Archives for the month of: March, 2012

Collecting feedback from stakeholders is essential for the growth of your school.  Learning what you are doing well, and what you could be doing better is a great practice for any leader.

In January, my principal and I sat down with every teacher in the building and discussed four topics.  This was not an opportunity for the administration to give feedback, but rather to listen to what the teachers had to say.

The four questions we asked were;

-What is going well in your classroom?

-What is one area you want to focus on in your classroom?

-What is going well in the school?

-What do we need to focus on schoolwidel?

We listened and took notes of everything the teachers had to say.  Then using Wordle we created visualizations of the teacher feedback.

As a visual learner, I would much rather look at information than read it.  This also makes it easier to spot trends in what people are focused on.

In the future, I plan on using Google Forms to conduct the survey so that I can just cut and paste responses into Wordle.

Learning from our teachers provided great feedback as to what we need to focus our efforts on as we finish this year, and plan for the next.  The experience also helped build community and trust with teachers.

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When the iPad came out, many hailed them as the future of education. Since then, Apple has done a lot to position themselves as the solution to school technology.  With the announcement of iBook textbooks, they are focusing even more on the education sector.  While I’m not super excited for the prospect of textbooks on the iPad (see below), I think iPads offer limitless solutions to the classroom.

Our school recently purchased our third cart of 30 iPad 2s.  Since their purchase, the first two carts have been used almost daily.  I’ve seen students in the hallways, outside, on the floor, and just about every other place possible working on projects for class.

The iPads are not solving any of the major problems in education, but they are engaging students in a way that they enjoy.  I believe that it is our job to make school enjoyable, fun, and relevant to our students.  If we can do this, while teaching content, we will ensure the success of a larger percentage of our students.

When I go to conferences or workshops, it is common practice to see almost every educator on an iPad.  They are ubiquitous with professional growth.  We need to offer that same opportunity to our students.

Yes, iPad are “sexy” and sleek and in the words of our students “awesome”.  But they are also functional, practical, and useful in any type of classroom.

And by the way, yes some of them will break.  It is a natural consequence of usage.  This cannot stop us from putting expensive technologies in the hands of our students. We purchase simple silicon covers from Monoprice.com for $3.24 per unit.  They are cheap and prevent the iPads from sliding off the desk.

The reasons that I don’t like iBook textbooks.

iTextbooks will probably not save money over paper books. They cost $15 per year and must be repurchased each year.  If the student is assigned an iPad, then the textbook must be purchased for each student enrolled in that particular class.

Although iBooks allows teachers create textbooks, they will only work on iPads.  While this doesn’t sound terrible, we must think to the future and not bind ourselves to one brand of technology.

The issue of copyright must be brought into the discussion.  Very few educators are originators of content (This isn’t a bad thing).  We recycle and repackage ideas and materials to meet our students needs.  If we do this while authoring an iBook, who is responsible for the infringement of copyrights?

I write this post after sitting through three days of professional development.  The county that I work for asked that we send a team, thus we did. Prior to attending, I was looking forward to learning new methods of helping our students learn and grow. Unfortunately, I learned unintentional lessons from those presenting.  Here are a few pointers for myself and other professional development presenters.

1. You don’t need to prove your value, we trust you. You’ve already proven your value, which is why I’m taking time from my school and attending your seminar. You don’t need to give stories of your teaching career and how great you were. I’m attending your workshop, because I believe you can offer me tools, information, or strategies that will help me reach my students more effectively.

2. Use the best resources that you have. There were approximately 75 educators in the room, perfect for networking and sharing ideas.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.   Instructional leaders need to put the materials into the hands of those who will be using it. Then, let the professionals work together to plan implementation. This will give teachers comfort with using the new tools while providing support from the experts.

3. Practice what we preach. We ask our teachers to get away from standing at the board and lecturing. Yet, when we attend PD, that is typically what happens.  How are our teachers supposed to get away from lecturing, if we never expose them to anything else?  Use the format of the training as training itself. We can teach others about any number of topics in a format that will give them exposure to a new way of teaching.

4. Read your audience. It is appalling to look around and see a room full of disconnected, disengaged, distracted audience members.  I’m not disappointed by the audience’s behavior, but rather by the fact that the presenter continues as if everyone were paying attention.  As part of my teacher walk-through observations, I look at what percent of the students are engaged.  If a huge portion of the class is not engaged, I have to ask myself if the teacher is effectively engaging the students.

5. Don’t let them leave empty handed.  How many times have you gone to a workshop, and thought “I can’t wait to try that”?  Weeks and months go by, and you still haven’t put anything you learned into practice. At that point you’ve forgotten what it was that you wanted to try. Give the learners time to create a lesson, or plan a unit that incorporates one thing from your workshop.  Make them use their time to do something productive.  That will increase the odds that it will get used.  If you are really on top of it, you will have the participants record what they plan on using and their contact info.  In a few weeks you can send them an email asking them how it went in their classroom.

6. Respect the clock.  NEVER hold a group late.  If you are not finished, invite those that wish to continue the conversation to stay longer, but never require everyone to stay past a set time.  If anything, reward hard work with an early release.  The people will leave on a positive note, and remember your PD in a much better light.