Sunday, August 31, 2008

Teach21 Summer Kickoff

Our summer kickoff was held July 15-18, 2008 and much of what we did revolved around Daniel Pink's book, "A Whole new Mind." "A Whole New Mind" is not focused on technology, although it's role in the information age is discussed in-depth. Pink's subtitle is, "Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future," and his book reviews what he believes it now takes to be competitive in the job market, and excel in the 21st century.
He outlines six essential aptitudes for professional success - design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. As we read and shared chapters of this book in teams it gave us a specific purpose for what we were to learn.
What we learned over the next three days tools that would allow us and our students to become designers, story tellers, people who can put together the pieces, people who are empathetic and understand others, playfully creative, meaning driven individuals.
The tools we learned, when applied to the educational setting, helps develop Pink's six aptitudes. Over the next three days we learned about a host of Google tools, Web 2.0 tools, Skype, wikis, and digital storytelling. We created classroom blogs, our own avatars, touched on the use of video in the classroom, and learned how to use social bookmarking. With Marlo Gaddis controlling the pace and the direction everyone seemed to be excited about the possibilities.
The reflections we all left on the Teach21@Bolton wiki tell the story of these days best. Here are just a few.

"I am enjoying the training and all of the new info to go along with it. I never new there was so much more to google. I am learning about several different ways to use technology in my classroom. I hope to use voicethread, photostory, and blogs with my students. Last year they were amazed with my overhead projector. I can't wait to see their smiling faces when they are using all of the new technology we are being trained to use."

"I really enjoyed creating my blog yesterday. The collaboration between this team is awesome. We have learned so much from Marlo and we are really helping each other. The more I learn, the more I can't wait to use it in my room. Go Teach21 Bolton!!!!!"

"I can see so much potential for using all of these tools. Specialists using a wiki when are planning special events for the grade levels.... Many windows of opportunity are beginning to open here."

"Wow - Two exciting days! I always enjoy my summer breaks however it is training like this that gets me excited about August and all of the posibilities that are ahead of us! Thanks and I can't wait for more! There are so many possibilities of how we can use this new knowledge that it is mind boggling."

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Beginning

It began out of frustration, and with a simple question. In my third year in a new role as Bolton Elementary School's Technology Facilitator I was frustrated. Although I had the wonderful opportunity to teach the entire student population in the computer lab, and I saw the potential for students to create wonderful things and learn using exciting technologies, they had to do so within a 40 minute class in a seven-day rotational schedule. I wanted our student's and teacher's technology experience to be richer. So the question became, "Where do we go from here?"

I felt the need for a new direction, and really believed we needed a direction when it came to technology and learning. In trying to answer my own question, and after studying the new National Educational Technology Standards, I began researching 21st Century Learning Skills. I quickly realized that all the educational scenarios in the standards took place in a regular classroom, with more depth, and much more opportunity for creative expression. Add to that a viewing of Karl Fisch's "Did You Know 2.0" and I had an answer.

Sometimes the right people are together at the right place and the right time and things fall into place. I posed my question to our principal, Doreen Sorensen, and Marlo Gaddis, our school district's project manager for instructional technology. Together, through a long discussion we put together our ideas to figure out - where do we go from here at Bolton?

On April 30, 2008 Mrs. Sorensen allowed Marlo Gaddis and I to first make our case, and then our proposal at an early morning staff meeting. We wanted to first show the need for 21st Century Learning Skills, and then propose what evolved into Teach21@Bolton. After viewing "Did You Know 2.0" a truly collegial discourse went on for almost an hour. Differing views were expressed, concerns were heightened and voiced, but the discussion was ultimately very constructive.

At the end we proposed the formation a team to build a learning community. It team would begin with a three-day summer training, and continue with ongoing monthly meetings/collaborations throughout the 2008-2009 school year. In turn, Mrs. Sorensen made the commitment to get these teachers the technology tools in each of their classrooms for use on a daily basis. Their use and the students' use of technology could become consistent, part of the daily routine.

Participation was offered as purely voluntary. Response was overwhelmingly positive. Over 90 percent of the staff expressed an interest in joining, and making a commitment to be part of a training that would be the first of its kind in our district.

In the end, our principal chose the participants and limited the group to two teacher per grade level, one pre-k teacher, our media coordinator, a technology lab educator, and our science specialist. Our principal and curriculum coordinator as well as myself were also part of the team. We would all learn together. The team had teachers with differing technology comfort levels and experiences, but all were willing to try something new.

Marlo Gaddis composed and delivered a welcome letter to each team member and quickly created a wiki, Teach21@Bolton, a wonderful Web 2.0 tool for the participants to use for planning and collaborating before the end of the 2007-2008 school year. The assignments were to learn to login to their wiki accounts and begin posting to learn a 21st Century tool, and to watch a video entitled "Why Change? Why Now?" from our district's technology blog and post a response. And so the journey, and the possibilities began.