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.

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