Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall Professional Development Workshops, so far

While we are painfully late in getting these out to the teachers, here are the courses I am offering to our staff this fall. Please let me know of a few things as you read this:

  • opinions on the descriptions and appeal to the classroom teacher.
  • resources I can use to further strengthen the offerings
  • how you might want to adapt them into your offerings
  • if you are interested in participating via skype or any of the myriad conferencing options we have now.
The classes:

Presenting with Google Earth in the Social Studies Classroom
Teaching has become such a visual profession, with great emphasis placed on the context within which you present the material to the students. Using traditional methods of presentation such as PowerPoint can be augmented with several emerging technologies. Google Earth allows teachers to create dynamic, visually engaging presentations that employ the use of video, image, and geographical interfaces.

The Classroom Blog: How to move your students writing to a secure, online community
Our definition of literacy is quickly changing, so much so that we really need to rethink what it means to be "literate" in this century. According to a study commisioned by the National School Board Association, more than 50% of high school students have produced content on the web. Whether that means they are posting to a MySpace or Facebook page, or building a website or wiki, our students are active online. Just as with anything else we teach them, we need to be able to teach them how to create good content, content that has real value both in design and delivery.

Blogging with your students is a great step in this direction. Student writing proficiency and their desire to write will amaze you when you give them the freedom to create on their own blog. We will use 21classes to create your classroom blog. Depending on your level of comfort, we will allow your students writing to be viewable to others, or just to registered members of the site. Other topics to be discussed: online safety, online collaboration, and copyright.

The Media Rich Classroom: Using Video to Engage and Assess students
We have a multitude of resources at our disposal on a daily basis, and our students live and consume digital media on a daily basis. How can you get that media into your classroom in a manner that allows for thoughtful discussion and dissection? This workshop will focus on ways in which you can embed media into your teaching style without completely redesigning everything you do. Primarily, we will look at unitedstreaming's Quiz Builder, which allows for the creation of independent assessments based on videos. These assessments are completed online by your students and the results are emailed to you.

This class will also utilize YouTube, Google Video, TeacherTube, PBS, and other video sites that allow for the legal playback of material on a website or in educational materials. Participants in this workshop will leave with several assessments created, and lessons augmented by video and other digital technologies.

Feedback Matters: How student feedback can change your lesson design: before, during, and after
We spend a good portion of our school year assessing our students on what have learned in our classrooms. But how often do we assess them on how they learned best? Asking students for feedback on your classroom practices, lesson design, and subject choice can lead to great strides in your professional practice. A simple five-question survey, skillfully designed, can yield feedback from the students such as what presentation mode the students enjoyed most, what articles mattered the most to them, or what area they would like you to have spent more time on.

The Wiki Way: Using Wikis as Collaborative Environments
Several teachers in the district have begun to use the power of wikis to enable their students to work collaboratively on web pages centered around a particular subject or project. Sites that use “wiki” technology are turning the ideas we have held about online research upside down. A Wiki is defined as:
a type of web site that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change some available content.... This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative authoring. The term wiki also can refer to the collaborative website itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a Web site, or to certain specific wiki sites, ...and on-line encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.
Wiki technology lends itself inherently to collaborative learning and creation. The very idea that several students can work on a body of information both simultaneously, independently, and from any location where they have an Internet connection, immediately extends the classroom beyond the 40 minutes that we see them and beyond the physical walls of our classroom. Participants from any content area will benefit from the balance of student freedom and teacher control afforded by wikispaces. Some examples of projects that teachers using wikis have created are: classroom study guides for full and half-year courses and even individual exams, collaborative projects with other schools in other countries, choose-your-own-ending stories, and student-driven tutorials for all levels of mathematics.

Internet Safety: What you need to know about keeping your students safe online
If ever there was a hot topic among educators, it is the issue of how to keep yourselves and your students safe as they venture into the realm of online content creation. We wrestle with our fears and those generated by the media regarding the dangers of online activity, but we long to connect our students to the growing amount of quality information, interaction and creative outlets that the web offers. Where is the line?

This workshop will delve into common-sense strategies to help you feel more comfortable about using the internet in the classroom, working with your students in an online collaborative environment, and teaching your students true online ethics.

Google Docs and Spreadsheets: Track Student Writing and Foster Collaboration through Google Docs
Working with students as they learn to become writers is often a trial and error process, and we struggle sometimes with the ability to track changes in their revisions. Also, sometimes we have students that truly need more than just a conference or two to set them on the right path to creating a quality piece of writing. What if you could write alongside your students from the very first sentence to the final revision? What if you could provide scaffolding for the students to help them organize their thoughts and see the changes they make to that structure in real time?

Welcome to Google Docs and Spreadsheets, where you can collaborate on a document with a student from the outset, and track changes in their work as they complete it. This application, free from the folks at Google, also allows for a permanent storage place for student writing that is secure and trustworthy. Have a student that loses work, CD's, or flashdrives? Google Docs automatically saves writing every 30 seconds and allows the students to access their writing anywhere they have an internet connection. If you are serious about improving the quality of your student writing, think about taking this workshop.

SearchSmarter: Increasing Online Productivity through more efficient research
How do you judge the worthiness of an internet site? When we search for information, or ask our students to search for information, we need to be able to use as many filters as we can to eliminate excess choices that detract from our task at hand: we need to search smarter. The percentage of students who venture beyond the first three or four hits on a Google search is minimal. As those charged with teaching them to delve deeper, providing them with failsafe strategies for making those top three quality sites is imperative.

Using simple Boolean search strategies, as well as alternative search methods and search engines, this workshop will arm you with a multitude of methods for helping your students find a higher percentage of useful information with their searching. You will also be shown how to create a custom search engine that limits the sites that students can search to only those you want them to access.

Introduction to Social Networking and Personal Learning Environments: Using Smarter People to Raise your Level of Thinking
Professional development is often thought of as being the "sit and get" variety, however, with the emergence of new social networking software professional development can be taken to a whole new, interactive level. This workshop will explore the power of using a network to help you learn "socially," through the use of professional networking sites, social bookmarking, and RSS, participants in this class will learn to find intelligent people in your field and "attach" themselves to them. As they learn and acquire resources, so will you!

Some of the applications used in this class will be the Classroom 2.0 Social Network, del.icio.us bookmarking, and Google Reader. Teachers and staff with familiarity with any of these applications are strongly encouraged to attend.

Copyright or Copy Wrong
As a district we are entering a phase where our student work is becoming increasingly public, as is the content we create for educational purposes. At what point do we as teachers leave the protection of "Fair Use," and enter into the area of copyright infringement? This is information we need to know.

Our society, and especially our students, are becoming increasingly a "cut-and-paste" society, where information, pictures, audio, and video found on the internet are viewed as free for the taking. This is far from the truth; having a clear understanding of what is copyright and what is "copywrong" will help you steer yourselves and your students away from potential legal issues down the road.

Additionally, this workshop will explore the idea of Creative Commons, a non-profit organization dedicated to "creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare 'some rights reserved.'"

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flickr photo credit:"Fresh Development Business Card - Front" pickledshark's photostream


mike.gregory said...


I considered three areas when reading the course offerings: appeal to the classroom teacher, participation via Skype or other conferencing options, and administrators' participation.

I think what is already happening in the district makes these offerings very appealing to the teachers. I believe you said, "Envy is not a bad thing." But also, people are genuinely excited and self-motivated to utilize these resources to improve/increase learning opportunities.

To have the ability to participate via some form of conferencing gives participants flexibility and, in some cases, a safer environment.

Lastly, as I read the descriptions, I was checking off those that I intend to encourage teachers to attend and those that I, myself, would be signing up for. This brought several issues to mind. How can we appeal to other administrators and what would the comfort level be for both the teachers and administrators?

Personally, I can’t expect the teachers or encourage them to utilize resources that I, myself, am not somewhat knowledgeable about. I don’t believe as administrators that we can evaluate others’ performance if we are not familiar with the philosophy behind the instructional approach they choose to utilize. This is my motivation but what about other administrators and what can be done to attract them?

As for comfort levels, this past year I took two graduate courses relative to instructional strategies that included all teachers with the exception of myself. In both cases, I initially sensed uneasiness from the others. Would this be the case in these workshops? Particularly, since participants would be, for lack of better terminology, supervisors and subordinates.

Drussell said...

Patrick ~ Would love to participate in your workshops! Please let me know what we need to do on our side. I am a middle school tech facilitator in Lee County, Sanford, NC.

Danita Russell

Melanie Holtsman said...

I wish I could participate, but don't know what wouldn't be blocked here! Any suggestions for getting around firewalls?
:) Melanie

Darren Draper said...

This is an excellent listing of classes, Patrick. Seeing this list makes me wish our district wasn’t so 20th Century. At times it can take so much effort to turn such a large barge.

As for your descriptions, I think they’re good. They are straight-forward and discuss how the teachers can use the skills you will be teaching.

As for participating with you, sign me up. Robin Ellis and I are planning on doing our Social Software in the Classroom 5-week course again (beginning in January). We’d love to work with you then (possibly in some sort of rotation) and before then as well.

Let me know what you have in mind.

Darren Draper

Patrick Higgins said...


Thanks for the great comment and for pushing my thinking a little bit here. I will try to hit all of your points.

First, I agree that envy should not be the primary motivator behind teachers choosing to change their instructional strategy, and I think as a district we are ready to move away from the "whatever it takes" mentality to get teachers to change. However, we need to be sure that what the teachers take away from these workshops is not just a cool tool to use once and throw away, but rather a pedagogical shift that truly takes their teaching somewhere it could not have gotten without the tool.

Bringing in experts, teachers who are already using these technologies lets our teachers see the practicality of the tool in the classroom setting.

Your points about the feeling that PD is only for teachers is a fantastic issue to talk about. What better message does it send to teachers when their admins are learning to use the same methods they are? We often speak about setting the example of lifelong learning for our students, and as teachers the value of that can never be under-recognized. Seeing you in these workshops might help the shift away from just teacher-student relationship to more of a learner-learner relationship.

Thanks again, Mike, great stuff.

Patrick Higgins said...


Great! The dates for the workshops are being released today, so when that is available I will forward you that info and we can move from there.

Times are generally 8-9am EST and 2:30-3:30pm EST.

What I like to do is to bring you in via skype or something similar and show the teachers some examples of what teacher in your buildings are doing with certain technologies. Also, it gives our teachers the chance to ask questions of people that may have better answers than me.

Thanks for the interest.

Patrick Higgins said...


Teach from a Starbucks or Panera?

I hope you can find a way to get around some of them soon. We would love the opportunity to have you in our classes.

Patrick Higgins said...


I loved the format of your classes, although my 3-year old's schedule didn't jive with it.

What I had in mind, aside from just skyping people in, was to use Yugma to allow whomever was speaking to us to take the screen over and show us how they have used these technologies in a practical setting. My big push this year was to make sure that how we used our technology was not as an "add-on" but became essential to how we ran our classes and how we taught.

Hopefully bringing in experts from around the globe will show our teachers that these tools are indeed practical, but also valuable pedagogically (is that a word?).

As the dates are announced, I will let you know what is happening and when.

mjmonty said...


OUTSTANDING seminar topics...I'm certain attendance will be stellar on both a face to face basis and on a conference basis. Keep us posted on what you'll use to allow us to remotely attend.


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