Monday, July 30, 2012

2012 1:1 Learning Initiative Training {Part 1}

Each year, we provide a training for our teachers involved in our 1:1 Learning Initiative program.  As we are in the process of moving away from using netbooks as district-provided devices and instead using Apple devices (MacBook Pros for teachers and MacBook Airs for students), this year we provided separate trainings for our teachers.  For the 2012-2013 school year, our 6th and 7th grade students will be utilizing Dell netbooks and 8th grade and several high school teachers will have carts of MacBook Airs.

The first part of our summer training was developed by myself (Sarah Wood) and Kelly McGee for 6th and 7th grade teachers.  In our continued effort to design our training to meet the needs of our teachers and students, we designed everything in our training so that we were modeling ideas and techniques and engaging our teachers in the training instead of having them passively sit and listen to us talk.  Due to the many activities going on this summer, we had a small group of 4 teachers, which allowed for many open discussions and fun learning.

All documentation, links and resources for the training can be found here.  Below are some highlights of the training.

Day 1: (Agenda found here)
As we planned the training, we wanted to build on the training from last year as well as provide effective training and learning for the participating teachers.  As trainers, we hoped to provide some unique learning experiences that would help the teachers understand the role of the teacher as a facilitator in the PBL learning environment as well as use technology as a tool in this process (not the focus of the process).

PBL Review
We started out the day with some discussion about the teachers' preparation for the 2011-2012 school year based on the training from last year, their experiences, and ways we move forward based on their experiences.  As trainers, we learned that many of the teachers could recall activities from last year's training and that they often referenced the materials we posted online for the training.  We wanted to point this fact out to the teachers because this is the type of environment we want to build for our students - a place where learning is fun and the information sticks because of the teaching environment.

After our discussion, we started out by reviewing the 7 Essentials for Project Based Learning article from last year.  To put a fun twist on looking at an article, we had numbers hidden in balloons that corresponded to one of the "essentials" stated in the article.  We told teachers to figure out a way to pop the balloons to find out their essential element that they would research further.  We asked each teacher to read the article (focusing on their essential element) and then answer the following questions:
  1. What does your essential element mean to you?
  2. What does your essential element mean to students?
  3. What is an example of your essential element?
We asked them to share their findings in a creative way.  We had a few videos, a graphic organizer and a Google Presentation (findings are listed in the Day 1 Agenda).

Bridge Building Activity

All documentation, links and resources for this activity can be found here.  Below are some highlights of the activity.

As we were planning the training, we wanted to focus on the things that we have heard from teachers throughout the year as things they struggled with as they worked through building a PBL learning environment.  One thing we noticed and heard from teachers was understanding their role as a facilitator in the learning process.  Some struggle with how to let go of the "teacher at the front" while others struggled with what to do after they have let go (as well as those in between).

To provide a learning opportunity that was meant to spark discussion, we had the teachers build a bridge.  The catch to this activity was that they were given minimal direction and the activity leaders (trainers), provided "guidance" that changed the course of the activity.  The purpose was to put the teachers in the role of the student and we would facilitate the activity.  To read more about the activity, click here.

As facilitators, it was interesting to watch the interaction and listen to the dialogue after the activity about what worked and what didn't work.

Ice Cream Activity

All documentation, links and resources for this activity can be found here.  Below are some highlights of the activity.

After lunch we wanted to engage the teachers in an activity to get everyone's minds thinking about curriculum connections.  We planned for everyone to make their own ice cream using some simple ingredients.  Using directions found from Indian River Schools' web site, each teacher made their own ice cream (we also had some toppings to make it taste a little more exciting).  While everyone was shaking their bags to make their ice cream, we talked about how an activity such as this could be used in the classroom as an introduction to a lesson/unit.  We also discussed possible curriculum connections that could be made with this particular activity.  A short activity like this seemed to be something feasible for teachers to do with their students on one of our Early-Release Fridays.  To read more about the activity, click here.

Curriculum Planning
After our ice cream activity, we started selecting standards that we would be working on developing a lesson/unit plan for Day 2.  Each teacher was asked to pick one or two of their standards they would like to work on the following day - we suggested standards that they would like to add a fresh twist to or something that they have not taught before.  We told them that if they were working on a standard that they have previously taught, we would like them to plan something completely new and different from what they have done before, this time using some of the elements we had discussed in developing a PBL lesson/unit.

Day 2: (Agenda found here)
Our Day 2 began with a recap of Day 1 and an overview of what we were going to be working on for the day.  To get everyone thinking about standards and planning, we shared a tool with everyone that could be helpful in developing driving questions.  In the blog post, "How to create driving questions for my projects?" found on the BIE blog, the author discussed how the TubricTM could be used for teacher professional development or for helping students create their own driving questions.  The teachers found this to be a good tool for helping them organize their thoughts and could definitely see students using it for supporting their learning.  The video below demonstrates the Tubric.

Curriculum Planning
The remainder of the day was spent planning PBL lessons and units using the information we had learned throughout our training last year and this year.  As our training last year introduced the teachers to many different web tools and resources, this year the focus was not on learning about new tools or resources, but the implementation of them.  As trainers, it was exciting to see that including these tools in their discussions and planning had become more natural and they seemed more comfortable using them.

We started working on an unit for the 6th grade team.  The science teacher decided she wanted to work on her standard that addressed plate tectonics.  The math teacher was trying to work in her standard with histograms, but as a group, we were struggling to make a relevant connection between the standards.  As we researched, talked, and brainstormed ideas, we were able to come up with a project that not only incorporated all subject areas, but also fit in with their service learning project.  The teachers decided to use the study of plate tectonics as a starting point for looking at things globally and the effects of the environment can impact people around the world.  The teachers were going to try and contact some local organizations and make first aid/survival kits for people impacted by forces of nature and donate them to the Red Cross.  The start of their plan can be found here.

The 7th grade teachers had previously discussed their service learning project and also decided to use that as a way of building a cross-curricular PBL unit.  After helping the 6th grade plan their unit and gathering their own ideas for their unit, the 7th grade planning went a little faster and allowed them to start mapping out their year with project goals and deadlines.  The 7th grade team plans on starting "Rebel C.A.R.E.S.", which will help students understand how environmental issues are connected to one another as well as to their lives.  Their plan has many components that will be carried our over the course of the school year.  The start of their plan can be found here.


Each year, we hope to build and grow our program by building a knowledge-base for our teachers, who can in turn, share with their students.  As we continue to focus on using the devices as support tools in the learning environment, we strive in providing our teachers with the necessary support for implementing their ideas and utilizing the tools and resources available to them to the best of their ability.  Our devices are simply tools in providing students and teachers access to a wide knowledge-base, and our curriculum and collaboration allows us to effectively utilize these tools.


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