NYSAIS – Moving from Professional Development to Professional Learning and Collaboration

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending the first annual meeting of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Council for Professional Learning and Community (CPLC).  The meeting was coined Think Tank 2011.  This group consists of members of all of the conference committees and institutes that NYSAIS organizes each year.  The conferences include, Diversity personnel, Heads of School, Division Directors and Assistant Heads, Technologists and Librarians, Development and Alumni personnel, Early Childhood directors, as well as a number of Institutes: New Teacher, Experienced Teachers, New Division Heads, and New and Emerging Leaders.  NYSAIS also offers many one day professional growth opportunities throughout the year.

The framing idea of Think Thank 2011 was “What Would Google Do?” a book by Jeff Jarvis from 2009.  That theme helped this group think about how to be in the place where the professional development and help facilitate conversations and continuous growth, while being open and helping people navigate all of the offerings of professional growth available to them.

The change I noticed in the conversations these school leaders were having was the shift from professional development to professional learning.  It was a wise person who coined the title Commission for Professional Learning and Community for this group.  Instead of just thinking of the one shot professional development day, this group was thinking about how to create supports for the continued learning and development of each faculty and staff member at NYSAIS Schools.  This was a powerful shift for this group to be making. 

To go along with this movement towards continuous growth and learning was the launch of the NYSAIS Community, a site developed to support the learning and continuous growth of faculty and staff at NYSAIS.  The site uses a NING back end and was developed over the last year by arvind grover, Barbara Swanson, Josie Holford, George Swain, and Marcy Mann, and me.  We dreamed up the site in June of 2010 during the first NYSAIS Think Tank.

I am excited about the movement of professional growth with NYSAIS and I can see that it will be better poised to support the growth and development of stronger teachers, staff, and administrators.  Thanks to Mark Lauria, Barbara Swanson and Lois Bailey for their leadership of NYSAIS and organizing this event. 

What organizations do you know of that are leading the way toward better learning for teachers?

Photo Credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/joiseyshowaa/1400175456

Critical Friends Group Reflection

Trust, Deep Analysis, Positive Feedback, Constructive Criticism, Growth – These are some of the characteristics of a critical friends group. 

I recently completed a one week Critical Friends Group facilitator training.  I participated with thirteen other faculty and administrators from my school.  Eric Baylin and Monika Johnston from the Packer Collegiate Institute led our group.

At the National School Reform Faculty web site, CFGs are defined as:

… a professional learning community consisting of approximately 8-12 educators who come together voluntarily at least once a month for about 2 hours. Group members are committed to improving their practice through collaborative learning.

We spent a week using protocols, or structured conversations to analyze readings, listen carefully, analyze pieces of student work, dig into dilemmas, and plan for the future.  These protocols (many found here)  allowed us to focus in and have deep conversations about the work we do in schools: teaching and learning.  It put us in a learner role and quickly helped us listen and provide critical feedback for our colleagues.  The week built trust between and among the participants and developed what McDonald et. al. describe at Facilitative Leadership in The Power of Protocols: An Educators Guide to Better Practice.  Leadership from within the faculty of a school, instead of top down. 

Towards the end of the week we created a plan for the Fall by scheduling dedicated times to continue to practice and build our facilitation skills.  By setting specific goals and scheduling dedicated time, we committed the group to continue to practice. 

Building CFGs into the culture of our schools will help us dive deeper and become better educators.  Helping our students become better learners and citizens.  I’m excited to see how we grow and develop in the fall. 

Have you used CFGs?  What practices do you consider critical for growth and development? 

Photo Credit: Rossap

 

 

Audio Editing 101

In Tech 6 we’re working on a project to create a Story Corp podcast.  Students are working in groups of three and have set up interviews with community members, written questions, and interviewed their subjects.  This week, we’ll be editing the audio they are listening to in the free program, Audacity.  Here’s the process we’ll use.

  1. Open Audacity
  2. Import MP3 audio that we recorded using our Sony ICD PX820 recorder by selecting Project –> Import Audio
  3. Save the file – Name it with the date of the interview and the subject.  For example if you recorded an interview with me, on April 3, 2011 the file name would be 2011-04-03-Ragone
  4. Watch this video on using audacity:
Audio Editing 101 with Audacity

 

5. Now listen to your audio. Take notes on the time you begin questions and when you hear great stories. You might have to listen to your interview multiple times.

6. Decide on the most compelling story from your interview and edit it down to 2-3 minutes.  You can story board the story and arrange the pieces in different orders if it makes the story more compelling. 

7. When you’re done, select File –> Export as MP3 to save the file. 

Feel free to post questions below. 

I’m looking forward to listening to the audio interviews that you create!

* Image Source: arvindgrover

Future of the Book – eBook, eMedia or ??

Over my almost 15 years as an educator, I’ve always been on a search for the new textbook, or how to consolidate the textbook onto one device.  Right now, there are numerous eReaders out there.  How we use those devices in education is up in the air.  

Last Friday a group of educators assembled to organize resources that would help us all move closer to an truly electronic book model.  The group organized resources around Devices, Pay and Free Content, and Examples of eTexts.  We recorded much of the afternoon via uStream. 

There was a consensus at the end of the day that we direct our futures by building some examples of what we may see in the future, whether web based or specifically for tablets or eReaders. 

Since this is an ongoing project, I moved this wiki to OPuS1 – The Future of the Book and started a Community of Practice around the resources.  OPuS1 is a good container for this type of project.  Let me know if you ‘re interested in being part of this next work we’ll be doing via twitter or a comment on this post. 

 

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wynnie/3881994177/

Designing School More Like A Game

Breaks are my time of ideas.  I slow down, read, think, take walks, drive my car without the radio on.  Taking that time to recharge and let ideas percolate is so important for me.  Over winter break this year, my favorite WNYC program, On the Media, aired a show around gaming.  Their last piece, The Future of Gaming was an interview with journalist Tom Bissell which aired pieces of the two following videos:

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Last year when I visited Al Doyle at Quest 2 Learn (Q2L), I saw the vision of Katie Salen who wrote Rules of Play and founded Q2L.  Kids using system design theory to learn History, English, Math and Science in a 21st Century way.  Kids creating their own games to teach their peers.

This leads me to Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.  I’m only 56% of the way through, but her stories of real games being designed to make the world a better place is compelling.  Not that we have to solve all problems with games, but designing compelling experiences for our students so they are engaged in their learning seems a lot like designing games.

Here’s one example of how I’ve applied McGonigal’s work here at school.  A few weeks ago, I was running an exchange day between boys at my school and girls at one of our sister schools.  The boys and girls were doing some icebreaker activities and one of the activities was starting to get stale and we still had about 10 minutes to go in the period.  I added a new challenge (do the activity standing up instead of sitting down) and it allowed the activity to reengage the students.

I used the understanding that “all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” (McGonigal, 2011) was important to this process.  A new rule refreshed the game that I described above.

So I’m finding myself more and more interested and engaged in thinking about game design and design challenges as centerpieces of student learning.  Solve big problems, figure out how to change the world, engage people around you. Dan Pink nailed it when he wrote about autonomy, motivation and purpose.  This all seems inter-related in critical ways.

What do you think?  What are your examples of using games to develop better learning environments?

NAIS–School Change Hitting the Pavement

Today, arvind grover and I presented at the NAIS Speed Innovation Sessions. Our presentation concentrated on publication, collaboration, and productivity.  The slides are below.  Comments/Questions appreciated.

https://docs.google.com/present/embed?id=dg6ps4wh_60gr2c96fb&size=m

Scratch Mastery Project

Goal: To use Scratch (a free visual programming language) to program a game or learning experience that someone else can watch and learn from without a person explaining it.

This trimester, we learned the scratch programming language through a mastery project.  We started with a graphic organizer that asked the students the following questions:

  1. Name three activities you enjoy doing?
  2. List one thing from each that was difficult for you to master?
  3. Pick one of those – What are the steps in mastering that task – break them down. 

For a fifth grader, this is not an easy task.  What I was lookingscratch for was for the children to think through the steps to succeed at a specific task that they were good at.  Once they did this organization activity, they moved to scratch and created a program to teach those steps.  Because we use scratch in the lower school we jumped right in with a quick Scratch refresher.  If they had questions, I encouraged the boys to ask their neighbor or read/watch the tutorials at the MIT Scratch Support site.  These include the getting started guide and video tutorials.  More advanced students also downloaded and looked at the code from other scratch programs on the scratch web site

With some coaching and challenging, the boys really took off on this project.  There were lots of sports instructions including throwing a football, juggling a soccer, ball, and shooting a paintball gun.  Other students taught us to play instruments and jump off of snowboard and bicycle ramps.