Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Exciting Journey Begins

Day 1 of pre-planning. When other teachers are quietly reopening their doors, organizing their books, straightening their rows, and printing their rosters, we at the Creek are celebrating. Celebrating the arrival of a new adventure, the camaraderie of new team members, and embracing this year's focus on specific data driven expectations. We are enjoying the beginning of this year--The Virtual Learning Journey, Around the World in 180 Days.

Teachers arrived at 0800 hours in full skit garb to the front lobby of the school and after playing Name That Flag (won by the 5th grade team), teachers boarded buses to our Professional Learning Center--The Schultz Center. As we were ushered into Schultz, we could clearly see the focus for today's celebration would be centered on technology. Not only because teachers each had a laptop for use, but because the big screen was up and running, and no time was wasted as Melanie Holtsman introduced our guest speaker, International Educator Jeff Utecht. Jeff graciously agreed to kick off our morning via Skype from across our globe in Manila! Jeff introduced himself using Google Earth to share where he grew up and the locations across our world where he's taught. How incredible to be able to drop in on his exact locations! He explained that in this time of global change the world is so small. We have to figure out what implications that has on education. He encouraged our staff to take a risk. Collaboratively try something new. And, introduced us to several websites, wikis, and blogs to help make that happen. He encouraged teachers to have students publish to the web so students would have a public forum, a global voice. He emphasised the importance of sharing their learning with the world. Jeff left us with one last question... "How are you going to use this year to connect kids near and far?"

Our Principal, Susan Phillips, then presented on Web 2.0 and School 2.0. She reiterated that the web has changed. It has gone from software based to web based from individual to collaborative from offline to online from costly to free and from copyrighted to shared. We, as educators, must move swiftly as this shift happens in order to reach and engage all kids. We must focus on project based learning that is rich, real, and relevant. We must have engagement that precedes the content. We must encourage risk taking, ask for help, search for answers. We must embrace the web as participatory, and have students as designers for learning. To be successful we can no longer be digital immigrants teaching to digital natives.

Next, on the agenda, was some fun! Team Introductions--my favorite! Let me tell you, each year, I keep thinking the K-5 and resource teams couldn't possibly outdo themselves from the year before, but low and behold, they do! Our team skits began--Some teams danced, some sang, some challenged each other in a game show, no matter what they did, they were all hysterical! And, I mean, we laughed together until we cried! Though any of these teams could have easily been named the Best Overall Skit, the award this year was earned by the Second Grade team. And, Best Dressed went to the Kindergarten Team. I'm sure each member of these teams enjoyed their $5 and $10 blockbuster gift cards!

Then came New Teacher Introductions and New Teacher Induction. This year's task was for them to make a flag and create an anthem (in 10 minutes I might add while the rest of us enjoyed a break.) They presented to the audience and were then inducted with a New Tour Guide Oath. Their reward a pocket protector and hand held world, and of course the respect of their peers!

After a delicious lunch, fitting for the occasion because there was food from each continent, our next guest speaker, Duval CTO, Terri Stahlman, took the podium. She delved further into Web 2.0 sharing new tools and features, and shared statistics with us to allow us to know thy customer. She encouraged us as a school to focus on community collaboration, collective intelligence, collaborative learning, self-directed students, project driven instruction, and to use technology as an accelerator. Her enthusiasm and passion to move student achievement forward was palpable.

Next, Susan shared our data story and set forth this year's expectations. We will use Technology for Learning to expand our boundaries, Focus on Targeting Strategy Groups in order to reteach, repair, and reflect on student's next steps, Use Differentiated Instruction to diagnose, plan, and adjust with internal safety nets and ESOL support, and we will Broaden Cultural Awareness. Having clear expectations articulated from the principal allows us all to embrace our principal's expectations for the year ahead.

More fun and team building came in the form of the activity, Where in the World is.... The winner, again, 5th grade. Gift cards patted these geography minded teachers on the back!

Moving on, Susan introduced our bracelet disguished Flash Drives eliminating all paper and focused on the distribution of essential electronic documents. Teachers electronically received everything from resource and lunch schedules, tornado drill directions, district and school scedules, to theme focused fonts and clip art! Those that knew how to use flash drives aided those who did not and we were well on our way to learning together. Furthermore, we explored Riverdeep, our district's electronic access to standards, Learning Schedules, and assessment. Though this was a down and dirty introduction, Susan assured teachers of more training and information to come.

We could all feel the next giveaway coming! Names were pulled and seven lucky recipients took away a World Puzzle for their classrooms.

The wide world of wikis, and a initiative with Chet the Bear to travel the world in 180 Days followed. 10 Chet the Bears found lovely homes with teachers from K-5. But the fun wasn't quite finished... Susan still had a THE BIG GIVEWAY. Throughout the day each teacher had placed their name in a drawing for an IPOD, Flip Video, Headphones, Digital Camera, Web Cam, and a Wii!! A few very lucky teachers left with big smiles and new techie tools to enhance their students' learning!

To conclude, Susan had each teacher visit her blog and leave a comment. She reemphasised that "We are going to go beyond the borders of our classrooms and cross the digital divide into the future - together."

What a grand opening day! I can't wait for the students to embark on this Virtual Learning Adventure--Around the World in 180 Days!


Melanie Holtsman said...

Thanks for sharing the details of our magical day Suzanne. We are so fortunate to have a tech-savvy teacher like you on staff to help support our new mantra "No Teacher Left Behind". Blogging our practice like you do has helped us make some real online connections in the ning and face to face - thanks for taking the time to do it! :)

Ken Pruitt said...

WOW! I am envious. I was excitied just reading about it. A PD day with a strong, supported message. Congrats to all, I look forward to following the next phase of your transition. Looks like this year will be a blast.

Jeff Utecht said...

Sounds like you had a great first day! Glad I could be a small part of it from half way around the world.