Thanks to our wonderful and supportive Principal & Vice Principal, this past Tuesday, Tara, Jeff and I had the opportunity to present to the ES Faculty about the work that our ISB21 Team has been doing over the past few years. We were thrilled to be given the chance to present to the full staff (a total of around 70 classroom and specialist teachers) not only because we are so excited about what we’ve been doing, but also because we felt that a full-staff meeting is the best way to build excitement and ensure total transparency.
Considering our meetings are relatively short (45 minutes) we spent some time getting the planning and timing just right – not wasting anyone’s time and (attempting, at least) to keep it interesting. In order to model the use of essential web tools, we shared our agenda on a wiki and made sure to include lots of great links for staff.
We started our meeting off with a quick Think, Pair, Share focused on the question: How are students today different than when we were kids? This is always an interesting conversation starter, helping bring forward legitimate concerns about balance and social interaction, and also giving us a good picture of where the mindset of our ES faculty is on the topic. I also love the possibilities for facilitating a longer discussion on this topic, modeling open-mindedness and allowing all different perspectives to be heard. Of course, we only had about five minutes for this quick intro!
Next we watched a short video together, called A Vision of PK-12 Students Today by Barbara Nesbitt:
What a great discussion starter that video can be – for teachers and parents alike (we showed it at last month’s Parent Tech Coffee Morning and had a 45 minute discussion!) After watching the video, we asked the teachers to share their thoughts about the video at their table groupings, and then had a few share back to the group. It was interesting to see which parts of the conversation changed after watching the video and which areas were still a major concern (balance and social interaction again).
Once we had a basic common understanding of the needs of the 21st century learner, we shared our ISB21 vision along with a little bit of history about how we came to this understanding. It was fantastic to be able to say that we’ve shared this same vision with our leadership team as well as our board and that both have approved our work. This really helped give us a sense of legitimacy at the meeting, as well as enable us to emphasize that this type of learning is (will be, and should be) happening here at ISB.
The longest section of the meeting was spent showcasing teachers that have already implemented these values into their classroom. We had 10 different table groups, all with mixed groups of teachers from different grade levels and specialist departments. One teacher per table group was asked in advance to share some of the work they’re doing with their students. We had the following teachers lead a table discussion:
- Patty V: Ms. Patty’s Class Blog:.
- Sandy, Akiko & Heather: Kinder Kids Draw! How kindergarten uses VoiceThread and wikis to reflect on learning and collaborate globally.
- Erin & Jessica: Global eLearners:
- Susan: Window to Our World,
- Sonja: Merrellzone Blog:
- Mary: Bellone’s Learning Blog:
- Louise: PantherNet: How grade 4 uses Moodle to increase school-home communication and go paperless.
- Chrissy: Room 202’s Blog:
- Robin & Ali: Room 227, Room 229, Room 227:
- Diane: Grade 5 ESL Blog:
- James: Student Portfolios:
After sharing all of these ideas at individual tables, Tara, Jeff and I explained our roles in the school and clarified how we can support our teachers based on differing expertise and passion (of course I also shared my Collaboration Cycle as the focus of my role).
Finally, we closed with a quick feedback form, asking teachers to respond to the following three questions:
What sparked your interest?
Overwhelmingly the feedback showed that teachers loved watching the video, that it gave them a new perspective on reaching our students. Many were inspired by the concept of enabling our students to make global connections, seeing this as a very powerful facet of learning in the 21st century. They also enjoyed being able to hear from practicing teachers exactly what this looks like in the classroom. Many responses also requested more time for showcasing current projects here at ISB.
What concerns do you have?
As we expected, concerns focused around time – time to learn, time to experiment and time to implement in the already rushed school day. Interestingly, another concern was that Tara, Jeff and I couldn’t possibly have enough time in the day to help all of our 70 ES teachers (so true!). There were mentions of balance, research to show how beneficial this kind of learning is, as well as questions about how developmentally appropriate it is for the primary years.
How can we best support you?
The biggest support needed is in the area of professional development, not only how to use new tools, but actual classroom support (modeling, and practical implementation). Teachers were also looking for project ideas already planned out that could be readily implemented in the classroom. Concerns were raised about whose responsibility it is to embed these new skills into the curriculum and the obvious need for continued training for our classroom Instructional Assistants.
We also added a little note on the survey for teachers who would like to be contacted by us on a specific topic and actually had around 15 teachers leave their names! Considering we are already working closely with at least 15 other teachers, that was an excellent response!
And that was it! An overview and introduction to 21st century learning in 45 minutes! Judging from the feedback we heard, it went over pretty well. Personally, I feel so excited and energized by being able to share all the thinking that we’ve done as a team over the last few years. This feels like a crucial starting point for really beginning interesting conversations with teachers and for spreading new ideas throughout our division.
It was such a pleasure to be able to showcase all of the amazing work that so many of our teachers are doing, and I hope we have the opportunity to continue to do so over the course of the year. I love that taking a risk is seen in a positive light, and discomfort or failures along the way are merely steps in the learning process.
As a quick follow-up to our meeting, I sent out an e-mail with the recent MacArthur Foundation report, Living and Learning with New Media. I’ve already had a few teachers asking me questions about the report and wanting to sit down and have a conversation about what they’ve learned (in addition to the teachers who left their name on the survey).
So, what do we do next? Does anyone have an advice about how to keep the ball rolling without overwhelming teachers? This really feels like the start of something powerful to me, and I want to make sure I keep up the pace juuust right!
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