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Teachers Hold the Keys to Institutional Change


After the Board of Trustees retreat The Head-of-School sent out a list of questions for the faculty and staff in attendance to move forward with. He proposed we have an after work think tank about 2 weeks after the retreat. This is the moment many people have been waiting for to see what initiatives will take priority and immediacy.

The Questions are:

    1)What professional development do we need?
    2) Is there something each department/teacher could do better using technology?
    3) What should we be doing to promote information literacy and best research practices?
    4) Should we offer courses in technology and/or advanced digital media?
    5) Are there several key projects/activities we could support ti enhance what we are doing to want to do using technology?
    6) Are there any pilot projects we could support to answer key questions?

1) What Professional Development do we need?
Professional development is on the mind of The Head-of-School and the deans. They know we have a resistant staff in some cases, especially when it comes to giving up classroom time for P.D. and giving up summertime for P.D. I think the push is going to be for teachers to give up some summer for P.D. before we come back to school.

This week i contacted Brian Mull of November Learning to see about setting up some P.D. for next August based around his presentation on innovative and transformational tools to use in the classroom. The Head-Man is aware of it and will probably mention something about it in the meeting on monday. I agree with his philosophy of using summer time to do so. Because i have to work during summer so might as well make the most of my time there by assisting faculty members incorporate technology.

Brian has a good collection of tools that address a wide variety of needs and we can tailor that toolkit for our teachers and start providing training on those tools to teachers AND students. I think working with our students will help out teachers figure out a way to use these tools in a complimentary way rather than some artificial structure deemed “educational”. Profesional development can not happen if out teachers are using disparate sets of tools from the outset. It will be my job to design a “Teachers Toolkit”

2) Is there something each department or individual teacher could do better using technology?
I think we can focus on using the technology we already have more effectively such as the Wipple-Hill website and incorporating that as an online extension of our school community. Doing some professional development about what is possible will give teachers an idea of where they want to go. In each department we have forward thinking teachers who can and have acted as modelers of technology. The tech committee should be meeting to discuss the activities of these teachers and how they can be generalized.

3) What should we be doing to promote Information Literacy and best research practices?
Our librarian Lori has some great ideas and structure already set up to provide kids with basics, tailored for each grade level and subject. But we both do not think this is enough. Lori and I both want to work with faculty to integrate Information Literacy and Analysis into the subject matter of all of the school’s students. There is much room to create a culture of media literacy at our school and could even be part of their marketing, but it has to be part of the curriculum and not some extra mumbo jumbo on the side.

4) Should we offer courses in technology and/or advanced digital media?
I have very strong opinions about our digital media offerings. Right now the course is taught by a fine artists who teaches mainly from an “Art for art’s sake” perspective. Which is fine, but there are very few lessons about media savvy or analysis. 9th grade is a prime time to start educating kids about the visual-emotional mechanism that makes media so compelling. Asking kids “Why is this movie scene so emotional”, “How are these ads manipulating our emotions or expectations of a product?” and then having the m create compelling content with emotion and conflict and resolution etc. That aspect of the arts education is missing at our school.

In my opinion an introductory digital media class should first focus on the principles of design and story teling with are key to any medium. Secondarily the class should use tools to create audio, visual and film/moving media incorporating these principles. The course work for digital media should be topical be all encompassing giving kids time to create blogs, utilize photography, create video, podcasts and design objects for print and the web.

Branson does not have to be the most “technical” or technology oriented school but we can still prepare out kids for digital interests and careers in fields other than strictly programming.

An Advanced Digital Media course would focus on developing concepts and executing them in a more polished manner and using the principles of design in all fields to create compelling content. Advanced D.M should focus more on design work (creative print and web) and film (which incorporates audio) and spend more time crafting the concepts. Part of our Information Literacy curriculum should be led by the digital media department showing kids the value of creating and analyzing the media they encounter.

5) Are there several key projects or activities we could support to enhance what we are doing or want to do using technology?
I see the role of our Tech Committee being vital in identifying teachers who are using technology in new and progressive ways and generalizing those uses out to other teachers in the department or to those with similar class structures.

Also with the new acquisition of Community features to our website we can engage students, parents and alum while driving more activity and content to our website making it a portal for the school community. Along wit hthat the use of the podcast format to deliver information through our community portal. Departments like college counseling, the academic deans and the registrar can use podcasts to spread frequently asked questions and update the community about coming events

6) Are there any pilot projects we could support to answer key questions?
The Tech Committee has been going through a bit of an identity crisis, trying to figure out where they fit in, in the technology scheme; where their influence lies and their general purpose for being. I am of the opinion that the Tech Committee should be coming up with innovative solutions and finding teachers that are wiling to try them and providing feedback.

I would like to see the Tech Committee help teachers pilot digital textbooks using the California Learning Resource Network list of free digital textbooks. The job of the tech committee should be to evaluate the usefulness of resources like these and ways to bring them to the classroom. As a committee we need to be selecting teachers to pilot ideas if not piloting them ourselves, collecting data about these projects and using our collective resources and experiences to propose effective iterations.

These are my direct responses to the questions at hand.

Other Issues?
Our network admin and myself were also talking about setting up a film and audio studio where we can do advanced digital media and utilize it for classes who wanted to incorporate a media aspect to any projects or curriculum. The studio is already used for filming and we can enhance this space with some film and audio tools and have a great corner stone for our technology and digital media initiatives. It is also a shining star we can show our parents and prospective parents and students. I would like to propose the digital film and audio studio to our Head-of-School and own the project including teaching the intro or advanced digital media classes and providing professional development to our teachers regarding it’s use.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/04/2010 20:27

    I’d be interested in speaking to you about professional development for educators around the topic of media literacy.

    • 10/21/2010 11:50

      Sorry it took me kind of long to reply, feel free to contact me through e-mail, twitter, or on here. I’m very interested in how we can get educators to incorporate media literacy into their curriculum rather than having to take class time away to cover that, as if it is separate.

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