Community Engagement Project for EDTC 6104
For this blog post, I’m reflecting on the culminating Community Engagement project for EDTC 6104. The project required that we “create a professional learning presentation or workshop on a topic of your choice that you will use to engage and provide professional growth for an audience of your choice” and also required that we submit it to present at a conference. In the end, this will result in two slightly different projects for me, but I’ll start with my original plan and shift to what I ended up doing for my conference submission.
I chose to develop a PD opportunity for my colleagues at SCS related to the use of technology in the classroom. This entire project fit in quite well with where our school is at right now. After our last accreditation cycle, my school decided to implement a more comprehensive approach to PD. This resulted in a PD plan that included input and participation from the staff. As such, “technology” was one of the topics selected by the staff and I volunteered to help lead the PD on this topic. The sessions are two hours and there are to be 3-4 over the course of the semester. For this PD I was planning on addressing how our students thought about and used technology along with an opportunity for teachers to practice using some practical digital tools (including brushing up on our school’s LMS). Subsequent sessions will focus on ethical issues, the collaborative nature of digital technology, and specific digital tools we can use to help students learn.
At this point, I’ll transition to the PD I planned for the conference submission. While I still plan on using my original concept for my school’s PD program, the necessity of proposing a presentation for a conference led me to make alterations to my plan to meet the needs of a different audience and a different context. I was also approached by one of my colleagues, Orlala Wentink (check out her cool blog) about presenting together at the NCCE conference. Her topic was using Google Sites in the classroom and she suggested that we combine our topics into one presentation. It seemed like an interesting prospect, and while there are differences in our topics, I appreciated that her Google Sites component would be the sort of complimentary piece I was looking for with my original PD plan. So we structured our workshop to fit within the two-hour window and we decided to use the content of my presentation and the skills of Orlala’s presentation. We also decided to go back-and-forth between content and skills instruction/practice within the session. As can be seen in our outline, we start with a rudimentary introduction of Google sites then switch to a discussion about how teens use technology. This piece also contains an interactive piece through the poll everywhere questions. We then go back to the Google sites piece as participants blog on our section Google site about a topic brought up in the content section, “Is knowing obsolete?” After participants have made their blog posts, we switch back to more content (again with digital participation) on the topic of the ethical use of technology by students. From this, we transition to discussing online collaboration and community. Participants will comment on each others’ blogs, and we will wrap up the session with participants making their own Google sites so they can take this skill back to their classrooms.
I think the diverse nature of our topics – one on the philosophical and ethical nature of students and the other on the use of a practical tool to foster collaboration and community; provides a unique opportunity to offer theory and practice – which became the title of our presentation (“Theory and Practice: How Students Use Technology and Using Google Sites to Reach Them”). Teachers will be exposed to new ways of thinking about technology and how students learn, and they will also be trained to use a new set of digital skills to reach their students (a “product” at the end of the session – to quote Orlala).
And if the collaborative nature of our topic wasn’t enough, the project itself was completed jointly, online. Orlala and I used the digital tools at our disposal to plan and create this entire project. Google sites, Google Docs, Google drive, Google Slides, YouTube, and Powtoons were all used in constructing this presentation. We encountered various challenges and difficulties along the way, but we persevered, just as our students must persevere when they encounter the same sorts of challenges for our classes. It was a learning experience for me and I am grateful I had a patient and thoughtful partner in Orlala. We never met face-to-face during the course of this project, but I think it holds great promise – and perhaps that is the greatest testimonial to the collaborative power of the internet.