I’ve spent the last two days at our districts Digital Educators Institute. As our district is going one to one next year, teachers were required to attend what some teachers including myself had referred to as “Chromebook Training” in order to get our Chrome carts. At first this bothered many teachers I knew. We had to go to a two day training in the beginning of summer to be allowed to have one-to-one devices when clearly that’s the push in education? We couldn’t get them if we didn’t? At first this was a bit frustrating. I know how to use a computer. I know how to have my kids work on a computer. Why did someone like me need to go to a Chromebook training? Well, it was surprising much more than that. It was some of the best in person PD I’ve had in a very long time.
The first day opened with an introductory presentation that clarified that we were not at either a Chromebook training nor a Google Training. Then what was it? Let’s just say it was two days filled with inspiring educators, strategies, and techniques for making our Chromebooks more than just a typing or research tool. My mind was blown by the knowledge of our Teachers on Special Assignments (TOSAs) as well as people’s willingness to learn new things. The best part about these sessions was that the lessons were delivered to us using new strategies we can implement into our own classrooms: screen casts, hyperdocs, and Iron Chef.
Session 1: How do you PLN? I’ve been on Twitter for a few months now and have tried to get my staff to join me. I’ve tried with very little luck. The first session was all about your Professional Learning Network and how it is so important to connect with other educators. Connecting with people at your own school is great, but the circle is small, and sometimes you are the one who knows the most. We were encouraged to set up a Twitter account if we didn’t have one already and began a Twitter chat. This was so fun, and now so many of my colleagues will be able to communicate and celebrate successes with a broader audience. My staff will now be on Twitter! I would love to be able to Tweet out praise to my fellow educators in order to build morale on staff and celebrate great teaching. My biggest take away from this was that you’re not truly in a PLN if you’re only taking ideas from others and not sharing your own. This is something to work on. I am often hesitant to share ideas because I don’t think they are worthwhile, but that’s just something I need to get over.
Session 2: Digital Portfolios This will be a must for me next year. Whether students are using a simple Google folder or website like Padlet will be what I have to figure out. During this session we created slide presentations on the 4 Ps (Purpose, Process, Power, and Product) of digital portfolios using the Iron Chef technique, a modified jigsaw. Talk about fun. We were divided into groups of 4 and each of us had to take a “P,” do research and create a slide that was part of a shared slide presentation. Then it gets presented to the group. After seeing another group’s presentation you are given one minute to make yours better, adding things in that maybe you didn’t think about. Great strategy for students and one I’ll be using.
Session 3: Videos Probably my favorite session because it was the one I knew the least about. Although I knew what a screen cast was, I had never made one. We installed a Google Chrome extension called SnagIt and the magic began. I’ll now be able to record lessons for students via my computer. What’s the purpose? To allow for differentiation. To create more face time with students as they will now be able to individually watch presentations from the Chrome Books with the freedom to start, stop, rewind, or replay. I never considered individualizing video watching but see the benefits for English language learners and students who just need extra time. Teachers were also schooled in how to edit over Youtube videos (one of my go to websites) as well as upload videos to forms, docs, and slides.
Session 4: HyperDocs A HyperDoc is a term used to describe a Google Doc that contains an innovative digital worksheet that takes students to various sources through a hyperlink. In it’s most raw form, it’s a doc with links, but it’s so much more than that. Through one doc, students can access a lesson that has tasks, links to follow, instructions, and videos. They create an opportunity for thinking and choice. One of the benefits of being married to a tech teacher was he made me familiar with HyperDocs after going to the CUE conference this year. One of my goals for second semester was to try to use one. I found an existing one from Teachers Give Teachers (a great group of teachers on Twitter who share their materials free of charge) and modified it to fit my needs. It was definitely a challenge for students, but I was completely able to differentiate my instruction as students worked through the doc individually or in groups. My next steps will be to create my own and share them with others. This session gave me some confidence in doing so.
My Take Away- I am happy to know that I’m heading in right direction. Many times during the two days, I was asked to help others because I was experienced in Google Classroom and other Google Apps and Chrome Extensions. It showed me that I’m right where I should be in the shifts we are currently facing in education, and this was gratifying. As someone who is constantly concerned with staying abreast of best practices, I was pleased with what I already knew going in and am even more excited about what I learned that I didn’t know. I’m excited to continue my learning and am thrilled about the experience my students will have next year.