Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bulging Pockets

Like most edubloggers, this post is sort of a “back-to-school” one. However, instead of offering a motivational charge, I would like to share with you an account of a very encouraging day I had last week.

Last Wednesday morning I led the annual new teacher training. I am allotted three hours to get new teachers up and running on our system at school. You know, logins, email, grade book…essentials, but not necessarily translating to student achievement. This year I decided to get through the mechanics as quickly as possible, and use our remaining time to work with teachers on how to develop a more student-centered classroom, and how to use some of our available applications to change the way our kids learn. The morning was the most successful session we’d had. Their eyes widened and their enthusiasm rose when they realized this wouldn’t be a “how to” tech session. Instead, once the group opened up, it became a sharing of ideas which would result in actual change. I was also pleased to see that many of these “new” teachers were quite adept at many of the applications we used. My confidence swelled when a show of hands revealed that many of them already had Google accounts, used social bookmarking, and some were already blogging. And the best news yet? Not all of them were fresh out of college. The age of the “new” teachers ranged from early twenties to, well, as old as I am. So much for “Digital Natives.”

After the meeting I was stopped by my associate principal. He was wondering if I could help staff with Learning Teams. Two years back, we adopted the DuFour model of a Professional Learning Community. He had said that teachers were frustrated with the limited time they had in meeting face to face with Learning Teams, and needed to know how to create some new “learning spaces” (HIS term) to allow access and promote a more 24-7 chance to work on sharing ideas and creating common assessments. He wanted to know if I could teach the staff how to utilize applications such as existing tools in our content management system as well as Google Docs, Forms, and Moderator. Hmm, a chance to do systemic training? Count me in.

Later that day, I met with a journalism teacher who, wanted to do what was best for her students, and develop a paperless, online school newspaper. She started with “I can’t, in good conscience, teach journalism in an archaic form.” She told me what she wanted, and we worked together to develop a way that her student staff could develop the school newspaper completely on line, including podcasts, and the ability to have the rest of the school comment on articles… all within our existing content management system.

This day just kept getting better and better.

Before I left, I decided to check my email. I saw a message from a teacher, previously on the technophobic side. She wanted to take all of the Effective Reading classes, put them in a group together that would allow them to write book reviews which other students could read, comment, and decide themselves whether they too wanted to read those books. She never mentioned the word “blog” but it didn’t matter. These kids would be writing for an authentic audience and purpose and would be responding, sharing and critiquing on line.

Someone pinch me.

Please understand that my purpose is not to brag about the teachers in my school; I am sure you have these same “pockets” of teachers who are doing great activities with their kids. The point is this: the pockets are bulging. I no longer have the same handful of trailblazers asking for assistance. These are the teachers who usually don’t seek me out for ideas. And what’s better, I no longer have as many people approaching me with a tool and asking me how to use it. Instead they have a vision, or design of a new idea, and are asking me how to do it. The ISTE NETS standards discuss “Systemic Change.” And while we are not there yet, we are nearing the Tipping Point of such change. Here’s to a great school year for all of us.