Saturday, August 30, 2008

PD Meme: A Recap of Summer

I was challenged to a Professional Development Meme this past summer by my Twend Skipz. The idea was, we all work over the summer without getting paid, this will just focus that work a little more and give us a place to share what we accomplished.
The three topics that I chose was to finish Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind," Get a better grasp of SMART's Notebook 10, and rewrite our district tech contact's job description. So here we go!

Most people would think it's a little ridiculous to have "read a book" as a goal. But I have never been one to sit down and read long passages of writing (insert "younger generation can't concentrate" jokes and/or criticism here). But I had lots of time to read on my way to NECC in San Antonio. I found his book very interesting. He discussed how past decades have been ruled by left brain thinkers, those who perform tasks and live life sequentially. Many of those jobs and positions are being moved from the United States for a number of reasons. He sees the global workforce being full of left brain employees. With an economy headed toward design characteristics and the ability to sell your product in a saturated market, more and more right brain thinkers are critical for companies to succeed. While his book isn't necessarily focused on education, it is a great book for teachers to read and discuss how to prepare our students for this society. He says (pg. 65), "In the Conceptual Age (side note: period of time we are moving into), we will need to complement our L-Directed reasoning by mastering six essential R-Directed aptitudes." Those six, Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning, are all aptitudes that are much easier for right brainers to grasp their minds around than their counterparts. So how does this work in education? That's the million dollar question. How many of Pink's aptitudes do you see on well-known standardized tests? If you have, I'd love to know about that test, cause I haven't heard of it. I think that all of his aptitudes could easily be worked into curricular components, but it would definitely take some educators to drift past their comfort levels. 
Other great resources are being collected in a Diigo Group started by Jason Everett.
I also read Randy Pausch's book "The Last Lecture." That book, reading it with a six month old son, really hit home about how valuable life is and really touched me about how sad it would be to either not know my own Dad or have my son not know me. Unfortunately, Dr. Pausch passed away late this summer.

One of the big pushes by our district (well, basically me) is to expand the use of SMART Boards (I've mentioned in the past that we use SMART Boards, which doesn't make them better than Promethean or any's how we roll). I attended training in June and have gotten some time to play with Notebook 10 since school has started back up. I really love the new features. My favorite is the magic pen. Circling an object puts a spotlight around it. Drawing a square around the object magnifies it. That is excellent for quickly grabbing students attention. One of the other features that I think would be useful, especially in secondary, is page grouping. You can create a whole unit and break them up into groups based on which pages you'll use each day. That is very handy if you had a sub coming in for a day or period. I think it will be under utilized for a while (for us), but once more teachers create entire unit (or learning) plans, I think groups will be a great organization tool. I know many people are high on the table features, and while I like that changing font size changes cell size and the ability to screen shade each cell, I don't use tables often enough to make it ground breaking for me. I did create a wiki for our district to use for SMART Board resources.

3. Change district tech contact description
This part has nothing to do with anyone outside of our district, but can be a big deal for me if we get our tech people on board. Our tech contacts are thought of as the people you call when "it doesn't work." That's fine, and should be a part of their role, but I want that to be the smaller chunk of their role. One of the issues we have in our district is a lack of computer replacement cycle. With our current system, we were basically on a 12 year cycle. Our own version of the one to one initiative. You could have the same computer for almost your entire K-12 career. Because we are moving towards lease purchasing starting this fall, it's my hope that, second semester, having up to date computers will reduce the time spent troubleshooting. Hopefully that gives them more time to help with the seamless integration of technology into the curriculum, especially with equipment that is less than four years old. One thing that I could see creeping up is that some may be hesitant to step out of that role as troubeshooter. Change is hard, even for tech people. Many of them have hung their hat on having the "magic touch" when it comes to computer repair, and they have and will continue to be priceless assets to the district. But they need to expand with technology. I had one person tell me that they should be able to keep their old computers. They had spent their winter break upgrading 8 year old computers. That's great, but is it worth the time? Do they get used enough to justify all of your time at school? More isn't always better. 
This section isn't finished and I don't know when it will be, but at least I have the blueprint in my head. We are starting our tech contact meetings next week with social bookmarking. We've already had discussions in the curriculum department about bringing in grade level reps from each building to start building more relationships through curriculum development, many of which can (and ideally will) be maintained through Skype, social bookmarking and our district discussion boards.

So, I would like to thank Clif for starting the Meme. It was a great way to make good use of what I was already doing this summer. Hope you enjoy and can't wait to hear your ideas and other memes!


Darren Draper said...

I had a chance to read Pausch's book this Summer, as well. Extremely touching, to say the least - and chalk-full of helpful advise.

Thanks for sharing your Summer recap.

J Allen said...

Thanks for commenting!