Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stepping out, putting my money where my blog is

Ok. So I finally, after weeks of agonizing and reflecting, I took the step. For five months, I've used this forum to write about my discovery of web 2.0 technologies, about what vast potential exists, and about what I can and should be doing next. Well, next is now.

Today I walked into the principal's office and volunteered to present a one-hour after school presentation to the English department on some of these digital tools available to us. Our contract requires we participate in 10 hours of after school professional development, and we were scheduled for round four of our year-long initiative to continually review varied in-class literacy strategies. We've been down that road before and some of my colleagues were growing leery.

The workshop is not for another two weeks, which includes a week of April vacation, but I have begun to brew up some ideas about how to go about it. For months I've been making note of the excellent resources popping up all over the place. Patrick Higgins has a great web 2.0 resource wiki. Brian at Bump on the Blog likewise has a great resource wiki and it seems has even found some success inspiring novice teachers to "implement and experiment." That's encouraging.

I'm going to start pretty basic. For one thing, I don't want to overwhelm anyone in the short hour I have. And second, I'd like this session to lead to further professional development, rather than be an eye-rolling session that shouts out the latest and greatest tech toys. My goal has always been that we teachers need to use these tools to enhance professional growth and to better focus our instruction in a manner that best helps our students learn. One of my biggest fears is that teachers will immediately ask the question: when am I supposed to find time to do this, between grading papers, planning units, dealing with parents, etc...? There's never enough time. This isn't about time for something new, it's about something new to help us better use our time.

With that being said, I have a rough agenda sketched out for the afternoon, but am open to any feedback:

Am I on the right track? I tend to think many of the teachers who will attend the session have little experience incorporating digital tools into the classroom beyond using e-mail. I chose Google Earth and Sketchup up because it seems to be an accessible entry point to the true power of the Internet. The same for blogger. On the one hand it looks so elementary, but on the other hand it will mostly be new information to many of them.

What is the best entry point for teachers like that? Should I take another tact? Like maybe get everyone in front of a computer and sign them up for a blogger account? It comes back again to that nagging fear: will I somehow turn teachers off from implementing and experimenting with what I truly believe are vital educational tools? I hope not.

photo credit: First Step by roujo on Flickr


Brian Grenier said...

Mr. Miller,

First, I love the title of the post. I am happy that my resources have been of some help to you...and hopefully the teachers you are training, as well.

Let me make one suggestion concerning your agenda. From what I gather from your post you have a one hour block of time with your teachers. Take your agenda and cut it in half. TRUST ME! Spend a good 20 minutes on the "Did You Know" video just discussing what this all means for our students and for us as educators. I am willing to bet that your teachers are going to have some very interesting things to say. Moderate this conversation...but let them discuss and come to their own conclusions. 21st Century skills could be another 15 minute discussion. Definately, recommend that they read "The World is Flat" by Friedman. 5 more minutes on Web1.0 and 2.0 and you are already at 40 minutes. So what now...your Google Earth and Sketchup plan is perfect, but realize that there is no time for hands-on. 20 minutes and you have an hour. Save the blogs for next time.

So what's next? I would send an email to your teachers explaining what a blog is and pointing them towards a few that you read and believe that they would benefit from. Encourage them to comment and "blog surf". At your nest training you can get right into introducing Blogger and not have to spend the time on what a blog is.

After that I'd sugggest any one of a number of a variety of topics depending on your staff...wikis, podcasts, RSS, social bookmarking, videoconferencing, digital citizenship.

If I can be of any help during your presentation via Skype or videoconferencing just let me know.

Brian Grenier

Nancy McKeand said...

Brian's comment about cutting your agenda in half is critical, I think. I have tried to cover just blogs and wikis in an hour and felt like I was just getting started.

Mr. Miller said...

Brian and Nancy: Thanks for your input. Ever since volunteering for this, I've been kicking around ideas, changing tacts, asking questions. I was talking to a colleague today, and the more we talked, the more I began thinking that Google Earth and Sketchup may seem too much like the latest cool link, you know, something that you get e-mailed to you as a "hey check this out" kind of thing.

I want the teachers to come to some kind of realization that we can't just think of technology as the latest cool link to put in our utility belt (I borrowed that analogy from someone else). I want this, no matter how short, to be different. I want them to start discovering the power of these tools, blogging being a central component, and how they can fundamentally change the way we do things. Lofty aspirations for sure.

I still have some time, as I just found out the day has been pushed off until April 26. Either way, I appreciate the input and will definately take into consideration your experience and cut this agenda down.

Thanks again, and Brian I may take you up on that offer sometime - either soon or somewhere down the road... :)

Karen Janowski said...

Since you now have more time available prior to your actual professional development, send them links to blogs that you read and encourage them to read them before the PD. That will set the stage for them to be more willing to consider new ideas and strategies. Reading other educational blogs has transformed my thinking about education, teaching and learning.
On the day of your workshop, ask how many read through the blogs and learned about Web 2.0, what did they learn, what do they think?
This may set the stage for excitement to invest in what you are sharing with them.
(On the other hand, if it turns out no one explored the pre-workshop links that you sent to them, then I would question how they can instill in their students a love for life-long learning if they were unwilling to model it themselves!)
Just my 2 cents!

Patrick Higgins said...

Mr. Miller,

Thank you once again for the inclusion in your posts. Here is my quick advice on the presentation:

1. Definitely cut your agenda to show them very quick, easy ways to increase productivity.

2. Tell them they shouldn't bring this into the classroom until they are ready to.

3. The most well-received Web 2.0 technology in my district: The ability for my staff to latch onto other people's research and track it through RSS proved an instant success. I would include that one in your presentation.

4. What I did with SketchUp was show it to the staff, but then loaded it on the machines of teachers who had study halls. When students complained of nothing to do, the teachers told them to go build something. It was a win-win. Teachers did not have to become experts and the students just started playing. It caught on and now is used by teachers in classrooms in both of my schools.

Hope this helped.