Wednesday, May 31, 2017

4 Things for Teachers to Try This Summer

I couldn't narrow it down to four actual things - but there are four topics to explore!  Pick something and play this summer to help refresh after a long school year.

Hover over the image below for hot links to things to check out.  


Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Much Needed PBL PD Do-Over

At the end of last year when I took on the role as Technology Integration
Specialist for the elementary schools in my district, my first major task, before my official start date, was to plan two days of professional development at the end of the year.  Day 1 was to get teachers acquainted with the SAMR model and the iPads that all students would be receiving in August, and Day 2 was to introduce teachers to Project Based Learning (PBL). The iPad training was an ok start.  It was differentiated, with different teams leading sessions based on teacher experience.  

When I reflect back on it now, we should have stuck with two days of iPad training, but one school already had a plan to spend a day with a book study on PBL, as a way to get teachers started with it, and the other schools decided to join in.  The deck was a bit stacked against us, we didn't have copies of the book for each person, two schools were entirely unfamiliar with the concept, and I was really green when it came to navigating PD for three schools.  I rewrote that day of PD no less than three times, filling chart paper with ideas, looking for a way to let people work in small groups with big ideas.  We looked at chapters of the book, articles, videos, discussed examples, met in teams to brainstorm ideas. At the end of it though, what I had was a lot of overwhelmed teachers dealing with the prospect of going 1:1, with a device they had little experience with and another entirely new idea to them that asked them to step out of the center of the classroom.  It was overload.  I felt like I had failed.

It was a much needed and hard lesson in PD design.  I realized that it was imperative to design PD that gets teachers engaged and excited about the process of learning at a time when they are ready to hear it. I have thought back on that day of PBL training often, and have used it as motivation to be better.  

The Do-Over Plan for PBL

This year when I was given the shot of planning a reintroduction to Project Based Learning PD for one of the schools - it was the do-over that I really needed.  This time, I decided to come ready with a Plan A, Plan B and an experience that would allow the teachers to get involved in using 21st Century learning skills that included: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking.

As I began mocking up the agenda, I was looking for ways to incorporate an actual PBL experience for the teachers.  I had used this model in the Fall at a workshop I did out of state, and it was a lot of fun.  I was, however, stuck on the Driving Question.  I was worried that if I went with a straight STEM based experience, they would get stuck on just looking for ways to integrate PBL into science, or if I went with a literature based PBL, they would be turned off because we're adopting a new reading series, and they need to learn the textbook before deviating from it.  

I ran the agenda passed the principal and gave her the run down on my dilemma, and she had the perfect solution.  Currently, the school is under heavy construction, and inspired by a teacher and some students she met in Washington D.C., she was thinking there was an outside space that could be used for a vertical garden.  We talked through the topics and before I knew it I had a real, work-able plan.


The Plan: Reviewing PBL

Since teachers had already been introduced to PBL in a full day of training, we worked through a shortened review of PBL.  We watched a video, and while they were watching, teachers jotted down notes on a graphic.  They could either work with the image on their iPads using apps like Paper 53 or IPEVO, or they could hand write notes. 

As a group, we came back together and shared out ideas, and I filled in gaps using sketch noting and the Procreate app.


We then discussed the differences between PBL, projects, service learning and Genius Hour.  Teachers were encouraged to Google those topics in small groups and write down their findings. We then went over a list I created in advance and compared our findings.  The information they discovered and the list that I created were very similar in content.


The Plan: Leading Teachers through Project Based Learning

With our review under our belt, it was time to engage teachers in what it actually feels like to move students through the process of PBL.

Using a PBL Planner I have developed to work with teachers, I worked through the process of what our PBL would look like.  The plan was to have teachers work in grade level teams to answer this question: How can we create a sustainable garden in a designated space, with a budget of $1,000.



I created a Digital Interactive Notebook, similar in nature to notebooks I have created when I work with teachers who are planning PBL for their classes.  The notebook helped guide teachers through the critical thinking process of using the Big 6 research process for extended inquiry, and a model of Design thinking I call ICE to help them plan their projects creative ways.

The Notebook
This is the format that teachers worked with to help them think through the process of research and project development. We brainstormed group roles for them to use to aid in collaboration, and there are check points along the way that requires them to stop and conference.  


Big 6 Intro

Before beginning the "research phase" we went over project specifications, rubrics and the Big 6 model of research using this video:


ICE Intro
To help kids (and in this case, teachers) work through the project design phase of PBL, I like to use a model of Design Thinking that I call ICE (Imagine, Create, Evaluate).  I tried to simplify the big ideas behind Design Thinking for elementary aged students to easily work through and remember the process.


The Plan Evolves

As part of the entry event, the principal spoke to the group about her intention to get them to create a garden space.  She brought along with her landscaping drawing that had previously been approved, and she said that she was willing to go to the board and advocate for a change in the plan, based on teacher design and input.  Originally, the intent was to create a garden, but in thinking through things, she realized to really give teachers ownership of the space, she needed to leave it more wide open.  

On the fly, we adjusted the driving question to respond to that need (not something you would do with a class - I had to keep reminding teachers of that).  We altered the driving question to be: How can you design an outdoor space for $1,000 that would meet the needs of the learning community, how will your class support and use that space. Luckily the planning guides and the rubric still worked for the changes to the plan.

Work Begins...and Continues...

As teachers got into the research and development of their ideas, you could sense the creativity, critical thinking and positive energy that was at work. I wandered from group to group, providing support and modeling how I would lead a class in this kind of activity, and was excited to hear amazing ideas about creating collaborative outdoor learning spaces that included things that would stimulate senses and also provide a sense of calm.  

As we got closer to lunch it became clear that people were really invested.  We made the collective decision to continue with PBL for the rest of the day so that teachers could take their research to the presentation phase.  I altered the schedule, put together a timeline and a method for voting on the final plan.  The principal put in a call to our Assistant Superintendent and got her to add change orders to the outdoor plans to next board meeting in two weeks. 

By 2:20, groups had put together multimedia presentations to pitch their ideas to the full group, knowing that the winning group would get to speak to the board about their ideas in just a few short weeks.

If all goes well, we will get to see the design of an outdoor collaboration and learning space for students that includes small amphitheater style seating space, art features, and natural stone.


What Comes Next?
I am hoping that we can capitalize on the energy that teachers experienced with this type of project, and work towards implementing PBL into different areas next year.  We plan to do a book study through the year and explore different strategies for including technology in Project Based Learning.  My hope is that if we have a successful book study, and if we can get some teachers to take the leap into the format, that we can look at a more intensive adoption of PBL and more formalized training.

The Plan B That We Didn't Need - Schoology

Modules in Schoology
Because we were  worried about teachers being overloaded with PBL, especially after last year's PD, I had developed a Plan B that would allow us to gauge teacher attitudes at lunch and move on to a different topic - Schoology - if things were taking a sour turn.  

For the afternoon, I had planned Schoology training that utilized Blended Learning strategies.  For this PD, teachers would work through self-paced modules in Schoology that included readings, video, and performance tasks, followed by short quizzes for different Schoology related topics. I planned to have teachers take a survey to gauge their understanding of topics so that I could group them by experienced and beginner levels and provide the beginners with more hands on help while letting the experienced work through modules more quickly on their own.  The plan was to break each hour, come back together and share big aha's and brainstorm ways to implement at each grade level.

Because of the set up, I knew I could easily move this to a PD in your PJs format I have developed, or that we could use it next year in PLCs, so when we didn't end up needing this Plan B, I was actually thrilled, despite the work that had gone into it.

In this case, I think putting in the extra time to develop the extra PD module was well worth the piece of mind, and in the end I think teachers ended up getting some much needed positive collaboration.