Image by hazelowendmc via Flickr
The second face-to-face meeting of the VPD teachers' community was held Thursday 10th and Friday 11th June 2010, at the Brentwood Hotel in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Nine of the VPD teachers attended the event (see Agenda below), along with Eddie Reisch and Hazel Owen. Unfortunately, Merryn Dunmill was crook, unable to attend, and sorely missed.
We had all learned a lot from the previous meeting, and the room was set out in groups of tables (rather than a large horseshoe) for maximum discussion and sharing. Surprising what a difference it makes. All participants had been asked to bring their own laptop, and only one person, Ken, had problems getting on to the wireless network...which worked! (Huge sigh of relief from everyone - except Ken).
The first day started with a welcome and introduction to the two days, and a 'hello' to Chitose Izuno and Clarence Yates who had not attended the first face-to-face meeting in December 2009. I then handed over to the teachers while they each gave a brief overview of what they had been doing with students and the results they were getting. This seemed to work well, with a lot of discussion happening throughout each overview, as well as questions and suggestions. One teacher commented that he thought the "the informal discussions with a 'light touch' direction was beneficial as it allowed people to talk and discuss which is where we all have something to say".
The next part of the day was the hands-on active sessions.Everyone had been briefed prior to the meeting as follows:
Prepare an 45-minute-long (max) session that will actively engage the rest of the group. The hour includes time for you to set up the task, and for people in the group to go off and work together, come back for discussion, and finally for some sort of debrief. Please do not choose or focus on teaching us how to use a specific tool :-) Rather, think about different ways of engaging the group - it could be, for example, an activity where you ask us to research something (e.g. pedagogy as a concept, or teach us a language, or your favourite pastime or sport)...and the collaboration could make use of something such as Google Docs or a wiki - anything that would enhance the learning experience for the group. The world is your oyster.
The idea was to encourage the sharing of effective practice by doing rather than telling or showing. It was hoped it would also motivate people to reflect on their projects, and to evaluate what they are doing with students with more depth, as well as good opportunities for feedback and suggestions from the group.
After Joel, Jarad, and Sonia's very different, engaging sessions, the last task of the day was for the participants to work in groups of three or four. I'd already selected a convenor for each group, and created wiki spaces in the VPD Moodle where there was a scenario based task for each group to complete around the evaluation of the ICTELT VPD initiative to date and ideas for a national roll out. The scenario was:
Your group has been tasked with setting up a ICT enhanced learning and teaching Virtual Professional Development initiative to teachers in all education sectors in New Zealand. You have a limited budget, which means limited personnel. You have access to and use of a suite of Web 2.0 and online tools and resources (including Adobe Connect, Skype, Moodle, Mahara, Audacity and Jing).
Consider some, or all, of the following:
You have 30 MINUTES to complete your mission!!
Given that it was the end of the day it was great to see everyone working so well together, and the depth of discussion and the ideas that came out of the exercise were really valuable. One teacher commented that in his group when they realised it was 5pm there were amazed. They had been so absorbed in the task that the time had flown by, and they reckoned that the sign of a good activity is one where you have to prise the participants from their chairs to get them to stop! He also felt it was positive to be asked for input into shaping the bigger picture ' stuff'. I was really pleased as I was not sure how well the activity would work, especially iin the 'graveyard' spot.
One of the awesome things was that the conversations continued in the bar and over dinner in the evening. Several teachers mentioned verbally that they had explored many different approaches, swapped experiences, and developed ideas and strategies throughout the two days, but in particular over coffee and mealtimes, and someone commented about "the inspiration and experiences shared by all".
Day two began with everyone completing a reflective blog post in the Ning about their experiences during Day one. The rich quality of most of the blog posts was indicative of the level of enjoyment and satisfaction with the first day, which I found particularly reassuring.
The hands on sessions for the day went well, with a lot more questions and discussions around student learning, the purpose and form(s) of assessment, classroom practice, literacies, engagement and a plethora of other education-related subjects. The sessions, I believe empowered the teachers and encouraged everyone to have a voice, even the most shy - I just facilitated and kept time. It was also a reaffirmation that modelling the type of role that teachers might take, and they as learners themselves enjoyed, might inform their own practice.
The final two activities for the two-day meeting were a discussion around the question of the future of the VPD initiative and what it might look like, facilitated by Eddie. A discussion forum was set up to answer the questions, which included:
There was an intense discussion with the group emphasising how valuable the VPD initiative was for them, and that they had got a huge amount of being a part of it. All the teachers said they would be willing to mentor other teachers, and also made suggestions how this might be implemented (a couple of which can be read in the replies in the discussion forum). It was exciting and heartening. After seeing the progress and shifts many of the teachers have made in their thinking, beliefs, practice and skill sets, it was wonderful to hear that they wanted this to continue and were will to contribute.
After the final wrap up, and the presentation of the chocolate fish to Nigel Bailey who was voted as having the most engaging hands on session for the two days, we said our thank yous and fare thee wells. One teacher commented that:
Joel's 45 min session was around "What are our students using?" and began by getting participants to brainstorm all the software, Web 2.0 platforms and tools, hardware etc that they know of and type up the answers into a Google Doc, the following step was to identify from the list everything they used regularly, and then those things they thought the students used often. The session was very collaborative, with the Google Doc projected up on the screen so everyone could see additions and edits as they happened. The session went rather over time, but was really useful for those teachers who were not so familiar with synchronous blended collaborative approaches.
Jarad's 45 min session started with an explanation of the difference between direct and inference information "Engaging comprehension". Jarad then gave out some gorgeous books that he uses with his students and asked the group to work in pairs to develop quizzes around the books and the notion of direct and inference information. To develop the quizzes we used Pro Profs quiz maker. One participant commented that this was the "first online test maker that can be adapted for senior math, allowing for written answers as well as multiguess and fill-the-gap". To finish up Jarad went through one of the quizzes (which ended up being a "math test that I may try on my ten year olds") to show how the feedback was incorporated. There was a lot of discussion and a high level of engagement throughout this session.
Sonia's 45 min session, "Exploring the building blocks of life" was all hosted in Moodle where she had built an integrated set of activities around the function, composition and purpose of DNA. There were several links out to interactive activities and scenarios some with a 'narrative' focus and a murder mystery to solve that had many of the group enthralled. Sonia facilitated smoothly, fielded questions, and discussed ways of using some of the approaches with students. It was a great opportunity for everyone to try a number of learning approaches in a hands on forum. Sonia had set up a forum to collect feedback, but time was not her friend and there was no opportunity for people to post to it.
Clarrie's 45 min session around "Active promotion" encouraged exploration, creativity and encouraged people in the group to think about promoting themselves in different ways. In particular Clarrie facilitated everyone to work in groups, and to re-think the traditional CV, and moved between the groups throughout the whole session talking over ideas. The conversations and ideas were recorded in the Ning (for example: http://virtualicteltpd.ning.com/profiles/blogs/an-out-there-cv). All of the groups were enthusiastic, and some became quite excited by some of the potential approaches they formulated.
Amaia's 45 min session, "Scintillating Spanish" was hosted in the Moodle, and began with Amaia introducing us to her language, her discipline, and her passion. Each group had to choose a country, and to research the country, cultures and language. A highlight of this session was the way Amaia demonstrated how to personalise the session when she gave us her address in Spain to search on in Google Earth. The visual aspect was also really important as participants viewed some of the amazing architectural structures that are visible in Google Earth.
Ken Jones's 45 min session, "The New Zealand National Anthem" started with the history of the National Anthem and some of the controversies surrounding it. Ken had put everything together in a Google presentation, shared the document with everyone, and then gave out tasks to groups to complete in the document. For example, one group had to find the words of the anthem in Maori and sung in Maori. The whole group then re-convened to look at each other's contributions, and then stood to sing the anthem in Maori. It was a really interactive, informative, engaging, and relevant session.
Chitose's 45 min session, "The Japanese School System" was hosted in Moodle and was staged, clearly showing the learning outcomes, describing the task, and the activities:
Chitose kept the momentum of the session going, while also circulating and discussing ideas and answering questions about education in Japan. The evaluation of the session speaks for itself: "Awesome flow for the activity! You've thought it out very carefully. You have used the tools in Moodle very well. I'd like to investigate the comparisons further for me to perhaps influence Māori education in NZ. Well done!!". And: "I liked the fact that we got to zoom off and search for info and then blast it back into the wiki - I kind of felt like it was a competition with the 3 groups going at once so I really went for it! strange how that happens...I think it was really great - thanks for the hard work in setting it up! ".
Nigel's 45 min session focussed on the tool, "Prezi in action" rather than setting up activities per se. However, everyone really enjoyed exploring some of the potential of the tool. Nigel's session was in fact voted the most engaging of the two days (for which he received some chocolate fish).
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