are some of the things I’ve been exploring:
Last August, I got a FitBit (thanks to my YIS colleagues, Lynda, John and Rebekah, who all had just purchased one at the time). You may have noticed that I’m a little competitive (just a little), and when my friends had something fun like counting steps to talk about, I wanted to be part of it too.
FitBit is awesome! I started tracking the number of steps I was taking which motivated me to work towards a minimum of 10,000 a day. Although it wasn’t hard to get to 10,000 steps since we walk back and forth to work every day and I’m usually running around all day long, it did make me realize that I’d rather be walking during breaks than sitting at my desk. So, Alex and I started going for a walk during morning break and at lunch recess around the neighborhood. On our walks, we often see parents around the neighborhood and I love that they recognize our 10 minute walk as an opportunity for bringing balance into our day.
In addition to the walking, I started to use the FitBit to track what I was eating so I could pay more attention to calories. Let me tell you, this was a real eye-opener. I have no idea why I didn’t really know anything about calories until last August but I didn’t. Yikes. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was eating far more calories than I could ever hope to burn off. Conveniently, this realization came very close to that fateful day: September 14th: my first (and technically, only) gallbladder attack (for more about that experience, see Part 1).
A FitBit is not the only device that can do these things, it just happens to be the one I bought. Now with the new iPhone 5S, I might be able to track my activity with my phone instead, but I think I’ll stick with the FitBit, at least for a little while. It’s just so easy, and it’s fun to have a network of teachers at school that have them too (quite a few more teachers bought them over the summer this year). Plus the new FitBit (which I just got because my old one broke – and they replaced it for free!), syncs wirelessly and only needs to be charged once a week. I guess I also just like gadgets – the more the merrier for me!
In addition to the FitBit, I’ve been exploring more ways that my iPhone could support my goals. I had heard a lot about this “Couch to 5K” movement (thanks Facebook!) and figured I could check out something along those lines. I mean, if it had “couch” in the title, how bad could it be? So, I started with the 5K Runner app on my iPhone to train myself on my Elliptical at home. Who would have thought that a voice in your ear telling you when to run and walk could be so motivating? In late May, after I finished the 8 week training program, I also started running outside. I know there are tons of apps for tracking your run, but I haven’t started using any of those yet – just my FitBit. Now that I’m back at school, and contemplating a 10K run in late November, I’m definitely going to buy the 10K Runner app next.
Over the summer, while it was super hot in CT (and I didn’t want to run outside), I went to my mom’s local gym, and a whole new world was revealed to me: an Elliptical with a built-in TV. Amazing. So, after I got home, I decided I could do the same thing with my iPad. I downloaded the Hulu app, rested a cheap little tray on the bars of my Elliptical (lucky design on that one!), and created a little TV station to use while running. Perfect. Plus, the 5K Runner app works in the background (so do a bunch of the apps listed below), so I can still be following my training routine, while enjoying some trash TV.
Of course, I also have the FitBit app, but to be honest I rarely use it. I have to admit, I like the new dashboard display on my laptop, and I’m too lazy to type in all my food using the iPhone keyboard, but it’s great that it’s available. There are a bunch of apps I downloaded, but haven’t really used, for tracking calories too: Lose it! and My Fitness Pal being the two that my friends really like.
Somewhere along the way, I learned about an app called Sworkit, which allows you to create body-weight resistance interval workouts for a variety of durations (and includes video tutorials for each movement). I have the free version now, but I could see myself purchasing the Pro version in the future. I love that I can choose how long I want to work out (in 5-minute intervals), as well as which type of workout (strength, cardio, or yoga), and which part of my body to focus on.
Once I discovered the “7 Minute Workout” for strength training, I created a button for it on my home screen using this website on my iPhone – but now searching for the link, I found a bunch of other apps that do the same thing, that could possibly be better than the website I use, but I’m happy with it for now.
In the last week, I’ve found a few more that I like, focused on interval training. I’ve been switching up my Elliptical routine and doing intervals with Interval Timer and SIT (instead of just the steady runs I can do with the 5K Runner now that I’ve completed the 8 week training). I’ve been exploring some of the free body specific training apps like Arm Workout, Ab Workout, Butt Workout just in case I get bored with the others (though I haven’t used those too much yet). One more that I haven’t tried yet is FitFix from PopSugarFitness, but I can tell I will like it. I love that it has such a good variety of workouts, it’s regularly updated, and it’s really visual and well-designed, which makes it a pleasure to explore. These will definitely help keep variety in my morning routine.
At some point last spring, I finally got around to watching Forks Over Knives which I had heard about from Josee over in Vietnam last November. Which then prompted me to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead; Vegucated, Food Inc, Hungry for Change, and a bunch of others along the same lines on Netflix. These documentaries led me to think more carefully about what I was eating and I started moving towards eating more of a whole-foods, plant-based diet (like a vegan diet). Of course, I also love that Netflix suggests other related videos for me every time I log in, so I know I have a whole list of new documentaries to watch too!
Inspired by what I had watched, I ended up “liking” all of those pages on Facebook, which has really changed my timeline, and helped me find other resources that I like just as much like Mind Body Green, Happy Herbivore, Fat Free Vegan, Moutwatering Vegan, Women’s Running Community, 100 Days of Real Food, and Vega. Now my daily reading includes not just my favorite techie sites and my friend updates, but also inspiration for continuing a healthier lifestyle.
Along with Facebook, I followed similar sites and people on Twitter, where I created a “Health” list that I check almost as often as my favorite teaching and technology lists. Every day I find new people or organizations to follow on Twitter, new recipes to try, new stories to be inspired by. It’s fascinating to open up this learning environment to something completely new, and to find just as many useful resources.
Another one of my favorite regular reads is my RSS Reader and the iOS app Zite. I’ve started following more topics related to healthy living and that’s opened up another whole world of resources and ideas. In fact, the related articles in Zite has been a fantastic resource for new apps, because I don’t have to know exactly where to get the information, I just have to select key search terms and “like” or “dislike” articles to get relevant material. Plus the ease of sharing articles from Zite means I can mix and match the reading I’m doing and share with others as I go.
Even though I have discovered so many great resources for my iOS devices, I still really like following workout videos. Thanks to Zoe, I found the perfect routine: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. She has a bunch of other routines, including Ripped in 30, which I’m going to try next. I am also continuing with Ashtanga Yoga (which is my favorite kind, that I’ve been doing off and on for about 10 years) with David Swensen’s audio files (I’ve had those for at least 10 years now). I also discovered that Hulu has a bunch of workout videos available, including yoga and Pilates, along with circuit training-type, and aerobics-style videos, so that’s another area to explore if/when I get bored with what I already have.
On weekends, Alex and I also enjoy taking hikes around the area (Kamakura, Takao, Hanno, Hadano, Hakone). Although I use Metro (my favorite subway app for Tokyo-Yokohama at the moment) to plan our public transportation, I haven’t started exploring apps to track our actual hikes – which seems like it would be really fun – any suggestions?
This summer, I also bought (gasp!) a selection of books based on all the resources I found too:
- Thrive: Nutrition by Brendan Brazier
- Vegan For Her by Virginia Messina
- Food Matters by Mark Bittman
- The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman
- The China Study Cookbook
I have purchased a bunch of other e-books along these lines as well, but there’s something about cookbooks, that I just like to have in a paper copy.
So far, I am so excited to have found so many different ways to use technology to promote a more healthy and balanced lifestyle. It’s always amazing to me just how much is available, no matter what you’re interested in. When we moved to Japan and I started following tons of Japan-related people and resources, I remember being excited about how much I found. Now I’m having that same feeling again. Which totally reminds me that the skills to be able to find these resources, make sense of what is found, and to manage it into a daily work flow, are so critical to learning today.
So, this is what I’ve found, what suggestions do you have? Is there a go-to app/website/resource you recommend? I’d love to keep exploring and trying new things!
- Kim & Alex taken by Adam Clark, uploaded w/permission by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- Into the #green by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- iPad Elliptical Set-up by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- Rome by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- Taking a break w/@guentheralex by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr
- Another panorama of Lake Ashi, Hakone by superkimbo, CC Licensed on Flickr