Tags: Collaboration, games, Global Collaboration, Professional Development, Project-based Learning, QuestAtlantis, Shift, virtualworlds
I’m new to virtual worlds. I’ve been curious about Second Life but never ventured in, even though there are many educator-based groups I could benefit from participating in. I recently listened to a Seedlings podcast featuring Bronwyn Stuckey, the teacher trainer for Quest Atlantis. QA is a virtual world for students where they can collaborate, learn and solve reality-based world problems together. (Thank you again Bob, Cheryl and Alice!) QA also incorporates literacy, mathematics and content area studies. I see it as a possible school of the future. I have just missed the European teacher training, but was accepted to participate in the US/Canada 4 week training- which means middle of the night sessions for 4 weeks.
I’ve completed the first training and have progressed enough on my own to allow my avatar to change from the all-white newbie outfit to my individually chosen clothes and physical characteristics. I know it sounds as if that’s been the highlight for me, but I have actually accomplished much more. For example I have learned to navigate and move my avatar, to understand my pod and how to reenter and continue my current mission. I have yet to engage with another participant socially but I know that will come with continued training sessions.
Most impressive is the QA framework and how easy the training is for someone on her first trek into a virtual world. We began with the basics where I had to travel from place to place to learn the back story of QA and also meet some of the main characters. I submitted my first Quest- choosing a writing task over science or mathematics tasks. It was the first poem I’ve written in many years and very poor I’m sure! I then learned the 7 Social Commitments that are the foundation of QA and am currently learning how to review a quest. Reviewing student quests is based on a balance of feedback in 4 areas: content focus + narrative quality + supportive comments + informative comments. Today when I logon I will complete my first quest review.
Quest Atlantis has all the qualities that relevant, engaging learning requires: an engaging, challenging and supportive environment, quality assessment and feedback, plus integrated content and life-skills at the core of all learning opportunities. One of my colleagues is willing to learn QA and we plan to implement it with her 5th grade students. Our after-school activities have started this semester, but I plan to hold a QA group for the second semester. I know I have just stepped onto the tip of the QA iceberg and am excited to continue and discover what I’ll learn as a teacher and an individual.
Tags: afterschool group, Moodle, Professional Development
I’d like to follow up on 2 new initiatives I’ve written about. The first after-school activity is with my student group, Digital Media Kids. In my last post I wrote that I would discuss our direction with them (to a degree) by asking the following questions, “… what do you see us doing? What do you want to learn? What do you want to express? Who do you want as an audience? After we sort those out, then we can bridge, What do you want to express and how?”
Our first discussion brewed some excitement about sharing favorite interests and getting readers involved. We started posting informational articles and found the main posting interest now is on line games, so now we are allowing game-playing one afternoon, followed by a review. Posts have been expressed in slideshows, written and upcoming podcasts. I love that they are eager to learn different means to express themselves. We haven’t discussed or created essential questions, but it feels right to allow time to get the feet wet, and then stand back and look at meaning and relevancy. The group is five 8-year-olds and a 9-year-old and they are sharing at home and with relatives who are so far impressed. There is fun and learning each hour!
My second after-school initiative is with the grown-ups on campus- holding open-lab hours till 6 Monday through Thursday. It started well and has slowed. I’m not discouraged and plan, after report cards are done in 2 weeks, to get out and be more pro-active by suggesting new ideas and growing further with current projects.
Do any of you readers have similar sessions and in what ways are you succeeding?
Update: October 30, 2008
My position is PK-12 but I live in the LS and focus most of my energy there, my TI colleage focusing on the Middle and Upper school. But this afternoon one of the MS/US Enlish/Writing teachers came in for my After-school tech lab. She was unsure how to use moodle and how to set up the mandated class page “presence” in Moodle. We went over the basics looking at the Moodle site and then I asked, do you want to see some class examples? I loved her reply- “No, I want to do something that suits me and my classes.” So she then told me about how she teaches and showed me one of her daily 3-6 slide PPTs that serve as lesson support and organiztion support for students- many images and light on text. Very positive use of PPT. From there it was a no-brainer. We set up her page so she can upload each PPT as a PPS at the end of each day for students to revisit and absent students to use to get caught up. When she left, she said she has no interested in forums, chats, etc but may be interested in blogs… I know it’s not web3D, but everyone has to start somewhere and I am delighted to have another after-school colleague!
Tags: Laptop Institute, Professional Development
It’s been awhile since my last post and now that I’m back at work, my mind is filled with ideas and plans for creating, adopting and implementing 21st century educational experiences this year at ASM.
One thing I heard repeatedly in sessions at the Laptop Institute this summer is that an essential ingredient in creating change and allowing growth is professional development (hello?? We know this already but it’s nice to hear it from others!) We can’t ask teachers to make changes without support for creating this change, but scheduling PD opportunities that meet many schedules is a difficult task. I feel that what is needed to stir up collaboration and risk-taking is to implement formal, established collaboration opportunities outside the school day.
Last April I started Tech Thursdays every other week that allowed staff to come in before or after school for tech and edtech assistance and sharing ideas. This was met with limited success mainly because 2 days a month is not enough time and opportunity to meet many busy schedules.
My idea is to start this year by establishing available Tech Drop-In times 3 days a week (Tuesday/Thursday/Friday) for staff development where I will promote and be available each day at 8:15 before school and until 6:00 after school. On Mondays and Wednesdays I plan on holding my ASA student group.
The opportunity can be promoted each Monday with an all-staff email reminder that includes items such as a collaboration opportunity announcement, MS Office tip, website, edtech tool or best practice example in an effort to hook teachers. My 10 minutes at each monthly staff meeting will be another positive way to generate interest. I’d like to keep anecdotal records of types of help requested during these sessions and success stories will be reported in our school’s staff Tech newsletter.
The before and after-school tech time (in addition to during the school day every day) would consist basically of my availability for any question or idea a colleague wants to develop. When I don’t have experience related to a specific question, it will also serve as an opportunity to model how to find answers such as use of AtomicLearning, the Help menu, or Google. If there is a lack of attendance, I plan to advertise topics, tools, skills and books to promote growth.
What do you think? Has anyone tried a similar format? Any words of advice or further ideas?
Tags: PLN, podcast, Professional Development, Shift, summer, technology integration
With my first year as an international educator behind me and the comfort of being in my native country with family and friends, I feel ready to reflect on my past 10 months in Madrid. There was a lot to the adjustment in my personal life but also professionally.
The issue I’m currently mulling over is, What IS the best way to encourage change in an individual school?
From personal experience and talking to teachers in other schools, there seems to be 3 main options:
1. Hiring leaders who nurture, model and encourage 21st century change in the form of “education technology specialists or integrators” who work with teachers.
2. Teacher/tech mentors who work within their team.
3. A computer lab teacher/integrator who provides grade level curriculum lessons with technology as a tool in the lab
My experience in the states was as a classroom teacher in a school of 600 students with one tech support person and one lab plus 1-3 desktops per classroom. We had a small district-wide program to encourage “tech integration” and professional growth with limited success. Basically it was up to the individual teachers interest in professional growth and change.
My experience this last year as a K-5 “technology integrator” (the first one for the school) had it’s ups and downs. The pros are that we have an administrator promoting movement towards the future, an excellent head of technology and tech support team, a teacher laptop program recently implemented and individual teacher interest starting to percolate. The down side was the newness of the integrator position and teacher expectations that the integrator would “take over” the tech implementation as the PE, music and art teachers do- even though this was never communicated as the plan.
A friend in another international school is a teacher/tech mentor for her grade level team. This has been successful in a limited way, and as with the previous examples, it is reliant on individual teacher motivation.
The third path, the lab teacher/integrator is effective in that students are provided with 21st century learning experiences for at least one hour a week, the rest depending on the individual classroom teachers. But this may be more than students in any of the other options receive. On the other hand, classroom teachers may be less inclined to attempt updating teaching methods at all in their own classrooms.
I’m not sure which is the best path, perhaps none of the above. In my experience and what I have heard from other teachers and edtech professionals and read on blogs, the greatest need is professional development time outside the school day and/or during the summer. It takes a motivated teacher to investigate and create more relevant classroom experiences during the school year. With that in mind, I think the first and third options are best because it allows a designated person to serve as a resource who supports those willing teachers to take risks and move into the future.
Lastly, on the topic of lack of time and professional development… yesterday morning my dad saw me at my laptop with papers strewn around and commented on my confusion with what “vacation” meant. Like Bob Sprankle and the Seedlings group, I see summer as a time for fun, relaxation AND professional development. I’ve started with Brain Rules as my first beach book and plan to alternate professional and fiction books over the summer. I plan to get caught up on reading my favorite blogs and post here more often. Also, I am attending the Laptop Institute in Memphis in a few weeks and virtually attending NECC next week.
The beginning of summer is so wonderful; stretching out in front of you with the promise of much sunshine, picnics, late nights and (for educators) time for catching up and recharging! Too bad it goes so quickly!
Tags: change, comment08, Professional Development, risktaking, Shift, teacher laptop program
We rolled out our designated laptop program for teachers this week which meant the IT director and support staff spent many hours last week prepping the laptops and my colleague and I spent hours designing 2 orientation sessions for teachers to become familiar with their new laptops. This week and next is spent in orientation sessions with teachers and our IT director and support staff are attending to quirks with the new PCs. So, I have already failed to meet my blog goals to post and comment. However, it is uncharacteristically rainy here in Madrid and is forecast to be so all weekend- so I’ll have the time and energy to dive into the Comment Challenge blogs and recharge.
I have more thoughts on the thread of “not enough time”. Essentially, there isn’t enough to learn and apply many of the ideas I catch when reading or listening to blogs, news and podcasts. Progress is slower than I would like at times and I am saddened with the amount of time wasted. Finally, the way we use the minutes in our school day needs to change if we want to grow and improve the quality and relevance of the school day and what we are asking our students to do all day.
I have heard often enough, “Even if we had more computers in the classroom, there is no time for the kids to use them.” They are right given the way we currently teach. However, it is time to update the way we teach and allow students to “graduate from the slate and chalk to the pencil.” Use of computers should not be seen as an add-on but a useful tool. And it doesn’t have to wipe out the use of pencil, paper, books, crayons, etc. either. All the tools can be used in the classroom.
Let that reluctant writer (or all students) pre-write and then write a first draft on the computer- the power of flexibility with word processing is so freeing!
Tell students, “I don’t know the answer to that, let’s find it” or “Let’s find a video to show this concept or content so you can all see what I’m talking about.”
Don’t answer all your students questions or feel you have to, when they ask “what do I do next?” when learning a new application or software activity. Answer their question with, “Let’s look at the screen, what do you think?”
As a “tech integrator” who is not a lab teacher but “housed” in the LS lab, I model this for teachers by responding to students in this way when they are in the lab or I am in their classroom. I, carefully, apply this with staff and suggest ideas that rethink old ways of teaching. I firmly believe in show don’t tell. Telling is easier and faster, but rarely as effective.
Finally, I am definitely building the plane while flying it in terms of my growth as an educator who wants to be present in the 21st Century. I have so much to learn, which I find exciting rather than chilling. I am also challenged by continuously reflecting on what I do and asking myself, this is better but is it good enough? Is there an even better way? Plus, what is best in one classroom or for one student will not always be best for another classroom or student. Differentiation is another powerful consideration. So, I do the best I can each day, reflect, and wish there were more hours in the day!