Sunday, October 20, 2013

PD - Around the World in 3 Hours

This past Tuesday I conducted, in my opinion, a very unique professional development course for educators in my district. The title of the course was "Becoming a Connected Educator" and my focus was to introduce my colleagues to Skype in the Classroom and Twitter. I discovered Twitter as a professional development tool in April and discovered Skype in the Classroom in May. Over the last seven months, I can say without a doubt that I am a changed educator - a more motivated educator - a more reflective educator. Because I have had such a positive experience, I felt it was only necessary to share my story and help educators close to home become connected with others around the world.....

As I prepared for the class, I had an AHA moment....What better way to prove the power of being connected than to connect with educators from around the world that I respect and admire????
So I separated the course into five sections and texted, direct messaged or emailed five educators I've connected with and BAM within 24 hours I had the entire course planned. Here's the schedule for the course:

4:30-4:45        #1  "Skype in the Classroom" Skype Call  (UK)
4:45-5:00        Debrief
5:00-5:15        #2  Student Skype Call  (HI)
5:15-5:30        Debrief
5:30-5:45        #3  "Twitter Basics and Power of the PLN" Skype Call  (WI)
5:45-6:00        Debrief
6:00-6:15        #4  "Power of the Hashtag, Twitter Chats and Blogging" Skype Call  (IA)
6:15-6:30        Break
6:30-7:15        List of Hashtags and Twitter Chat Schedule
7:15-7:30        #5  "Making Lasting Connections" Skype Call  (AUS)

The reason I'm sharing this story because the course went great! I would have never been able to share all the different experiences that were shared. If you are planning on conducting a similar course, I would suggest Skyping in some of the educators you have connected with to show the possibilities and power of being connected.

Flipped PD
Before the course I sent an email with some videos to help lay the groundwork. (My little effort to flip the course...)

My class's Around the World in 6 Days Skype in the Classroom video from last year:

Janine Crain and Jennifer Plummer's Skype in the Classroom Video about Mystery Skype:

Victoria Olson's excellent Twitter Overview for Educators

Polling Twitter Users:
The day before the course, I asked the following question on Twitter: Why do you use Twitter?

Here are just SOME of the responses. I projected this on the SMARTboard as the educators waited for the class to begin. Thanks to everyone who replied!

Skype in the Classroom
At 4:35, we called Jon Tait (@TeamTait) in Durham, UK. Jon is an assistant head teacher and writes an excellent blog ( He was able to explain how being connected has changed him an educator and has provided his students with incredibly unique opportunities. For example, his students were able to participate in an International Dance contest with American students via Skype. Here's the link to this great opportunity that he helped organize: 

Student Skype Call
After briefly debriefing his call, we received a call from students in Honolulu, Hawaii. Melvina Kurashige (@mkurashige) runs a Kindness Club during her lunch hour and the students Skyped with us to tell us their plans for World Kindness Day on November 13. Although, the call was short, I was very fortunate that we were able to Skype with students, although it was after 5:00p.m. our time.

After the call, I explained more about the possibilities of Skype in the Classroom. If you have not created an account and tried to set up a call, I would highly suggest doing so. Jon Tait ended his call with two appropriate questions: What if? and Why not?  Why not try to connect our students with other classrooms and guest speakers! What if we do so? You'll never know the possibilities until you make the connections!

Twitter Basics and Building a PLN
 Next we received a call from Oliver Schinkten (@schink10) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Oliver is one of my biggest inspirations and a great friend. He spoke about the basics of Twitter and the importance of building your PLN. He also was able to explain how Twitter has been able to help his high school students become more connected. Finally, he was able to briefly explain how he has brought compassion based learning to his students via a full year cross curricular program entitled, Communities. Here is the link to Oliver's Compassion-Based Learning Blog:

Hashtags, Twitter Chats and Blogging
After another short debrief about the basics of Twitter and building a PLN, we called the always inspirational Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) Jimmy is a principal in Bettendorf, Iowa and spoke on the power of the Hashtag, Twitter Chats and Blogging all in 15 minutes! He also explained how being a connected administrator has impacted the other educators in his building. Jimmy writes his own blog and runs a blog that is co-authored by teachers from his school.

The debrief session after Jimmy's call was definitely not brief, because Hashtags and Twitter Chats are so important to understanding Twitter. I introduced my colleagues to Jerry Blumengarten's (@cybraryman1) incredible resources:

List of Educational Hashtags
Twitter Chat Schedule

We also established our district hashtag and I encouraged the educators to tweet using this hashtag after signing up. (#swcsPLN)

Creating a Global Classroom
Finally, we ended with the session with a recorded Skype call with @Capt_KK who is an outstanding 5th grade teacher in Perth, Australia. Her task was to explain what it means to participate in and co-create a global classroom. Jacqui and I connected last May and have great plans for our classrooms this school year.  Being connected can go beyond a one time Skype Call, it can truly transform your teaching. We have started daily and weekly communications with our classrooms and we are currently blending our curriculum and co-planning activities around our common content standards.

Just last week we began participating in a Battleship Game by sending coordinates via email daily. The game has MANY math connections and the excitement that has been generated is amazing. Also, we plan to send weekly videos to one another that focus on current curriculum, school culture and daily life. Although we are currently 12 hours behind the students in Perth, we have not let this deter us. We hope to be able to conduct at least one Skype call this year, as well, and we honestly don't know where our global classroom will take us...

I challenged my colleagues to not limit being connected to Twitter and Skype. When ready, use video, email, blogs, etc. to create a global classroom. And most importantly ask yourself:

What if?  
Why not?

By the end of the course, my colleagues and I were excited, but exhausted....Who could blame us though? We did just travel around the three hours :)

If you have any questions about setting up a similar, uniquely connected PD session, please let me know.

Lastly, I would like to thank Jon, Melvina, Oliver, Jimmy and Jacqui for helping co-teach this special professional development course. You truly are inspirations to me and I'm very fortunate to have you as an important part of my PLN.

Thanks for reading,
Arin Kress (@ArinKress)

1 comment:

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