With the new rollout, I received the chance to work two days a week at one of our middle schools. My role on campus was to help prepare and train the teachers on digital tools. My problem was that I am only there twice a week. I knew I had to do something different to make sure that the teachers had plenty of learning experiences. I asked myself, how can you reach teachers 24/7 and ensure that they have the resources available regardless of your physical presence. My answer was online self-guided learning experiences.
I took the idea to the principal back in November and she was on board. This post is going to show you how I set up the learning opportunities and website. Keep in mind that it is a work in progress.
We always talk about how professional development is not differentiated enough for teachers. I knew that I had to do something different because there are teachers of various technology proficiency levels at the school. While I could have done beginning, intermediate, and advanced learning opportunities, I didn't really like the way that it sounded. Being a student who grew up struggling with reading I hate labels, so I didn't want to put those labels on the teachers. Not being technology savvy doesn't mean you are an inadequate teacher, it just means you need more time and practice than others to catch up to the digital times.
The more I thought about how educators learn new tools the easier it was for me to figure out how I was going to differentiate the learning. I came up with three categories to tag the learning opportunities: self, class, and student.
Self denotes that the teacher is going to be learning about a new digital tool for their own personal growth. Examples of self experiences would be learning how to use Google Drive, building a practice Google Classroom to get comfortable with the features, using a new tool to curate digital resources, etc.
Learning opportunities tagged as Class mean that the teacher is learning a new tool while creating something to share with the class (or students). The teacher is the one doing the creating. Examples of class experiences would be creating a Padlet for students to collaborate with one another, creating a custom search engine for students to use during research, creating a video to showcase a concept, etc.
The last type is Student, where the teacher gives the student the resources needed to create something using a digital tool. Examples of student experiences would be teachers providing differentiated opportunities in Google Classroom, students creating an animated dictionary, podcast, video, e-portfolio, etc. While I don't like labels, I think many will agree that Student is the category we want most teachers to reach.
Once I had my three types of learning opportunities, I created the different categories you would use to describe digital tools. This led me to the function of the tool and not the actual tool itself. I don't care about the tool. I care about what the tool allows teachers and students to do. Digital tools come and go, but the function will never die. To date, the learning opportunities fall under one or more of these categories.
Now that I had my types and function, it was time to start building the learning experiences. This will always be a work in progress. I am constantly thinking and receiving feedback on new ways to improve. Sometimes I highlight one specific digital tool, while other times I give several options and allow the teachers to choose the one that fits best for them. Again, it comes down to the function of the tool and whether or not there multiple tools that fit that particular function at the moment.
Here is how I have chosen to structure the learning experiences:
As I mentioned prior, some of the learning opportunities focus on a specific tool and the function that tool provides, while others provide choice in tools to try. As in the example above, Padlet is the tool and the function is communication, collaboration, assessment of/for learning, curation. Here is an example of when I suggested various tools to try.
Once I had several learning opportunities developed it was time to build the website. I chose a Google Sites for a couple options.
- I know Google Sites like the back of my hand.
- Awesome Tables scripts works with Google Sites.
- We are a Google for Education district and I wanted to model for the teachers something they could use (awesome table) on their website.
If you have never heard of or seen Awesome Tables you are in for a treat. I used the 'cards' tool to create the interactive piece on the main page of the website. The teachers could then sort by function or type to choose the learning opportunity they want to focus on at that moment. The cards show the name of the learning experience, the badge they will earn (more about badging in a future blog post), and a summary of the experience. When they click on the experience that interests them, they are taken to the document with all of the information.
I am not going to lie, this was and is a lot of work. But it is work that I felt was necessary in order to provide the 24/7 learning experiences that the teachers need in order to help create a digital classroom. My next challenge, as I am moving to the Instruction and Professional Learning Department next school year, is how to make this district wide.