Moving a Community Forward

31 05 2009

Last week Jeff and I presented one of the final keynotes, entitled Moving A Community Forward, for the 2009 Webheads in Action Online Convergence. Not only was it a blast doing the presentation with Jeff, but it turned out to be a great reflection on what we’ve accomplished at ISB this year and what some of our next steps could be for the 2009-10 school year.

The goal of our presentation was to address the needs of the various stakeholders in a typical school community when attempting to effect change.

We covered 4 groups: Parents, Teachers, Students and Admin. As we looked at each group, we shared strategies we’ve been using here at ISB (both successful and unsuccessful) and also brainstormed some new initiatives we are thinking about for the next school year.

Although you can watch the whole presentation here (and below), I thought it would be worthwhile to post some of our key points here on the blog just in case you don’t want to watch the entire, hour-long, session. Hopefully this overview of what’s worked for us will also be helpful for others!

Moving a Community Forward Presentation Notes:

Parent Community:

Over the last two years, we’ve been working on building a strong home-school partnership around 21st century learning. We are making a concerted effort to involve more and more parents in both formal and informal events to support the exciting changes their children are experiencing in the classroom.

Parent Technology Coffee Mornings

We started with our Parent Technology Coffee Mornings early last school year. These are monthly meetings open to all elementary school parents, facilitated by me, Jeff and Tara. We usually show an engaging, short video about changes in society (I’ll put up a list of all the videos we’ve shown this year soon) and then spend about an hour discussing the impact on education. We have a group of dedicated parents who show up every month and we post the most interesting points of our discussion (along with a link to the video) on our Connect 2.0 blog.

Although these started out very informally last year, we’ve had requests to share the topics in advance and have started promoting the monthly sessions well in advance to encourage more parents to attend. We’ve already outlined all of our sessions for next year and have shared an overview with our parent community.

Inside.ISB Communication Portal

More and more of our teachers are choosing to share classroom events via a blog (instead of a Friday newsletter), and in order to make that communication as streamlined as possible, we’ve created a parent communication portal using WordPress MultiUser (WPMU). All of our teacher blogs can now be found on Inside.ISB for easy parent access.

Parent Trainings

Over this past school year, we’ve implemented PantherNet (our Moodle), PowerSchool, My.ISB (Elgg), and Inside.ISB. In order to help parents cope with the influx of digital environments that their students are regularly involved in, we’ve started running more formal parent trainings.

So far these have been scheduled during the school day with parents signing up in advance, but we’re hoping to also offer some in the evenings next school year. Considering that our school is in the suburbs, we’re also thinking of offering some sessions downtown so that parents don’t have to wrestle with Bangkok traffic in the evening.

Next Steps: Advisory Committee

During our Main Library External Audit visit by Doug Johnson and Ann Krembs, they recommended that we develop a Technology Advisory Committee comprised of several members of our ISB21 team, teachers, parents, students and administrators in order to ensure that all stakeholders have a say in the decision making process. There is no way we can truly meet the needs of our entire community without involving them at the ground level.

Student Community:

We’ve been working hard for the last few years to ensure that our students have the opportunity to interact with their peers both within school and around the world in a variety of authentic and engaging ways.

Developing a Global Audience

At almost every grade level (PK-12), our students are involved in projects that connect them with the wider world. Although both Jeff and I work at the elementary level, innovative teachers at all grade levels are incorporating global projects into their classroom curriculum.

Student Authored Blogs

Beginning with fifth grade, all students at ISB will be part of our student-blogging portal through Inside.ISB. With our new grade 5 Digital Literacy unit of study, blogging will become an integral part of our language arts curriculum. We’re hoping to use these student blogs as learning portfolios that can be continued from one grade to the next, as well as a forum to share, reflect, and communicate with a global audience.

YouTube Channel & Facebook Alumni Group

In order to take advantage of two of the most popular social media platforms, we have created both a YouTube channel and collaborated with the creators of the FB Alumni group.

Next Steps: Student Tech Team

Along with our parent community, we are looking to involve students more directly in our decision making process. We would also love to develop a student tech team to help support the entire school community in their technology needs.

Teacher Community:

LAN Parties

Earlier this year, Chrissy and I started hosting Local Area Network parties around the K12Online08 presentations. We held several of these sessions in various teacher’s homes throughout the city, watching one or two presentations each time, along with hosting a special guest via Skype for each session. At each session we had about 10 – 12 ISB teachers excited to learn something new about technology.

Early Adopter Group & Elgg Network

After seeing the sucess of the LAN parties, we decided to create an Early Adopter Group for our super “techie” teachers at ISB. We wanted to provide a place for those teachers to collaborate and communicate across divisions (somewhat difficult at a school as big as ISB), and offer them the support they need to continue to innovate and assist their colleagues in each division. As part of this team, we created an Elgg group to encourage the networked learning to continue beyond school hours.

Regular PD

As part of our professional development opportunities for all teachers at ISB, we offer informal tech support sessions 2 – 3 days a week, after school. We’ve tried a number of formats, from discussion-based Wired Wednesday, to walk-in/walk-out Personal Tech Support, and are always willing to adapt to the needs of our teachers. We have also worked hard to ensure that each of our grade level teams (in the elementary) includes a member of the ISB21 team.

Faculty Meetings

We’ve been extremely lucky to facilitate 2 ES faculty meetings this school year. One of our main goals at each meeting was to highlight and showcase the fantastic work of our amazing ES teachers. Both meetings featured a structured rotation, including Speed Geeking, for teachers to experience a sneak peak into some of the exciting projects our teachers and students are working on. Although these meetings are short (around an hour), they’ve been a great way to promote success and to spread new ideas throughout the faculty in a viral way.

SUNY Course

In another amazing stroke of luck, we have been able to offer a 15-credit, 5-course Certificate in Educational Technology and Information Literacy (CoETaIL) to our faculty as part of a longer (30-credit) Master’s degree through SUNY Buffalo. We have over 40 teachers involved in the certificate program, including 4 teachers newly recruited to ISB in January. Considering the extensive time commitment, we are so proud to have such a large percentage of our faculty dedicated to learning together.

Next Steps: IETPs for Teachers

In order to build on the groundswell that we have started in the last few years, and to formalize the changes we’re implementing, our next step is to develop Individual Educational Technology Plans for our teachers. We will start with all of our new teachers, as well as a group of volunteers (as part of the final course in our CoETaIL program) in the next school year.

Admin Community:

Present at Leadership Team (LT) Meetings

Over the past two years, we have been invited to present formally at the ISB Leadership Team meetings. These presentations are our change to share our learning and recommendations with the higher school administration.

Continued Conversations

Outside of formal meeting times, we make an effort to continue the process of relationship building through casual and frequent conversation with our school leaders.

Sharing Resources

We regularly share blog posts, articles, websites, videos, and a whole host of resources with our admin team. Often these items prompt further discussion in meetings or casual conversation. The goal is always to keep learning.

Present to School Board

As a result of our successful LT meeting presentations, we were asked to present to the school board this year, which ended up in a decision to modify our school vision to reflect our ISB21 philosophy.

Next Steps: Tie Parent Community to Admin Community

In order to continue moving forward we know that we will need more than just teacher voices promoting change. We would like to work closely with our parent community to enlist their help in pushing our school community forward. It is the voices of the parents that most often and most successfully bring about change in schools.

Final Thoughts

Of course, not everything we’ve done has gone perfectly, or according to plan. We are always revising, re-thinking, and reflecting as the year progresses. These are just a few of our favorite initiatives in order to give us something to think about as we begin to plan for the 2009-10 school year.

What has worked well in your school in your efforts to move your community forward?

Full Presentation:

Moving a Community Forward by jutecht on Flickr