Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Starting the sharing process

The School has been trying to leverage OneNote and its sharing and syncing capabilities ever since OneNote was introduced in 2003 ... in a 1:1 tablet computer environment it's a natural fit for both teachers and students. Each page that is created can hold any kind of digital content and can be inked with as much freedom as a piece of paper. There is an organization that is familiar to those in education -- you start at pages, put pages into sections (I always think of those Hilroy separators) and then the sections into notebooks... except being digital there are no limitations (you can include audio, video, PDFs, etc) and the tablet doesn't increase in weight the more pages you add.

There have been difficulties with OneNote along the way -- although OneNote was capable of sharing a notebook between folks (so that more than one person could write on it at a time) and synchronize from a copy stored on a central server (so that you material could be in a central cloud and you would work on a copy) it never seemed to work right. Finally, though we've had a year of successful sync & share behind us... it looks like OneNote 2010 and Sharepoint 2010 are a match! It will mean that teachers will have full time access to each student's work and can provide commentary throughout. When it comes time to assess (either formatively or summatively) the student places it in a drop box, the teacher retrieves it, assesses it and places it in a read-only portfolio. A student's notebook is stored centrally so there's no concern should their laptop have a problem -- it's automatically restored when they re-sync. This is one small step towards a more collaborative and more differentiated classroom here at School. Feedback, as always, is welcome! Image Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  gordonr 

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's not you, it's me

I had a nice conversation with a colleague here ... chatting with teachers in the summer is always fun because everyone is relaxed but at this time there is also the anticipation of getting back into the classroom, so there's a great energy. He mentioned my new job and said something like "it's a great opportunity for you to bring your vision in to the classrooms."

And I had to stop him... because that's exactly the opposite of what I want to do with this job. Sure, I have a vision of what classrooms should look like -- but I'd much rather help teachers bring _their vision_ of what their classroom should look like. There are a multitude of ways to make teaching and learning better (and I'm not going to define what that means at this point) -- and if I just march on with what I think is best, it's not going to initiate any real change in the classroom.
Change has to be personal, individual, differentiated.
It has to come from whatever space the teacher is working in.
 == Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Digitalnative  ==

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Allowing for change

When I was interviewing for this position, one of the things I wanted to make clear was that when it comes to teacher-change, I wouldn't proceed too aggressively until I had dealt with the issue of time-and-space. Teachers at our school are extraordinarily busy; they wear many hats (teacher, coach, club leader, service trip organizer, residence staff ... and then they have lives) and tend to be over-scheduled during the school day. Yes we get great holidays but during the time we're in school, it's an 8-5:30 day followed by planning and marking overnight, not to mention the evening and weekend responsibilities as part of our academic and co-curricular components. So, if we're going to ask these folks to think deeply about their practice, we need to find the time by making their present work easier and more efficient. All those situations where they run in to an impediment, when they don't have the information they need at the time they need it or if they have to repeat a task that could be automated ... those are what I'm looking for right now. If I can save 1 minute out of their day, that's almost three hours over the year that I can than give to them as learning time. My push for maximizing time goes back to an old book: "Every minute counts" So far, I think I've saved about 5 minutes per teacher per year -- when we do our report cards, some of our students get letter grades rather than numeric (for a variety of reasons). The Academic Head kept a list and posted it every reporting period. Teacher would have to continually check against the list and adjust the report card manually. But the report card system would keep resetting it back to numeric at any mark change or addition -- and the teachers would be embarrassed when the number showed up on the report if they didn't continually check and double-check. No more... the AH's list is now on the student database and the report system checks against it and replaces the number with the appropriate letter. Frustration lessened and time saved. _There is time to change... but you have to make it._ Image: == Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  emilywjones  ==