Our Technology Integration Team recently led its first Nursery – Grade 5 professional development event of the school year. To provide some context, that is two Tech Integrators leading 110 teachers and specialists through an hour and fifteen minute learning experience. I say learning experience intentionally, as our goal is to avoid a stand and deliver or workshop model- not that there aren’t appropriate times for both formats. However, we aspire to model innovative practices, risk taking, failing with reflection, and focusing on the learning process. This recent learning experience did some of each of those.
We tried something that we had never done before, led an event completely digitally- from the facilitation end. With a “Mission Impossible-esque theme,” at 3:00 teachers received an email from Tech Integration that contained directions for the afternoon via video in a YouTube playlist (accompanied by a checklist). The playlist also contained 2 screencast tutorials with instructions for creating a screencast using Quicktime or Screencastify. You can you view the video(s) and message below. Teachers had from 3:15-4:00 to complete the following:
Teachers were provided autonomy over location, tools, and whom they worked with during this time. At 4:00 they arrived to the classroom of their grade level/specialist Digital Teacher (DT). The DT then led teachers through a 30 minute activity around their personal passion project for the school year. Thus, during the entire afternoon, the only time teachers saw the people facilitating the experience was via video. And there were reasons for this.
Experiential. We wanted teachers to experience how it felt to learn from a digital tool, in order to create a digital product. Often students are asked to complete a similar task- what better way to build empathy for students than being able to share a similar experience. Teachers stated in a feedback form, that they often had to rewind videos, start over, delete sections of video- and often asked a fellow teacher for help. In other words, they were a student again. The time expectation was also a factor. There was pressure to complete a task in a short amount of time. We heard scattered comments about teachers feeling rushed and anxious. Again, this might have one considering the time limits of lessons and how long students have to complete projects. Imagine how some students in your class might feel when being rushed to complete an assignment by a particular deadline- especially if it something they are learning for the first time.
Exposure. Nearly all the teachers on our campus have videos hosted on their Learning Management System pages. Very few teachers have their own videos shared with students. And while some teachers have personal videos, they are not screencast recordings. Tech Integration creates screencasts weekly, adding them to our Tech Trick Tuesday playlist– so they have been seen multiple times by our teachers- but not necessarily a skill that’s been intentionally developed itself. Therefore, we wanted to expose teachers to a skill they can add to their instructional strategies bank. A screencast provides students with more personalized learning- along with the opportunity to watch the video anywhere at anytime. (The benefits of personalized screencasting could be its own blog post) Not only were teachers exposed to the QuickTime and Screencastify for recording- but to AutoDraw from experiments.withgoogle.com and Sketchpad, two free online creation applications.
Creation. We often hear teachers and leaders in education saying that students need to not just consume content with technology, but create with it too. Our Tech Integration team believes the same- however we extend that ideology to teachers as well. Rather than sharing the YouTube video that “works” with students, why not create your own? Now, I am guilty of this as well. It is not feasible to create a video for every tutorial I need to send, so I borrow. However, there are some skills that are more important than others- and I want to be sure the process is explained with the correct scaffolding and vocabulary for my intended audience. The same goes for teachers and their knowledge of content and the needs of their students. So, for those few tricky skills that stump students every year, consider if it might be worth the time invested to go ahead and create that screencast or recording for your students to access. Lastly, it’s not a bad idea for students to see their teachers creating with technology and modeling how it can be used for learning.
By the end of the day 95 teachers successfully created their screencasts, uploaded them to YouTube, and shared the link to their video in a Google Form to the Tech Integration team. While there are varying levels of products created- as there should be- our team is thrilled with the completion rate. Teachers approached the challenge and provided overwhelmingly positive feedback about the experience, as well as their intentions for creating screencasts for future lessons or units.