Back in July, I read a wonderful post by Edutopia titled “Ten Ideas for Teaching Teachers :Technology“. In early August, I forwarded it to my colleague Luke Miles who is widely heralded as our school’s resident techie guru. I stated, “I bet we can get Drew to agree to #4.”
Specifically, this idea the author Ms. Flickinger states she’ll bring back to her district:
4) Save five minutes at the end of each staff meeting to have a teacher tech smackdown!
Teachers have 45 seconds to share their favorite app or web 2.0 tool with their colleagues in a fast-paced, engaging way. Make sure your moderator keeps everyone’s time limit the same. Anyone who wants to learn more can always meet up with the presenters after everybody has shared.
This appealed to us for several reasons. First, not to brag, but our faculty is pretty amazing. However, it’s also huge, and because we are on a multi-track year-round schedule, we aren’t all even teaching in the building at the same time. We thought this would be a great way to share some of the amazing things going on in our colleagues’ classrooms. Also, seeing innovative teaching ideas would simply result in a fun and uplifting way to end a staff meeting. Finally, it’d create some much-needed built-in technology differentiation. Staff that are more tech-savvy could go to a website or other provided resource and learn more independently. People who need support but are interested in using the tool can choose to follow-up with that presenter for more information. No one is forced to sit through a training session on a resource that s/he may either:
- A.) already know and use -OR-
- B.) have no interest in at this time for whatever reason.
Luke’s suggestion of an “Instructional Smackdown” was to cast a wider net of topics and include more staff participation, with the understanding that he & I would be focusing on tech tools each month. I advocated for 60 seconds for our purposes instead of 45. Armed with these ideas, we worked up a presentation for our principal. He agreed under the single stipulation that it had to have a jingle to play to introduce the segment.
Requested jingle ready, we concluded our September Staff Meeting last week with our first “Instructional Smackdown”. We’d hoped to have at least three or four presenters. We had twelve. It was a smashing success, and our principal concluded the meeting saying he planned to end every faculty meeting this way.
One of the many wonderful side effects has been the conversation this has cultivated among our staff. I have been sought out by a half-dozen staff members ask me more about flubaroo, the tool I presented using this prezi. Personally, I followed up with Chrissy Myers about her grading practices she’d shared as we waited for the Elementary school bus for our own children. (I fully expect this conversation to change some fundamental practices in my own classroom.) Three people already have mentioned to me what they’d like to present next time, including our principal. I look forward to his grading practices Smackdown in October, when I anticipate letting my colleagues know about lastpass.com.
After my principal and I had a discussed the “Instructional Smackdown’s” reverberation within our school’s halls, I realized two truths. First, using our amazing colleagues as resources made the ideas accessible. It’s not ivory-tower: it’s what someone you know is already doing. Secondly, the brevity and choice seems to house power in shifting thinking and practices. By allowing people to choose the tools they explore and conversations they seek, a short 60 seconds reaches much farther than a long training session chosen by another. This has created a rippling effect throughout our school bigger than the initial droplet.
In what ways do you share best practices at your school?