Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rockin' the PD- Part 2: Hatzatah

MJGDS is a K-8 school on the path to becoming a learning organization for the 21st century. At MJGDS we are experimenting with new forms of learning, as well as exploring different tools. We have been using iPads as a creative learning tool since 2011 when we purchased a cart of 20 devices. These 20 iPads are shared throughout the school, and they are in almost constant use. 
In addition to experimentation with student learning methods and tools, we are playing with new ways of engaging teachers in professional development. The essential question is,  "How do we inspire, build and promote a culture of self-directed and self-motivated learning at the school?"
n 2011, we introduced "hatzatah הצתה " (Hebrew for Ignite) as a fun, optional challenge to our faculty. Hatzatah is our school's adaptation of a popular presentation format based on Pecha Kucha and Ignite.  Each presenter has 5 minutes to share an idea, broken down into 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds. Hatzatot could be presented in either Hebrew or English. 
We began opening each faculty meeting with a hatzatah. As people embraced the challenge we were treated to the opportunity to learn more about each other's passions. Our 21st century learning coaches were available to work with teachers as they learned this new form of self-expression. 
In January 2013, as part of our school's edcamp day, we held a hatzatah contest using the open-ended prompt, "How have iPads impacted my practice?" We were thrilled to have five teachers embrace this opportunity to win an iPad. iPad in education experts, Richard Byrne, Mike Fisher and Lisa Johnson, judged the contest, using a rubric created from our Hatzatah checklist
The feedback, from both the presenters and the audience (even the judges) was tremendous. The true "prize" was, hopefully, learning new skills and overcoming challenges. Shelly reflected, "I can honestly say I was scared to death and I wanted to drop out, but when it was over I was glad that I did it.  I started thinking that this experience made me relate better to my students.  I had forgotten the anxiety that I feel before I have to give an oral presentation."
I sat back, in a state of awe, watching and listening to the excellence that shines forth from our faculty members who took this challenge. They all worked hard to prepare and practice, and boy did it show. 
Here are the videos of the hatzatot:

3rd grade teacher, Seth Carpenter

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rockin' the PD- Part 1: Edcamp

January 18th was PD day at MJGDS. Each January, we have one day without students where the whole faculty comes together to learn. I have the enjoyable responsibility to be part of the planning and facilitating of this day, and each year I have turned to my own learning network for new ideas to make the day worthwhile.

MJGDS Edcamp
This year, our team (myself, Jon Mitzmacher and Silvia Tolisano) decided to split the day into three parts. Inspired by many schools that have  tried the format and shared their stories of success, we decided to offer MJGDS edcamp. It was introduced briefly at the preceding faculty meeting without much explanation. For those that wanted to prepare themselves in advance, we created a group on our faculty Ning where we shared blog posts, video and other resources that described edcamp in detail. 

Teachers writing down their sessions and checking out the choices!
We have a small faculty, so we offered three, 45 minute sessions in each time block, for a total of nine offerings.  I stopped in to each of the sessions, mostly listening, at times jumping in, and taking photos and video for my own reflection on the process and its impact. It is hard to put into words the feeling I had as I watched teachers "own the learning." I have often wondered if our school's change and growth is sustainable for the long-term. I am now certain that initiatives like The Daily 5, student blogfolios and student-led conferences have ignited a spark and will continue to grow and evolve at MJGDS.

MJGDS Edcamp! from Andrea Hernandez on Vimeo.

Many of the teachers reflected afterwards on the Ning, and the reviews were all positive.

The whole wondrous thing about EdCamp is that it starts out from the initial activity as a self-driven, interactive way to increase and add to one's skills and professional repertoire.  The style is reminiscent of a self-serve restaurant.  You go and get what you want, and if it's not on the menu, you have the option to bring your own along with you and  share with others. -Seth Carpenter, 3rd grade general studies teacher

Edcamp was such a great alternative to our usual Professional Development days! ...We have so many knowledgeable faculty members but we don't necessarily know what their area of interest is. Now we know more. -Arlene Yegelwel, Kindergarten general studies teacher
I think everyone was so excited and so eager to learn and contribute!!  I feel like everyone wasn't rushing out of the door at the end of the day.  People mingled to talk more about the day!  It was just such a wonderful day full of positive energy and learning!!  I am so glad I was able to be a  part of it.  I am so anxious and excited for our next PDD!!! -Pamela Lewis, 1st grade general studies
 I was totally hyped up all afternoon and into the evening.  I found the day 100% interesting and educational.  I loved the “Edcamp” theme.  From the moment I walked into the building I felt the vibe of enthusiasm. I thought the idea of being able to learn and discuss whatever we wanted to was great.  I like choice and this is what I was given. -Shelly Zavon, 5th grade general studies