Just wanted to wish each and everyone of you a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you and your family were able to spend time together and enjoy the holiday! I'll be back next week but in the meantime here are a few pictures from my family's Thanksgiving!
How important is collaboration or inspiration time?
I work with a lot of districts around the state and having come from the teacher and professional development side of education I know how important having that time to collaborate and create inspirational lessons is! Two districts that I work with particularly are on opposite sides of this fence however and I do see the impact that it's having on the teachers.
One of the districts I am working with and have been working with for two years now understands the need for having time to explore and create with the resources and tools they've been given. In this district, I've worked now with four different grade levels of teachers. These teachers have been introduced to Chromebooks, iPads, and numerous tools such as Google Apps, Schoology, PlayPosit, and much more! Twice a month I visit the school and work with one of two groups of teachers, introducing a new tool and touching base on previously introduced tools. We always spend the first hour just talking about how everything has been going; if they've implemented any station rotation lessons, if they've used any of the tools recently, etc. I can't say enough how nice that hour (or more sometimes) is, I get to hear from them about their successes and failures and we build upon those as well as learn from each other's mistakes. Sharing in each other's success and helping to solve each other's problems is a huge part of a successful collaboration. From there I introduce one new product and we usually spend about two hours working on that one tool, from my introduction to them just getting in and exploring the tool, I want these teachers to really get a feel and understanding for whatever I am introducing. From there the rest of the day is there's to work on whatever tools we've previously introduced or work with one of the three instructors (two district coaches and myself) to plan out a station rotation lesson. The idea behind why we give them so much time to work is we'd rather they spend more time building and collaborating with each other than becoming overwhelmed with tools and using nothing.
My opposite side district is a district that I, unfortunately, do not visit as much, but are being introduced to just as many tools. These teachers have been introduced to Chromebooks, Google Apps, Google Classroom, Blended Learning, and tools like Socrative. These teachers meet with me for one period each time I am there and get introduced to a new tool or tools every time. Due to the time constraints I rarely ever have the opportunity to give them collaborative work time, not to mention that collaborative discussion time which I value so much. I can't speak for every teacher there but the ones that I have talked with, rarely use any of the tools I've introduced (outside of Chromebooks and Google Classroom). In a recent conversation with the administration, I suggested that the next visit is a work day; the teachers are required to come with a tool, lesson, or idea they want to work on or get help with. Most of the individuals in this meeting agreed but felt I should bring a new list of tools for the teachers and I rarely do this, but I spent quite a bit of time explaining my reasoning behind why I didn't think this was a good idea. These teachers can't be expected to implement these tools or create a blended lesson(s) for their classes if they don't have the time to work collaboratively and create. I know in talking with the teachers they are beyond thrilled to just have a day where they can finally explore and build with the tools I've introduced.
Too often, in our position, I feel that we forget how much educators today have on their plates. Not only are they responsible for educating the (20, 50, 120) students they have in their classroom(s), they're often in charge of some extra-curricular activity or organization, have children of their own, have a second job, they also take the responsibility of sometimes raising the students they're teaching, they deal with testing, evaluations, and so much more! I could go on forever how much educators today have on their plate, and don't get me wrong, I am of the understanding that I need to (and want to) work outside of my job in order to get everything done. My argument for the teachers is this, we can't expect them to continually implement these new tools or teaching methods if we don't give them time to explore, create, and collaborate. Just as we want our students to collaborate and create with each other and should give them the time to do this, we need to give our educators that same time.
Just presented at the 2016 ISACS conference here in Columbus and met some wonderful educators from around the nation who love education just as much as I do! In an effort to bring them some information about integrating technology into the classroom I did my Secret Sauce presentation but also did a Gadget Showdown presentation. This presentation has some gadgets that are definitely useful in the classroom as well as some that are just for fun (maybe Christmas presents). Be sure to check it out as well as my Secret Sauce if you want, and as always enjoy!
Jennifer L. Furey
My name is Jennifer and I work for one of Ohio's Ed Tech Organizations. We are a non-profit organization that services mostly Central Ohio however we do tend to travel around Ohio for our PD and conferences. Prior to this position I taught second and third grade reading for six years and then became a technology integration specialist for a little over a year.