Tonight, I just had a terrific staff meeting. We have a relatively large staff, and with some of our coaches absent, we had about 65 people in attendance along with our administrative team. At our staff meetings, we have done our best to eliminate "administrivia", and tonight, I even asked our staff to indulge me by eliminating any announcements from the meeting that can be done through email. The staff wholeheartedly agreed. As a result, our staff meetings have become focussed on the right thing--student learning.
We began our staff meeting with "Good News" as we always do--one of our staff members, an outstanding teacher with an infectious and effervescent personality solicits staff members for good news from around our school and presents this at the start of faculty meetings. Today, one of the main points was all of the food that our students brought in through donations as part of the "Halloween for Hunger" campaign--truly amazing and inspirational.
I then took them through my own personal journey in expanding my personal learning network. Recently, I took three people from our school to the 21st Century Learning Conference in Chicago. I had the other members of the team talk about what they felt were the most important things to them from the conference--this was powerful coming from teachers to teachers. I then talked about how at the conference, Will Richardson asked the group of 600 or so teachers and administrators who was on Twitter. I was shocked when about 400 people had their hands up. He then asked "How many of you think Twitter is the best source of Professional Development that you have?". When every person kept their hands up, I told our staff that I had to try this technology.
I had some preconceived notions about Twitter--mostly that I was not really concerned with what LeBron James shoe size was, or where Brittany Spears was shopping today. But after a few short minutes on the computer a couple of Saturdays ago, I have been transformed into a believer: I am truly amazed at the amount of information that is available to all of us.
I then showed them briefly (and I do mean in 30 seconds or so) how I got on to Twitter and how I use Tweetdeck (thanks to Chris Kennedy in West Van!). However, I wanted the staff to see something that was truly revolutionary for me: how tools such as Twitter and Google Docs illustrated the peripheral and collaborative learning that can and does take place all around us. I showed the tweet that George Courous put out on Hallowe'en Night (@gcouros: The Process of Online Collaboration (Video) http://bit.ly/aoFiVh #cpchat #erlcsm), and I think you could have heard a pin drop in our meeting. It is truly amazing when you see people have an "a ha" moment about technology. I told them that I have never been more energized about learning, and suggested to them that regardless of the means that you do it, it is vital to create a widespread PLN. There were some staff members that rightfully said that they were concerned about students "losing the ability to talk". This may be a concern, but I truly believe that we are communicating in different ways--I spoke to someone in Sweden this week that I never would have if I hadn't tried Twitter. It was an incredibly lively discussion with facets from authenticity of websites to teachers having their students use Blackberries in class to access information. We had a suggestion about having some inservicing about social media tools, which we will investigate for the next professional day.
We then used Google Docs to do a staff survey on the effectiveness of our Study Block for kids. Login, do the survey, and presto, we have instant data that we can now use in conjunction with student data to make a good decision about what Study Block will look like in the future.
At this point, we worked on developing social responsibility for our School Improvement Plan through a Think-Pair-Share activity spearheaded by a staff member--we are trying to model activities that develop some of the 21st Century Skills that we are looking at with our staff so that they can in turn use them with our students.
Finally, we did a bit of administrivia for the last five minutes, reviewing our Academic Intervention program protocols for new people on staff.
Lots of learning, lots of interactions, lots of excitement, lots of engagement. Low on administrivia. It felt like a great way to use 70 brains!