Monday, July 14, 2014

Guest Post: Turning the Faculty Meeting Upside Down!

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I have been a big fan of the movement in education towards free Professional Development via Edcamps.  An Edcamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs and are built on principles of connected and participatory learning.  They strive to bring teachers together to talk about the things that matter most to them: their interests, passions, and questions. Teachers who attend Edcamp can simply participate...but more importantly, are free to lead sessions on those things that matter to them, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge and questions during the sessions. I attended several Edcamps in Boston and helped plan the first Edcamp in Grafton, MA with a good friend and former coworker of mine, Cyndy Engvall.  I am an addict!

It bothered me that no matter how strongly I evangelized about the benefits of Edcamps, only a small number of my co-workers have attended one.  I knew the solution was to bring an Edcamp to my district, but how? My solution?  Turn a faculty mtg into a mini-Edcamp!

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I spoke to the principal and assistant principals in my Middle School building about the idea, and was immediately granted an entire faculty mtg to put my plan into action! Since few of my co-workers really understood what an Edcamp was, I needed to plant some seeds with the staff to assure that this would be a success.  First, I created a Google Form to gather feedback about the kinds of sessions teachers were interested in learning about and whether they would be willing to lead the session.  Then I confirmed and cajoled some of the staff to lead some sessions. I asked those brave teachers to suggest other teachers who are doing interesting things in the classroom, not necessarily technology based, just pedagogically speaking.  I spoke to these teachers and the momentum began to build.  I learned of some amazing things happening at my middle school that evolved into the following agenda:  

Math Madness - learn about a creative approach to MCAS prep that can be used in any curriculum area that includes student choice, prizes and student engagement!
Make and Take Gclass folders - learn how to use a new ipass report and the gclass folder script to develop a folder system for students and teachers to simplify and streamline your Google experience in the classroom.
Buzzword Lingo - Discussion based on buzzwords we hear in education. Are we all speaking the same language?
SLAM across the curriculum - Join the conversation about how you can use the ELA "SLAM" writing principles in your curriculum area
Managing Your Google Data - share your strategies and tips for organizing data in Google
Evernote Tips and Tricks - What ideas do you have on managing your time in evidence collection? What tips have you learned for using Evernote to document your practice?
Evernote Evidence...what are you using? - What evidence did you use for the many indicators in the new Teacher Evaluation system?
Using theater to aid in student memorization - See what clever ideas you can use in your classroom to help students memorize!

The meeting ran flawlessly!  I opened the mtg with a brief explanation of how the Edcamp was to work and reviewed the ground rules.  We had 30 minutes for teachers to attend one of the 8 sessions.  At the appointed time we ended the mtg with a quick App Slam (which is where you get 2 minutes to demonstrate a cool app or google extension that you want to share).  Again, I searched out a few teachers who promised to share an app in advance so that I knew we could be successful.

The results were phenomenal!  In a survey that I administered after the session, the teachers overwhelmingly indicated that this was an effective use of contracted time and they preferred mini-Edcamps to the traditional faculty mtg format.  My Technology Director was incredibly supportive of the effort and encouraged other tech team members to do the same at their schools.  I assisted other co-workers to make Edcamp happen at the high school (one of the teachers at the high school spearheaded the creation of our own Edcamp logo!) and one of our elementary schools.  I also tweeted out the results of the Edcamp and connected with several members of my PLN to provide them guidance on how to run an Edcamp at their schools.

To me, this was only the beginning.  I am hoping that this small bottom-up success will result in other changes in our PD paradigm.  Curriculum days, department meetings and other contracted time provides other potential opportunities for ground roots PD.  What are you doing at your school or district to turn traditional meeting times upside down?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Julie Spang
Technology Integration Specialist
Groton Dunstable Regional Middle School
Groton, MA

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