Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reflections on the 21st C Learning Day

It is never easy to look to closely in the mirror if your purpose is to see what is wrong. It is much easier if you are looking into to yourself to try to make things better, and it is even more successful if you have some friends along to help you out. Equipped with my growth mindset, I decided to look closely at the professional learning day Lois and I planned.

At the end of the session on Tuesday, Lois and I looked at the feedback we got from teachers attending. At that point, I was feeling frustrated about how parts of the day had gone. By the time teachers go back to the Gathercole at 2:15, they were clearly tired. They had been listening to each other present since 10:30, and most of the presentations were primarily lectures with visual aides. I realized I needed to do a better job of helping teachers feel comfortable leading others in doing or using more models and examples of student work - it wasn't clear that would be welcome. I was also worried about overlap in some session topics. As I looked out, I saw fatigue reflected back. Lois and I wrapped things up and asked them for their feedback, and I expected them to say it was too much. Mostly, they commented on what worked, what they need to keep learning and what structural changes they'd suggest next time we do this.

I asked for no "good job" style feedback, and our participants mostly gave practical suggestions, and explanations of the impact on them. I got a number of next day or later in the evening feedback around structure of the day. Almost all of it was discussion of how valuable it was to hear what peers were doing, but I also got some good ideas for structure:

"One more idea I wanted to add (as I kept thinking on the drive home) - next time, perhaps people could be surveyed ahead of the session to see what topics they would like to see addressed or presented. This could then help to then help to build the day."

Even teachers would did not attend are thinking about ways which we can keep sharing about technology and learning. One our teacher librarians send me a link to TEDx, a series of TED talk style presentations. As I thought about the day, I realized that I was seeing what I see in a classroom, lots of good learning with some things I'd do differently next time.

After the day was over, a group of six of us got together to add a second mirror - you know, like you do when you want to see your hair in the back (Speaking as middle-aged woman, seeing your backside is not always a great experience.). However, our collective reflection really gave me some good insights this time. Here is what I learned over the two days:

  1. You can't under-estimate the value of just-in-time technical support. We had Jay there for help, but still had many mini-computers that did not work, issues with the Smartboard and some software issues. One thing that I would say is that teachers with greater fluency were much more able to work around the problems (read some interesting comments re the on-going nature of technical problems in the comments about this post)
  2. It is easy to have anxiety about putting your ideas out there. In our group, some of us found it really hard to know our ideas were being 'published' to the world. I think this may be related to another observation I had. Many of the teachers used technology to comment on student work, but a much smaller group encourage student to provide specific, descriptive feedback to others. We teachers struggle with creating and publishing to the world - it's that need for perfection rather than growth. I need to think some more on this one.
  3. I always move things along too quickly, and I did this time even with Lois to slow me down. I need to remember to give others time to reflect. My internship report (last thing a pre-service teacher does to be certified) had one suggestion for improvement - wait time. I need to work more on this.
  4. Teacher's speaking to each other about what they are trying, not what they have perfected, is a really good way to promote reflective practitioners.
  5. We talked to much about the technology and not enough about why we are using it. That happens ever time. Lois and I discussed it and how to avoid it, but it still happened. Dave noticed it within the first 1/2 hour. Hmmmm. . .
I really appreciate all the teachers who stood up to share what they had been trying. We could never have put together a group like this a year ago, and it speaks to how the people in that room continue to be dedicated to a life time of learning. That's one image I am delighted to see reflected back at me and I think it is a critical trait in a great teacher.


  1. Hi Wendy,
    Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments and your hyperlinks to pictures and other great "stuff." ;)

    You are right - we were exhausted at the end of the day. I think that serves as a good reminder of how our students feel and how there is a need for variety to keep everyone alert and "engaged" (there's that word again...).

    Dave mentioned in his reflections that he noticed we felt a need to sell our sessions. Indeed we did. Knowing that there were four to five sessions running at a time, presented by the people attending the inservice...that didn't leave a whole lot of people to attend the sessions. My group was sitting there feeling a little uneasy about the possibilty of having no one come to ours. Plus we were "competing" with other sessions on the same topic as ours. In the end, we had three people come to our hands-on voicethread presentation and tailored it to what they wanted. The bonus for those people was one-on-one help! Not a bad thing at all. And together, we all tried out something new on voicethread that came out of a query during the session...can you embed a photostory into a voicethread?" Yes you can!

    The day was jam-packed with a lot of important topics and sessions. A bit overwhelming at times I thought. Sometimes "more" doesn't mean "better" and I think we can get caught up in that and should remember that perhaps it's better to spend more time on doing fewer things well. Erin made a good point at the end of the day when she said we shouldn't feel like we have to go and do it all now. That was a good reminder. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to go away and try these things in our classroom the next day. We need to be realistic. That's just not possible.

    One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately and have spoke with colleagues and my principal about is the need for a technology committee in our building. I have a couple interested staff memebers who will join me in creating this committee and we all feel it's necessary and that we have a lot of work to do around techonology. I am excited to get this committee formally together and begin our work as leaders in technology in our building. It's time.

    I took some valuable things away from the day - a quick little nugget like the "show options" feature on Google that I was able to briefly show to a few staff members yesterday (I'd like to have 5 minutes at a staff meeting to show this as well!). I also look forward to playing with Inspiration some more and finding meaningful ways to use it with students. My colleagues who were there went to different sessions than I did, so altogether, we have come back with a whole package of things.

    Well, there are just some more of my ramblings on the day. It's always good to reflect...I really don't think we ever stop. And that's a good thing.


  2. You are right that reflection is a good thing and I am excited about the idea of collegiate leadership through a technology committee in your school. Let me know what I can do to help, if anything. . .

    On the overwhelming point, I need to think more about being more targeted. Thanks for taking the time to share your excellent thinking.