Since September I have participated in a Critical Friends Group at my school (with our coach Christina). It’s been a great experience to get to know, grow and collaborate with a small group of teachers. I would consider professional learning a weakness at our school so it’s been an enriching experience to be around people who share my professional values. We’ve met about once a month and used a variety of protocols to examine and enhance our practice. I’ve also participated in several protocols during school divisional meetings.
Today I facilitated my first protocol! Our MS principal (Dave) wanted a productive way for his staff to reflect on their weekly team meetings. I pre-conferenced with Christina and we decided on a Back to the Future Protocol. Dave is currently away on a site-visit so he wasn’t able to present. I subbed steps 1-3 with a list of questions Dave had thought of. Usually this protocol is done with 3 pieces of large butcher paper and the faciliator writes down what the group is saying. My handwriting isn’t awesome and I can type way faster than I can write. Also, I wanted something that would be easily shareable and would stick around (not be in the way or thrown away). I created a Google Spreadsheet and hoped for the best!
I gave the shortened link (view only) to all the participants in the protocol so they could follow along and see whichever of the sheets they wanted (on iPads they had to refresh to see the updates). On the classroom computer & projector, I kept the Projected Future sheet so they could always be reminded of what they were aiming for. I brought my Chromebook to the meetings so I could move around and edit whichever sheet I needed to be on.
The protocol went really well :). My experience presenting at conferences has made me comfortable in front of my peers. Plus protocols aren’t about me or my ideas…they’re about what the presenter wants accomplished. I was just the facilitator. During the debrief I specifically asked what they thought about using the Spreadsheet instead of butcher paper…they much preferred it! They liked that it was professional and didn’t make them feel like elementary teachers ;). I’ll be running another one for a different team on Sunday so I’m hoping it goes just as smoothly! [It did!]
I’ve created a template of the Back to the Future document so that anyone can view it and copy it…would love to hear how it works for you and if there are any improvements that I can make!
My COETAIL course 5 final project made remember why I love teaching today (a much needed reminder!). My final project is an IB MYP Art & Design unit involving photography & social media. Check out more info here. I’m reposting the post below from my COETAIL blog cause it was just that awesome of a day. :)
Today. Was. Awesome. Seriously today’s Art/Design class was cool. Brian & Yuko from Photohoku ‘hung out’ with us…Lindsay and I weren’t sure how the students would respond but they were awesome. While I was setting up the Hangout a few of the students were whispering “I see Brian!” The students actually did their homework! They were pretty excited and a little in awe. It was one of those classes that was way too short and everyone probably would have skipped their next class to continue the conversation. I loved it.
Since we got cut a little short and the students didn’t get to ask all their questions, I created a post where students can ask questions in the comments. Brian and Yuko have kindly agreed to answer them when they have time.
What a great way to end the week…on a super high note!
A couple weeks ago our Language B department contacted me to train them on how to use Garage Band for their oral exams. I had only minimal experience from last year, so I contacted Christina (our curriculum coordinator) for the details. After a brief chat and checking out her blog post from her experience a couple years ago, I was ready.
The mini-training for our teachers was successful however they were a little nervous about remembering the exact right steps on the day of (they didn’t want their students to do amazing work to then realize that it didn’t record). In order to make it the simplest possible for the teachers, I created a tutorial with screen shots and a checklist they could use for each student. I got good feedback from it and thought I’d share it for any other DP teachers who need to submit oral exams to the IB. Feel free to share it and adapt as necessary!
Our school is currently using the ISTE Essential Conditions to evaluate our 1:1 iPad program and move it forward. We are currently working towards coming up with a shared vision. I’m excited about where the future lies!
I would love any input on our two draft visions! Feel free to comment here or add a comment to the google doc. Please share about your experiences or any advice! Thank you! :)
A couple weekends ago, Jeff and I presented at the third bi-annual Kuwait International Educators Conference at Al Bayan Bilingual School (BBS). We were invited to present in the fall after we met Lynda Abdul Raheem (FAWSEC Professional Development Coordinator) at PEAK in 2012.
KIEC was the first time we were sought out to present and the first time we’d ever done 4-hour workshops. We met with Lynda in the fall and learned all about their organization and the conference. Their philosophy is that any professional development that betters their staff will also better education as a whole in Kuwait. Love it. All BBS employees were required to attend both Saturday and Sunday (with Friday optional). They opened the conference to all educators in Kuwait and even allowed people to split tickets (3 people, 3 days, a different person attends each day). Each day there was a keynote, 4-hour workshop and 1-hour session (except Friday). At 60KD (~$212) it was a pretty great deal for a conference!
Jeff and I each led one 4-hour workshop each day. We each had two different workshops. I was scheduled to do Empowering on Friday and Sunday and GAFE – Next Level on Saturday. After Jeff lead GAFE for Beginners on Friday and Saturday, we realized the demand was high and people were excited. We switched it up and I replaced the Sunday Empowering with GAFE – Next Level. Saturday and Sunday (when all BBS teachers attended) were full sessions…and we even had to turn people away! The energy in our rooms was impressive! I had SO much fun nerding out with people over Google Apps :)
Empowering Teachers & Students with Technology
- My Empowering workshop was good…but I had very high expectations after attending Scott McLeod‘s workshop at NESA. I ended with only 5 people…which made it difficult to really engage in discussion and get them creating. One piece of feedback was that the first part of the session was theoretical…but I’m not quite sure how to have attendees analyze lesson plans without the background in the frameworks (SAMR, etc). Also, almost the entire group was not educated in North America. I wonder if this makes any difference in the way teachers teach. Would definitely be interested to know how teacher education programs differ! Although it didn’t live up to my expectations, the feedback made it seem like people still got something out of it.
GAFE – Next Level
- I left this session both days feeling energized and excited! I had a pretty big range of knowledge in the room which was difficult to keep up with at times. I started with a Google Race (adapted from my classroom in SC). The race ended up taking a little longer than expected. If I did this session again, I would like it to take less time…but I’m not sure what I would take out! I had a range of feedback from “I got a little lost at times and would have preferred a slower pace” to “I felt like it could have moved a little faster.” Seriously…it couldn’t have been more opposite! But every single piece of feedback was positive. It was incredibly rewarding and reminded me why I love what I do. I need to remember that feeling when I’m not feeling quite so positive about my job, school, etc.
Presenting at KIEC was an incredible learning experience. It was a lot of work but we also had a lot of fun. Working with Jeff so that our GAFE sessions spiraled was a great opportunity. If you have any questions about either of my sessions, let me know! If you want any of the information from Jeff’s session, contact him. :)
About a month ago Tami Lenker, Blythewood HS Technology & Learning Coach (and former colleague), asked me to be part of their Speed Dating. Um…really?! Then she explained it was Technology Style. OHHHH!
Tami had her entire staff split into 4 large groups. These groups were then divided further into 6 small groups. They rotated to 6 different presenters who wowed them in 4 minutes. That’s a total of 20 different presentations going on at the same time! Genius! [Richland 2 blog recap]
I participated via a Google Hangout. It worked incredibly well and was a lot of fun!
Afterwards I recorded my session and gave them some additional info I couldn’t get into 4 minutes. Enjoy!
These year in reviews are always fun to look at :) 
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,500 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report.
EEEK!! I’m not going to lie – I’m super pumped about this! After more than a year of working on this application, it’s officially official :)
During the fall of 2012, I completed the coursework, paid for and passed the 6 qualification exams (you have 90 days to complete the tests). On December 4th I was awarded Google Apps Qualified Individual status.
Since then, they have (supposedly) updated the tests to reflect the recent Google Apps updates. There are now only 5 tests that can be taken for $75 in English, Arabic or French.
After becoming a Qualified Individual, I had one year to complete the Certified Trainer application. I started working on the application in October/November. Since it is a Google Form (and therefore not savable), I kept all the answers to the questions in a Google Doc so that I could simply copy and paste when the time came. I made sure to share all my documents so that anyone with the link could view them.
The hardest parts for me were the two videos. Luckily I had used the COETAIL course 3 final project as a rough draft for my about me video. The most difficult thing was getting my videos cut down to the under 2-minute requirement…it goes by fast!
I recently discovered FormMule and have found it incredibly useful for disseminating information during my PD workshops.
There were a few hiccups in submitting my application. I started trying to submit by application on December 4th (the 1 year anniversary of my Qualified Individual status). However I kept getting an internal server 500 error. I was freaking out a little! Luckily I found the Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer forum. Becky notified me when the applications were back up (December 10) and assured me that I would not be penalized for submitting ‘late.’ Applications are currently not being accepted again for the first 8 weeks of 2014.
I can’t wait to explore the GACT community and see my name listed on the ‘Find a Trainer‘ site! Although I’m not super into badges, I have no problem displaying my new badge over there in my right sidebar ;) And I’m proud to be officially considered ‘Googley’ (“Definition of “Googley” (according to Google) – Googley people are creative, passionate about their work, and ethical. They communicate openly; can thrive in a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment; and are willing to “roll up their sleeves” and get things done. They can be serious without wearing a suit and tie. Googley people can be worldwide experts and still encourage curiosity and questions without being condescending.”)!
In November, I participated in a Community Walk with one of our Grade 2 classes as part of their ‘Where We Are in Place and Time’ unit of inquiry. Their teacher, Ms. Kira, is currently working on her International Teaching Certificate and IB level 1 award and this was part of her course requirements.
In groups of 2 (each with an adult supervisor), students walked around the community near our school for 30 minutes. The majority of our students do not live near the school so this was a new experience for them. Their goal was to take pictures of the community and interview someone in order to learn about life in the community. Shahad and Lulwa were ready to go with their interview questions (2 pages!) and iPad.
They wandered around a bit before finding a man working at a bakala (convenience store) who agreed to answer their questions.
They had two full pages of questions that were…quite interesting and definitely detailed! Although I did have to help focus them, it was really fun to see them interact with a local community member in both Arabic and English.
They took pictures and videos using their school iPads during their walk in order to create a presentation for their classmates and parents. Afterwards, they ended up creating a 6 minute long Explain Everything…it was a struggle to watch. The heart was there but it was a time when the technology seemed to inhibit the demonstration of their learning. Explain Everything just has a few too many tools for 2nd graders. But I was also impressed that they did the video all by themselves (I had my suspicions about some of the other groups).
Overall I really enjoyed being a part of this experience and hope I can be more involved next year! Kira asked me to reflect further on the experience:
Explain how you believe the Community contributed to the cultural life of your school and how it contributed to the local community.
- Most of our students don’t live in the community of the school. Being forced to actually go out and explore this community helped the students understand what life is like here. The saw the stark differences from what they’re used to seeing where they live. Walking around the community was not a normal part of their everyday lives and took courage on behalf of the students (and adults!). The walk helped our students become more open-minded and reflective. It also benefited the community – our school and the community are kept almost completely separate 99% of the time. This was a fantastic opportunity for the community to see and interact with the students at our school. It created a better understanding, both on the part of the school and the community, about what is on the other side of the walls. Our students took a risk to be communicators with adults in the community and were rewarded when those adults treated them with respect. Everyone learned something!
How did the Community Walk change your perception of the local community?
- I enjoy interacting with the local businesses around our school (while still being conscious of my surroundings). Although I live in the community, our walk took us to streets that I do not often traverse. I enjoyed seeing the new businesses and how the employees interacted with the students. It was definitely a positive experience!
In May I started a draft post after watching Sir Ken Robinson‘s Changing education paradigms TED talk (or watch all 55 minutes). The entire talk (along with his other material) is gold but there was about a minute of it that really got me thinking and brainstorming.
Although I’m not currently in the classroom, my brainstorms usually go to language teaching (specifically French). Inherently, languages are fluid and social. No wonder students learning a second language get so frustrated – the answer isn’t always at the back of the book! But we spend a lot of time teaching languages like they are black and white. Why do we spend so little time allowing our students to actually be social and experiment with the language? [I say 'we' because I have absolutely been guilty of this in the past.] World language classrooms are the perfect settings to open up to the actual world that students are learning about. It can be incredibly time consuming and challenging to make it a reality…but aren’t the rewards worth it? Won’t students who understand why they’re learning about culture and language and are able to see the immediate benefits be more likely to be engaged and ‘buy-in’?
“Collaboration is the stuff of growth.”
Robinson focused on collaboration and group work. Although these could (and should) happen outside the classroom, the most logical place to start is within its walls. How could my classroom have looked different if I had done a better job at embracing collaboration and group work?
Skits – We did a fair amount of scripted skits. Although students learning a language need to actually learn and practice, when was the last time you went to another country and acted out a memorized conversation? As students progress throughout the year (and years), I could have transitioned to more realistic skits. The end goal would be to give students a scenario and let them go…more like improv than acting. Students would be allowed to help each other if needed, but only in the target language. Language is a constant improvisation, so I why did I do so much acting in my classes?
Exams – I never did partner or group tests or exams. What if I had given students the choice? Option 1: take the exam individually, as normal. Option 2: take the exam with a partner, however you are only allowed to speak & discuss the test in French. I wonder what students would have chosen and what learning opportunities it would have opened up for them.
Maybe someday I’ll go back to the classroom and be able to experiment. :)
p.s. Sir Ken Robinson recently sat down with Thierry Foulkes. He has a couple videos up with French subtitles!