In many of my previous posts you’ve heard me mention my experiences with PLP (Powerful Learning Practice), and the journey our Digital Learning Team has traveled this year as part of this transformative professional development program.
Most recently, our team has created and begun implementing our action research project, the culminating project for the year. It took an enormous amount of brainstorming, patience, and determination to create a project that would work for our entire Pre-K to 12 faculty. The project had to be completed in the last 2 months of the school year, when we guessed faculty might be most resistant to having yet more work heaped upon them…
Our first idea was entirely too broad – When we presented it during an Elluminate session with our cohort, we got shot down – hard. We were angry, frustrated, and went back to our corners sulking and fuming… for a day. Then we took a deep breath, pulled together, and got down to business. What emerged from that point was an incredibly successful effort I would love to share.
Our team decided to choose one area where the faculty most needed to grow – collaboration. We have three separate divisions that hardly see each other! We wanted to find a way we could bond as a faculty with the assistance of some new technologies that we hoped would excite our staff. We would share ideas and resources, and demonstrate the power of collaboration.
We felt strongly about these things:
• The faculty is overworked, and seldom receives positive reinforcement for their efforts. Salaries have been at a standstill for years. We felt it was important to give something back to the faculty – to provide positive feedback and incentives.
• We needed to make sure the faculty felt supported by our team, and knew they weren’t alone.
• We wanted to show the faculty how their learning was going to be useful and relevant for them.
• Although the tasks were required, we chose to make it fun.
We decided on two tasks each faculty member would complete.
1. Each faculty member would contribute to a discussion on our school Ning, and post a discussion or article. Here they could have a voice, and contribute to discussions about school policy and practice.
2. Each faculty member would create a Diigo account, bookmark a site, and follow a member of the Digital Learning Team. Here they could understand the benefits of online bookmarking, and find and share new resources with colleagues.
We introduced the project in 15 minutes at an all-school faculty meeting this month. We started off with a funny Xtranormal movie (a creative way to introduce the project AND show off a fun tool). Then explained the project and encouraged folks to ask us or one another for help. (Did you watch the movie? Go back right now and watch the movie.)
THE GAME: To make it fun and supportive, we divided the staff among the 7 of us, so that everyone would have a team member for support. We created a game called Ningo Bingo. Everyone received a bingo card with 9 activities. It was not required to play the game. You could just do the 2 required assignments and be finished. But… if you did just one more, you could earn a Bingo! Those who earned a Bingo could take their card to their Digital Learning Team support member and receive a small prize. We gave out bags of candy with positive affirmations – i.e., a bag of Tootsie Rolls with a note that said, “You’re on a ROLL – Keep learning!”
Those who really wanted to have some fun had the option of completing all 9 tasks on the card for a “blackout”. These tasks took the development of a personal learning network a step further and included things like commenting on a blog, creating an RSS reader, etc. Those who earned a blackout could choose a $10 gift card to a local business AND have their name put in the drawing for an IPAD 2!!! Names of those who have earned a blackout are posted on the Ning for all to see.
The response has been nothing short of incredible. Folks who swore they would NEVER use technology are all over the Ning… They’re posting articles, asking questions, and exploring well beyond what we’ve asked of them. Administrative support staff (that we did not require to participate) are emailing us, asking if they can “play”… Wow.
As I reflected on the experience, I thought about these things: What motivated our faculty learners? What were the optimum conditions for learning? How did we create a project that worked for all levels of ability? Why did so many learners go “above and beyond” the requirements? How many of them will continue learning on their own?
George Couros posted a blog entitled “Don’t Fear the Teacher; Creating the Optimal Learning Environment” – I came across it today and realized how many of these conditions we met with our project. The question is… Am I meeting these conditions in my classroom as well? Are you?