Last night a wonderful conversation emerged in the #edchat session last night on Twitter about how we might facilitate discourse about technology in the classroom with our fellow classroom teachers. It was mentioned that people were tired of being inundated with tools without context, presenters with sales-pitches and no real-life connections to what they are being shown. If we are hoping that teachers will adopt educational technology for use in their classrooms, we have to provide the instruction, direction and on-going support to help them make the experience a success. Many wonderful ideas were shared and I am hoping that others (ahem! Todd Williamson and Tech in 20) will blog about how they implement teaching and sharing about all things ed-tech within their school communities. I thought I’d give a few more details about our school’s monthly “Make n Take” sessions.
Over the past few years, our administration has been outfitting each classroom with SMART Boards. We were the first in the district to really put our money where our mouths were, so we were well ahead of the curve of what professional development was being offered by the system. From that need, and an expressed desire by teachers to learn more about how to implement technology in the classroom, came the idea for monthly “Make n Take” sessions. Each month, a “Make n Take” was hosted by a different grade level in the school in one member of that team’s classroom. The host grade level was in charge of an hour-long sharing and question session that highlighted how they used technology to enhance instruction in their grade level. The members of the grade level team decided together what they would like to use as a focus, and they were also allowed to ask for “help” coming up with a topic if needed. As a result of these monthly “Make n Take” sessions, there were many excellent outcomes:
1. School community was focused. It’s often difficult to organize vertical curricular planning. By having each grade level in charge of one month, and by having all staff attend, we were able to see one another and see first hand how our strands of curriculum were fitting together. Wonderful dialogue was generated when we were around others who weren’t in our “normal” collaborative planning groups.
2. Authentic professional development was offered. We were learning about technology integration strategies from our peers – people we trusted, people we knew were in the trenches, and people who we knew had the same “stuff” sitting in their classrooms and were teaching the same kids. No matter the discrepancy in ages between the sharing groups, there was always information that could be gleaned and adapted.
3. It fit our local requirements. It was focused on our curriculum. It integrated 21st century skills. It was free.
4. We covered a myriad of topics without being overwhelmed. Because each team took on a “theme” for the month, you had a month to go back to your classroom and try one or two of these ideas before another one was thrown at you. This time to implement was key. Having a team full of specific tech support was also essential in the success of this model. Over the course of the year, we got excellent real-world examples of using SMART boards, SMART Response Systems, Podcasting, Blogs and Wikis, Our School Webhost, and more. As each topic was addressed from the perspective of a “real” classroom teacher, it was invaluable and inspiring.
So if you are looking for a way to bring more educational technology to your school or your district, consider looking in. Teachers are often doing more than we give them credit for and they have amazing ideas. And why not harness what great ideas are already floating around in your own building and district?!