Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Collaborating on the Cloud

I have recently completed my first set of professional cluster group presentations. The "PCGs" consist of five inter-disciplinary groups of teachers and administrators from our school who meet with me once every six school days. All staff are included.

The PCGs are intended to foster Challenge Based Learning and technology integration. In order to familiarize themselves with the process the staff has undertaken a challenge of their own:

Collaborate departmentally to design a challenge based learning project which develops [Tony Wagner's Seven] "Survival Skills" for at least 15% of the students that your project team serves.

Recently, I termed this, "Challenging the Challengers".

I wanted to get off to a good start. My greatest concerns were

1) making tech novices feel as though the train had not already left the station.
2) boring tech savvy attendees by slowing down aforementioned train!
3) clarifying the confusion stirred up by the CBL launch.
4) roviding implicit reassurance that these PCG presentations would be purposeful and engaging.

I took a thematic approach for both CBL and tech-- beginning with collaboration and cloud computing. Here's the slide presentation:

Collaborating on the Cloud(PCG #1)

It starts with a cloud productivity tip. is an old favorite of mine. I find that it is a wonderful place to store files that I want access to across platforms. It's easy to link the files to different locations. The uploads are fast and sweet. 1GB of memory is offered for free.

After this warm up I gave an overview of cloud computing, suggesting that attendees complete a survey posted to our staff wiki, indicating their level of interest in some tools we might investigate at future sessions.

The most important piece was left for last: A review of the CBL model and a detailed discussion of the types of "guiding questions" that project groups should start generating. There was more discussion during this portion of the presentation (the five sessions varied greatly in terms of the quantity and tone!).

Regarding my initial concerns, I felt that I did a better job meeting the needs of attendees with beginner skills than advanced (It's hard to stay down the middle). I felt that I achieved a good level of engagement overall, though I think some of the teachers might be surprised how much their body language resembled that of our less enthusiastic students! While I'm satisfied that the presentation set a tone of purpose, the give-and-take will definitely be the best part of the PCGs. Even though they intrude into everyone's busy schedule, these sessions will offer an opportunity for us to leave our daily routines and discuss some significant educational topics. I'm looking forward to round #2.

As of today's blog post, Larry's Opinion Drive-thru returns to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting schedule.

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