"The ImPOSSIBLE School Podcast" is aptly named. Preparing for this assignment was a challenge. An innovation plan focused on implementing project-based learning paired with a publication article about making better use of our professional development time did not seem like a recipe for a cohesive discussion. However, as I continued to think about possible connections between the topics I realized that they could definitely be two symbiotic parts of the same conversation. So, as many issues in public education today, what seemed an impossible puzzle to begin with became clearer when considered through a different lens.
My guests were India Morris, who coordinates the Gifted and Talented program on our campus, and Rachel Lymbery, a 5th grade classroom teacher. I also interviewed a couple of students with very different personalities and learning styles to give us some insight on what makes learning memorable, what they think teachers do on PD days, and if their teachers use technology effectively. As always, talking informally with 5th graders was both entertaining and enlightening!
Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Lymbery both have extensive knowledge of project-based learning, which is why I invited them to join me on my podcast. They have also been through a variety of professional development sessions which gave them unique perspectives on how the two could be tied together. After listening to the student interview, we discussed the commonalities between classroom learning and professional learning, including the idea that what students find memorable - active learning that allows them to be creative - is the same type of PD that teachers benefit from most. By giving professional learning a more project-based twist, teachers would come away feeling more empowered and capable rather than overwhelmed with new information.
As a Technology Integrationist, I could not let the opportunity pass to discuss EdTech PD. I learned that teachers don't want to be told about new EdTech tools - they want to use them to impact their teaching. By reconstructing PD sessions as project-based make-and-takes that allow teachers the time to not only investigate the tech that interests them but use it to create a lesson or activity, I can more effectively use my PD minutes.
Although we had an internet issue that required us to record on my phone rather than on Zoom (I apologize for the subpar audio), we truly enjoyed the conversation and learned so much about each others' experience. I came away with great ideas for making my next PD more engaging.
Integrating project-based learning into the after-school club program at my school is the goal of my Innovation plan; however, I myself have limited experience with PBL in the classroom. Therefore, I did not think I should focus my publication article on that subject. In the process of developing the plan, I realized that it could not be successful without meaningful professional learning that the teachers would embrace with both arms. Since professional learning is something I know a little bit about, I chose to focus on that aspect. I narrowed the subject even further to highlight the need for more PL time spent on instructional technology. Many schools are 1:1 and students spend more time on their devices than ever before, so why isn't more time spent on training teachers how to use this amazing tool? I look forward to submitting the final draft for publication soon.
What is the topic of your article? My article is about innovative ways to encourage teachers to participate in self-guided professional learning. Many districts engage in EdCamp style PD or Exchange Days that give teachers voice and choice in their own professional learning. However, teachers are so often overwhelmed by the day-to-day stresses of their position that they fail to take full advantage of these opportunities, opting instead to participate in the one-size-fits-all district provided PL that may not apply directly to their classroom, but keeps them from having to research and make decisions about their PL hours.
What is the connection to your innovation plan or initiative? Although my innovation plan centers around modifying our current 4-H/Club program by adding project-based learning, professional learning plays a large part in the implementation of the plan. Motivating teachers to participate in this PL will be one of my biggest challenges.
How can this information help others? District professional learning calendars rarely allow time for technology leaders such as myself to present training on apps and programs that will benefit teachers in their classrooms and enhance their students’ learning. We are left to squeeze it in during the occasional PLC, lunch-and-learn sessions, or after school ‘Appy Hours’; and let’s be honest, no teacher has the time for that. I’m hoping to provide other technology integrationists some ideas for gamifying their PL so that more teachers will see it as fun instead of a chore.
Lessons learned or hoped to learn? Throughout my last 5 years as the TI, I have changed my professional learning strategy tremendously. I found that teachers who used to come to after school or lunch sessions have become so bogged down with extra work in recent years that they no longer have that time to spend on optional PL. I had to streamline the process and make it fun. For example: what started out as several boring sit-and-get sessions on the benefits of various apps has become a “Blended Learning Bingo” board outside my room. I and the other TIs created and managed a micro credentialing system to allow teachers to do ‘PD in your PJs’.
What digital resources will be included in your article? Including but not limited to: Google Workspace Apps, Symbaloo, Screencastify, Flipgrid