Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our Amazing PLC Team Challenge

Maybe you have heard of or seen The Amazing Race, a CBS television show. I haven't watched the program but from promos I have seen I get the sense that teams have to travel from place to place and complete some tasks along the way rather like the scavenger hunts we used to do for entertainment as kids. It is with this idea in mind that my colleague and I designed this morning's hour long technology staff development activity.

Our goal was to expose our teachers to a number of available technologies in a way that encouraged them to learn from each other in a non-threatening way. We came up with the idea of assigning a different series of tasks to each of four teams. We hoped that accomplishing the tasks together would give them experience with procuring and using the various equipment we have and teach them some skills they could use in their classrooms with their students. And so that all the participants could benefit from what each of teams learned, we challenged them to come back and use the technologies to present what they had discovered to their peers.

As it is in every school our staff has a wide range of comfort levels and experience using computers and digital technology. We decided to group the teachers for this challenge in their newly formed Professional Learning Committees. Looking at these groups we could see that each group had some early adopters, some willing followers, and at least one novice or technophobe. It seemed like the best way to go. With any luck the teams would work together, learn some new things and have a positive technology experience that would bolster their confidence, increasing the likelihood they be able to see way to use it in their lessons.

Here are the challenges we devised:

Team 1: Checked out a document camera and an LCD projector. They were to take these to a classroom and come up with ways to use the camera to teach a lesson with pattern blocks and read aloud a picture book.

Team 2: Also checked out a document camera and an LCD projector. This team was directed to use these tools to demonstrate an activity and to show student work.

Team 3: Found a YouTube video related to a unit they were currently teaching and went to our tech support wiki to find ways to show that video to a class on an interactive white board without actually showing it in YouTube.

Team 4: Checked out a laptop cart, logged into the laptops, took a screenshot depicting the drive where they would save if they were students, pasted it into a Word document and printed it to the media center printer, which they had to find and add.

It's likely you're thinking these are pretty elementary tasks, but for most of our teachers these were fairly new experiences and they only had a half an hour to complete them before returning to the media center where they shared their stuff using the IWB, document camera, and LCD projector. I am quite pleased to report they all did an amazing job completing their tasks and most followed the given directions. Team 1 showed us their pattern lesson, but then they went on to tell us how they would be able to take the camera around to project what individual students would do on the floor as that's where they usually work with manipulatives. Team 2 decided expand on their assigned to use a digital camera to take photos of each other using the demonstrating how students would use the document camera. Team 3 demonstrated how to paste a YouTube link into SafeShareTV to show the video without all the YouTube distractions, and Team 4 proudly displayed their printed screenshots. They also relayed what they had learned about how students might feel when logging into the laptops...some get in quickly while others aren't able to and may fall behind if the teacher goes ahead with directions.

When asked if they had learned something they hadn't known before, all the teachers raised their hands. When asked if they had learned something they could use with students right away, most raised their hands. When asked if they had fun, almost all raised their hands. The best question I heard at the end was, "When can we have another one of these?" Yes! I hope the answer is, "Soon."


  1. Now this is how all staff meetings should be held. It sounds like so much fun! I would think that it would also provide insight into how creating a classroom activity like this for students would be more beneficial to learning than lecturing about it. Great idea...looks like another one I will be "blog lifting" :)

  2. What a great idea! Having the teachers actually do something is so much better than just having them listen to or read instructions about how to do it. Providing the time for them to do something really helps too! I think the question about when can we do this again shows how much was gained from this experience!