In order to celebrate Digital Learning Day last month, I racked my brain to come up with something that would be both manageable and meaningful for me and my colleagues. The staff where I teach and provide technology coaching spans the spectrum when it comes to technology integration in the classroom.
There are roughly 70 teachers at my site and due to the nature of our campus, student population, master schedule and limited prep time, it is virtually impossible to arrange time for meaningful, authentic collaboration, outside of various mandated monthly meetings. Additionally, our monthly staff meetings are at the end of a long workday and generally filled with administrative news and general housekeeping items, which does not typically promote a captive audience, willing or able to engage in what I think is an amazing classroom tool.
With these challenges in mind, I arranged for three activities that were teacher centered, encourage collaboration, foster a sense of community, are simple enough to be used by technology novices, and highlight technology applications that can be easily used with students in the classroom.
Here are some of the activities and tools we used that can be valuable for schools throughout the year.
The first activity was a TodaysMeet session which ran throughout the teaching day. A week prior, all teachers received an email explaining what we were going to do. Two days before the event, they were emailed a reminder with a link to an article titled “20 useful ways to use TodaysMeet in schools.” On the morning of the event teachers received an email with the link to the specific session, as well as simple instructions for those that had not previously used the site.
Throughout the day many teachers shared ideas, websites, classroom practices and answered questions and concerns about certain struggles they were encountering. Other teachers simply chose to view the conversations as they familiarized themselves with the concept of the online meeting process. As a follow up, I sent an email to the staff highlighting the strategies and resources that were discussed online.
The next collaborative process I introduced was a “Craig’s List” of sorts for our campus. I created a Google spreadsheet on which teachers can list items they want or have available. Items can include classroom supplies, strategies or curriculum.
I envision it will be a place where art teachers can request egg crates to be used as paint cups, history teachers will be able to find a film they need for an upcoming unit or a new teacher may request classroom management strategies for an overly chatty group of students. In order to encourage regular usage and familiarize staff with the idea, I will be sending out weekly email reminders with newly listed items until teachers incorporate use of the list into their regular routines.
Lastly, I am creating a padlet wall on which teachers are encouraged to post notes detailing what they are working on currently, as well as units they have planned for the near future. In doing so, as a staff we can begin realizing more authentic collaborative opportunities that had been previously missed due to the fractured nature of our school design.
The thought process behind these activities is to enrich the school’s professional environment by introducing teachers to authentic technology driven solutions that can also be used in the classroom. Many teachers in the midst of their day-to-day teaching lives are reluctant to introduce new technology because:
- it might not work as intended
- it might encroach on valuable class time that has already been meticulously planned
- the time it takes to learn might infringe upon impacted prep time
- their lack of experience with it might negatively impact the student experience
With that in mind, by highlighting these technologies in a way that showcases the collaborative benefits of specific digital solutions, technology coaches can simultaneously strengthen the teaching community at their site and introduce their colleagues to classroom technology in a way that is specifically targeted, and far less intrusive than the “you should use this in your classroom” approach.
Dutch Tessier teaches high-school English and media literacy and is the technology coach at Pajaro Valley High School in Watsonville, Calif. He recently launched the web-based, student initiated positive-planet.net, an ongoing PBL activity designed to engage students in positive activism, and simultaneously address a wide variety of common core standards. You can follow him on Twitter @mrtessier33 and read his weekly blog.