Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - F2F Feedback

In my most recent post in my hybrid/blended PD series, Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - Make it Relevant, I was about to embark on my 3rd face-to-face meeting with the teachers. I have met with the groups and have to say, I think relevancy was definitely the thing to focus on, for two reasons.
1) After almost 3 months working together, with 2 previous face-to-face meetings and 2 online components, the teachers are feeling comfortable with each other and really willing to voice their frustrations, ask for help or ideas, and share strategies.
2) They feel much more comfortable with the software themselves and are actually thinking of how it could work with their students, so they are want lessons that fit what they teach, since that's an easier stretch as they try something new.
How did these two reasons fit into my goal for this third face-to-face meeting of making it relevant?  As I said previously
Lesson Three: Make the activities and learning relevant to the teachers every-day teaching practice.  By providing activities that focus on learning the skills, how to integrate technology appropriately, and also cohere to the specific content and curriculum the teachers must follow, it is more likely that they will begin to change their own practice.  If they can see the relevancy to their own daily experience, they are going to be more willing to implement new tools and strategies.
The first part of the meeting we spent sharing out what happened in the classrooms when teachers tried to implement some lessons in the classroom. The teachers were so open about both the good and the bad experiences, and it was gratifying to me to see the level of support for each other.  One person had problems with students getting distracted when at the computers and not focusing on the lesson, so several others offered suggestions on how to address that problem (allow software play time, have students work in pairs, do the activity as a whole class first, etc.) Several teachers stepped up to show what their students had done or said, so that was great. The most important thing that came out of this was that many of them spoke up to say they struggled with implementing a lesson because it wasn't what they were teaching, to which others offered alternate lessons they had found on Sketchpad LessonLink, or offered ways they modified the current activities to fit.

Reason 1 fits into relevancy because teachers were open enough to share what was going on, and the need for relevancy to their every day teaching experience was very apparent in what and how they shared. The teachers were not afraid to share what they were feeling and experiencing, were willing to try things, and were really wanting to continue implementing Sketchpad with their students, which was great to see and hear. At the same time, they vented their frustration about implementing activities these past two months that did not always fit what they had to teach and expressed the desire to use activities that addressed content specifically matched the curriculum/content they were teaching. This solidified for me that relevancy was a crucial issue to focus on going forward.

The rest of our face-to-face time was spent learning some new skills of the software related to upcoming activities that were chosen based on their curriculum and creating student web pages in LessonLink to help them get ready for using the software in computer labs.  A majority of time was spent using Sketchpad LessonLink to find relevant lessons specific to content they would be teaching.  The teachers were engaged, collaborating, and excited about finding lessons, and for me, the exciting part was being able to focus on specific Sketchpad skills relevant to the lessons they found.

Reason 2 fits in with my goal of relevancy because since the teachers were more comfortable with both Sketchpad and Sketchpad LessonLink, they were not bogged down with how-to's, rather they focused on what resources and lessons would help them teach math dynamically to their students. They have almost gotten past their fear of the tools themselves (there is still some uncertainty and fear of course, more to do with using it with students at this point) to focusing on how the tools can help support their instruction. Being able to find lessons and activities that directly connect to the math content they are teaching, and having the chance to try those activities out, learn the math and software skills associated with those activities, and get feedback and advice from others, has made the thought of using technology to teach math a more natural occurrence in their lesson planning.

Relevancy matters in professional development if you want change to happen.  Like anything, it is a slow process, and as I am learning from this experience, comes AFTER providing the necessary skills and tools to develop a level of confidence, and after creating a collaborative, supportive community (see my previous posts relating to this).

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