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In recent days I’ve been mulling over what is the best way to present professional development for educators. As I’m scheduled this week to give an after school PD, I am reflecting on recent conversations about what is most effective. I have come to the conclusion that PD cannot be standardized, and there will always be those who consider PD a classic #fail.  How do we get our PD? There are plenty of models that have there own degree of effectiveness.

 

One size fits all

In this model, educators all attend the same PD opportunity. In my own experience, this generally happens in schools when there is an initiative being rolled out and administrators want to make sure teachers understand and hopefully embrace or buy-in whatever is the said program or concept. From my own teaching context, I can think of several: Olweus, a bullying program, High Schools That Work, Assertive Discipline, a guest speaker, “Working on the Work”,  Common Core, and so much more come to mind.

 

Beat it to fit, paint it to match

Sometimes I think some PD is the same as previous PD, just repackaged. I like to call these kinds of training sessions “beat it to fit, paint it to match.” Initially we all think of these staff developments as something new, but it doesn’t take long to realize it’s the same ol’ thing with a new package or name. Sigh. These kinds also build anger or resentment.

 

Training specialized for teams or departments

Often times the PD is channeled toward groups. Fine Arts and Physical Education teachers often have their own kind of PD that wouldn’t always be relevant to core content area educators. My own specialized group, Librarians, often get left out of specialized PD. I feel wronged when this happens, as I think especially for a position that serves the entire school, I should be aware of changes, what is new, or focus for these groups too. I like to know so I can work towards relevancy with these groups and their students using their initiatives.

 

How long is right?

Often teachers and other educators argue over the length of PD. In my very recent past, I have seen teachers bring to PD sets of papers to grade. In a way it’s insulting, particularly to the one leading the PD, but on the flip side of that, nowadays people multitask and do it well. When someone one is struggling to understand a concept, there comes a point in the learning called “information overload,” and it’s not the same for everyone.  When an attendee reaches that point, they potentially become a distraction. There are often quite a variety of levels (just as there is in a classroom full of students) and so if there isn’t any accommodation for differentiated learning (in levels and styles) many leave a PD session frustrated, resentful, and sometimes even downright angry. Especially with professionals, it is challenging to plan for the different levels. What is the prefect solution?

 

My own situation

I am involved with offering technology training in my working context. I get an additional stipend if it takes place outside of the normal school day. In the past we have provided two day summer opportunities, but attendance has been optional, and often it shows with moderate to low attendance. I am also slated to lead a couple of two-hour after school events, but again these are optional, and yes, it shows. The last one I led was on file management, and targeted teachers who are still struggling with understanding digital files on the network. This was advertised throughout the entire district. Many admitted they desperately needed the info. There was a large number who expressed interest, but contacting me only to ask if there was a way to get the information since they could not attend an after school session. FIVE actually attended, despite a great response to the advertised after school PD session. Bummer. 

 

Why stay when I can get it during the school day….

There are also those teachers who won’t attend an after school gig that will specifically address their needs (in terms of tech training) but will instead come to the library during the day to request the same information since they work in the same building with me.  My dilemma here is that I’m fighting resentment over the teacher blowing off a set time for specific training only to come and request it during the school day. Of course I generously provide the information and assistance, but it does bug me that a reason said teacher did not attend was because they knew I would give it anyway at some point during the school day if they didn’t attend. PD training is a part of the regular job of a school librarian, and to refuse (because they didn’t attend the after school thing) would be wrong. Out of professional courtesy, a desire for collegiality, and professionalism, of course I go through the training with teachers who ask for it during the school day. I do consider it a part of my “day” job. Not all feel that way though. And their negative feelings show sometimes.

 

A new approach – effectiveness to be determined

After discussing this with colleagues who are tasked with the same responsibility of providing tech training to our district, we have come up with something to try. We are going to continue offering our two-hour sessions scheduled for after school spread across the district calendar. Attendance has been widely scattered but overall POOR. In our discussions, we decided to rethink our delivery, and accommodate those with high demands on their time and availability. We will start making videos and screencasts of our training materials, breaking them up into five minute intervals. Our group is going to create a district Youtube Channel to store these videos. (I’m not sure I agree with this, as my suggestion was to use a Google Drive, and share them appropriately–we are a Google Apps for Education District.) We will then begin a marketing campaign of this stockpile of training resources so that teachers can on their own partake of the offerings–during a time when it suits and better, when it is a need.  If there is one thing I’ve learned about addressing library learning standards, they only “stick” when they are needed.  So I set off some after school time this week to create a series of five minutes screencasts based on some of my topics–> file management in our district network, Socrativee, Todays Meet, and Padlet. Some of these only need five minutes. Yay for me.

Maybe this is the best way to approach Technology Training. Time will tell.

FileManagement

File Management Training Session – Agenda

There is quite a buzz in school library land regarding the massive librarian cuts to the Philadelphia School System (from 200+ school librarians down to now just around 15.) My friends  Joyce Valenza and Jennifer Lagarde have both provided us with great action items to ensure we “educate” those powers that be who are making these drastic decisions.  Instead of responding with an outcry (kneejerk, I like to call it), we are given some goals, or rather a “to do” list for 2014:

Joyce says:

In 2014 and beyond, make sure you

  • connect with your school’s goals
  • focus on solving the problems of the people you serve (what keeps them up at night?)
  • focus on enchanting the people you serve
  • focus on learners
  • identify how your work makes a difference by collecting artifacts and evidence
  • grow (with the help of a PLN)
  • lead
  • share in noisy ways

And here is Jennifer’s interpretation with her own suggestions, again written in action statements:

Originally posted on Jennifer’s blog and licensed to share – http://www.librarygirl.net/2013/12/joyces-story-ending-is-up-to-you.html

 

How are YOU doing?

If you are not sure what the temperature is in your own teaching context, then use Joyce’s  and Jennifer’s lists as a litmus test of sorts. Assess your own situation, and give yourself either an S for satisfactory or a U for unsatisfactory.  Don’t gloat if you have more S’s than U’s. Be worried about even item you have assessed as unsatisfactory. Both of these posts are excellent motivators, and best, filled with action items to fix any U’s you may have score yourself with. Get ‘er done, folks. get ‘er done!

What you should be doing:

S/U

connect with your school’s goals

focus on solving the problems of the people you serve (what keeps them up at night?)

focus on enchanting the people you serve

focus on learners

identify how your work makes a difference by collecting artifacts and evidence

grow (with the help of a PLN)

lead

In the very least, this makes for a nice set of goals for the New Year, no?

Images:

Perception Image Licensed CC by Jennifer Lagarde

We ended our latest Lunch Book Club last week, and we are in the process of selecting our books for next semester’s clubs. Our school has designed three book clubs that align with our three lunches at school, and students who sign up (in time) get a free catered lunch. This is not the only book club we do, as we also participate when able with another group (known as the Somewhat Virtual Book Club) that meets after school and online.

 

In the beginning

I feel though I need to explain our lunchtime book clubs, maybe to inspire others. I have done these in different ways, but I like the current format the best. I have done book clubs where students signed-up and then brought their lunches to a location, usually the library. These were well attended but had an exclusive feel to them, like I was leaving a group out (primarily those whose only choice was to eat a school-provided lunch.) I’ve done book clubs IN the cafeteria where the students eat, but felt that some students opted out due to peer pressure–they actually felt they were abandoning friends by coming to my table for the book club meeting. I had some good participation in both of these scenarios, just not what I wanted.

 

Taking it to them…accommodating all the lunch options

I then changed it up to arrange for “bagged” cafeteria lunches, and students who planned for a school lunch could pick up a “to-go” bag lunch and bring it to the meeting location. I even arranged for a free-no-questions-asked-cut-in-the-lunch-line option for them. The problem with this format was that the book club had to compete sometimes with hot lunches that were more alluring (pizza or other hot food items) that couldn’t be brown bagged or made for transport.  I lost kids to the “good” lunches regularly.  (And who says kids don’t eat school lunches?)

How About Now?

Photos made from CJN’s photostream; using http://www.fotor.com.

Fast forward to the current format. Now we (with administrative blessings) advertise our book clubs WITH a free catered lunch. Sometimes we order out (like Pizza) but other times we use our very own cafeteria service to get a catered lunch, like chicken strips, deli style sandwiches, and/or desserts. We  offer a lunch that is competitive with our cafeteria and the assorted vending machines, and best, it’s FREE for our groups that sign up in time. Note: Those who sign up late are reminded to bring a lunch.

Funding is for the most part, local

We use local fund raising and fines to offset costs, though at times we have to ask for a little help from our admin. This last time we wound up purchasing around 60 paperback books and lunch enough to feed that many. We sell flash drives and ear buds to help, and I’m amazed at how many ear buds we have sold this year (at $2 each.) Being a high school, we are allowed to charge overdue fines, but every penny is funneled into our book clubs.  If students sign up by a cut off date, they get the free, catered lunch.  And this year it seems to be doing the trick! We are very excited with our numbers so far this year. Best, each of us, myself, my co-librarian, and our assistant, are taking a lunch group. So it works out well.

 

Plans are underway for January

We are each talking about a book to use for our January clubs. My lunch is considering the book Butter by Erin Jade Lange.  The other two are looking at Matthew Quick’s Boy 21 and S.T. Underdahl’s No Man’s Land. Al three of us leading book clubs will read all three titles, as we never know when we’ll possibly have to cover another’s book club group. So here’s my Christmas reading all settled. I’ve already read Butter, which was a great book! As I was working with a class on writing reviews and making book trailers using Animoto recently, I made the following as a “how-to” example from start to finish. I think I’ve made them hope they have first lunch next semester when we change schedules.

 

So, what works for you in your teaching context? I’d like to know.

 

Sometimes I share ideas with my favorite art teacher at school (Mrs. S. Eleazer), and then she amazes me with the class interpretation. She surprised me last year with some, and one of her students even won a Scholastic Art contest award with their weeded book project.

 She just runs with it!

A gift to the DHS Library from Mrs. Eleazer’s Art Sculpting class.

Fast forward to this month–again, the Art Sculpting class took on a discarded weeded books project, repurposing these books into art. I am once again amazed at the work of my friend and art teacher’s class. So of course I want to share here. I have two sets; one set is the Christmas tree, and the other set is just book sculptures. So very beautiful and we are featuring them in the library once again!

Sharing here!

So it is with pleasure that I share this year’s projects in two sets, one featuring a Christmas tree complete with “presents” made from recycled books, and then a second set of various items, including a dress, Rapunzel’s tower, and more!  we plan to “dismantle” the tree after Christmas, and try it again next year–or sooner if we feel inspired. Enjoy.
Set one: A very Merry Christmas Tree!

Set two, just as special!!:


Last year’s projects, just in case you missed them:

 

Picture Attributions:
All the pictures featured here are from my own Flickr Set.

I am happy to report that the following from my nominations have made the voting cut for their respective Edublog 2013 shortlists:

Color me stunned to just discover also that my own blog is on the short list for “Top Individual Blog.” But let me go ahead and burst my own bubble by sharing that this “short list” contains 53 nominees, and my blog is numero 36. Is that a short list? Yep, takes a little of the the shine right off of it, doesn’t it? No matter though, I’m still honored to reside on the list at all. and I will sport my badge PROUDLY. It should already be there! Not only that, but eight of the twenty librarian nominees are true face-to-face friends. Yay for my friends and all school librarians everywhere! Feeling so inspired by the nominees this year. I know there are those who poo-poo such lists, but to me THIS is the one that means more, as it is peer reviewed, selected, and voted upon.  But I am HAPPIEST to see the ones I nominated make their respective “short lists.” I encourage you to visit and vote. I will embed the voting for my own nomination, though, to enable voters an easier path to vote.  Happy voting everyone! And congrats to all the nominees who made their shortlists.

Best Individual Blog 2013 - Edublog Awards

Best Individual Blog 2013 - Edublog Awards

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    Speech Adventures

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    Seomra Ranga - Resources for the Primary School Teacher

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    headguruteacher

    headguruteacher

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If you missed this past Monday night the TL Cafe, here is the crowd sourced presentation with the tools shared:

Here is our TEXT CHAT ARCHIVE PDF - EduTech_Smackdown_Chat.pdf

TLCafe Webinar ARCHIVE (opens in Blackboard Collaborate)

UnSouled (Unwind, #3)UnSouled by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

 

I don’t know how Neal Shusterman is so capable of churning out novels that just suck me right in!! I truly dislike sequels and series, but I now cannot WAIT for the final installment in the Unwind series (er, I mean, um, new word–>”dystology”) to come out. Best, this is a series my high school guys can truly get into. Thanks, Neal for forcing me to read against my will. I think it will work for the guys in my teaching context too.

I have been seriously considering this Follett Challenge each year that it has been out, and this year I even have ideas swimming around in my head ready to spill out into a video and an application!  I’ll keep you posted on my progress. A lot of my ideas actually happen next week, so I’m charging up the camcorder to video document as we go. Two awesome projects happen with collaborating teachers, one using Destiny and Destiny Quest, (the previous link alludes to my idea, which I’ll talk about Monday evening, December 2 on the TL Cafe Annual Smackdown) and the other using Popplet with a science class research project. Actually, the Popplet project might even be a better project for the Follett Challenge. So very thankful for willing collaborative teachers at my school! They make it easy to consider these kinds of opportunities. So, tonight I add a link to sport on my sidebar, in hopes of encouraging others and myself to follow through. Who else is planning an entry in the Follett Challenge? Read about previous winners’ projects here.

 

My slide contribution for the TL Cafe 3rd Annual Tool Smackdown

That’s right. I’m stepping up to the virtual mic on Tuesday, December 2, 2013 at 8PM for the 3rd annual TL Cafe (Teacher Librarian Cafe) EduTech to share the tools I used to do a recent Book Speed Dating activity. It’s open-mic night. Will you be there??

by Gwyneth Jones


Who, What, When, Where?

It’s all online of course. Grab you headset with a mic, slap a slide in there, and step up.

In the words of the moderator herself:
It’s a rich, crowd-souced presentation/book. So grab a fresh slide (or two!) and share your Learning Tools tips, info, or resources! (Gwyneth Jones)

I hope to see many virtual friends in attendance AND participating.

Our school is experiencing an Innovation “grant,” and I’d like to thinks we can move in this direction. Thanks Scott for sharing this.

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