The Best Meeting I Ever Had

Cornell Notes discussion in AVID: Example of Collaborative Learning classroom set up.

Cornell Notes discussion in AVID: Example of Collaborative Learning classroom set up.

Not too long ago, I attended the best meeting ever. Odd proclamation, you say? Hear me out.

As the Innovative Teaching Coach, I work with the MHS LITE (Leaders in Innovative Technology in Education) and the MHS ISLT (Innovative Student Leadership Team) – we really like our acronyms. One chilly winter morning, I had a meeting with my LITEs and my ISLTs in one of our conference rooms. The goal of the meeting was to assess and revise our classroom management with technology training. Now, anyone who conducts training will tell you that there seems to be a negative stigma attached to professional development pertaining to classroom management, whether one-on-one training or whole group. Walking into the meeting, I expected reluctance from both LITEs and ILSTs in discussing this issue due to its connotation. So naturally, I did what any southerner would do and brought baked goods for everyone. Little did I know that while the “lovin’ from the oven” fare was delicious, it was not needed at all.

Once the meeting commenced, it seemed as though dialogue and questioning happened naturally. I stated the purpose of the meeting and both teachers and students began to give fantastic feedback about uses of technology in classroom and methods of promoting classroom management strategies that would increase engagement and learning while also quelling off-task behavior.

Watching this amazing collaboration occur between two different sets of stakeholders, I couldn’t help but wonder what made this particular meeting so productive and worthwhile? I then began looking at how everyone was placed. We were all seated in office chairs around a large table, facing each other. The teachers were seated amongst the students; neither students or teachers were huddled to one side. Additionally, each person in attendance listened to the person talking. No one was texting, emailing or working on some other task. Voices were at a regular level and choice of words were honest and authentic. When the meeting was over, each person left with something new to think about and many commented, both students and teachers alike, that this was a really great meeting!

After everyone had left I reflected on the aspects that made the meeting so great and I immediately emailed my team to let them know what had happened.

So, why the blog? As an Innovative Teaching Coach, part of my job is to work with teachers to promote a collaborative, creative learning environment that promotes 21st century learning. While we cannot purchase office chairs and move large conference tables into each classroom, what can we do right here, right now that promotes a collaborative environment?

Layout: What does your classroom look like? Are all desks focused on the “sage on stage” or are students able to interact with each other? How can you position students so that they can  both work with each other AND interact with you, the learning facilitator?

Culture: What kind of culture is promoted in your classroom? Are high expectations set? Are goals and norms consistently adhered to? Do students feel that they can create and explore with their learning? Is each person’s voice respected? Do students feel that the content addresses their needs versus the content addressing what has alway been done? Is the classroom even conducive to establishing cultural norms?

While it’s easy to write off re-creating “the best meeting ever” in our classrooms by blaming behavior, I’m sure, upon further review, that a solution can be found. So many times in education I have both cultivated and witnessed this type of classroom environment containing many kinds of students. Time and time again, high expectations were set and adhered to, even when it was hard to keep them upheld. (Why do upcoming school holidays seem to bring an onset of off task behavior? Are high expectations still being adhered to or are student just that excited? Combination of both?)

Moreover, trends can be recognized in how the expectations are adhered to. If the high expectation is upheld, the culture, layout, mutual respect, and most importantly, engaging learning, are all symptoms of such standards.

My hope in this blog is that an idea is sparked to try something new…just one small change. Teachers sit with students during discussion or circle the desks in a room instead of rows. Promote collaborative learning because that is what our students face in a tomorrow we do not exactly fully grasp today. Margaret Heffernan once said, “A fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.” What does your “best meeting ever/best day of learning ever” look like? I’m sure an echo chamber does not come to mind.

Math PBL In Action: Example of Collaborative Learning Classroom Set up

Math PBL In Action: Example of Collaborative Learning Classroom Set up


Caution: Beware of App Overload!

Taking on the challenge of making the iPad integration in Manor ISD successful is the job of the iTeach Team.  We are excited about the possibilities.  Our different perspectives and experiences will translate well when we begin assisting teachers with the integration of iPads into everyday instruction at Manor ISD.

As you all read in our introductions in the last post, I am a firm believer in limited amount of Apps on the iPad.  When considering iPads for everyday use in the classroom, many people often make the mistake of downloading far too many free or paid applications.  I know this, because I was that person.  At my previous campus, when we received iPods and  iPads, I kept up with the free app of the day posted by TCEA on Twitter (@tcea) and I downloaded to my hearts content.  I expected all these apps to be revolutionary when it came to teaching our students.  Unfortunately, many of the apps I downloaded quickly lost the interest of our students, took up space on the iPad and became a distraction.  Having too many apps can also lead to the iPad becoming an entertainment device rather than an educational tool.  Because of this experience and other similar stories, we are distributing the iPad with a limited number of apps pre-installed.  A mixture of paid and free apps that can easily be integrated into traditional classroom activities will be provided.

Students and teachers will have Pages for word processing, Keynote for presentations and animation,  iMovie for video creation,  Safari and Chrome for web research, and a few other powerful applications.

With the limited number of apps, teachers can concentrate on getting the students accustomed to using iPads on a daily basis.  This will also be a great way to get our teachers, some of which have never used iPads with their students, comfortable in using these powerful devices in class.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of wonderful apps that can be used by teachers in the classroom. I just believe that introducing targeted apps over time will make them more effective. What do you think?

Let us know @iTeachManor.

Back to School with iTeach

Manor Independent School District is excited to begin the first year of one-to-one iPad use in classrooms.  For our initial year, all high school students, Decker Middle sixth graders, and Decker Elementary third, fourth and fifth graders will have individual iPads.  As the district begins this roll out, two Instructional Technology Specialists will support teachers with the implementation of iPads in their classrooms.

Let’s start with introductions.

Jodi Hawkins has been a Manor ISD staff member for the previous three years.  Last year, as a co-creator of the elementary Project Based Learning training modules, she worked with Ruth Burrell to train the entire staff of Decker Elementary.  Chances are, if you have been through GTAL training with Lisa Barrett-Johnson in the past two years, you met Jodi.  She is no stranger to the use of iPads in the classroom and will help integrate them into PBL projects.

Jacob Luevano comes to us from Ysleta ISD in El Paso, TX.  He brings to Manor ISD over thirteen years of teaching experience, but more importantly two years implementation of iPod and iPad integration at Dolphin Terrace Elementary. Jacob is a firm believer in using iPads as tools to supplement instruction, without making them the complete focus in the classroom.

Randy Mathisen will also be assisting with the launch of iPads.  He was the trendsetter for one-to-one iPad use at Manor High School.  Last year, he worked with the technology team to incorporate iPads into his classroom.  This year, his title has changed. He will be the Instructional Coach over technology at Manor High School and a contributor to the iTeach blog.

These three will be your teammates in navigating this exciting year, as well as coaches, that will help lead you to great success with technology in your classroom.  Turn to them with questions that you may have or wonderful ideas that should be passed on to others.

When the iTeach team and teachers in MISD work together, we will be more powerful educators and lead our Manor students to reach their full potential.  

Jacob and Jodi will be on campuses 95% of their time and would love to pair with you to incorporate iPads into your daily teaching. They will provide ongoing support and ideas via the iTeach blog, their Twitter handle and Edmodo group.

Follow them on Twitter @iTeachManor and join their Edmodo group with the code mcbpta.

Welcome back to school, Manor!