Thursday, August 2, 2007

Inservicing teachers of tomorrow

I taught an in service academy today...was one of three presenters. Our topic: Digitizing Your Classroom. We had about 45 teachers in for the day, and we focused on uses of social networking in the classroom, creating electronic charts, and creating dynamic, non-linear PowerPoint Presentations. My focus was PowerPoints.

First off...don't ever try to use a laptop as a file server for a folder 100+ MB in size! I learned the hard way. I'd used the Mac file share feature in the past, but not for anything that big. Get 5 to 10 computers trying to get it at the same time (or whenever the computer maxed out), and everything ground to a halt. Thank God for a back-up plan...USB drives to the rescue! (In hindsight, I should have started a wikispace with the resources. Of course, I didn't realize that until about 5 a.m. yesterday and the academy started at 8:00. Oh, well.)

The technique I was trying to teach was to use buttons for navigation so the kids can jump around as they wish and to embed rich forms of media within the PPT. Why these technique? Student pacing was my big selling point. Are there students who need more time to process the provided information? Absolutely! This kind of PowerPoint allows for this kind of pacing. Students can read at their own rate, take notes at the level they deem necessary, and even replay the embedded videos if they missed something. On a rudimentary level, this a simple way to handle differentiated instruction.

Anyhow, I used plenty of hands on instruction after providing that 100+MB play file: taught a small part while having the group follow along with the provided files, let them practice on their own, give another segment, practice, and then extended practice at the end. Towards the end of the session I provided a take-away: a PowerPoint with embedded screen shots and videos (thanks SnapProX!) to refer back to later when the teachers are creating their PowerPoints.

The feedback when the day was over was what I had hoped for. They liked the chunking and the hands on approach in not only my session but all three. Most felt they were exposed to so much new today. Overall, it was extremely satisfying.

What was my "take away" for the day? I got to interact with a bunch of eager teachers from veterans to some who haven't set a foot in the classroom yet, and I found out that most are all in the same boat: they want to connect with the kids on their level as 21st century learners and are just looking for how to do it. (There was a naysayer in the crowd who tried to tell me we needed to focus on the basics and not worry about the process too much. He said we were trying to scare them with all our talk of how we have to interact differently with the kids in the 21st Century.) It's gratifying to see that so many of us are on the same page and moving in the same direction.

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