Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Grassroots PD Movement

There is a movement happening in Philadelphia Education. In case you were asleep for the first half of 2010 you might have missed some amazing conferences in the city of brotherly love.

In the past 6 months, the city of Philadelphia has played host to two great conferences: Educon 2.2 and EDCAMP Philly. Although different in style, both conferences - edcamp falling in the unconference model - displayed contagious passion for education and how we can make it better. In July, NTCAMP will take place at The Boys' Latin
Charter School in Philadelphia. This event will follow the unconference model and focus on bringing new and veteran teachers together for a day of impromptu professional development. All three conferences will be annual events and next summer Philadelphia will welcome ISTE2011. This makes Philadelphia a must attend city when it comes to education.

So why is this such a big deal? Great, Philadelphia has a few Education conferences every year, why should I care? So does every other city in the country.

What's unique about Philadelphia is that teachers are banding together and creating conferences specifically for teachers that are run by teachers. We are not aiming to bring in the big keynote speaker or major vendors, but simply create a dialogue about the current state of education. Philadelphia is creating a grassroots professional development movement.

This movement is bringing teachers together from all over for one day - usually a Saturday - or maybe more, for an engaging discourse on everything from IEPs to information literacy. Everyone has the opportunity to present and the sessions never feel like lecture halls. After attending edcamp Philly twitter began to illuminate with #edcamp ideas across the nation. edcamp Boston, edcamp Detroit, etc. began surfacing all over the country. There are currently 10 cities in the US that will be holding edcamp events and ntcamp which will take place in Philadelphia on July 24th. The word is spreading and things look bright in the world of educational professional development.

Teachers across the country should pay attention to Philadelphia this summer and next. The movement to create worthwhile professional development for teacher by teachers is happening. Teachers are tired of sitting through the lecture model of professional development just as much as our students. We don't want to sit in front of a vendor pitchperson and attempt to take something away from a man or woman who recently got into pitching educational software because the economy was bad and figures it's hard to outsource classrooms. In short, teachers need to learn from each other.

If you haven't looked into starting an edcamp in your city, you should. Bring your administration in on the plan, in fact, bring your entire district in on the plan. Show them the value of this event and prove to them that it will produce better classrooms. I learned so much about my classroom practices and new ways in which I can incorporate technology and 21st century learning skills and assessments. I walked away from edcamp Philly with so many great resources and ideas that I could immediately implement into my classroom. I also gained a wealth of knowledge about my new position at Instructional Technology Coordinator.

At edcamp Philly I decided to run my own session not because I wanted to present, but simply, I wanted to have a conversation about my new position as an ITC and hopefully bring together other ITCs for this discourse. In short, it was a success and I walked away with a better understanding of my new position and a lot of great educators who I could now incorporate into my network.

This summer as you spend time basking in the sun at the beach or climbing up a mountain, think about what you want to learn in your practice and what questions do you have about how you teach. Could you be better? Of course. Think about attending an edcamp in your area or creating one if there are none available. Attend ntcamp in Philadelphia if you are a new teacher or an experienced teacher who thinks they could share some experience or learn something new from the kids. Think about professional development that YOU want. Don't settle for the pitch.

*image courtesy of

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

My EdTech Letter

Below is an e-mail I am sending to my entire faculty to explain my new position as the Instructional Technology Specialist next fall. I have also included a link to the survey I am sending to gather information about technology use in the school. I am hoping to clarify any confusion with my role next year and to gauge the comfort levels of my colleagues. Please leave your feedback, comments, and suggestions about this post. Also, if you are currently an ITS or have worked as a Tech Coach, please share your experience.

NOTE: Please feel free to access the survey, but do not submit any responses. Thank you!

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Next year you will have an Instructional Technology Specialist in the building. Wait…we have a what-now? You heard it right. Next fall I will become – not physically transform – the Instructional Technology Specialist for the entire school. So, what does that look like? What can I do for you? What is my role at Boys’ Latin? Marcinek is a Specialist? These are all valid questions and I am writing this memo - sorry for lack of TPS cover page - to answer your queries about this position and explain what my position entails.

In short, Help me, Help you

I am not the technology czar. I am your technology integration friend, your resident nerd. It is my goal to help you integrate technology with the content you are already teaching and not force you to try anything you don't feel comfortable trying. I will develop a technology integration plan for each teacher and each department. We will work together to develop new ways to use technology to present rich content to our students. By no means am I asking you to change your way of teaching, simply rethink lessons and assessments.

For those that exclusively teach freshmen, this does not exclude you from the fun. In fact, I could still manage this position without any technology in the classroom. As I said before, it will be one of my goals to take rich content and put a new spin on the way you present and assess it. Also, we have access to two COWs (Computers On Wheels) that we can integrate into your classes for various projects and assignments. No smartboard? No problem.

Starting in August, I will meet with each department team and each individual teacher. We will work together to develop a technology (or 21st century skills and assessments) plan. Each plan will have three year long goals that focus on technology and 21st century skills and assessment integration. I will help maintain those year long goals and assist both inside and outside of your classroom.

If you have any questions about my new position or would like to brainstorm some ideas for next year please don't hesitate to ask. In the next few days I will be following up with a quick survey to gain a clearer understanding of your needs and wants for technology. I will also be sending out a regular EdTech newsletter that focuses on new educational platforms, websites, links, blogs, student work, etc. I will be revising my website to focus on my new position,this page will have a calendar in which you can sign up throughout the course of a week to schedule time for me to work on a project with you and your class or to schedule time outside of class to design a project or unit plan. I am here to support your teaching in any way possible.

Again, if you have any questions concerning my new position or how I can support your classroom, please ask. Let's start the conversation and see what we can build for next year.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Professional Development Menu

Last night edchat convened for another riveting discussion as it does every Tuesday at 12pm and 7pm EST. The topic last evening was, If we were to create a best practices PD program, what are the elements that we should see? The conversation was rich and chalk full of progressive ideas. One of my early suggestions was to take the Edcamp model and mimicking the same style in faculty PD sessions. PDs should be a conversation and allow everyone to lead and present ideas for best practices.

As the conversation progressed, I wanted to hear specifically what everyone was thinking for a PD session and what PD sessions others have already incorporated. I proposed that we extend the edchat topic to a Google Doc. I set up the document and within minutes my inbox was overflowing with requests and the Doc was filling up with excellent ideas for PD sessions. I want to share what the list we generated and I will list it at the end of this post. If you would like to be a part of this ongoing collaborative, please email me at

This is the true essence of edchat. Edchat allows us to rapidly generate ideas in an organized and focused manner. However, the true merit of edchat is what follows. Last week I left edchat writing a blog post on Reinventing Assessment in the 21st Century. And tonight we created a Google Doc that generated a useful list of professional development ideas that any administrator, teacher, or tech coach can use at any time next year.

Edchat is a collaborative community that generates stimulating, thought provoking discussion on a weekly basis. We should not limit edchat to 1 hour. Edchat should continue on and generate ideas and provoke thought within our classrooms and our schools.

Below is the list that was generated from our Google Doc. 1. My first PD will cover The brilliance of Google forms and the ability for teachers to track data and maintain a digital record of student work. I will use my wikispace as an example by @andycinek

2. Using Twitter to develop a Personal Learning network @davidwees

3. How to manage a 1 to 1 program in your classroom @davidwees

4. Teaching paperless @davidwees

5. using digital audio editing software to enhance storytelling. @eliza_peterson 6. Effective blogging for students @eliza_peterson 7. Making Google Sites your classroom's 5th wall @21stcenturychem

8. Clickers and Formative Assessment in classrooms of all sizes @21stcenturychem 9. How to create online learning content with Moodle @Mr_Lister 10. Integrating technology in the classroom - examples for non-tech savvy educators @Mr_Lister

11. Student-centered learning in the science classroom @21stcenturychem

12. Responsible use of online resources in the secondary classroom @21stcenturychem

13. Beyond Powerpoint... 'nuff said @21stcenturychem

14. Bypassing MS Office: Using Google Docs to facilitate a paperless classroom. @21stcenturychem 15. Using Google Docs to collaborate with other teachers for lesson planning and committee work. @RjWassink 16. Using google docs for faculty collaboration JUST LIKE THIS! :) @andycinek 17. using ustream (or equivilent) for live streaming exciting classroom / school events @RjWassink

18. Creating an Authentic Based Classroom through the use of PBL @daylynn

19. Using to help teachers provide better feedback on student work (verbal comments & screencast) @michelleleandra

20. Service Learning Online? Blogs as a way to connect classrooms globally (and locally) @21stcenturychem 21. Using students to help teach teachers how to use tech tools in their classrooms @missbartel
@jkokladas is doing this in her district next fall for more info 22. Developing reliability and validity in differentiated assessment @DrTimony

23. Creating Personal Learning Networks @actionhero

24. Be Social With Your Bookmarks @actionhero

25. RSS: The Killer App @actionhero

26. Media literacy--critical reading and deconstructing of ads for our kids. Information, not prohibition! @DrTimony

27. Using student & teacher blogs as a means of achieving transparency in classroom instruction @arosey

28. Best ways to collaborate @cybraryman1
Collaboration Page