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A Meeting of Minds

2008 November 30

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: How a Pre-K teacher uses her class blog to involve both the students and the parents in the learning experience.
  • Sandy, Akiko & Heather: Kinder Kids Draw! How kindergarten uses VoiceThread and wikis to reflect on learning and collaborate globally.
  • Erin & Jessica: Global eLearners: How grade 1 ESL uses VoiceThread and wikis to practice oral language fluency with global partners.
  • Susan: Window to Our World, Bangkok Room With a View: How grade 2 uses a Ning and a wiki to connect and collaborate around classroom learning from intercultural understanding to weather.
  • Sonja: Merrellzone Blog: How grade 4 uses a class blog to reflect on their learning and connect and collaborate with global partners.
  • Mary: Bellone’s Learning Blog: How grade 4 uses Garage Band and iMovie to create digital storytelling based on Writer’s Workshop pieces.
  • Louise: PantherNet: How grade 4 uses Moodle to increase school-home communication and go paperless.
  • Chrissy: Room 202′s Blog: How grade 5 uses Skype, blogs, wikis, VoiceThread and other web 2.0 tools to engage and motivate students while connecting them to the world.
  • Robin & Ali: Room 227, Room 229, Room 227: How grade 5 uses blogs and podcasts to share their learning about reading and writing with global partners.
  • Diane: Grade 5 ESL Blog: How grade 5 ESL uses a blog to practice written language and connect with global partners.
  • James: Student Portfolios: How grade 5 spanish uses a class blog as student ePortfolios.

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.

Contact Me?

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!

Bowling 1250 by trimmer741

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  1. December 1, 2008

    Hi Kim,

    A very insightful model reflecting a process / skills / dispositions – based approach to education.

    Is there any place for content mastery in your model?

    All the best,

    Doug

  2. Nilah Cote permalink
    December 1, 2008

    Hi Kim,
    Your energy crosses the planet and vibrates here in Northern Vermont. I am amazed with the work you are doing and the time and energy you give to sharing it with others. I find it interesting that you ask the same question that I ask when you are so far ahead of my school. “How do you keep moving forward without overwhelming teachers?” All positions in a school are demanding but classroom teachers do feel the burden of it all on their shoulders. I think we have to open this question up to those teachers and hear their responses. It sounds like you generated some energy among your teachers during your 45 minute presentation. Thanks for sharing!

  3. December 3, 2008

    Hey Kim…

    Phenomenal post. Thanks so much for sharing this. I love to see people trumpet the successes of the people they work for & with. These are inspiring. So many things to comment on, so little time… so I’ll graze the highlights:

    -Your words about having a supportive administration truly speak volumes. I too, am blessed with supportive leaders at the building level who believe in the cause… and can listen every bit as well as they can talk.

    -Your very tightly-designed protocol for sharing in 45 minutes is awesome. We normally have longer with the whole faculty, and this is a really great model for sharing such disparate projects over grade levels and approaches. I love it. I have a cohort of 20 teachers in my high school who have signed on for a tech-immersion year. They have been fantastic- really. One stress of mine is thinking of how I (with the help of these 20) will bring on the remaining 70 next year. This post is a slice of positivity of how I can play out our current successes for the staff as a whole next year.

    -This piece is littered with small coaching tips that, as a generalist instructional coach, really resonate with me.

    Thanks again for this post… I will get some good mileage out of the ideas I gleaned from this one! ;-)

    Sean

  4. December 4, 2008

    Hi Kim,
    Great post and it’s wonderful to see your well-organised and thoughtful program being continually developed. I think that your awareness and understanding of audience receptivity should benefit you in moving to the next stage(s).
    I’m completing a presentation on models of professional development and online networking for the English Teachers’ Association here in Victoria, Australia, and I wonder if I may have your permission to use two of your images (with citation). I would like ot incorporate your Venn diagram of the 21st century learner from this post, and the models of PD diagram you used a couple of posts back. Let me know if that would be OK.

  5. December 5, 2008

    Kim — excellent post. Love the diagram. Got me thinking…. Thank you! -g

  6. December 7, 2008

    @Doug,

    Thanks! At this point, we’re looking more at process and attitudes more than mastery. Our thought is that mastery of tools changes far to rapidly to determine any fixed point now that would continue to be relevant for even 2-3 years. We’re trying to move away from tool-based instruction, into more of an individualized learning experience.

    I do think we can, and probably need to think about, mastery of those processes and attitudes in our framework – what does it look like when a student is an effective learner, for example. How are students demonstrating that they can collaborate effectively on a global scale? This is definitely the next step for us.

    @Nilah,

    Thank you! You’ve made my day with your enthusiastically positive feedback :) I love your idea of asking teachers how we can help them cope with this constant change. I think we got some of that feedback on our survey, but we definitely didn’t ask the question directly – something for us to do at our next faculty meeting!

    @Sean,

    Thank you! I agree that the short time frame was very productive – more intense, but also more engaging, and I definitely don’t think that we had anyone feeling like the meeting dragged on for ages ;)

    You are so lucky to have 20 teachers working with you at this level – I’m sure you will have a much easier job brining the rest of the 70 on board by sharing the success of these 20. For a one-year process, that’s a pretty good ratio!

    @nrwatkins,

    Thank you! You are more than welcome to use both images (with credit)! I hope they are helpful for you in your presentation. I’d love to hear how it goes!

    @Garr,

    Thanks for reading! What a buzz to see that the author of a favorite new book of mine actually read one of my blog posts!

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