In my school district, our professional and digital learning department is barely around 7 months old. Since school began we’ve been somewhere in the middle of identifying, addressing, creating and revising problems as well as solutions. In addition, we’ve taken full advantage of eager leadership, teacher excitement, “edtech buzz initiatives”, and any opened door that allowed a conversation regarding how students can be active participants in their own learning.
This has truly been a remarkable journey and with all that we still have planned…it seems as if we are only just beginning!
To give some background, our district is a BYOD district and has only been such for about two years. Unlike many of my peers, we did not have the luxury of mobile carts on campuses, enough labs beyond the one per campus, no technology to supplement for students who did not have their own device and barely enough training on the tools that we have in place. When I say that my department started from a blank slate, I am not joking. Everything that we have done and will do is brand new to Lufkin.
I want to also point out that being here in the land of no devices, other than smartboards, has also opened my eyes to the powerful learning that STILL happens even when there are no global connections. Our kids benefit greatly from community partnerships and involvement with community stakeholders. We still have field trips and on occasion guest speakers from industries around Lufkin. What we were lacking were connections outside of Lufkin and the ability to see…”Yes, And”
Our first opportunity to get teachers connected happened with the Global Read Aloud. Classrooms were skyping with classes all over the country. It was certainly remarkable to see. That same campus jumped into utilizing code.org, well before hour of code, to have a coding club. This was a K-2 campus and the excited generated opened the door for #hourofcode.
While many of my peers see Hour of Code this venture as nothing more than a hashtag, it was much more than that for us. We took the time to discuss experiences and opportunities that we could and should be offering our students as well as the importance of computer science. We held professional development for teachers and shared learning via twitter and blogs. We also came to understand that computational thinking was so critically important that we are training all of our 3-5 staff in a matter of weeks, which can have greater long term rewards for our students for years to come.
That week was a game changer for Lufkin as our teachers were able to experience first hand what “different” could be and they want more of it! We are fully aware that it takes more than an hour but we are also committed to continuing what we started and making sure that Computer Science is just as important as our other core courses beginning at pre-k.
This month, we are focusing on active planning with teachers and thinking beyond the tools. Our digital learning specialist will be transitioning from “after school training” mode to school day planning and development with the goal of developing model lessons and publishing them.
With the timely release of #NETP16 as well as resources like the Google Lesson Plan Jam Digital Learning Toolkit as well as Graphite’s Lesson Flows…our specialist are charged with researching and thinking about how we can craft the support that we need according to Lufkin…not specific to a tool but open to universal ideas. (We actually started months ago with Common Sense Media’s 1:1 Essentials Guide and it helped build some foundational understanding for this work)
We are also including teachers in this process and are fortunate to have 50 district wide teacher ambassadors from PK-12 so that the work will not be framed from a department of three but by a collective. Eventually, we will include students and have student leadership teams already in place to do so.
We took the time at the beginning of the year to get our leadership teams on board with their own use and understanding of technology through their lens, upgraded a few antiquated process and invested in a few pilot tools.
Moving forward, we will be developing common language and continuing the work through the lens of “YES, AND”
On the horizon…
#NETP16 – Visioning and ongoing study/discussions
Launch of our Student Voice Blog (Beyond excited for this!!)
Grades 3-5 Computer Science across the curriculum professional development
Minecraft Teach and Learn (with students and teachers)
STEM day with 4th grade (Design thinking and inventing with little bits, cloudbits + minecraft, coding)
Inventing to Learn with our Digital Ambassadors and any teacher who wants in!
A community-wide MakerFest (because why not?)
And reflection…lots of reflection…and long term planning for what’s ahead.
Our first guiding question…
What does innovation mean to Lufkin?