Monday, June 18, 2007

Playing Catch Up

I know I've been neglecting my blog, but I have a good excuse . . . really! We left for Siesta Key, Florida, the Tuesday after we got out of school. We spent a glorious eight days under blue skies with temperatures in the upper 80's. It rained only during the night before we left, or should I say ATTEMPTED to leave. Our flight was cancelled for "maintenance" reasons, so we spent an extra 24 hours in Tampa courtesy of USAirways. I don't advise trying to reschedule a flight into Pittsburgh during the week of the U.S. Open!

I read three books at the beach, including The Kite Runner, which is on our high school summer reading list. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading Khaled Hosseini's newest book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which reviewers say is even better than The Kite Runner!

I spent some time this evening catching up on some of my favorite technology blogs. Karl Fisch's Fischbowl blog has a link to another blog maintained by teachers in his district. Teachers use the "Learning and Laptops" blog to reflect on projects they've assigned in their classes and to post student work. Check out the podcasts, videos, and other projects for ideas that you can implement in your own classroom.

Doug Johnson gives these suggestions for improving staff development in his Blue Skunk Blog:

  • Clearly articulated expectation of teacher competencies. We have worked on clear, high standards for students. Why not for adults as well? The ISTE NETS for Teachers standards are a good start, but they need to be made more concrete, more readily assessed. The CODE 77 rubrics do this. (These will undergo revision this summer to reflect new Web 2.0 skills.)
  • IEPs for teachers to meet those competencies. Every teacher is different both in learning styles and in the skills that need to be acquired. Therefore every individual teacher needs his or her own learning plan - or professional growth plan. One model can be found in the second half of this article from Leading and Learning.
  • Project-based learning activities. Teachers need to experience project-based learning, learning by creating an actual useful product, if they are going to ask students to do this.
  • Authentic assessments of teacher work. In the past, we have asked teachers to create portfolios that contain examples of the work they have produced using technology along with reflections about their experiences. Which leads to greater self-assessment, recognition of growth and other nice things.
  • Accountability. The principal or other supervisor needs to take staff development seriously and hold all teachers accountable for the successful completion of what ever plan they've designed. We've designed our program so that teachers do not get new computers unless they agree to complete training. Simple as that.

  • Work in teams. Professional growth plans should be able to be not just individual efforts, but reflect group goals. All good strategies that go into designing successful classroom group work need to be used here as well.

  • A chance for reflection. This may be the most exciting thing about professional learning communities when they are set up correctly - that they encourage constructive reflection about educational practices. (As well as a venue for group work.) This is where blogging seems to fit so well.
We can talk about constructivist-based education, inquiry and information literacy units, 21st century skills, problem-based learning, formative and authentic assessments, etc. ad infinitum. But until we give teachers a means to experience these methodologies to increase their own learning, I don't anticipate much change in the their classrooms.

Do you think Doug's suggestions are viable? We attempted the teacher IEPs a few years ago, but they got lost in the shuffle. Should we revisit that model? What can we do at Keystone to improve our technology staff development?

For all you "Captain Underpants" fans, Doug also writes about the Dave Pilkey web site, which his grandsons seem to enjoy.

I'm not much of a photographer, but the sunset over the Gulf was spectacular.

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