Saturday, October 22, 2011

Digital Fabrication

This week a group of our JH teachers attended a workshop facilitated by Laura Deisley on Digital Fabrication. The concept of this is something I had tried to share with them briefly to give them a frame of reference. However, I don't think any of the teachers actually got it until the workshop.

Digital Fabrication involves translation of a digital design into a physical object. There is a great support site available for educators on this type of technology called FabLab Ideas for Teachers & Educators. A good overview of the technology is seen in the video below.

If you really want a look into the not-so-distant future, take a look at this video on 3D printing.

Our teachers really "got it" during the workshop and immediately started planning the use of this technology with their curriculum. I told a group of educators this week that one of the transformations that has occurred recently on our campus is that our teachers have become curriculum designers, not just "standards meeters." This is just one more piece of evidence of that statement.

Now, we have the wonderful problem of our teachers wanting to move faster than our technology department can keep up. We'll have to negotiate some things in order to make all of the teachers' plans a reality but I am only too happy to work on that challenge! It is a small hurdle to overcome and the end result is that our students will benefit from even more opportunities for design, inquiry and rigor. I can't wait to see what our students design!

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Differentiated Professional Development

The past 2 weeks have been incredibly busy for me. Our school, this past Monday, had 8 Apple PD Trainers on our campus. My goal for this day was to make it as productive as possible for our teachers. Paul Tarantiles of Apple and I worked hard to come up with some workshop topics that would meet the needs of our faculty. Then, I had the teachers sign up for the sessions of their choice. Once they signed up, I determined which classes made and which needed to be cut. The result was an incredibly successful day. Giving teachers choice is just one way I see that we can effectively have differentiated Professional Development.

One of the most successful workshops of the day was titled Documentary Filmmaking. So why was it so successful? Teachers were active. It was not a "sit and get" environment. To learn the process, they made their own documentary film based on building a table. Then they spent the afternoon pulling together the concept and applying it to their own curriculum. The teachers left the day with a plan in hand as to how they can apply it to their classroom. I heard nothing but good things from teachers about that session. Because the teachers were allowed to be active, they felt the workshop met their needs.

When we talk about differentiation as it is applied to a classroom, we often say that three things can be differentiated: content, process and product. Content was differentiated on Monday by way of teachers choosing which sessions they wanted to attend. In the Documentary Filmmaking session, the process was differentiated with teachers active in the process. Product was also differentiated in that session since teachers left the session with an individualized plan for their own classroom and content.

Now the question is how do we make that sort of PD the norm? I'm still working on that one.

Design Thinking part 2

So I have lacked follow-through on posting this article. After our exhausting weekend with Reimagine Ed: Designing the Future of K-12 Libraries, I presented my 6th grade students with the question of how they would design the library of the future. You can read some of their ideas on our class blog here. They had much less difficulty dreaming and coming up with big ideas. Now, the kids I teach for the most part LOVE libraries and books. They are the kind of kids that read for fun! So when I posed the question, they really went to town. That leads me to think that the process would be less draining on them than it was on the adults at the summit.

In addition, our Media Center Specialists who attend the event with me came away with some great ideas for how to change the physical spaces on campus we call Media Centers or Libraries. Our school is undergoing the planning for phase one of that redesign and phase 2 should come next year. I can't wait to see some of the ideas come to life!

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