Saturday, June 23, 2012

Innovative Learning Designs Grant Phase 2 - The Kick Off Session

Back near the end of May I blogged about the exciting things that were happening in my school. The most exciting was that my school was successful with our Innovative Learning Designs Grant proposal application.  Now that the technology order has been placed my school district felt it was important that all successful schools meet and learn a little more about the journey we are about to embark on.

On June 5th  my friend, work colleague, and grant team member Erica Segec and I  joined many of the other successful grant winning schools at a day of learning.   We started the day by talking about how important it was for our journey to be a collaborative inquiry.  Our team of five has two primary and three intermediate teachers on it.  Julie and I (the primary teachers) have every intention of working together and sharing our learning.  Erica, Heidi, and Megan will be doing the same.  But our collaborative inquiry will go beyond that as the five of us, along with our administration plan to meet regularly and share our learning both with one another, and with our entire staff.

Taking Stock

The first part of the day looked at taking stock.  Erica and I review our grant proposal.  For the primary team we are looking at utilizing technology to improve the literacy skills of our students, enhance global inter-connectedness, and explore passion based learning.  Our intermediate team is looking at utilizing technology to facilitate inquiry based learning, global inter-connectedness, impossible2possible, and personal/differentiated learning.  We talked about our collaborative inquiry, about meeting regularly as a team, and about sharing out our thinking and practice.

The morning continued with us looking at the connections to what we are already doing.  Erica and I talked about differentiated learning and how with technology we will be able to expand that even more.  This new technology will allow our students to better explore their passions, and show what they know in so many different formats.

We then moved on to revisiting our action plan.  First off we want to get the technology into the hands of our students.  We want to be able to utilize technology to allow our students to show their learning in ways that suit them best and  to push them outside their comfort zone by helping them to learn new ways of doing things. We want to open their minds to global connectedness and utilize technology to better access a wider range of just right materials.

For the next part of the morning we looked at evidence of student learning.  Through our influx of technology we are looking for improvements in reading.  More specifically we are looking at increased comprehension though better access to more personally specific texts.  We are looking for transformational learning of key topics through pre and post assessment on their views on key topics such as what is leadership, or what is water, or what is a student, or what is a global citizenship.

Talking Stock

The second part of the day focussed on us having conversations around our specific inquiry. Erica and I  looked at what we already know, what we are wondering, and what we are hoping to learn (or are learning).  We already know that differentiation works, descriptive feedback is far more powerful/effective than grades, and that passion based learning engages students.  We are wondering how technology will enable us to better met the different/unique needs of our learners.  We are also wondering about how connecting globally will affect our students perceptions of the world.  In addition Erica and I were wondering about how we are going to share this great learning with our parent community.

Through the discussions with other schools Erica and I are learning to/that...

  • taking risks is important
  • we cannot see/direct where the learning will go
  • we are co-learners with our students
  • BookCreator is a poplular iPad app
  • iPads need to be used for a specific purpose
  • a private YouTube channel will be important to share work

In the afternoon we were lead through a twitter tutorial. As someone very comfortable using, connecting, and learning via twitter I was able to help others try to understand how powerful it really is.  It was great for me to see my good friend Erica explore twitter.  She can see the incredible information it holds and hopefully she will start to utilize it too. It was pretty cool to see so many people in my school district start to explore twitter.  In fact I LOVE how my school district puts so much value in the learning and sharing that is happening there.  I don't need to go into how incredible I think twitter is, and how it has completely changed me as an educator.

After the twitter exploration we were shown a few open ended iPad apps.  It was stressed that this is not a MUST HAVE apps list, but simply a place to possibly start.  I agree with the team that there really is no perfect iPad App list as each app meets a different need or purpose and we all have different needs or purposes to meet.  Some of the Apps shared included Explain Everything, Keynote, Book Creator, iBooks, PuppetPals (director's pass),  Comic Life, iMovie, NFB PixStop, Videolicious, Dropbox, QRafter, and Snapseed.

In Summary

We ended the day  looking at what our next steps are.  Since Erica and I were the only two from our team able to attend this session we set up our next steps.  In no particular order they are as follows:

  1. Over the summer holidays get iPads into the hands of the grant proposal teachers who don't already own personal iPads.
  2. Meet and share our learning with the rest of the team.
  3. Explore possibilities connected to our learning goals.
  4. Review other schools' grant proposals to see if  others have similar inquiry questions.
  5. Apps - what's available, what are they for, how do I use them?
  6. How do we get the parents on board with our goals?
  7. How do we successfully share what we are doing with our parent community?
  8. *Gain a greater comfort level with the  technology available to us.

*As a member of this team I am very comfortable with technology but most of my team members are not.  For me it is HUGE that I do everything I can to make them more comfortable with using technology. They are very well aware that I am willing and able to help them when ever and where ever I can.

Having this technology grant really makes the 2012-13 school year an exciting time at my school.

Now I'm curious to know have you ever been part of a technology grant proposal? What things should we keep in mind as we learn, and discover along side of our students? I'd love to hear from you.

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