I chose to do a project focusing on ISTE standards 4 and 6: Collaboration and Facilitation. I am glad that I chose collaboration for this project as I got to work with COETAIL 11 colleagues who I don’t know at all. Working with people that I do not know has been a challenge for me. I wanted to overcome this and the best way to do it was tackle it head on.
Collaboration was already an obstacle in Course 2 as I had initially planned to collaborate with colleagues in my school or the district but in the end everyone was too busy or just not interested. As I was concentrating more on the subject material that I was teaching in 8th grade rather than collaboration it was impossible to find any other teaching colleague to get onboard with me for the final project. This time I wanted to approach the final project differently and be more open to working with others from the cohort.
Second, I chose Facilitation out of the ISTE standards because I know what I want out of a PD as a teacher but am less able to think like a facilitator to design a PD, so again, that was a challenge. I realized that expectations and roles of a teacher and a facilitator during a PD differ, after co-teaching a teacher workshop at NESA in Spring 2019.
For this unit’s project, my colleagues Ryan, Alex, and Matt think differently from me with diverse strengths and perspectives. I had a great learning experience by looking through ‘their eyes’ and learning new tools and skills. Their ideas of ‘facilitation’ differed from mine so I grew as an educator.
As Ryan had set up a SLACK channel for us, the conversations were easy to navigate and keep track of. There was timely feedback and answers to all questions and we were able to guide each other.
Most Powerful Learnings and Effect on Content of PD
My Most Powerful Takeaways from this Unit were:
- Learning new ways to facilitate student collaboration was great as I learnt new methods. I am using some of these tools but others were new such as in the readings on ‘Visible Thinking’. Collaboration is reflected in our PD through the use of different Tech tools that are used in the longer Activity (30 minutes) at the end where groups of 6 (common interest) conduct an activity with a tech tool of their choice.
- Furthermore, the readings, videos on making our presentations more meaningful, visually attractive etc. was a good reinforcement of rules we should remember when creating a presentation to keep everyone awake! These readings made me more mindful of the amount of text, contrast, font sizes and initial planning for the PD slide show.
- The readings on inequality in our society with ‘Cycle of Socialization’ by Bobbie Harro gave me a lot to think about and reinforced some of my thoughts while inciting more questions as well. And I really enjoyed the Flipgrid Text Rendering exercise as well as the reflection and response to the community thoughts (Cohort 11) at the: individual Text Rendering Protocol as well as, the Cohort 11 and Community thoughts. Because of this reading and watching and listening to Flipgrid I wanted to include the program iEARN into the PD as it gives teachers an opportunity to plan a unit or an activity across the world with another classroom. It allows students and (in some cases teachers also) to bridge differences or accept them and learn different yet similar ways people live in the world. And it showcases our optimism and hope for the future!
Lessons Learnt From the Final Project
Though we started early with the final project planning, it was mostly due to initiative taken by one member of the group. To make it more equal, I think we should have set up an official starting date i.e. realistically the beginning of last week of the unit to get together and put in an hour of work to plan, organize and then finalize the project. An initial plan on paper/or laptop (with thumbnails for all slides) could be done together in a Skype conference call. I know it is difficult to find a time that everyone is a awake given the different time zones but it would be worthwhile to work out an initial plan from beginning to end. This would be the only time this has to be done as a group.
Then we could divide up the work (which we still did effectively but due to one member mostly) and get started at our own pace. As the slide deck starts coming together then two days before the due date we can start commenting on content and presentation styles of the slide deck. This would mean we could be done before the last day of the unit!
I realize, that the above would be the ideal situation. But everyone has a teaching/coaching schedule and different time zones to juggle so this may not be successful.
I also realized that I need to do more work with using ‘visual hierarchy’ to make my slides more visually appealing and effective with a BANG!
Comparison of ‘Tech Tools for Collaboration’ to a Previous PD
My first PD collaboration and facilitation experience was very different from this one. I collaborated with a teaching colleague at Dhahran Elementary Middle School, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia on a PD session for teachers during the Spring NESA 2019 in Bangkok. We were able to plan and organize in face to face meetings, yes, there was online editing to slides but we were always able to meet face to face as we were on the same campus. This was very different from this time’s online collaboration with different time zones.
It is also a greater challenge to plan together remotely with different time zones. There are time lags to getting a response sometimes and one does not ‘see’ what the other is thinking….
We did a presentation and activity on ‘Creating Voice and Choice’ which was based on our own practice in 8th grade for (my colleague in Science and for me in Humanities -Social Studies and English).
It worked on showing how to give students voice in their work by showing examples and samples (pictures, iMovie, audio podcasts, etc.). It was based less on collaboration and more on the ISTE Standard #5 of being a ‘Designer’ as it concentrated on promoting student choice and using different technological aids to achieve learning standards.
However, this time and important difference in planning the PD on collaboration and facilitation was that there is no framework for the tech tools being offered. These tech tools can be adjusted to any discipline and age group or for teacher planning. It provides ‘tools’ rather than ‘examples’ . That is the key difference between the previous PD on ‘Creating Voice and Choice in Your Classrooms’ and this PD on ‘Tech Tools for Collaboration’.
In retrospect, I think that giving tools to educators to plan collaboratively, encourage increased student cooperation in class and outside class is more empowering than giving examples. It allows teachers the space to plan their own curriculum emphasis and then embed tech tools that are most relevant to the learning experience they want for their students. It will also allow teachers to think originally and not copy examples from the ‘Creating Voice and Choice in your Classrooms’.
Expected Outcomes of ‘Tech Tools for Collaboration’
As one of the designers of this PD I don’t think any educator disagrees on the value of collaboration in their classrooms, outside their classrooms or with other educators. However, the problem arises when deciding how to plan the best way (tools and how to use them) for learning purposes so it is easy to assess and engaging for students i.e. using critical thinking skills.
I would expect teachers who attend the PD to try out a new Tech tool that they have not tried yet. Like me, I would be excited to take away a tool to try back at my school. This could either be a tool for student collaboration in class or for teacher collaboration amongst their colleagues at their school. So it would be their ‘Good Idea’….
This PD should make teachers more willing to try out a tech tool in a lesson they are planning. And if they are planning a unit then they would be more likely to collaborate with another co-teacher to plan together, maybe with a variety of tools.
I know that this is not unrealistic as I am much more comfortable using SLACK for collaborating on projects though I had never used it before. This would be the same for all teachers.
Checking Outcome of PD ‘Tech Tools for Collaboration’
We could set up a common Wakelet account that would share pictures, comments, or plans for a collaborative tech tool that PD teachers start using or are planning to use in their classroom. This would give insights on success stories and some not so successful attempts that could be tweaked through comments by others to be more successful the next time. It could become a powerful resource.
Area of Extended Activity
Activity# 1 is a 20 minute activity at tables of 6 where teachers assess how their classrooms are using collaboration or how they are collaborating within their school. After reading different articles or watching a video on Wakelet (Slide #17) they will discuss what they are doing currently and brainstorm of what they could do in the future.
In addition, Activity #2 (Slide 30-31) is when you get to try out a tool/activity that is being introduced in the PD. It could be something that you have heard about but not tried, been too scared to try or are not successful in using it.
Activity #2 is conducted in the end when the PD participants come together in groups of 6 to try out an activity using different Tech tools for collaboration. It provides choice to the teachers according to interest, expected use, or kind of collaboration they are most interested in (teacher to teacher, within classrooms, or outside classrooms). This is an activity for 30 minutes and it ends with a regrouping of teachers and 60 seconds for each participant to share their thoughts to a group of 6. Therefore, there is a verbal reflection with group members taking notes.
This was a great experience for me to work with educators I do not know personally as I had not worked or collaborated like this remotely. Second, I learnt more efficient, visually appealing ways to present information making it digestible by using an infographic, graphics, pictures, better slide design and visual techniques to immediately get my message across.
Would I do it again? Most definitely yes.