Modeling Tech Use for Teachers

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I’m working on developing a system through which our staff can get the professional development they need at the time that they need it.  Until then, they have to put up with me coming into staff meetings and team meetings to provide some PD.

But sometimes I can’t physically be at those meetings, either due to me being out at a conference trying to keep current or, as recently happened, due to family emergencies cropping up.  Sometimes those meetings get moved or cancelled, but if I can swing it, I try to use technology to still allow professional learning to happen.

For example, at our junior high we are looking at differently literacy strategies to help students make meaning of whatever they read (or view, in the case of videos).  The topic for last month was concept mapping, a strategy of which I am particularly fond because of its meaning- and connection-making goodness.  But I knew I wouldn’t be able to physically attend the staff meeting at which I was to present this strategy.  So what did I do instead?  Write up some background knowledge and some small activities in a Google Doc and share it out via our junior high Google Classroom group for staff to complete during their team planning time:

I think modeling technology use in this way is an important thing for administrators to do, and I say “do” for a reason – it’s something that’s always acknowledged that admins should do, but it’s not something everyone always makes time to do.  And I understand why – it involves a shift in how you go about your daily business, and it takes time and conscious effort to do that. And, that time and effort isn’t always something that’s at the front of your mind when you’re dealing with the everyday craziness of administrative life.

But modeling technology in this way for teachers gives them a visual and a process for how they can use technology with their own students, which, in the long run, is worth the time and effort.

G+ Communities for Professional Growth

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Our district recently set up Google+ Communities for our staff.  Currently we have two communities set up, one for our PreK through 5th grade staff, and another for our 6th grade through high school staff.

Why did we do this?  Well, for a lot of reasons:

  1. Creating a district culture. There are four buildings in our district – one for PreK-2, one for 3-5, one for 6-8, and one for 9-12.  Even though the buildings are all geographically close (two of them are even connected), ideologically, culturally, and pedagogically, they are sometimes worlds apart.  Creating online communities that combine buildings is an attempt to bring those worlds a little closer together, with staff interacting in an asynchronously so there is no need to carve out time during the school day for that interaction to happen.
  2. Magnifying the positive.  One of my goals is to take the positive that is already there and magnify it, letting it run rampant and causing good wherever it goes.  What better way to do that than creating a space where teachers can share all the good stuff they do in their own classrooms?
  3. Making professional growth the norm.  Along with all that sharing of goodness, Google+ communities within an educational G Suite domain are a private space where teachers can have conversations about what they do in their classrooms and why they do it, providing and/or sparking ideas among all staff.  While developing a PLN of educators around the world is always a fantastic idea, sometimes the best ideas for helping a teacher grow in their practice are locate right next door to their own classroom.
  4. Building relationships in an online space. These G+ Communities allow teachers, principals, and district administrators to engage in dialogue that normally might not happen.  I know I always have every intention of getting out and about into classrooms, but then end up getting pulled back into my office because of some situation that arises.  However, if I’m in front of my computer, I can interact with teachers and other administrators that are posting at any time.  I’m not saying this is a replacement for face-to-face interaction, but I feel it can offer another avenue to build relationships when time is always in short supply.
  5. Modeling technology expectations. Everyone is responsible for growing, and I believe it’s a responsibility of administration to model how to do that.  That means participating in these G+ Communities is a chance for administrators to model what growth in this day and age looks like, posting and discussing and growing out in the digital open.

While the expectation is that all teachers join one of our two communities, there is no expectation to post.  If some feel comfortable posting, fantastic.  If others just want to lurk and get good ideas from their colleagues, that’s great too.  Whatever use they get out of it will be a good one, as long as everyone is growing together.

Because that’s how good district become great – they never ever settle, and never stop growing.