Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Professional Development in Schools

Professional development at school is something that I have been considering a lot lately. I am called upon to professionally develop my faculty as a Head Teacher, I have been asked to speak at various professional development conferences and workshops across the last couple of years and have attended quite a few myself. Lately I am plagued with thoughts about what makes for effective PD in technology. I have read these blog posts recently which really brought some ideas to the forefront:

Professional Development and the Modern Teacher tells the story of some successful and unsuccessful PD for a staff member and offers some advice for PD for the modern teacher, including utilising the KISS principle, making time for reflection and more importantly, making time for play:

Everyone needs some time to let loose and play. The fact is, often, in PD there is not enough time for play. Time isn’t taken for play. There is usually some time to mimic but not really play. Teachers who are learning new tech skills as part of PD desire more time to just get in and play. Not during the actual PD but afterwards. Teachers need to have time to go back to their classrooms and get their hands dirty. But they need that support of the trainer. We have to be available and offer follow-ups and 1-on-1’s. We can’t send our teachers back to the classroom with some new skill and not check on them or simply follow-up. Would we do that to our kids? Doubt it. Why do that with teachers.

Over and over again, we seem to use old methods of information transmission and this is not overly successful.  Teaching technology and its integration into education comes with a requirement for “play and make” time in order for teachers to be able to integrate the technology fairly quickly (or at all!) after the PD, and this just does not seem to get built into the professional learning time allocated to staff. Listening to staff after PD, their number one complaint is about not getting time to play and make stuff with what they just learned and their number one comment is that they are going to go away and play with it.  What if we embedded play into our PD? While the PD would take longer, maybe it would result in a more successful takeup?

This next blog post: The Way of the Workshop explores the nature of the workshop in education and implemented some new ideas which worked successfully, including cohort groupings that led to a shared experience, application of learning to create a product, breakout sessions and time to talk. This post showed me examples of how to put the idea of “play” into professional development. In the final thoughts section, there are some gems for all of us, but in particular these five jumped out at me:

  • Make sure the project is based on something that can actually be used in the classroom (not just an excuse to try new tools) following a sound curriculum planning process.
  • Continue to utilize a variety of presentation styles and media formats (some direct presenting is good, some videos are good, some hands-on is good – mix and match throughout the workshop).
  • Model, model, model – if you say something works well in the classroom, do it in the workshop just the way you would in the classroom.
  • Plan for sharing time, but make sure it’s in small groups to keep the environment safe, rather than in front of everyone.
  • Make sure workshops are voluntary, if not, make sure they’re during the regular work day.
  • The same blogger, Kim Cofino, also blogged about SpeedGeeking:

    Basically, SpeedGeeking is just like Speed Dating – a way to quickly introduce people to a wide variety of new ideas in a short amount of time. We decided to have 12 four-minute SpeedGeeking sessions split into 2 groups (one group has six sessions, the other group has the other six sessions). This way, we could make the most of our limited time, enable as many teachers to share their successful experiences as possible, keep the group sizes limited, and ensure that not every teacher saw the exact same sessions (so they are encouraged to keep talking about what they saw after the meeting).

    The sessions were run by teachers who are currently working with the software and were able to directly link the technology to education. Afterwards, teachers shared about what sparked their interest. This is a fascinating way to share a large number of ideas quickly, enabling teachers to be exposed to ideas and then choose which ones they would be interested in learning more about.

    I also read Bianca’s Blog post about what she has been doing at her school for some DER teacher development and stole her idea (see my previous post) to put together a “lunch and learn” program of my own. In some ways, though, this feels like more of the same old transmission model as there won’t really be time in a lunch break to both teach and play for long. Bianca has added in sharing and discussion sessions and I had some great comments on the post with other suggestions. At a recent HT Conference some colleagues and I were talking about the “ideal” conference: a keynote speaker for inspiration, some workshops for learning then an afternoon to play, discuss, share – with “experts” around to help out.

    As the DER leader at my school for at least one more term, I am asking myself how I can be a leader of DER and not just a manager. So far, I have smoothly managed roll out and now the stocktake process is underway. But is that enough? That is only good management and there is more to leadership than that. So now I am asking myself, what can I do to lead the integration of technology in the school? I have been avidly following the 31 Days to be a better Educational Technology Leader series of blog posts by Terry Freedman and loving the combination of practical suggestions and philosophical discussion.

    I have decided to discuss all this information with my principal so I have printed out the relevant blog posts for use in our discussion. I am going to be tabling the “lunch and learn” idea, Darcy’s great Cool Online Tools for students which I would like to teach to Year 10 at the end of 2010 but also to the teachers – most of whom do not know about these tools either, and what all this looks like at our school for the next three Staff Development Days this year.  I have lots of ideas, but I really want to discuss them rather than just think about them now. Most importantly, will be answering the question how do we incorporate Quality Teaching into our Virtual Learning Environment? (Moodle) or How do we do QT in our VLE? More on this next week after I have that conversation with the principal!


    June 15, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER) | , | 5 Comments

    Stealing an idea: Lunch and Learn

    A fellow English teacher and DER leader (and very cool person) Bianca Hewes recently blogged about something that she has been doing successfully at her school called “Lunch and Learn”. You can read the full account of her actions here on her blog. I have decided to “borrow” her idea and set up something similar at my school during Term 3.  I will call them Friday Lunch and Learns, with the idea being that you learn something on Friday, play with it across the weekend and use it the following week.  I will be promoting what is on each week and teachers can choose to come along, eat lunch and learn something each week.  Here is my proposed list of topics:

    Friday Lunch and Learns – learn on Friday, play on weekend, use on Monday.

    Term 3

    1. Edmodo – increasing student communication via the web.
    2. Creating your Professional/Personal Learning Network (PLN): how to join the DET conversation on Yammer, RSS feeds and setting up Google Reader, reading blogs and who to follow, joining the educational discussion on Twitter.
    3. OneNote – how students can hand in work that is created in OneNote, and how you can mark it using Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended.
    4. BlogEd – how to set up a class blog and why you would want to.
    5. Creative Commons and DET Resources – copyright-free images and where to find them; how to check if a site is unblocked and how to access curriculum resources via TaLE and Curriculum Support.
    6. Digitally marking student work – how to do this in Word 2007, OneNote 2007 and Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended.
    7. Podcasting – how to use Audacity to create simple podcasts for your students and how students can create their own to use as a lesson activity or study aids (and how to put podcasts onto Moodle for dissemination to students).
    8. Glogster and Prezi – creating online posters and visual representations with Glogster and using Prezi, an online presentation tool that is non-linear, as an alternative to PowerPoint.
    9. Wordle, Lino It and Wallwisher – Wordle creates word clouds from text and Wallwisher and Lino It allow you to create a canvas for collaborative discussion via use of digital sticky notes.

     Term 4:

    1. OneNote Refresher – a refresher on the things that you can do in OneNote besides typing notes. How to send items to OneNote from other programs and utilising clipping.
    2. OneNote Bells and Whistles – recording audio and digital and how to utilise tags.
    3. OneNote – SHARED – how to create a single OneNote section that the whole class can use at the same time and then have saved on their individual hard drives as a record.
    4. Creating a digital portfolio using Adobe Pro Extended.
    5. Delicious and Diigo – social bookmarking and how to utilise it in a classroom.

    I am going to run this idea past the principal tomorrow and see what she thinks about it, get approval for this adventure and start preparing for it and promoting it in the following week (if it gets approved!). As such, I would love some feedback! Anything that you think I should add/remove? I have four weeks in Term 4 that I haven’t filled yet and can reshuffle some things around. Every suggestion helps!

    June 14, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER) | , | 7 Comments

    OneNote – A Practical Tip

    We started using OneNote with our Year 9 English classes in 2009 and continued with the process as they moved into Year 10 in 2010. Our Year 9 students that have just received their laptops have now also begun the process of using OneNote as their English book. (Please see my previous post for how we set up the OneNote notebooks as templates for the entire cohorts.) This has been going swimmingly, and apart from spelling tests and in-class writing tasks, we have rarely used their exercise book since.

    This led us to a unique challenge though. We collect student books once per term to check on their work, mark work and give feedback as to progress, etc.  How do we do this now their books are in OneNote? Thinking I was clever, I worked out how to save their notebook as a single file package and we had students save their notebooks and submit it this way.  BIG MISTAKE. When you open a single file package, OneNote automatically saves it as part of your library of notebooks on your hard drive. Now let’s do some maths: 4 classes of 30 students = 120, multiply that by 4 terms and there are 480 notebooks now on your hard drive with it being difficult to tell which is the latest submission. A minor nightmare to be sure.

    The good news is that there is a solution! Do NOT have them save their notebooks as a single file package.  Instead, from the File menu, have them choose Publish as a PDF. Within this option they can choose to save the current page, section or whole notebook.  They can send the PDF to their teacher via whatever the preferred method is: email, Edmodo, Moodle, etc.

    This has worked wonderfully! Not only does a PDF compress the information so that it doesn’t take up as much room on your hard drive, it also opens as a PDF and not as a OneNote notebook.  This is also useful for teachers that do not have OneNote at home – marking is still possible as they can open the PDF.  Also, for those of us that have Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, you can then add sticky notes to the submitted work and make comments, prior to sending it back to the students.

    A practical tip within this process: get students to make the file name their full name and the date submitted e.g. John Smith 110610. This way you can easily see which is the latest version and to whom it belongs.

    June 13, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), OneNote | , , | 2 Comments

    Interesting Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom

    I stumbled upon a new site while reading through updates from Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day blog today and couldn’t resist sharing this great new resource. Tom Barrett’s blog: Inspire, Connect, Engage, Create is a rich resource of educational ideas and examples. One of the pages on his blog has collated a series of posts entitled “Interesting Ways to Use…” and this is a veritable gold mine! He has collated ideas from different educators about how they utilise various technologies within the classroom, with examples often pictured. There are 23 different tools explored, including Prezi, Wallwisher, VoiceThread, Wordle, using wikis and many more. Not all of the “interesting ways” posts are technology related – there are several on other topics including: “Interesting Ways to Support Spelling in the Classroom” and “Interesting Ways to Support Writing in the Classroom”, both of which obviously caught my eye as an English teacher.

    If you are looking for ideas about how to use some of these fabulous Web 2.0 tools, I highly recommend checking out the “Interesting Ways” page for some great ideas and examples.

    June 6, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, Web 2.0 tools | , , | Leave a comment

    Free Technology for Teachers

    I am often asked how I encounter new sites and great learning tools on the web. The first answer was always “on Twitter!” where my PLN feeds me daily new ideas and links. However lately that answer has expanded to include the blogs that I am reading.  One of the blogs that I read is called “Free Technology for Teachers” and is exactly that. Every day a new website or tool is showcased but more than that, a section is added called “Applications for Education” where recommendations are made for possible uses of the technology within education.

    On this blog, I am constantly amazed by the incredible flow of new ideas and tools. I highly recommend that you subscribe to this blog, either through the RSS feed or via email, and receive a constant stream of new ideas yourself!

    June 6, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, PLN, Web 2.0 tools | , , , | Leave a comment

    OneNote 2007

    I presented today at a Head Teacher conference about OneNote use across all subjects. Realising that I had not yet blogged about this information, I thought I would start a series of blog posts on utilising OneNote in the classroom. Obviously, as an English teacher, my examples will be English based, however the information about OneNote is relevant to all subject areas.

    The first thing to say is what we did that worked. We introduced OneNote as the students’ daily notebook, replacing their exercise books (though students still had exercise books available to them). We created templates for each subject area, so that students in any class were working in a similar environment to the other classes in that subject. This assisted students that moved between classes, but was more supportive to teachers that were just starting out with integrating technology.

    Each faculty brainstormed what would be the appropriate sections and pages that would be on the template. We then created a sample template to show the students, and created a Word document with instructions and pictures for the students to set it up.  While we could have simply provided the OneNote template to the students, students learned more about how to use OneNote by setting it up for themselves and it was a really fast process. If we were the first subject to set it up, the process took longer, but if another faculty had already set up a OneNote template then students knew the process and only needed to know the names of the sections we required. Ten minutes and it’s done.

    This has been incredibly successful and all our teachers now use the laptops with students in the classroom on a regular basis. Mission successful!

    Some recommendations for creating templates for a subject:

    1. The teachers that will be teaching the subject to classes of students with laptops should get together and brainstorm different uses for OneNote in the classroom – BEFORE trying to create a template.
    2. Now that you have some ideas about how OneNote might be utilised in the classroom, it is easier to think about what sections and pages you will have set up. So step 2 is to plan the sections and pages.
    3. Create a model template and have it projected up in the classroom when students are creating their templates. Fast workers will create what they can see on the screen and then help the people around them.
    4. Encourage students to help each other. You can’t be everywhere at once and you want to set good precedents for students helping each other and learning from each other.  
    5. We made the students title the Notebook: “English Year 9” (or Year 10 etc) because next year we don’t want them to get confused with which English notebook is the relevant one. This worked very well going into Year 10 this year.

    Our sections in the English template:

    •  There are four sections and two section groups on the main page:
      1. Homework – and we used the Simple To Do List template for the pages in this section
      2. Glossary
      3. Journal
      4. Wide Reading
    • The two section groups are English Topics and Spelling.
    • Within English Topics are sections labelled with the names of all our units of work. Within Spelling are only two sections: Personal Spelling and Weekly Spelling.

    Not all classes use all the sections all the time, but overall this has been spectacularly effective.

    Next blog post in this series will be hints and tips on OneNote 2007 use.

    June 1, 2010 Posted by | OneNote | , , | 4 Comments

    New tool: Prezi.Com

    A success story for you.

    I wanted to give my students an opportunity to use their laptops to synthesise information from a brainstorm and wanted to get them to learn a new skill for something relatively easy so that we could utilise the tool for something more difficult later. I chose Prezi as the tool that we would learn. Prezi.Com creates a presentation that is very different to the linear nature of PowerPoint and gives students the opportunity to think more about visual techniques including reading paths and hierarchies of importance.

    The lesson went very well and being such a positive experience, I decided that it was a tool that was going on my list of good ideas and useful tools. Here is the process we followed:

    1. I created a Prezi (prior to the lesson) and showed it to the students so that they had a demonstration of a possible end product.
    2. On the Interactive White Board (IWB) we went to the Prezi.Com website and I showed the students the first two YouTube videos available under the Learn tab on the website.
    3. Students then signed up and created an account of their own and began creating Prezis – it took only a few minutes to sign up.
    4. Students worked on their prezis and once satisfied with the finished product, gave the link to me and it was posted on our Moodle page so that everyone could look at each other’s work.

    Here are two examples of the students’ finished products:

    Some tips for the new user:

    1. Students will have to sign up and create an account before they can use it. The good news is that there is no requirement to activate the account through the email address prior to being able to use Prezi, which means they create their account and can then start creating a Prezi immediately, and they don’t need to worry about using their DET email account or being able to access their email at school.
    2. The first two YouTube videos under the Learn tab on the website are very useful to show to the class. The first one you may even want to show twice, depending on the age of the class and their overall “savvy” factor.
    3. When they begin to create their first prezi, the first YouTube video begins to play and it needs to be closed (with the big red X in the top right corner of the video) before students can start creating their prezi. On the DERNSW laptops getting to that big red X can be difficult.  You will need to close two or three of the toolbars at the top – look for a little “x” on the far left of the toolbar and click on it, then when the dialogue box comes up, click on”Disable”. That may be enough for some laptops, but for others I had to autohide the toolbar at the bottom of the screen as well in order to see the X so that we could close the video and students could start working on their prezi. To autohide the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, right click on the toolbar, choose Properties and from the options tick Autohide.
    4. Getting the URL from the students for their prezi was a little tricky as they were wanting to copy and paste the URL from the top of the page. This is the WRONG one! The student should go into My Account and click on their presentation. On the bottom right hand side of the dialogue box that opens there is a URL written there with the words COPY LINK written next to it. If you click on the copy link button it acts like you have highlighted the link and clicked copy, now you can choose paste in either an email, onto a word page, etc and the link will be pasted there. I had students paste the link into Edmodo and I copied it into our Moodle page from there.

    Following my experience I would also make the following recommendations:

    1. Take the time to either create a model or find one on Prezi.Com to show the students. It helps them to understand what it can do and what you want.
    2. Allow plenty of time to show the YouTube videos, have them sign up, deal with any difficulties such as the toolbars needing to be closed, etc before they actually start creating the prezi. I allowed two lessons in total (50 minutes each lesson) and there were still some students that didn’t quite finish and will be completing them for homework across this week. I have a fairly savvy class and the prezi was only simple that they were required to make, so you may need to allow more time than this.

    Prezi.Com was a success with my Year 10 English class and I shall be using it again with other classes I am sure.

    May 19, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, Web 2.0 tools | , , | Leave a comment

    Learning from Failure

    I had a reminder again today about how important it is to be flexible as a teacher. I would like to add to that and mention how important it is to be flexible when planning to use technology in your lessons. Let me tell you a tale.

    As you can see from my previous post, I had an idea and sought advice as to how to implement my idea. It was simple.

    The Idea:

    My class would collaborate, discussing themes from a text they had just studied (Twelfth Night), looking at key ideas and which of these could be seen as Universal Themes, relevant to a modern audience, brainstorming to create an entire list to work with.  They would then look at the idea of appropriation, defining the term, and exploring how they could utilise the universal themes to create an appropriation of Twelfth Night.

    The Plan:

    The brainstorming process would take place digitally, to save time. Usually I would have everyone grab eight or so different textas and write all over the whiteboard with the students then copying down the results in their books afterwards. Considering this is a Year 10 class and they all have DER laptops I decided to find a way to brainstorm and record results digitally, saving time and utilising their laptops.

    First idea was to use Google Docs – blocked. Wallwisher – blocked, but you can have it unblocked for a specific closed version but I did not have time to set that up. I looked at a few other programs and then found one called PrimaryPad through a blog called Free Technology for Teachers. Primary Pad did exactly what I wanted and it wasn’t blocked. I set one up, tested it, everything worked, so I put the link for our PrimaryPad discussion onto our Moodle page ready for the students. Then, knowing how things sometimes don’t go as planned, I created a wiki on our Moodle as a backup in case the Primary Pad thingy didn’t work, and placed that on their moodle page too.

    Next step in the plan was to have students create a presentation with Prezi.Com to synthesise their ideas. I created a quick prezi myself as a demonstration and then placed the link for the demonstration and on their moodle page.

    The Reality:

    One student didn’t have her laptop as it was in for repair and there were none left in the pool to replace it, one student’s laptop just would NOT connect to the internet, one student’s trackpad/mouse wouldn’t work. Well, only 3 not working right out of 28 ain’t bad.

    Primary Pad kept disconnecting from their server with a “server synchronisation” error. After five minutes or so of countless attempts by all in the class, I figured this was a compatibility issue with the DET server and all its numerous layers of permissions. So we went to Plan B. We opened the moodle wiki, only to discover that only one person could have the edit page function open at a time. Kind of defeats the purpose of a wiki in my mind and definitely did not meet our needs, but nothing I could do about it at the time. Plan C – we got textas and brainstormed on the whiteboard and then the students copied the information into their OneNote notebooks. They have a section for Appropriation in their OneNote notebooks for English so I told them to just use that – please take note that thinking on one’s feet does not always allow one to be creative (they had mindmapping software on their laptop for goodness’ sake and I didn’t get them to use it!).

    Part two went well! My prezi loaded and played for them. I played the YouTube demonstration/instruction videos to the class, they went to the site, signed up and started creating! I did have to go around to at least half the class and close tool bars and autohide tool bars in order for students to be able to see the X at the top right hand of the movie that kept trying to play over top of their first prezi. Once we had taken care of that though, we were all systems go.

    Lessons learned:

    1. Just because the DET internet filter says that something is “allow” doesn’t mean it will work. Check it first. At school.
    2. Your definition of a wiki and someone else’s definition of a wiki may not be the same thing. Also known as “one wiki is not always the same as another”. Now I couldn’t really check this one by myself because it needed more than one person logged in to check it, but I could have checked it utilising another member of staff, had I done this preparation at school and not at home. So, check it first and start preparation earlier.
    3. Have a backup plan for your backup plan.

    In future:

    • I am going to try to create a shared OneNote page for a “brainstorm and record” activity. As you can’t set one up from a DER laptop, this means setting one up from the staffroom ahead of time, ready for the class to use.
    • I would also like to have a go with Wallwisher so will try setting one of those up in advance and having it unblocked.
    • The students have Freemind on their laptops so I could get them to create a mindmap rather than just typing results of verbal brainstorm into OneNote.

    On the bright side, the students REALLY enjoyed using and overwhelmingly said it was more interesting than using PowerPoint, was fun to use, made them think about more elements of visual literacy than using PowerPoint and they learned how to use it quickly and with little fuss or teacher instruction required.

    Moral to the story? Learn from everything, failure included, and above all – be flexible!

    May 17, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, Moodle | , , , | 7 Comments

    Rolled out and rolling on

    Our rollout in 2009 of the DER laptops was successful. Our rollout for the Year 9 laptops in 2010 is going to run on a similar model, because it was so successful.

    The model we used that worked is as follows:

    Step 1: Prior to the arrival of the laptops in the school, we do the following:

    • Send an email to all Year 9 students. Year 9 students were then sent to the library one class at a time, logged into their DET portal and sent a reply email. We then had a list of students that knew their DET portal login and were ready for laptop allocation. Those who could not access their email and respond were immediately sent to the TSO (located in the library) and had their log on glitches fixed on the spot.  By the end of two weeks, every student in Year 9 was ready for laptop allocation. We have just done this for the second time across the last two weeks in preparation for the second rollout. This step has proved efficient, productive and very worthwhile.  In discussions with our TSO he mentioned that one of the biggest problems other schools have encountered in their rollout is students not knowing their DET log in and holding up the allocation process. 
    • Staff help with the software on the laptops. We decided that OneNote would be utilised across the school as a way in to using technology in the classrooms on a regular basis, particularly as we only got wireless a few weeks ago and so we were looking for a solution that would work offline. OneNote was the answer. Staff training on OneNote took place several times across Terms 3 and 4 in 2009. Templates were created for each KLA as a starting point for OneNote.

    Step 2: The obligatory Parent Information Evening. Laptop User Charters were sent out ahead of time and collected on the night. Parents were informed about specs, usage, schedule and cyberbullying.

    Step 3: Student information sessions. We put all of Year 9 in a room one period per day for 3 days. We taught the following:

    • Session 1:Windows 7 orientation, file naming protocols, saving in MyLocker
    • Session 2: Cyberbullying
    • Session 3: Introduction to OneNote.

    Step 4: Students receive laptops.

    Step 5: All KLAs get students to create their OneNote template in the first lesson they have with laptops in the classroom.

    The next lot of laptops arrive in the school in Week 3 next term.  We are on track, things are running smoothly. Rolling on!

    March 31, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning | , , , | Leave a comment

    Ready or Not…Here the laptops come…

    I have been so busy doing the Digital Education Revolution lately that there has been precious little time to communicate about it! I have not blogged in more than a month, nor have I even had time to participate in Twitter. On the bright side, the holidays are coming and with them two whole weeks of thinking, planning and communicating time.

    As it has been a while since my last blog post, this post is intended as a catch-up as to what I have been up to and hopefully those experiences may help others in the NSWDER.

    The reality for most teachers is that the NSWDER has had the effect of a bulldozer, sweeping through existing plans, programs and time. There has been some excitement amongst the teachers at my school but also some resentment, anger and frustration at the sudden expectations with little time to prepare and not all teachers having access to the software the students will have on their laptops. A lot of teachers felt that without having one of the laptops themselves they were very hampered in their ability to prepare for teaching classes with laptops.

    We started the process with a whole staff meeting where we asked four questions in faculty groupings: What are your concerns with laptops in classrooms? What are your ideas for overcoming these issues? What do you see as the benefits of laptops in classrooms? How can we prepare for the arrival of the laptops?  After collating the results of the discussions, a few things became apparent so we moved quickly to implement strategies to address these needs.  Firstly, there was a lack of information and understanding amongst the staff about the policies and procedures concerning the laptops, both at DET and school level. Secondly, there were lots of questions about the laptops themselves.

    Accordingly, we planned an extended staff meeting where we ran two sessions: the first was an information session where we outlined the policies and procedures and the second was a session about the laptops: what software was on them, what they could and couldn’t do and ideas for using OneNote as the student workbook in all subjects.  Following these sessions we offered a HOT (Hands On Training) Afternoon which I ran from 4pm – 6pm.

    The HOT afternoon spent the first hour teaching the basics of OneNote and then an hour introducing some ideas for what students can do with some of the other software.  In the second hour we looked at how to give feedback on work electronically in Word 2007 using the Review tools, creating digital portfolios in Adobe Acrobat Pro and creating quizzes in Adobe Captivate. The focus of the afternoon was clearly on what students could do with their software rather than on teachers creating resources for students, as that can be problematic in terms of the distribution of that resource for us at the moment.

    Informal feedback from the afternoon has been positive, with teachers now understanding more about the roll out, the policies, the laptops and more importantly, now having some further ideas for teaching with laptops in the classroom. The results from the evaluation sheet will be interesting to receive a bigger picture as to the success of the afternoon. On a personal note, it was so exciting to see over 50 teachers enthusiastic and positive while learning new skills and brimming with new ideas and knowledge. I am proud to be associated with such incredible people who can put aside their feelings and embrace learning in such a positive manner. It was awesome and amazing.

    What next? Our student laptop delivery is scheduled in Week 2 of next term. We have planned information sessions each day for the Year 9 students in the first week of term. The sessions will cover: school policies and procedures, cyberbullying, orientation to the laptop, introduction to OneNote and file naming protocols, folders, storage, etc. I am thinking about offering more HOT afternoons for staff but on a smaller scale – the sessions will run after school for an hour once a week during Term 4. They will be practical sessions allowing teachers to learn software and then have time to play with it and come up with ideas for teaching with it. The third ‘next step’ is looking at ensuring that quality teaching/good pedagogy is going on in classrooms with laptops.

    Right now, as a Head Teacher, I am continuing to ask the questions:  what can I do to support and encourage my staff in their preparations? How do I make sure my faculty are ready for the first ten days of laptops in the classroom?  From there, I am thinking about reviewing our programs to more explicitly incorporate the laptop use in Years 9 and 10 in 2010 so that there are ideas and guidelines built into the programs. Our faculty will spend some time exploring that in those last two Staff Development Days this year.

    I would love to hear about what other schools are doing (have done) in their preparations for the imminent arrival of student laptops in Year 9 classrooms.

    September 29, 2009 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning | , , | 10 Comments