Sunday, December 30, 2012

The World's Innaugural Jedcamp

Today was historic as the world's first Jedcamp took place on a beautiful South Florida 'winter' day, graciously hosted by the Scheck Hillel Community School. 

What is a Jedcamp?  As it says on the website  "In the spirit of edcamp, a JEDcamp is an informal opportunity for Jewish Educators to gather and discuss what they do and how to do it better."
Simply put- It's an 'unconference.' 

Let's wind it back. Well over a year ago Seth Dimbert (@MisterD) wanted to bring the Edcamp concept to the Jewish education arena and call it Jedcamp. He and I (@RabbiWex) mulled it over and decided the only way to do it was, well to simply do it. Seth picked a date, created a Jedcamp website, and with the help of colleagues we used Twitter (and specifically the #Jedchat hashtag) to help spread the word. We also started tweeting the hashtag "#Jedcamp."

We sat down to discuss expectations and what would be considered success for our first Jedcamp. We decided if 5 or 6 educators came together for a few conversations on education that would be a success. 

Fast forward a few months later 40 educators representing nearly 20 different Jewish education institutions and schools across South Florida registered and attended the entire 4 hour Jedcamp. Even more impressive- many educators came during their own Winter Breaks! 

Here's how it all unfolded:

Jedcamp kicked off at 10am with registration, donning the traditional 'name badge' and meeting and greeting. Seth then briefly presented a few slides including the Jedcamp schedule. (You can view Seth's presentation here.) 

Opening Brief Keynote Explaining What An 'Unconference' Is.

Two main points: 

1-The success of Jedcamp would be proportional to the extent of the active participation from the participants. 

2- Participants needed to 'vote with their feet.' Meaning if a particular conversation wasn't appealing or stopped being appealing midway to a particular educator, that educator was encouraged to simply get up and transition to a different conversation. (There are no hard feelings at an 'unconference!')

Next participants wrote down topics they were interested in discussing. Topics were organized on a white board with different sessions, time slots and rooms. 

Educators decided what they wanted to discuss.

Then the 'unconference' commenced. Educators got up and went to a conversation they were interested in. The conversations themselves unfolded in many different ways. During one session educators discussed what a 21st Judaic studies curriculum should look like. 

 A Conversation on 21st Century Curriculum During Session #1

The conversation itself took many different twists and turns with input given by many of the educators (kudos Yossi Kahan for helping guide the conversation). Concurrently a different session took place with educators discussing education technology tools. One of the educators (kudos Peter Eckstein) enhanced the discussion by presenting different web 2.0 tools he uses. 

 Concurrent Conversations During Session #1

Also going on was a conversation about how to more actively involve teens in Hebrew School programming with different engaging projects. 

Still other educators realized they were meeting each other for the first time in person after being part of each other's PLN on Twitter for the last 2 years and decided to group together to discuss everything education.  Professional relationships were being created and authentic, deep learning was taking place. Was a sight to see and one could truly tune in and listen to the symphony of everything education in the air. Actually the first sessions' conversations went over by a healthy 10 minutes because the participants didn't want to stop the conversations. (That should tell you something!)

The second round of conversations were equally engaging with educators staying in sessions or migrating to conversations more appealing to them.

After the first 2 sessions (or about 8 different conversations) educators came together for lunch (many thanks yous to Scheck Hillel Community School and Subway for sponsoring the flavorful coffee and delicious lunch!) and schmoozing followed by the last sessions of the unconference. Time flew and by 2pm all participants came together as prizes were raffled off and Jedcamp certificate of attendance were distributed. At that point educators were already following each other on Twitter and discussing the days happenings.

Certificate of Participation Created by Seth Dimbert

It really was an epic event. Keep in mind that Jedcamp is not sponsored. Jedcamp is not something that educators 'have to do.' It is not about technology- though that could be a topic if educators so deemed. 

The Jedcamp model works because educators who attend have no ulterior motives other than the fact that they are passionate about education and want to see our schools and institutions continue to improve so our student can grow up to be quality Jewish people, strong Jewish leaders and active contributors to improve and enhance our society and world at large. Educators came because educators wanted to come.

And so there is no doubt this is the first of many Jedcamps to arise all over North America and hopefully the world. 

As Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Sages) says "One need not complete the work however one is not absolved from abstaining!"

Check out Seth's blog post on this historic event here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Choosing the Right iPad Apps

Has your school started or will begin deploying iPads and you are trying to figure out which apps to select to promote deeper student learning? Here is a great apps rubric to help decide which apps are the right ones for your class.

Also, below is an example of how the SAMR model works with apps.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hillel- A School Without Walls

No matter what your personal philosophy is on education technology, the reality is our world is shifting dramatically and needs educators who have the ability to incorporate technology into their classrooms. Start by taking small steps and yes there will be an adjustment period. Overall you will notice positive changes in student behaviors and learning attitudes and you will wonder why you didn't transition sooner. All it takes is a little effort.

Although currently in New York City today our Hillel team created a Skype class where I was was able to educate my Scheck Hillel Community School students on the topic of Hurricane Sandy. Using to ask open ended questions we were able to have a conversation on Hurricane Sandy and discuss perspectives on life and Judaism with our 6th Grade Period C class. I also infused our class with CERD's philosophies of reflecting on living in the 'here and now.' Students did this by reflecting at the moment on what they were grateful for in life. We also created some Wordles with student responses. Check out this Wordle and this Wordle. (Based on both Wordles can you guess what the first two open ended question were?)

Students were able to answer either by emailing answers or texting them. Students understood the rules and conditions about when they could and couldn't use their phones and laptops and did a great job overall.

I want to give a very big thank you to @MisterD and Mrs. Anton for co-directing our class and allowing it to run smooth at the school's end! I also want to thank @garyweisserman and @Josh_Spodek as well as other educators on Hillel's Dream Team for stopping by and participating! You can read Gary's blog on today's learning on Hillel's campus by clicking here.

This is a microcosm of Hillel's amazing learning environment and leadership.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 21st Century Presenter

I spent the last day and a half attending a Resilience Training workshop/seminar with facilitators of CERD. We were asked to spend the second half of day 2 reflecting on our learning.

While I will not be discussing the actual training in this blog post, as a presenter on the topic of 21st Century Learning I thought it would be a good idea to blog 5 general observations on PD presentations.

General Reflections and Observations on PD Presentations:

1- It's fascinating to me to see how PD instructors and presenters fail to incorporate technology to make the learning more engaging. In fact what it does psychologically is it ruins the opportunity to have a great start and earn the trust of the educators.

Facilitator says "Welcome, before we begin please turn off all cell phones and electronics."

Attendees hears "Welcome, before we begin please step into this cage and you will be released in a few hours."

I wish I was joking. However it's the truth. That's how educators feel. There's no gray area here. So work with educators wants and needs or lose them.

2- Simply allowing the educators to use their phones under basic guidelines is a good thing. Try using a web 2.0 tools like to allow responses and feedback and opinions and from the crowd.

3- Incorporate Twitter so educators can reflect, then create a hashtag and tweet the different lines or nuggets of learning they found meaningful and valuable. This extends and depends the conversation amongst the learners.

4- There needs to be a back channel like todaysmeet arranged where educators can post questions, comments and give direct real-time feedback to the presenters. I think this can change the level of engagement and interactivity amongst the attendees.

5- All workshops and PD sessions are too long. Less equals more. Educators are smart and intelligent human beings who need to feel valued and feel their time is being valued. Be succinct. Value their time. Other wise you may be the catalyst for engendering animosity, angst, anger or even burnout. A professional presenter keeps things short and sweet and moving. Time management truly is critical.

Although this is a starting point if presenters can incorporate even one of these items the attendees will be afforded that much deeper and valuable a learning experience.

So what do you think? Do you agree, disagree, a little bit of both maybe? Please share your thoughts!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reflections of a Paperless Digital Class Part 1

I want to update you on how my paperless digital classes are going in middle school this year as I  focus on 21st century learning. Although I have blogged about what it's like teaching in a virtual class last year I felt it was important to continue blogging about my experiences with new classes too. If you notice redundancies or a point I have articulated in the past it's only because similar challenges, successes or observations have arisen in my class this year as well. If you are new to 21st-century learning or looking for a framework for students to practice 21st century learning check out this link.

I also want to add this is not my first year teaching a paperless class and nevertheless although I have many experiences to draw upon new challenges will invariably arise with every class and an educator has to be able to tweak and update his/her classes and be able to roll with the punches.

School has been in session for about 6 weeks.   Let me first say no matter how much time you spend and how clear and articulate you are at the outset prepping and training your students for a paperless digital class they will do better and be successful once they've rolled up their sleeves, made mistakes and learned from their mistakes. That's the bottom line. As Michael Jordan says: "I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. 

So on that note I want to reflect on my classes early successes and challenges.

Early Successes:

1- Students with organizational issues feel a lot more put together and secure knowing all their files are in a digital backpack. Students especially liked being able to link their Google Docs together with their digital backpack so that when they worked on the Google Docs they would automatically be saved into their digital backpack.

2- I'm able to truly differentiate the process of the students learning with each individual student learning at their own level and at their own pace. Just today a higher level learner student in my class expressed how much he enjoys the learning process and particularly that he can work at his pace and doesn't feel he's being held back for some students who maybe need a little extra time.

3- I have seen some student post comments to each other that have been nothing short of magnificent in terms of their digital citizenship. Students are learning how to reply appropriately using an even 'tone' and complement each others ideas. 

4- Students are able to demonstrate practicing 21st-century learning skills- especially collaboration and communication. One of the things that students have to do in our class is ask their questions to a peer first before they can come to me. This concept was absolutely shocking to them at first as they would come up to me and I would politely redirect them to one of their peers.  It was literally a brand-new concept that they could actually ask and learn from each other! They caught on quick though and many are proactive in helping each other out.

5- I'm able to incorporate Game Based Learning. This means students don't learn from units and lessons but instead they learn from 'worlds' and 'levels.' Students earn digital badges for a variety of 21st century learning tasks. Here are a few of the badges they can earn. Many students comment to me they feel like they're playing a video game (which is one reason why it's called Game Based Learning!) and they enjoy being able to work through the 'units' in this format. To learn more about Game Based Learning you can check out Hyle Daley's GBL presenation at Edmodocom 2011 here. Start from the 2:58 minute marker. 

Early challenges:

1- Students felt overwhelmed at the outset. Many students, including those relatively proficient in technology had to adjust to the concept of working at their own pace with the learning management systems (Edmodo and Final Site).  Moreover students needed refreshers on basics like opening a new Internet tab, downloading/uploading files as well as saving files and links to their computers or to the cloud.

2- Although assignments (levels) were laid out in a clear format that literally included step by step instructions, students were skimming but not necessarily reading all the directions. I was (and still am) constantly reminding students not to skim but to read the directions word for word. 

3- Students were confused how much time to spend working on levels at home. Some students were spending way too much time working on assignments at home. I explained homework is only for 15-20 minutes max and even then only on nights that there is set homework from my department! 

4- Students were really nervous because of the due dates included with the assignments- they didn't want to be held accountable or lose points if they turned in work late. I explained to the students not to get hung up on due dates and if they needed a level extension they should let me know. 

What amazes me about students in elementary, middle and even high school is no matter how much technology they have at home or you think they know, the bottom line is most students are not yet tech- proficient. This not a knock on students, parents, teachers or schools- it's a reality educators must keep in mind. And yet at the same time students will teach you something in technology you never knew and all you can do is smile as you think to yourself 'wow I just learned something cool from my students!'

I also think underlying some of these early challenges are it is ingrained in students in America that they need to get good grades or else! This is prevelant in many schools in America and relates to whether schools properly implement formative and summative assessments as well as whether they use a competency based currculum to wean students off the whole 'good grade/bad grade' thing and focus more on 'with which content or skills that I learned have I demonstrated my mastery and proficiency." These are big topics and will blog them and discuss on #Jedchat at a different point in time. 

I will now begin to take my reflections and tweak my lessons (or should I say levels) accordingly. Will keep you posed with my Reflections of a Paperless Digital Class- Part 2 coming in November.

Lastly, kudos to @MisterD for the following:

You should click here and follow Wex on Twitter. His handle is @RabbiWex

You should follow @MisterD on Twitter too.


Friday, September 14, 2012

PLN's Revisited

I had the honor of being published in Ravsak's most recent HaYidion Journal. The issue was all about networking and I was able to provide my two cents and talk a little about the origins of #Jedchat as a PLN. More and more educators are slowly hearing about and heading towards PLN's for a variety of reasons. The link to my article is above and here.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

iPad Apps Evaluation

Check out this iPad Apps Evaluation list compiled by Sylvia Tolisano. Among other things I like how she incorporated both Bloom's Taxonomy and Gardner's Multiple Intelligences.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Here is a presentation by Steve Wheeler on an overview of the digital age of learning. Keep in mind this is from a 32,000 feet perspective, yet it helps you begin to understand the power and complexity of digital learning.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Instilling Values in Kids

At a recent Jedchat the question was how and where to instill values, ethics and morals in school curriculum. Many good suggestions were offered including 'teachers should simply role model them,' and 'it should be a natural component of school life and doesn't need to be formally taught.'
In today's American society, with a culture that accepts no boundaries as a norm, it's imperative and vital that parents learn how to parent effectively and schools help reinforce what is taught at home. And by the way it is a lot easier to parent than today's parents think. I've had conversations with parent who tell me they just don't know how to connect with their teen and give them plenty of leeway because they know they won't listen to them anyways so they might as well give them flexibility so as not to further turn them off.
I have a friend who I consider a rock star of a human being. We were once discussing proper parenting and this person told me the number one thing is to continually say to your child 'Be good.' And reinforce it. Over and over. Parents- you need to champion the cause of good parenting. Tell your children/teens to 'Be good,' provide clear boundaries and be role models.

Because at the end of the day it is the home that wins out. Period. Schools are not magical fail-safe switches!

Monday, April 30, 2012


Bima in school on planet earth on StorybirdStorybird is a free web-publishing tool educators can incorporate into their curriculum for project assessments. Work can be kept private or published to showcase the students hard work and effort. There is even an option to purchase a hard-copy of the students work.

Friday, March 23, 2012

2012 AISF Conference Reflections

Today I presented on the topic of 21st Century Learning as part of the 2012 Association of Independent Schools of Florida (AISF) Conference at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. The presentation included 18 different web 2.0 tools for educators to consider incorporating into their classrooms. Some of the presentation slides with the 18 web tools are included on a google presentation link here. There was tremendous enthusiasm and passion from the educators/administrators/principles who attended. I want to briefly reflect on the presentation.

When I was originally planning my presentation a number of thoughts occurred: While some educators may have already been familiar with 21st Century learning and web tools, others participants would be sitting down and learning about 21st century learning concepts for the first time. In addition the participants would range from veteran educators to new educator. How would I engage this group and captivate them the entire time? On the other hand this wasn't merely an academic presentation on the theories of education technology integration with educators debating my every word. The attendees signed up because they wanted to learn.

So I decided to categorize the web tools into 4 different sections; critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. (I simply did not have the time to discuss cross-cultural understanding.) After presenting each category I would ask the educators to break into small groups of 3 and 4 and have a brief conversation on how these tools could be incorporated into their classrooms be it through assessment, activities and etc. I also created a back channel on TodaysMeet for educators to use during the presentation.

So how did everything turn out? For starters I didn't end up using my Todaysmeet back channel because no-one brought a laptop. That was ok though because the group I had was definitely engaged and very much on learning mode. I noticed some web tools presented captivated the crowd and people instantly appreciated them. Amongst the big hits were Edmodo, Voki, Glogster, Prezi and Classdojo. Other tools would need more time for educators to 'marinate on' until they could fully appreciate them and unleash their potential. I also made an 'executive desicion' to have2 break out groups instead of 4 due to time restrictions and to allow the group time to transition to their next presenter. I must note the participants really liked alternating between frontal lecturing and group learning and being actively engaged in their learning. Student-centered learning works for educators too! (Seriously though- how many times have we gone to presentations and been bored to tears from passive learning and non-stop lecturing!)

Overall I received very positive feedback from many of the educators who attended my presentation. A few mentioned they were going to immediately incorporate Voki and Glogster into upcoming units. Their words brought about a digital symphony to my 21st Century ears!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reflections of a Paperless Digital Class Part 3

With our school year more than halfway finished below is my 3rd reflection since switching to blended digital classes. 
My observations: 
  1. Technology holds students to a higher level of accountability, gives them a ‘voice’, propels them to learn deeper, promotes deeper critical thinking and helps wean students from a garbage in- garbage out or rote memorization mentality simply for a grade to acquiring truly authentic learning experiences.
  2. Most students enjoy learning from short educational/instructional videos as well as focus better with short mini-lectures of 5 to 7 minutes at a time with group discussions mixed in.
  3. At this point students are very comfortable using their digital backpacks including saving and uploading files or links to their digital library. A number of students mentioned they really appreciate the ability to access their files and learning materials through Edmodo wherever they have access to an Internet connection. They also continue to tell me how much it helps them stay organized. 
  4. Most students enjoy blogging or being able to comment on their learning to the group, responding to peer comments and suggesting feedback to each other. The asynchronous learning through our group's conversations allows students to read and internalize other students’ thoughts or perspectives and then think through and put in writing their own comments and/or perspectives. Overall it makes for deeper focused conversations. I recently facilitated a 6 class unit in preparation for the school wide ‘bracha bee.’ As part of each assignment students had to post to their peers on an idea, concept or blessing they had never learned previously and comment on another students post. The depth and focused conversations that resulted reflected the deeper learning taking place in the classroom.
  5. My class contains learners ‘all over the board.’ Yet virtually all students are engaged in their learning and on task the majority of class. The ability to differentiate instruction through content, process and product has truly been realized and augmented through student centered learning and the proper use of  web 2.0 tools and learning management platforms. 
  6. Finding the proper blend of digital work, frontal instruction and group discussions is ongoing. This is partly due as to the nature of Judaic classes including goals aside from course content; Namely for students to have time to bond with their Rabbi-educator role model and be inspired Jewishly through frontal teaching and discussions. I have found that within a 50 minute lesson there are a number of ways to configure your class so the students can learn as well as connect with you. For example you can start out with 3 separate 5 to 7 minute frontally taught lessons with 3 separate 4 minute group discussions laced within your lecture. Then for 10 minutes a student chooses either to work in a group, individually or work in a group you oversee.  Students can then spend 5 to 10 minutes reflecting on their learning, posting and then responding to discussions threads to each other.
  7. I remind students daily of the expectation to use technology strictly for learning purposes during class time. This doesn’t necessarily mean students are off-task during class time but at the beginning of a period teachers need to create the digital framework for their students. I often begin class by articulating which specific websites/tools on the computer should be open and to close out all other windows/tools. 
  8. I remind students on a daily basis they need to read the instructions carefully and not just give a cursory glance and think they know it! For example my Talmud (Analytical Thinking & Reasoning) class has a number of instructions for each ‘level ‘(read: ‘lesson’ however I use gaming terminology with this class.) The instructions are clearly laid out step by step but students don’t always take the time to focus on the details. They may submit work which does not have all the elements of that day’s assignment.
  9. There is very little to no behavioral issues as students are plugged in and engaged in their learning leaving little time for disruptions or boredom. Classdojo is an extremely effective behavioral management told when used correctly. Generally students appreciate the instant praise and feedback, their percentage and their running record for the year.
  10. Having loaded Bloom’s Taxonomy and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences graphs/charts in their digital backpacks I help students actively realize what their learning styles are and the depth of their learning. Sometimes a student tells me he/she has finished his/her assignment and I will either have them continue working on an anchor activity or I will actually pull up a Bloom’s Taxonomy chart and have the student think through which levels he/she accomplished with their learning. If he/she not yet done so I will challenge the student by giving suggestions which will aid them in reaching the top 2 levels (to create and to evaluate) with their learning. I also make students aware of Gardner’s MI verb list so they can be assessed (pre, formative and summative!) on curriculum in ways that align with their interests and talents. 
So what do you think? Have you been integrating technology in your classes? Can you partially or fully relate to and empathize with my observations or do you have vastly different experiences? Can you appreciate how technology can afford students deeper learning experiences? I’m all ears...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Great Trigger Clips

As you know by now I like to intersperse great trigger clips within my blog. I recently explained the mishnaic dictum  (Avot 4:2) of 'mitzvah goreret mitzvah' (one mitzvah fulfilled ushers in the next mitzvah opportunity) to students. How does this video explain this concept?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Learning Never Ends- #Jedchat and Twitter

As my red eye flight crosses the Mason-Dixon line (at least according to Jet Blu’s in flight TV monitor [note: As a first time flyer of Jet Blu I was excited to be able to watch TV on a continental us flight- Until they informed us that there’s a $2 charge for headphones and $5.99 for a movie- Hence my alternative activity which is more cost effective and lets me actually engage my brain!]) I can’t help but think back to last night when the Washington Post featured an article about educators using Twitter- and listed #Jedchat as one of the Twitter education groups! My first reaction was “o.k. it is a pretty big deal that out of the tens of thousands (millions?) of hashtags in the Twitter-verse the Washington Post included #Jedchat in it’s list.
Then I reviewed the article and thought to myself- this is what the influence of social media is all about. This is what #Jedchat is all about. Yet why does #Jedchat work? Why do Jewish educators and education stakeholders feel comfortable participating in #Jedchat? What makes #Jedchat unique? Does it have to do with pluralism or equality or all persuasions of Judaism coming together in harmony for the perfect educational symphony? Not necessarily- Though these are all offshoots and sub-goals of what #Jedchat provides.
When Akevy, Dov and I had our first Google Hangout our vision was very simple: we wanted to create a platform whose driving question (partial-plug for project based learning) for all genuine professional educators was universal; namely-  “How can we provide our students with deep authentic learning experiences.”
That’s ‘all’ it took to launch #Jedchat on Twitter. (And yes Israel- we will eventually have a chat in your time-zone!)
Twitter for edcuators is a unique learning experience. Yes at first it is intimidating because you feel like you are thrown into Midtown-Manhattan where everyone is bumping into you and you don’t know how long to walk, how long to stop, who to ask a question to, who to listen to…(do I sound like I am gearing up for The City!)
Soon you begin to follow a small group of colleagues you recognize and you slowly see the plethora of knowledge flying your way. You click on one the education links and start reading an article on something relevant to what you are doing in your school. You start reading and reflecting other tweets more carefully asking yourself if you agree or disagree or why. You slowly begin honing in and refining your real-time education techniques in ways that you may not have wanted to do before. You are making the learning happen for you without being pushed and it feels good that way. You get into a comfort zone. Then you start tweeting yourself, first by re-tweeting other people’s ideas you like and want to share and finally adding your own original thoughts and links.
Then you want to empower others as you’ve empowered yourself so you start showing your colleagues how Twitter works. At first most of them may not take you seriously. “but isn’t Twitter for celebrities” and all the usual stuff that becomes along with first time Twitter newbies. But be persistent and consistent with them and they will come to thank you the way you have thanked the people who showed you Twitter and #Jedchat. And keep up your great tweeting on #Jedchat!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

From So. Flo. to San Fran. - The Impact of a PLN

Last night at around 6:30PST and 9:30EST something unique and exciting happened. I had the opportunity to lead a PD session with a cohort of Religious School educators from area congregational schools in San Francisco. You may be asking yourself "did he really fly all the way to the West Coast just to turn around and fly back in time to deliver finals to his classes in South Florida 9 hours later?" Not exactly. But with a little pre-thought and pre-planning, tools like Skype and iwork enabled me to deliver a 2 hour presentation on project based learning in a Religious School setting. And the entire endeavor resulted directly from my Personal Learning Network.

On a recent #jedchat conversation on Twitter @debbyj18 (Her real name is Debby Jacoby, a recent co-classmate graduate from our YU-IUSP Ed. Tech. program, whose role in the Bureau of Jewish Education in San Fran. is Director of the Center for Educational Leadership and NESS) posted she was looking for an educator to lead a presentation for religious school educators. In San Fransico. California. I've been really gung-ho this year on expanding my PLN while at the same time giving back to my PLN. With a simple Skype connection and a few other 'tools' it was technically possible to run a trans-continental PD session. When I told Debby I couldn't make it in person but would be happy to Skype in she didn't even flinch; she was very excited for the endeavor. That was a little over 5 weeks ago ago. 

Between then and last night I worked on a keynote slide show with embedded live links to videos and  websites uploaded to the web with access links sent to Debby (just in case our connection was severed during the session.) I also e-mailed a PDF of the slides which would be used as copies for the educators and sent a few links of materials for the educators to view prior to the PD session. That was the 'easy' part. One of my biggest challenges would be connecting to educators who were attending a PD session at night and after school. Couple that with the fact that I needed to develop a connection with them via a Skype screen. And finally- remember the 3 hour time differential! My presentation wouldn't start until 9:30pm EST- after a full days work! How would it all play out? 

The night of the presentation my adrenalin was pumping full force and energized me. We tested the Skype connection (pictured above) and the screen sharing feature and everything was working smoothly. There was a little static at my end at first but it dissipated after a few minutes. 

I tried to make the presentation as interactive as possible with the educators, 'switching gears' every 7 minutes or so. Off the bat Debby did a great job making the introductions and setting the mood/tone for the evening. PD sessions are notoriously challenging for educators and I opened my presentation as I do with all my PD presentation- explaining to the educators that they matter and that I value them and their time (I realy do). It was only slightly weird delivering a presentation through a computer screen and I tried to act as naturally as possible. For me it was nice to see how professional everyone was acting in the room- like they had been skyping with other presenters for years.

Starting with my opening piece, a KWL chart exercise, to the actual slide show (kudos to whose materials were used for my presentation) and different activities in between like creating an open ended driving question, (see picture below to see how the ideas were discussed, developed and then proposed on the board- Thank you Debby for writing them on the board!) the educators seemed engaged and were actively participating in their learning. Educators directed challenging questions to me and addressed me like I was there in person.

Looking back the time really flew to the point where we had to hasten the end of the session to allow for educators to reflect and articulate their takeaways from the presentation. Their responses were positive. Debby and I touched base after the sessions and we both felt like the experiment had been a success (full disclosure- we're actually skyping tomorrow to further think through and reflect on the experience and tweak as seen fit moving forward.) 

We concluded with each educator reflecting on what they learned from the session (The "L" on the KWL chart) Here's a video snippit of the educators sharing what they learned:

Not 12 hours later did I receive an e-mail that one of the educators who attended was already thinking about how to apply what she learned for her upcoming classes! I am still thinking through the entire experience but it seems with today's technologies coupled with a PLN and a little pro-activeness, well, 21st Century learning is truly limitless. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012