This week, I have been doubly blessed. First, the three principal (we call them heads) of each of the three divisions have carved out four hours of their time during the first full week back. This can be a hectic time, as they transition from summer mode into school mode, catching up with teachers, making sure schedules fit, and trying to determine who to launch a successful year.
Secondly, I am blessed that they have chosen to spend their precious time with me, learning about the new tools, and discussing and brainstorming the implications of these tools into teaching practice. For me, it is like a perfect storm, give the heads the time to be learners, give them time to collaborate with each other, which is a precious commodity in itself, and then let them reflect and strategize how to implement these tools and ideas with the rest of the faculty when they arrive in a week and a half. Our faculty and students don’t know how lucky they are to be led by such open-minded and forward thinking administrators.
On Monday, we started off by showing the videos that Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach posted on progressive education and an excerpt of Sir Kenneth Robinson’s TED talk on Creativity and Education. I have shown them how to set up and use a set of wiki pages and how various teachers around campus are going to use wikis to support their teaching and the student’s learning environments. They have talked about the use of cell phones, picture phones, text messaging, and have learned about the mosquito sound.
Today, wanting to start with reflection, I pointed them to my previous posting on the shift in how to approach the beginning of the year Internet Safety speech for students and Chris Lehmann’s Planning for Innovation post from this morning. We diverged off of the planned curriculum to talk about rss, del.icio.us, tagging and how they fit together and allow individuals to make sense of the glut of information available to them. I showed them local examples of how teachers are beginning to use these tools to add feeds to wikis to streamline the process. We had a great conversation about the need for faculty and students these tools to help them manage information and how they could use rss and the collaborative tools to enhance and enrich their administrative team meetings. I then showed them two of my personal learning networks, my Netvibes rss aggregator and my Twitter network where I think that they were overwhelmed by the information. Only then did we cover Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Earth and Google Maps and talk about the new ways that teachers are going to use them within their curriculum.
What I have enjoyed the most is the conversations that we are having about the pedagogy and practice of teaching. It is reminiscent of the conversations which I had during EduBloggerCon and at the Blogger’s Cafe at NECC. While understanding the tools is important, it is how they are applied to the practice of learning by all, faculty and students, which is paramount. At the end of the sessions, I have been drained and exhausted, and needing to spend time performing the rest of my daily functions as we get ready for the start of school.
Tomorrow, we have our last scheduled day together and the current plan is to set up rss readers, talk about blogging and podcasting. I hope that we will be able to touch base at least once or twice during the course of the year so that we can slow down time, reflect and continue the positive conversations that we have started as a group. This is always a challenge, especially as the demands of day to day school life always seem to take on a slightly higher priority. But it is during this time, somewhat freed of the other distractions, that excites me and reminds me why I started teaching in the first place.