I have truly enjoyed the last four months of being back in the classroom. The opportunity to be part of a school community and work directly with students all day is why I became a teacher. It’s about collegiality and learning.
There are, however, many things I miss about my old job as a technology mentor for the district. My job was nomadic and flexible, with my primary goal to support teachers and students in embedding technology in the teaching and learning process. It allowed a great deal of freedom with regards to place and time and my vision for learning. The feeling of isolation, being out of the loop and ineffective in promoting change on the larger scale has been frustrating at times.
Part of the issue is I came back to a technology-rich school, where teachers (at least those that are motivated to) have created a culture of connected learning. In short, I can provide a limited amount of support, but many are self-sustaining. That’s why I was moved to start an after-school PD series, which I tagged tech20tuesdays. In short, each Tuesday we had a 20 minute PD offering directly after school. We would look at a particular tool or idea and explore how you could use it in a classroom with students, all in 20 minutes. While the uptake wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, interest and feedback was sufficient to encourage me to widen the net.
That’s why after Christmas we’ll be moving tech20tuesdays district-wide. Unfortunately, our district has almost 1000 teachers spread over hundreds of kilometres, not conducive to short after-school get-togethers. However, what we do have is a good technology base, a base we’ll leverage to connect teachers as learners.
The plan is in progress, but here’s the jist. Using SMART Technologies Bridgit conferencing software, we’ll connect from my classroom to any teacher who wants to “attend” from their computer. They don’t need to be at a SMART Board, just a laptop – which they all have! They can be at school, at home or even the local coffee shop! Learning can be from anywhere they have connectivity. As various levels end their school days at different times, we’ll begin at 3:40 pm (high schools end at 3:30) and end at 4:00 pm. Still 20 minutes, same basic idea. Bridgit will allow audio and screen sharing, with an embedded chat for back channel conversations. It’s powerful stuff!
While I hope that many teachers are able to benefit from this, this is purely a selfish endeavor. I need to connect, to feel like I am having a voice in promoting change and doing my part in promoting a new vision of schools and a now story of learning. This is just another pathway to that end.
While we will be promoting this amongst teachers in the district, theoretically we could have teachers join from anywhere in the world. In fact, one thing I want to explore before the end of the year is to tap into my PLN and invite a guest to share with us, a guest from another school, another province or another country.
Photo Credit: Congratulations!, uploaded to Flickr under a creative commons license by Clara S.