Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Value of PD is in What You Create

I was lucky enough to attend this week's Google Geo Teachers Institute in Mountain View. My intention was to listen and learn. However, I ended up being reminded that it is what you create that makes pd powerful.

I car pooled with my colleague, Kristina Greene and a third colleague also attended, Peggy Chapman. During the drive to San Jose, the first day of break outs, exploring the incredible Google campus, and enjoying the heated toilet seats, we eventually moved far beyond the obligatory, "What did you do this summer?" and "How are the kids?" conversations.

Our conversation turned to our school's mission and culture. We talked about the incorrect perceptions others have about our practices and student body, specifically that we are a homogeneous population that excludes others. Later, we discussed how to create meaningful pd for staff that would support staff in serving students. We decided that an off campus, relaxed experience focused on answering the question, "What would happen if.......?"  would result in the most creative and collaborative lessons and solutions to problems. Sharing a hotel room that night resulted in  more personal revelations, that my husband was born in the UK and her husband's mother in Ireland.

The next morning, as we sat in a session on Google Maps Engine Light, Kristina and I realized the power of collecting data from our students on a Google Form and importing the data into a custom Google map when one of us asked the question, "What would happen if we had all of our students at NCS tell us where they were born? Or where their parent's were born? Or their grandparents?"

A light bulb went off in both of our heads.  Instantly, we created the Google form and custom map called "Natomas Charter School: Where are We From?" map. We filled it out for my son, a student in our home school program and her children, students at our Performing and Fine Arts Academy.

Then, we asked..." What would happen if teachers took it further?" English or History teachers could have their students interview and write about their families’ experiences. They can share pictures or videos from these locations. All of these could be put on the NCS "Where are We From Map"! I thought about the pictures of my husband as a child in England and the conversations that they would start between my son, his dad and his grandparents.The idea of a collection stories and images collected on a map instead of in a book or Google doc. will be a powerful way of showing our learning community's geographical and cultural diversity.

When Peggy returned from her session and asked what we learned, I realized it wasn't about what we "learned", but what we created that was of value.

We created the beginning of a shared learning and teaching experience for students and teachers across five distinct programs that has the potential to widen our view of the world and the view of our school community.

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