Expect the Unexpected

Narrowing down the focus of my innovation project was a process in itself. As an instructor of technology, I could think of so many changes I’d like to make at my school, but ultimately, it was classroom innovation that I considered to be the biggest concern. The truth is that teachers in my building have ready access to the digital tools they need, but they haven’t been motivated to use them more effectively. I decided that I would focus my innovation plan on motivating change.  My literature review included much evidence that professional development alone wouldn’t change how we teach. It’s time and continuous support that need to be the focus, and neither are easily accessible in the world of public K-12 education. It became clear to me that I could potentially make the change I wanted if I approached professional development differently, in a way that would motivate. My plan was to create blended learning environments throughout my building – classrooms in which teachers would use technology tools to combine their traditional teaching strategies with more innovative processes. When I decided to focus on creating blended learning environments, I had the power to scope out apps to any iPads in the building, providing whatever tools our teachers might need and suggesting new ones that they may not have used before. I had the ability to model the use of the devices, so that my colleagues could see innovation in action. If I could provide evidence that it’s effective, and that it’s worth their time, they would be more willing to try something new.

TECH NEWS 2017 - week 22-23
TECH NEWS, February 2017, Rhonda Kinstner

In the fall of 2016, I began hanging TECH NEWS posters in the faculty bathrooms at school, where I knew that people would read them. The newsletter shared information about the tools students were using in the lab, and included suggestions about recommended apps, and how iPads could be used creatively in the classroom. The publication got people talking. Some asked for me to share it with them digitally, and others took advantage of the information and asked me for help using technology in their rooms. I began to push in to their classrooms to assist them with introducing new technology tools to their students.

I believe that social influence is perhaps the biggest of the six main sources of influence (Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler, 2013). Based on my experience, nothing compares to observation of those around us as a way of making change. The teachers I worked with talked to other teachers, and I realized we were on to something. I began team teaching with willing participants in my building. We planned lessons together, combining their traditional strategies with my more innovative tools, and we created activities that allowed students to approach learning from a different perspective. During the spring semester, I pushed in to the classrooms, gradually releasing the instruction and lesson to the teachers.

The push-in was successful, and student results were great. The teachers I worked with shared their experiences with other teachers in their grade levels, which encouraged them to try some new tools as well. By May, the push-in had generated quite a buzz, and changes were visible. Then, I found out that my two most innovative volunteers were being transferred to another, more innovative school. It was disappointing to lose two of my biggest influencers.

I planned my  call to action  to start officially during the fall of 2017, knowing that the loss of my innovative trendsetters would mean I’d be essentially starting over. My principal had been very supportive, and welcomed my leadership in staff meetings, when time was allowed. So I designed my plan to include scheduled staff meeting instruction, combined with push-in team teaching. I would share a participation chart in the lounge, and gather feedback from every teacher I worked with throughout the semester. I was actually excited about making change.

Then, I returned to school in August to a new principal, new staff meeting scheduling, and new job responsibilities that no longer included iPad app management. Not only did I no longer have access to purchasing apps and scoping them out to the iPad carts; I couldn’t even see what apps had been provided to which classrooms in my building. Teachers were just as upset to learn that they would have to put in IT request tickets for any changes they needed made to iPads. That changed everything. It added more tasks to my co-workers’ already unforgiving schedules. It communicated to me that it’s not my job to manage apps or how they’re used. Adding to the disruption was the fact that my new principal, who is awesome and extremely supportive by the way, had higher priorities for building improvement. She welcomed my participation in team teaching and pushing in, but there just hasn’t been time for me to provide instruction during staff meetings this year, which is a result of district mandated presentations and building improvements. That’s understandable. And the fact that our meetings were scheduled differently this year changed my entire schedule and plan, anyway.

In a nutshell, I have seen some great success in innovation at my school, despite the fact that my plan hasn’t been executed like I’d hoped. I am still available to willing teachers, and I continue to post my TECH NEWS, but getting the group together for instruction and discussion just isn’t an option at this point of time. That doesn’t mean I stop trying to make change. It just means it’s time for Plan B.

Sources:

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The          new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.  

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Lessons Learned

Throughout the past month I’ve read a number of case studies and research documents regarding blended learning as a professional development strategy. What I’ve learned is that the trend toward blended learning is a global one. All over the world, professional learning is being presented in non-traditional ways, including formal and informal strategies. These professional learning experiences are not just for educators. They’re being applied to professionals in a variety of fields, from construction to business.

When I created my innovation plan, it was with my colleagues in mind. The teachers I work with have digital devices available in their classrooms every day, but they don’t use them effectively as learning tools. Despite training opportunities and presentations regarding district applications and resources, our teachers are not taking advantage of what the devices or the district are offering.

My innovation plan focuses on a more learner-based, blended learning approach to professional development. Research supports the idea that modeling blended learning as a professional development strategy is an effective way to encourage professionals to use it. That has been a part of my innovation plan all along, so no revisions were needed in that area. I was also reassured through my readings that time is the biggest factor preventing teachers from employing new and innovative strategies in their classrooms. Redesigning their lesson plans and instruction is a time-consuming task, and it’s a risky one for many, who aren’t even sure that their new strategies will get the job done. That our district provides release time for teachers to get comfortable with new strategies and tools remains a key part of my plan as well.

What I did not anticipate from my readings of global learning strategies is the strong focus on collaboration. It seems that trusting in the professionals themselves to determine the topics and schedule of their own learning opportunities is an effective strategy of its own. Allowing them to become more involved in the planning of professional development seems to be a strategy that has ongoing benefits including support, significant and individualized experiences, engaging conversation and participation, and professional feedback. The term “unconference” had a big impact on me and the way I thought of professional development (Bagley, 2017). Getting away from a pre-planned formal presentation and learning conference model and letting teachers determine the topics of discussion and learning allows them to become more involved in their own learning, just like we want our students to do. It communicates a feeling of trust and respect for a district to allow teachers to participate in the planning of professional development. My innovation plan was modified to allow our teachers more informal and collaborative time together. Based on the idea that social influence plays a big role in making change, I am convinced that a discussion among educators about effective innovative strategies and how to use them would be a much better use of time than a pre-arranged presenter-focused lecture.

Bagley, R. (2017). Forbes Welcome. Forbes.com. Retrieved 30 April 2017, from     https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccabagley/2014/08/18/how-unconferences-unleash-innovative-ideas/#5452b226645b

 

Effective PL

A Professional Learning Plan for

MoBLE

Motivating a Blended Learning Environment

Current Professional Learning opportunities in my district include weekly PLC meetings that are held at each grade level in each building for one hour on Tuesday mornings. During this time, teachers work together to discuss assessments, strategies and curriculum plans. In addition to this scheduled meeting time, staff meetings are held twice each month, and School Improvement Planning time is held for 2.5 hours on a Thursday afternoon each month. These meeting times vary in topic and location, and SIP’s require online registration in a district wide database. Often, the learning plan is decided for district employees, but sometimes they get to choose from a number of learning opportunities. It is not uncommon for specialized teachers to be underrepresented in the School Improvement Planning. Art, Music, PE, and Technology teachers are often required to attend curriculum and assessment based presentations that do not apply to them. In addition, a number of the options available include presentations by marketing professionals, who show us how to use district-purchased tools, but not how to incorporate them effectively into our classrooms. They are available to answer questions that afternoon, but aren’t immediately available to provide support afterwards.

As an alternative to my district’s current system of professional learning, I have created a Professional Learning Plan that addresses the needs of all of the teachers in my building[1] . I will organize the training and play an active role in its initial delivery. Subsequent training will require participation of my colleagues in the design and choice of training to take place. I have considered the five key principles of effective professional development in an effort to promote a more collaborative, participant-led form of instruction that I am convinced will lead to a more effective way of promoting professional learning.

In my research, as well as in my experience and discussions with my co-workers, I’ve come to realize that more than anything else our teachers need time to work with new tools and processes. They are willing to make changes in their learning strategies, but don’t feel comfortable doing so because they don’t have the time they need to get comfortable with them.  I’ve spent much time reflecting on the five stages of change and the four disciplines of execution as I’ve considered my innovation plan, which I call Motivating Blended Learning Environments (MoBLE). I’ve considered these factors as I’ve strategized how to present my plan for more effective professional learning, in hope of achieving the following goal:


Every classroom in our building will become a blended learning environment that makes effective use of technology and allows engaging activities in which students can learn more effectively on a daily basis during the 2017-2018 school year.

My district has invested a lot of money in the purchasing of technology devices. More than 380 iPads are being used in my school alone, 200 of which are used in 1:1 kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. In addition, 200 laptops are available to grades 3-5. Teachers have access to these devices as needed, but rarely use them. And when they do, they are often used for educational game playing and “free time” activities, and not necessarily as a part of a classroom strategy.

Duration

My plan begins with recognizing that professional learning needs to take place over time, and not just within an afternoon. I plan to include professional learning opportunities in a number of formats, so that teachers can practice using new learning strategies throughout the first semester and possibly throughout the school year. All the while they will be provided with the time to do so in order to become comfortable with them.

Implementation Support

District technology instructors in our district are underutilized. It is a topic that has come up repeatedly in weekly Tech PLC meetings. Their expertise in educational technology makes them invaluable resources for our classroom teachers, and they are more than willing to help with Professional Learning.  It is my plan to incorporate their knowledge and expertise in the professional learning process, making support available to teachers in every building at every grade level. By putting technology instructors in the role of technology integrationists, they can put their skills to use through team-teaching activities and push-in instruction in the classrooms as needed and throughout the school year.

Active Learning

Active learning requires participation of the learners instead of presentation to them. With the encouragement of my building principal, willing teachers will work 1:1 with their technology instructors to create their own integration-based learning experiences. They will assist in planning the timeline for instruction, and allow the tech instructor to push into the classroom to introduce the tools and assist in teaching the lesson. This will assure that what is being taught is appropriate for the class and grade level. Following the integration of blended learning strategies, it is my plan to allow teachers to observe one another as they use the new strategies, and to share their experiences with one another.

Modeling

Seeing new processes used in an authentic environment is important to making the process understood. Modeling doesn’t have to be provided by just the instructor. My plan is to include teachers and colleagues in the process of modeling the use of tools for one another, through classroom observation and staff meeting opportunities. Throughout this process, support will be provided to the teachers by tech instructors like myself and team members who have become comfortable enough with doing so.

Content-Specific Learning

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to effective learning. New skills must be applicable to the learner, and that is why my plan focuses on the learner instead of the tools. By providing authentic learning opportunities, attention can be focused on where the learner needs it to be. That’s something that’s missing in our current professional learning plan.

My Pitch

My Outline

Learning Goals Learning Activities Assessments
Foundational

·   Define blended learning

·   Identify opportunities for and benefits to blended learning

Defining and Identifying Blended Learning

·   Watch What is Blended Learning?

·   Watch Blended Learning in Action

·  Discuss with team teachers how they might employ blended learning activities with their students.

·   Small group discussion and sharing

·   Peer feedback on small group presentations

Application

·   Learners will work with teams in shared Word documents (O365) to make a list of those skills that they find most important to their students’ success.

Building Community through Collaboration

·   Create a shared Word document in Office 365 (O365) (Instructor will model this process)

·   Participate in an online discussion by collaborating in an online document.

·  Share the collaborative document with the school principal and technology instructor.

·   Shared collaborative document.

·   Collaborative list of curriculum skills and goals

Stage 1:

·   Learners will recognize the benefits of online collaboration.

·   Learners will continue work in collaborative documents as others share their most effective strategies for addressing skills for success at their grade level.

·   Learners will consider ways in which technology could be used to address these strategies.

Collaborative creation

·   Discuss the benefits to collaborating in one document as opposed to separate documents

·   Participate in discussion of strategies and technology tools as a means of teaching/learning

·   Online discussion in O365.
Stage 2:

·   Learners will become familiar with online tools that effectively address the skills listed in their collaborative document.  

·   Learners will explore features and benefits of select apps available on classroom iPads.

·   Learners will make individual requests for future work with apps of their choosing.

Analysis of online tools

·   Explore the Self Service library of apps provided to teachers by the district/technology instructor

·   Work with teams to brainstorm some ways that specified apps could be used in the classroom (using a shared document)

·   View examples of completed work in select apps

·   Share work with one another using available tools

·   Teacher requests for push-in integration.
Stage 3:

·   Learners will work with the technology instructor to plan an integrative “push-in” to execute this lesson.

Collaborative planning of blended learning strategy

·   Discuss and plan with the technology instructor the goals and objectives of the planned lesson.

·   Collaborate with the tech instructor to create a timeline regarding the lesson.

·   Determine the teacher/integrationist roles throughout the lesson.

·  Discuss how the lesson will be assessed (expectations).

·   Completed collaborative integration plan.
Stage 4:

·   Learners will take the lead on instruction following the introduction and gradual release by technology integrationist.

·   Learners will collect student work, sharing examples with integrationist.

·   Learners will share their experiences with their teaching teams.

·   Learners will provide feedback to the integrationist regarding the lesson.

Reflecting on Learning

·   Learn with the students as online tools are introduced by technology integrationists as a part of the lesson.

·   Teachers will gradually take over the role of technology facilitator in the lesson.

·   Collect work digitally, using appropriate tools.

·   Reflect on the lesson in team PLC, sharing the strategy and results with team teachers.

·   Teacher as learner in the classroom

·   Collection of student work

·   Teacher ownership in the lesson

·   Reflection and sharing in PLC

·   Teacher feedback (regarding the integration process)

My Timeline

Date Person/Team Responsible Activity
August, 2017 – 1 hour

Beginning of the school year

Presentation Link

The Definition of Blended Learning

Blended Learning in Action

Building Administration

Principal and Assistant Principal

Technology Instructor (aka Integrationist)

Introduction to Blended Learning (slideshare)


Small group online discussion and presentation to building teachers. (district account- O365)

September, 2017 – 1 hour PLC (Grade-level Team Meeting) Small group discussion

Collaborative document and list of skills to address throughout the school year. (district account – O365)

September, 2017 – 2.5 hours

Instructional materials will be specific to grade level and in-district accounts and purchased apps.

SIP (1/2 Day) 

District Administration and Technology Instructor/Integrationist

Collaborative discussion with district-wide grade-level teachers.

(Sharing/Modeling strategies and technology tools in the classroom.)

October, 2017 – 30 minutes

Apps Exploration

Staff Meeting

Principal and Asst. Principal

Tech Instructor/
Integrationist

(Each teacher should bring an iPad from his/her grade-level cart.)

Model use of Self Service on building iPads.

Grade-level team members will explore tools/apps available on iPads.

Discuss experiences and uses of recommended apps as tools for blended learning.

October, 2017 – 1 hour PLC (Grade-level Team Meeting) Work with team teachers to suggest strategies and apps for blended learning.

Share and discuss Integration Plans for “push-in”.

October, 2017 – as needed

Planning Worksheet

Integration Team

Tech Integrationist and Teacher/Team

One-on-one collaboration and planning for “push-in” integration in the classroom (planning worksheet).
November, 2017 –
15 minutes
Staff Meeting

Principal and Asst. Principal

Technology Instructor/Integrationist

Teachers will share experiences (successful or non-successful) regarding the use of tools/apps in blended learning strategies.
November, 2017 – 1 hour PLC (Grade-level Team Meeting) Discuss technology integration plans for “push-in”.

Share integration experiences.

November, 2017 –
as needed
Classroom teacher and Technology instructor/ integrationist Push-in Integration in the classroom according to Planning Worksheet.
December, 2017 –
15 minutes
Staff Meeting

Principal and Asst. Principal

Technology Instructor/Integrationist

Teachers will share experiences (successful or non-successful) regarding the use of tools/apps in blended learning strategies.
December, 2017 – 1 hour
PLC (Grade-level Team Meeting) Discuss technology integration plans for push-in.

Share integration experiences.

December, 2017 – varies
Feedback Form
Classroom teacher and Technology instructor/ integrationist Push-in Integration in the classroom according to Planning Worksheet.
Feedback regarding integration experiences.

Push-in, sharing, and discussions may be ongoing as needed throughout the school year.

MATERIALS

August 2017

September 2017

Apps Exploration

October 2017

Integration Planning Worksheet

December 2017

Feedback Form

Call to Action

Why

Professional Learning in my school district is ineffective. While I’m sure the intentions of our district administrators are good, it is a rare occasion that I walk away from a professional learning experience feeling inspired, or with knowledge of something that will make me a more effective technology instructor. In my mind, professional learning should focus on making my colleagues and I better teachers, and more effective at presenting engaging lessons. Instead, it focuses on teaching us how to assess data, how to navigate our new curriculum, how to administer standardized testing, and how to manage other district mandated tools. None of these have anything to do with our effectiveness as actual educators. They are also not specific to our disciplines.

I am a technology instructor. I have very little use for the district mandated curriculum, which focuses on core subjects. I also have very little use for the data that comes from standardized assessments, because technology is not among the skills assessed. My attendance as well as that of my friends from the music, art and physical education departments is mandatory at these meetings, which are an extremely ineffective use of our time.

My district has invested a lot of money into making iPads and laptops accessible to students throughout the district. But they have invested very little time in providing training for our teachers to use the devices effectively. It is a goal of my Innovation Plan (MoBLE) to convince our administrators that our teachers need training and time to create more blended learning environments in which they can use the devices that have been made available to them.

What

The video below calls attention to the five key principles of effective (professional) learning. My video does not focus on professional learning exclusively, as my feeling is that these key principles apply to learners of all ages. We are all learners, no matter what the age, and no matter what the environment. And we are all teachers to some extent, as we share our knowledge with others. So I like to think that my video will appeal to a more general audience than just my administration.

How

I began by writing a summary of my argument for more effective learning experiences. After watching Denise Duarte’s video about creating more effective visual presentations, I decided to avoid PowerPoint and create a video instead (Stanford, 2013). (I’ve never been a fan of PowerPoint, and wanted to do something more challenging and creative.) My plan was to create a video. After hearing Dr. Sue Bedard’s web-conference reminder that it needed to be short and to the point, and that it needed to get her attention in order for her to want to watch it, I decided to base it on a successful PSA called The More You Know.

With the understanding that I couldn’t copy the tagline from the 20170313_183104aforementioned PSA, I decided on one of my own. Teaching with learning in mind seemed to address the overall message of my presentation and is a tagline that could be repurposed in future projects. I searched for free-to-use resources as I planned my project, finding an animated background by MotionArray, and piano music by Di Evantile, both of which granted permission for non-monetized use of the resources.

My plan was to use Adobe Premiere and Aftereffects to create my video. (It’s something I have experience in, and it’s been installed on my laptop, but haven’t used in a few years.) I also planned on using a green screen, which meant Windows Movie Maker wasn’t an option since it doesn’t support layered video. I pulled my green screen out of storage and had my husband help me to convert the storage room in my basement into a green screen studio. That’s where I recorded my video.

I typed up my script in Windows Movie Maker as20170313_191616 scrolling credits, which I used as a teleprompter. I recorded it in front of the green screen, and seemed to have all the resources I need to put the movie together… only to be interrupted by a family tragedy which brought everything to a halt – and seven family members from Florida to my home for the weekend. By the time I was able to assemble everything in Premiere, it was crunch time.

Stanford Graduate School of Business (2013, February 19). Nancy Duarte: How to Create     Better Visual Presentations. Retrieved March 3, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so9EJoQJc-0.