Sunday, March 20, 2011

Differentiated Staff Development: Going Google

Our school district has been using the Google Apps for Ed domain for about a year and a half.  Technology is pervasive and used by everyone. When you walk through our schools, you see students working together, you see them teaching and learning in classroom settings, in the halls, on the field, everywhere. To give you some background, Grades 7 and 8 have been 1:1 for 10 years and the high school is in year 8 of their 1:1 initiative. Grades 4 - 6 have carts of laptops available and the K -2 teachers have a laptop and  desktops.  Our culture is extremely collaborative, we are used to working in all kinds of teams, leadership teams, learning area and grade level teams, and collaborative inquiry teams to name a few. Using the Google tools fits in with what we do in our schools very well and has been a fantastic addition to our toolbox. They are truly changing how we work together.

We have been primarily using Docs, Sites, and Calendars. We offer a class in the summer for teachers, so some people had really figured out how Google Docs and Sites fit in to their classroom practice. In grades 5 -12, there is an expectation that teachers will post contact information and homework on the web pages so parents and students can have access. Many teachers have a homework calendar posted  and students know how to subscribe to it. We have set up building calendars and have been using them since September. All of this was done while using First class for e-mail. First Class has been our e-mail and web page editor for as long as I have been in Yarmouth (11 years) and I am not sure how long before that. All of our students and staff have e-mail accounts and use them. Email is undoubtedly embedded deep into our school culture and is the life line that keeps open lines of communication between community, staff, and students. But we also have a wide variety of users that range from email only users, to teachers that are communicating with other schools through social networking and collaborative tools.

In September 2011, for a variety of reasons we, (the tech integrators and the Administrative team) have decided to move from First Class to Google Mail. When we announced in August, 2010 that we would be changing our e-mail system in a year, it sparked fear in the hearts of many! We realized as we planned the change, that a huge cultural change was going to take place. We decided to fully implement mail starting in August would not work. It is too hectic at the beginning of the year. Instead, we have approached this as a transition. We will start using Yarmouth Google Mail in April and finally fully pull the plug on First Class in June.  We knew we had to design some way to get everyone in the district on board and trained with a minimum of confusion and angst.

With the help of the administrative team, we chose a full day professional development day in the early spring. We decided to make the entire day be a Google Transition day and do it in conference style.  I am proud to say, after months of planning, we pulled it off this past Friday (3/18/2011). The entire K-12 district staff attended.

Some logistic items of note:
  • We worked with the administrative team to make sure that we had everyone who needed to be there was included. This meant closing three building and forwarding calls to a central phone. A sub come in to answer phone calls. Maintenance and the bus barn were included in this training.
  • We had time at the beginning for breakfast and reconnecting. While we are a small district, people tend not to get out of their buildings very often, and it was fun for everyone to see one another.
  • Everyone wore name tags.
  • We had an opening keynote to introduce the day. We had a student produced video running to emphasize that this day was about learning.
  • We provided lunch so that the conversations could continue.
  • Our schedule was
  • Participants signed up for sessions ahead of time. but could switch around later if they wanted.
  • We had high school student volunteers who were runners, photographers, and helpers in sessions. We gave them Community Service Hours for helping. These students will help us in April when we transition students to the new mail system.

Some learning items of note:
  • We had three strands of learning
    • I'm new to Google
    • Know some Google but want to learn more
    • Ready to Rock
  • We had a form where participants could offer suggestions or ask questions. This will help us plan our work in the coming months.
  • We made our own help website for people who wanted to learn on their own
  • Our expectation was that by the end of the day, all participants should be familiar with the Yarmouth Big 4: Mail. Docs, Sites, and Calendar.
  • We made it clear during the keynote that we are ALL learning. There will be bumps along the way, but we can help each other.
  • We also made it clear that if a session wasn't working for a learner, they needed to get up and walk out.
  • The three tech integrators taught the Intro sessions. 
  • Some of our own district teachers taught a session. We had seen some fantastic work over the summer, and asked these teachers to share what they had done with others.
  • We asked 6 local teachers and 2 students from other districts to teach the Know some Google and Ready to Rock sessions. 
  • One person worked with the entire administrative assistant staff.
  • Each presenter was asked to post their session materials on the site so that others could go back to it.
  • During the last session we offered an open lab and work alike sessions with some of the local presenters so that teachers could work in small groups and get specific answers to questions.
  • At the end of the day, we came back together to recognize presenters and get feedback on the day.

Final Reflection and Observations:
  • In the morning during breakfast, people were smiling and having fun.
  • All day long people stopped and said thank you and what a great day they were having.
  • I am so glad we had lunch in, it was great seeing all the building cross overs and great conversations.
  • Our thanks to the outside presenters. They were great!
  • Over and over, I heard "It's so great that you had sessions in levels.  I was able to get a lot done."
  • People loved having the time to work in the last session.
  • The feedback that we got was very positive. 
    • This was phenomenal.  I really didn't realize how much these tools can do.  Now I know more about what I don't know.  This day helps me to continue with my own learning.
    • I love the variety of sessions and all the extra help. Lots of energy around this transition!
    • I loved that there were students available to ask questions so that the presenters didn't have to stop so often to help out people who were behind.
    • I liked the pace.
    • It was a nice that there were so many differentiated options to choose from.
    • This school is awesome.
    • What was perhaps most valuable/heartening to me was how I did not feel pressured.  My head is spinning, but with possibilities that are exciting, not the feeling that I am behind and will never catch up.
The day was a huge success. I am so excited to have been a part of the organization and implementation of this day. Thanks to Cathy and Mike for all their work. Thank you to Laura Girr, Liza Moore, Sharon Betts, Page Lennig, Maya Crosby, and Kern Kelley and his students for helping to present sessions. Thank you to Rick Biskup, Melissa Noack, Roberto Borda, Molly Smith, David Pearl, Ted Hall, Suzanne Hamilton, Annie Ouimet, Stephanie Robison, Paula Vicenzi. Rod Correy and Megan Rice. Thank you to Martha and Holly for organizing the students and keeping everything running smoothly. Thanks to our students for helping, especially when you had the day off. Thanks to Jen for breakfast and lunch. And a huge thank you to our administration for having the vision and confidence to let us plan this day.

4 comments:

Cheryl Oakes said...

What a tribute to your collaborative district. Thanks for sharing.

Page said...

Alice - It was a great day - well organized and very successful from what I gathered from attendees. It was fun working with your staff. (I'm sure you slept well on Friday!)

Good luck with the rest of the transition.

page

Chris said...

Wow Alice! What a great day you planned. Thanks for sharing your experience. It's put a spark in me to do more with training our teachers on the wonders of Google.

Alice Barr said...

Thanks Cheryl and Chris. Page it was great to have you join us!