New in the ECC This Year: Multimedia Teacher Introductions

I spent my Saturday morning searching for distraction. My husband and son left for a day of travelling for team sports and, because I can’t go today, I needed to distract myself from feeling sad and disappointed that I’m not on the road with them.

I decided to check out something that I knew would distract me and cheer me up: the multimedia teacher introductions created but the ECC team that we are sharing with students next week.

Sitting here now, after watching those introductions, I am so impressed!! What a great way to start my Saturday morning! It’s obvious that each teacher put a huge amount of thoughtful, purposeful effort into creating amazing multimedia files. What an awesome introduction for the students, and what a powerful way to role-model citizenship in this digital age. The kids are going to love the intros! We will most likely embed the files into our online hub, which is a moodle site at the moment, but if you’d like watch my video, it’s here on our ECC vimeo page.

There’s so much I could write about the process of creating my teacher introduction. I’ve never done anything like it. First, I am thankful to have learned a great deal about Quicktime, Keynote, and iMovie. I’ve worked with all before, but I’ve never created a multimedia file with embedded video clips and voiceovers like this one. It was a new level of multimedia learning (and frustration – oh the frustrations!!) and I’m glad I pushed myself to do what I set out to create in the first place. Yesterday morning I was ready to give up and play it safe. But then I was at school, working through this on my prep, and at recess, and when I realized my students were interested in what I was going through and they kept asking questions, and kept trying to help me problem solve, I knew I had to push through and figure it out. And I did. Late, late last night, but I did. I’m going to thank my students for that extra motivation.

After watching all the introductions this morning, I’m also humbled by the wonderful group of teachers in the ECC team this year. Those introductions are awesome. They exemplify pure teacher passion to do well, to share and to create an important piece to start building the relationships within our unique learning community. And even though we are all at different levels in our comfort levels with technology, everyone pushed to try something new and make it work. I’m so impressed, and I’m so excited to work with this team of dedicated educators who aren’t afraid to take learning risks themselves. And the content? These people are super interesting! I can’t wait to talk to them about what they put in the videos!! And if I can’t wait, I’m guessing the students will be excited to meet them too. Even deconstructing the many layers of excitement the teacher introductions will create (are already creating) in the ECC is the type of complex engagement that seems to me to be unique to this project. I’d never seen anything quite like it until I was a part of the ECC.

While we’ve always done teacher introductions in the ECC to start our year, the multimedia teacher introductions are a new idea that was proposed by Jen when we met in the summer. We had originally planned to do a live video connection between all five classes and have a gallery walk around the room with the teacher introduction files loaded up at five computer stations around each room. I had envisioned looking at the video conferencing screen to see five classes of kids eagerly rushing from station to station, laughing and talking and waving at the video cameras as they moved around and actively learned about the five teachers from the introduction files. Jen also had the idea to create a Jeopardy type game for kids to participate in after watching the introductions to see how much they could remember about each teacher. We had planned a fun, active, hands-on, multimedia, connected lesson to start the year.

In reality, things are working out a little differently, which is often (usually?!) the way at the start of the school year, especially with all the technology we depend upon to connect and learn in the ECC. There’s always that need to be flexible as a teacher, yes? At this point, only four sites can connect at once with the good quality of video conferencing we are used to and we are hoping that the tech department can work their magic and find a way to make that work with all five sites at the same time. The SD #74 tech department is a vital part of our extended ECC family; I can’t even begin to express my appreciation for all they do to keep us up and running the majority of the time.

So, in the last few weeks, after numerous emails, we decided to complete the teacher intro files as planned and share them as best fits our classes next week. I hope we can still do the Jeopardy lesson idea as I think that would be a great way for kids to communicate their learning. We’ve also decided to give the students the challenge of creating a classroom introduction next week and I’m super excited to see what happens with that too.

It’s neat to see the ECC unfolding in a whole new way this year! Thanks for reading!

This post was also shared on the ECC collaborative blog here.

Tips on Creating Effective School Technology Leadership

Thanks to Twitter and Scott McLeod, I learned that today is Leadership Day 2009 (#leadershipday09) in the blogosphere. The idea is for bloggers to share ideas related to effective school technology leadership. These posts are then linked back to Scott’s original post in his excellent blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, for everyone, including school leaders, to read and comment on. Sounds like a great way to share ideas, start a complex conversation and learn from others!

To start, how is leadership defined in an educational context? I like Mintzberg’s definition:

“Leadership is…about energizing other people to make good decisions and do other things. In other words, it is about helping release the positive energy that exists naturally within people. Effective leadership inspires more than empowers; it connects more than it controls; it demonstrates more than it decides. It does all this by engaging – itself above all and consequently others.”

Leadership goes beyond school and district administration. In every school, there are usually teacher leaders too. According to Harris and Muijs (2003),

“(t)eacher leadership is not a formal role, responsibility or a set of tasks; it is a form of agency where teachers are empowered to lead development work that impacts directly upon the quality of teaching and learning. Teacher leaders lead within and beyond the classroom, they identify with and contribute to a community of teachers and influence others towards improved educational practice.”

Based on those ideas, I think the first step in creating effective school technology leadership would be the creation of a team of administrators and teacher leaders. The purpose of this team would be to work collaboratively to enact constructive change towards increasing effective use of technology within the school. I think it’s important to note that the team members all need to be willing to participate with school staff in formal and informal professional learning activities. A metanalysis conducted in 2007 by Professor Viviane M. J. Robinson suggests that the most effective leadership dimension is “promoting and participating in teacher learning and development.” Leading by example and being active participants in the process is key.

Once you have a team in place, the next step would be to ask some questions:

  • How is technology being used to enhance learning in school?
  • What needs to be done to more effectively integrate the use of technology in the school?
  • Where are teachers ‘at’ with the use of technology in their practice?
  • Where are students ‘at’ with the use of technology in their learning?
  • What do people know?
  • What do they want to learn?
  • What do they need to know?

After getting some answers (and probably even more questions!), staff could work on goal setting. I think it would be important for a few school wide goals to be decided, but I also think that personal goal setting on how to more effectively use technology in one’s own classroom would be useful too. From there, the original team could take on the responsibility of planning some professional development activities, and then the learning, and hopefully, positive change, could really start.

Technology is intimidating to many, as is change. To increase success, I think it’s vitally important that the team adopt a respectful, supportive, patient, and encouraging approach throughout the entire process, from asking the initial questions of staff members, to all pro-d activities. In my experience, the approach is often the deciding factor in whether or not one is able to really engage and motivate the learners and create a community of learners.

Now that I’ve written this out, I think I might just try it. What do you think?