#CFISinnovate17: My first organized school-wide PD session

Over the past few weeks, I have been engaged with planning and organizing a Preschool to Grade 12 Professional Development day for all the educators, support staff, and specialist at Calgary French & International School.

I was originally inspired to organize an event like this through various conversations I have had with the Head of School regarding the organization of a “marketplace” PD, that allows different educators to share their expertise with others. This is also known as a mini conference, that our ECE and Elementary Division have done from time to time. As I have built relationships with the staff across all three divisions of the school, I was really inspired to be able to take advantage of the expertise that we have within the walls of the school to organize a school-wide PD or mini-conference. We often bring in experts from outside to work with our teachers during PD day’s, yet we have so many experts that are available on the inside. Furthermore, teachers are often attending professional development outside of the school, and yet are not often given the chance to share some of the things they have learned and been able to put into practice in their own classroom. Therefore, after reading the Innovators Mindset, and participating in the #ETCoaches online Book Study, I was so inspired to bring alive the “Marketplace” idea, that I took the risk in asking the principles from each division if I could organize this event. They all thought this was a fantastic idea and over the next few weeks helped me contact teachers or provided suggestions on who may be interested in presenting.

When meeting with the Innovation Reps in the Elementary and ECE division, and with curriculum teams in the secondary division, I made it very clear when I approached everyone that they did not have to feel at all obligated to present during the PD. However, what I did do, is share individually one thing they are doing that I feel is innovative and exciting and that others would like to learn about. I felt this created a trust between myself and the teachers, and everyone seemed extremely excited and happy to share. I also explained that I would like to build in time to allows the attendees to build, play, explore or try anything that would be presented, so to consider framing their session around 15 minutes of instruction with 30 minutes exploration.

Once I had a good number of teachers willing to present, I was determined to make this a professional development day, like nothing the school has scene before. And had a goal to create the feeling as if everyone was attending a high caliber conference. To do this, I modeled what I learned from a conference I attended last year and created a website with: the schedule, descriptions of sessions, registration page, a page for session resources, and a hashtag for the event: #CFISinnovate17. Furthermore, as things fell into place, I was also able to organize a keynote speaker to begin and end the day, in addition to integrated built-in reflection time.

What was also so positive, is that in in the weeks leading up to #CFISinnovate17, everyone shared with me how excited they were to be able to share their passions and expertise with others.

Overall, I am so impressed with how the school came together and got an opportunity to learn together across all three divisions. The positive responses while reading the feedback survey and everyone’s individual reflections was overwhelmingly positive. In addition, a number of teachers who presented for their first time, thanked me at the end of the day for believing in them and encouraging them was inspiring. Overall, this has been such an amazing experience and definitely a highlight of my career so far, that I have asked if I could do this again next year.

Here are some highlights from some of the attendees’ reflections:

“I was impressed with the caliber of the presentations and by my knowledgable colleagues.”

“We need more sessions like today. Today was a fantastic day.”

“Can we do more PD like this???? This was awesome!”

“This staff is a treasure chest of resources.”

“What a wonderful day of presentations from our colleagues. Thank you for organizing them!”

“All the presenters, were passionate and interesting and truly “formidable”.

“The best ressources for a teacher is often inside of a school!! What a powerful PD session.”

“The presenters were very prepared and great resources on their chosen topics. I enjoyed the sessions very much.”

“We have GREAT resources at our school, we need to use them more.”

“This was a great opportunity to meet other CFIS staff and having the freedom to choose what we learned for PD was very refreshing!!” ”

“Today I was inspired by some amazing presentations. I am so lucky to have the colleagues I have.”

My reflection for improvements for next year:

  • More break time in between sessions.
  • An announcement on the PA system 2 minutes before the next session begins to remind teachers to go to their next session.
  • Choosing a different time of year, as many teachers were at school quite late the days prior with parents-teacher conferences.
  • Finding additional time to allow teachers to revisit what they were introduced to and having time to put into practice what they learned.
  • Have one hour sessions instead of 45-minute sessions.

In the meantime, I would like to explore the implementation of #ObserveMe and the use of a #PineappleChart in the staffroom, throughout the school. Now that we have got everyone motivated and inspired, I want to be able to provide additional opportunities for staff to connect with our internal experts and allow for teachers to go into classrooms to observe and see what they learned during #CFISinnovate17 in action.

To learn more about #CFISinnovate17 and some of the sessions that were offered, check out the PD website and the Storify Twitter Feed.

Being a “change agent”

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.  How are you embracing change to spur  innovation in your own context?

I try to embrace change every day and every way because I see myself as a change agent. Like George, I was also hired into a new position, as Director of Educational Technology & Innovation, to provide support to teachers and to help lead the way in innovating student learning at my school.

When I first started, I was assigned a teacher per grade level in the elementary division, as a “tech rep”, with whom I would meet with weekly to plan and discuss how we could integrate technology into their curriculum. Unfortunately, due to many challenges with technology and the school’s unreliable infrastructure, teachers felt very frustrated and found it hard to take risks in integrating tech into their classroom. Furthermore, most of my one-on-one meeting time turned into providing tech support and help troubleshoot issues, instead of planning.

After building trust in my team, and after several improvements were made to our infrastructure and tech support, I thought it would be a good time to refocus my team and get everyone back on track to invest their time with me on innovating their grade levels. Soon after, I changed their title from tech rep to innovation rep, to better reflect their role. Though we do discuss a lot about tech integration, I remind them that their role is to be a model of how to integrate, not just technology into the classroom, but to look at ways to innovate student learning. I constantly remind them that “Innovation can happen without technology, however technology can be used as a tool to drive innovation.”

The next step for me, in being a change agent for my team and my school was to help create a roadmap to help teachers build tech integration and project-based learning into their classroom. Over the past few months, we have been busy working all together to build our own K-12 EdTech Scope & Sequence.

As a result of having recently completed and updated grade level unit plans, the innovation reps have more easily been able to identify and link age-appropriate technology skills and projects into their curriculum.

Here is where the magic is happening: Because we have put together a scope & sequence and identified what needs to be accomplished at each grade level following the Alberta Ed ICT Learning Outcomes, those that have been more resistant to change and integrating tech into their classroom, have become more accepting that this is part of their curriculum. Also, in order to provide additional support to those that don’t feel as comfortable, my team has offered to go into their classroom and team teach. Furthermore, they have begun to model weekly, during their grade level meetings, a new innovative activity they are doing in their classroom. Little by little, the innovation reps are slowly becoming change agents for their grade level.

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#ISTE… A global technology conference where one can create a collaborative voice

Give me an I…give me an S… give me a T… give me an E… what does that spell… International Society for Technology in Education!

I can’t believe that it has now been a week since I had the privilege to attend #ISTELive and be a participant of the #NOTATISTE15 Google+ Community. Daily, from sun up to sun down, June 28th until July 1st, 2015, I collaborated with hundreds of other passionate Educational Technology Educators across the globe who were unable to attend #ISTE2015 in Philadelphia. Thanks to many of the amazing attendees on Periscope, I was able to attend poster sessions, learn more about 3D printers, maker spaces, and really get a feel for what it is like to attend ISTE in person.

I learned so much while #NOTATISTE that following the conference, I took the time to organise my thoughts and findings and put together a Google presentation.

Here is a list of my top 10 #EDTECH items from my participation in #NOTATISTE15 G+ Page, #ISTELive and while staying in tune to the #ISTE2015 Twitter Feed & Periscope.

For anyone unable to attend ISTE in person, I highly recommend registering for #ISTELive, having all your devices charged and ready to go and being prepared for several days of intense learning and global collaboration.

After this conference, I am so excited to share my new found knowledge with my staff next year and to continue to build on the relationships I established with the people I met online through this experience.

After attending this event virtually, I can’t wait to experience it in person next year in Denver.

#ISTE2016 – Here I come!