Since arriving home from Edcamp New Jersey, I have been contemplating the ways in which its structure could be used as part of the professional development model at Willow Lane Elementary School. Soon after the Edcamp, I met with my building principal and Instructional Support Teacher (IST) in order to discuss the possibilities.
Yesterday, my principal and I attended Edcamp New Jersey at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick. This was my first ever Edcamp, and I was anxious to see firsthand what all of the excitement has been about. Edcamps are categorized as educational technology unconferences, because they are participant-driven and with no top-down organization. According to the official Edcamp website, an Edcamp has the following features: it is free; it is non-commercial and with a vendor free presence; it can be hosted by any organization or anyone; it is made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event; anyone can be a presenter; and it is reliant on the law of two feet. (Edcampers are encouraged to get on their feet and leave sessions that do not meet their needs.) While headed to New Jersey, I was just as interested in the format of the unconference as I was in the content that I would be learning from its actual sessions.
Currently, I am a student at Lehigh University, where I am in the process of earning my K-12 Principal Certification. For the current class that I am attending, one of my assignments was to lead the class “in a brief (no more than 20-minute) professional dialogue regarding a topic of [my] choice that relates to the principalship or to instructional areas within K-12 schools.” My presentation took place last Wednesday night, and it focused on creativity in the classroom.
About two weeks ago, my principal, another teacher in my building, and I attended the Edscape 2012 Conference at New Milford High School in New Milford, New Jersey. “Edscape is the innovative learning conference designed to transform your teaching and learning practices… Edscape’s goal is to explore how learning environments can be established to promote critical though, inquiry, problem, solving, and creativity.” I heard of the conference through tweets from the high school’s principal, Eric Sheninger (who is known to the education world as “Principal Twitter” or @NMHS_Principal), and through tweets from Vicki Davis (@coolcateacher), the keynote speaker for the event. During the conference, I attended Vicki’s keynote and four different sessions.
For about the past three years I have served as one of the fourth grade representatives on my school district’s Math Curriculum Committee. The committee initially assembled in order to assist in the selection and implementation of a new math series that would be used across the district. However, we had a curveball thrown our way when Pennsylvania adopted the Common Core State Standards. It was at this point in time that the committee turned its attention to this drastic change, and the way in which we would utilize professional development to familiarize all teachers with these new standards and practices.
As part of the professional development process, I recently presented on Common Core Mathematics to all of the fourth grade teachers in my district. The presentation lasted for approximately 2.5 hours, and it took place on my district’s fall in service day. The majority of the content focused on how inquiry-based mathematics could be taught, and not so much the new fourth grade documents (pacing guide, curriculum, etc.) that will be rolled out within the next year or so. Presenting all of the information in one session would have been overwhelming for all parties involved. Also, in order to truly emphasize the pedagogical shift that must take place, I strongly felt that it was best to first focus on how to teach before reviewing what to teach.
Here is a brief outline of what took place over the 2.5 hours:
I was originally introduced to The Marshmallow Challenge when I was in Scottsdale, Arizona for the Apple Distinguished Educator 2011 Summer Institute. My team emerged the victors, not because of me, but due to a certain physics teacher who also happened to be a former graduate student of Harvard University. Since this time, I have performed the Marshmallow Challenge with all of my fourth grade classes, both at the beginning of the school year and again at the end of the year.
Last week, my principal asked me to conduct the Marshmallow Challenge with the entire staff at a faculty meeting. First, the teachers were divided into groups of six, according to where they were sitting. Each group was given a yard of masking tape and a paper bag that contained: 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of string, 1 marshmallow, and 1 pair of scissors. Then, with their materials, the groups were given 18 minutes in order to build the tallest freestanding structure possible, and the marshmallow needed to be at the top. Some more specific rules included:
The week before school started Mr. Cooper had a technology day for his students. Some of the fun things we learned about are how to make an iMovie on our iPods and transfer it to the MacBooks at school. He had us go into groups and come up with our own ideas for the movie. Most of the movies turned out to be very funny. My group’s movie was called “The Splinter”. The movie was about a girl who got a splinter and was very sad about this splinter. In the background there is a girl who keeps really getting hurt (fake of course) and has to keep going to the nurse. Creating an iMovie is fun and teaches us a lot of things such as, adding music and sound effects, adding titles and different backgrounds for titles. On technology day we enjoyed ourselves and made new friends.
A handful of years ago, my school district began a project based learning (PBL) initiative and has since continued these efforts in the form of an initiative on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. As a result of the district placing their stamp of approval on these approaches to teaching and learning, I have witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of teachers who are promoting classroom projects, inquiry-based learning, and collaborative education.
This year, my school’s professional development committee decided to make PBL one of the main focuses of teacher learning, and I could not be happier. This is an initiative that I am helping to lead, along with one of the fifth grade teachers in my school. My colleague and I are teaching three sessions on PBL (two of which have already taken place). All sessions are exactly the same (more or less), and each teacher is required to attend one of the three sessions.
A handful of years ago, my principal and I had the idea to start off Meet the Teacher Night with an informational video that would be broadcast throughout the school (as opposed to gathering all of the parents for a face-to-face informational session). Here is this year's video, which features one of my students and my principal. I completed all editing in Final Cut Pro X. Once the video was published, teachers were able to access it from our network shared folder and then show the video on their interactive whiteboards.
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In a previous blog post I wrote about The Daily Five and the ways in which its implementation can be enhanced through the use of technology. In this post, I would like to briefly touch upon other “teacher books” that can be used along with The Daily Five.