This last week I was able to participate in several different professional development opportunities (I'm still not sure what the difference is between staff development and professional development.)
First thing on Tuesday we, my school's teachers, were shown how to create little tiles using polymer clay. We'll be doing an all school quilt/collage this fall. It was a great hands-on activity to do while we got acquainted again for the year, some of us for the first time at Marcy.
Wednesday morning we followed the directions sent to us on Tuesday evening via email. The email was sent to our principal who then forwarded it to all staff (that hierarchical passing of paper, even when it's electronic, is a hard habit to break.) The directions in the email proscribed the process we should follow to look at the initial assessments of the year for math. Our team did that and then used the remainder of the time adjusting the daily schedule so that it would actually work. We also talked about how we would do six groups of math with only five teachers - we have five classrooms each with half 3rd grade and 4th grade, on average. It looks like all of the 4th graders will be squeezed into two classes for direct math instruction. Those referendum dollars for class size management aren't making it to the 4th grade at our school.
Wednesday afternoon we all went to Olson school where we met in groups of about twenty teachers by grade level. The general topic was again math. We needed at least an hour a month last year that we didn't get and this was a way to catch up, but it still won't be enough to develop real mastery of the new math curriculum as fast as we need the mastery. We read some articles, watched a video and verbalized important points in the articles we had read that were passed out to us during the meetings. We had a 'parking lot' for questions which consisted of a piece of chart paper where we could attach sticky notes with questions to be explored later. I think it would have been much more efficient to do what we did via a Moodle course. Moodle allows learning groups to maximize face to face time by taking care of what can be done via online tools outside of the face to face time. Moodle also creates an electronic record of the interactions.
Thursday we had a great two hour presentation on the new curriculum we'll be using to prevent bullying. I was encouraged that online teacher forums are part of the curriculum. It's too bad that we'll be using 2002 technology consisting of pre-printed picture cards to prompt discussion with the discussion outline on the back of the pictures. It would be nice to have everything online so we could use the data projectors instead of cards; that would make it a lot easier for many kids to see the pictures. There's nothing in the boxes of materials that couldn't be online thus saving paper and making things easier to share.
On Friday, I traded in hour that I spent on Saturday with my student teacher planning lesson plan logistics for an hour at the State Fair where I attended the bacon haiku contest. I was a little disappointed because there was only about 10 minutes or less on haiku. It was impressive, though, to participate in an interactive Twitter discussion. It will definitely obsolete the clickers that we still have only gotten into a few of our schools in the MPS; that is, if we can allow cell phones in schools for kids to use in class. That will be a controversial introduction, no doubt. There was an impressive presentation of facts about just how fast social media is growing. Learning how to use new communications and information tools is not going to get less complex or less necessary anytime soon, I think. We need to teach teachers how to teach their students to become communications and information tool adopters and users. Avoiding the inevitable won't make it easier.