Monday, January 16, 2012

Lesson Plan: Introducing Admin to 21st C Skills using Google Docs

It is not uncommon for me to read comments on Twitter that characterize school administrators as a group who need to get more in touch with 21st century learning.  Whether it is a comment about how senior administration is blocking specific online sites or resources, how school leaders need to provide leadership and role model the use of technology, or how school based administrators are out of touch with social media and its uses in education, there certainly is a tone indicating that administrators needing to 'get on board'.  Although I have blogged in the past that I don't find comments that single out one group to be particularly useful ("No Us vs. Them--Just Us"), I agree that there needs to be more of us in administration that are in tune with 21st century skills. 

In an attempt to help fill some of these potential skill gaps for our administrators, I had the opportunity to do this month's installment of "Tech Corner" for our Superintendents, Principals, and Vice-Principals at our District Administrators Meeting last week.  This is my second time doing this in the last few months (I blogged about this last year in a previous Lesson Plan), and I was excited to share with our admin team.  In preparation for this meeting, I ran through the characteristics that make a PD session meaningful for me.  A great PD session
  • should be on a topic that is relevant to me and my current learning situation
  • should be connected to the prior learning I may bring to the session
  • should draw me in, and provide a sense of urgency for the session
  • should engage me.  If it is new technology, for example, I want to be hands on, I want to try it
  • should give me a chance to discuss things with my peers, to move around, to see what others are doing
  • should help me develop a tangible product, and model using this product so that I can take it back to my school and use it...now.
And while this is not an exhaustive list (and I may be omitting things that others find important), if I attended a PD session that ticked off most of these boxes, I would likely be leaving the session with a shiny new tool or two in my educational tool chest.  Bearing these thoughts in mind, I wanted to create an activity that met as many of these criteria as possible for our school-based administrators.

In our school district, we are continuing to learn more about 21st century, personalized learning.   Like any district, we are constantly looking for ways to maximize the engagement of the learners in our classrooms.  From where I sit, technology certainly can play a significant role in student engagement.  However, in each of our schools, there are many challenges that need to be overcome to make sure that technology plays its role in improving their 21st century SKILLS--of which computing skills are only a part.  We want to make sure our students are creative, critical thinkers who are culturally aware, that they are able to collaborate and communicate to augment their learning, and that they are aware of career paths and the skills that they will need to follow those paths.

So I thought: what better way to get administrators to learn about 21st century skills than to CREATE a set of resources to use at something like a staff meeting or school leader meeting ABOUT 21st century skills by USING 21st century skills and web tools?

The lesson:

1) started with a video on "Where Ideas Come From" to contextualize the importance of 21st century skills (and because these RSA videos tend to capture people's attention...),




2) went through the Learning Intentions,


3) had people move (the 'exercise' portion of the program) into groups of 5-6 with a maximum of one or two pieces of technology (tablet, laptop, smartphone) to simulate a classroom situation where 1:1 technology was not available.

4) had them go in to a Google Doc which had been created earlier that gave the opportunity for them to develop several 21st Century Skills, including:
  • Critical Thinking - groups needed to evaluate which resources they felt were best to share with the group
  • Communication - both face to face, and virtually while simultaneously working on a Google Doc
  • Collaboration - a different task in an online environment
  • Cultural Awareness - groups got to know the culture of some of the other schools in terms of initiatives, problems and solutions
  • Creativity - in thinking of issues that confront us in developing a 21st Century Learning environment and potential solutions.
  • Computing skills - many of our group had not worked in a Google Doc
5) reviewed the learning intentions to see if we accomplished what we set out to do

6) and, examined the document that we collectively produced.

This all took place in just over 22 minutes. 

The document that we produced is a dynamic one that we can continuously add to as a group. Considering we created it in a very short period of time, I thought it was a great start.  And while I do believe that this will be useful for everyone, I was more excited by the learning that took place while we were creating the document (collaborating, communicating, improved computing skills, etc).   If these pieces transfer from our administrators to our teachers in our schools, and from our teachers to our students in our classrooms, then this lesson will be a success.  To this end. I am going to follow up with our admin group in May to see how things are going for them, and monitor the changes in the document to see the contributions we are making from around the district.   

Like all of the members of our school community, administrators DO have a responsibility to investigate, understand, learn, role model and promote a 21st century skill set.  By doing a lesson such as this, it is my hope that we administrators can be co-learners with our teachers, parents and students so that our learning environments continue to be current and relevant in 2012 and beyond.

Please feel free to add any comments or ideas that would augment this lesson plan for others!

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