Today was a PA Day at GECDSB. This means that teachers across the system were engaged in professional learning with a focus on improving outcomes for the students that they teach. This is a valuable time for the teachers to learn together, collaborate, and gain a deeper understanding of some of the things they can do to support student learning.

Not being based in a school, my role on these days looks very different depending on the requests from our schools. Today I was fortunate enough to work at Centennial Central in Comber. This school wanted to spend some time exploring how they could use the new technology in the school to support student learning, particularly in the area of communicating in mathematics.

The school has purchased 11 iPads and 4 Apple TV units, to go with 6 projectors, three SmartBoards and two carts of laptops provided by the board. The SmartBoards and laptops are tools the teachers have used for a long time and are comfortable and confident with. The aims of today were:

– begin to use the iPad and gain more comfort/confidence with how they work

– create something using an iPad

– explore a small number of apps and concepts that could support the student learning need.

I am going to focus on the specifics of the apps in a later post, but for now wanted to write about the process we went through to build confidence.

Firstly, the group were introduced to the iMovie app. They were given an intentionally brief overview of the app and asked to work in small groups or teams. The challenge was to create a movie trailer promoting the school.

Th philosophy of this activity was that iMovie is a very intuitive app, and the learning curve is not a steep one. It was a chance to show that one of the great benefits of the iPad in student hands is how the various elements of the device (in this case the app, the camera and the microphone) are all so integrated. By the end of the activity, once the teachers saw the quality of the movies that they created, they would feel empowered and motivated to further explore the iPad. Along the way the challenge was obviously to think about “where would this fit in my classroom”.

By the end of the activity, the aims had been realized. The teachers had used the app and device with a purpose, and had learned for themselves how easy it was. They made connections to where and how they might use it with students (every year our assessment data indicates a board-wide weakness in summarizing and identifying main idea – both important elements of the trailer creation process). They felt the benefit of working together and started to create informal, school-based support networks that will help them as they transfer these skills into their classroom.

The whole experience reinforced a belief for me around PD for technology. As important as it is to have someone present who knows how to do these things, what is more important is that teachers have time to explore, a purpose for the exploration, and a context within which to apply their new knowledge. The foundation of this learning cannot be the “how” of technology usage, but the “why” and “when”.

Several groups consented to the sharing of their movies. A huge “thank-you” to those groups and a reminder to all not to take the productions too seriously. One of the strengths of this exercise was that it was completed in a fun and safe environment and the end product was never intended to be serious!

Posted on November 16, 2012, in GECDSB, Professional Development. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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