This year’s ISTE 2014 conference opened with an interesting and powerful approach to professional development that can easily be used at any school at any level. “Ignite” provides all teachers with an opportunity to engage with professional development as either presenters, learners, or both. Here’s the gist. Each presenter is given a strict five minute time limit and twenty slides to discuss a new concept with the audience. The slides keep moving so the presenter needs to keep going. The key is to be brief, to the point, and to leave the audience with a tangible “takeaway” that they can either implement immediately or further explore in future professional learning.
For schools, the “Ignite” approach allows all teachers to showcase their expertise in a way that is fast and non-threatening. The ideas come quickly, so the expectation is not that everyone necessarily “gets” or connects to everything. Instead, it’s about exposing audience members to a variety of ideas in a short amount of time with the hope that a few (at least) will resonate. In effect, it positions all teachers as instructional leaders while providing the entire staff with a sense of what is happening within the school. It also promotes community while prompting future conversation, collaboration, and of course investigation by all teachers who connect to specific concepts.
Of the 13 new ideas that were presented at yesterday’s “Ignite” session, here are the top five that resonated with me based on the work that we are doing at DFHS:
1) “Global Nomads”: This program is a “virtual exchange” that is designed to provide students with an understanding of other cultures. The belief is that all students need a cross cultural exchange before leaving high school. It’s not a “nice” thing to have. It’s a must. This program connects well with the DFHS IB program and is worth learning more about.
2) “Rebranding Digital Citizenship”: The days of sitting all students in an auditorium for a “one shot” presentation on digital citizenship are over. Instead, digital citizenship needs to be embedded into all aspects of the curriculum and needs to become part of the fabric of the school. Each student is now creating a digital legacy through their blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube channels, etc. In effect, these outlets are now becoming the new resume. What will colleges and employers find when they search our students’ names? Or worse…what if they find nothing? These (and more) are important questions for schools to tackle head on.
3) “Rethinking Professional Development”: PD does not stand for “pedagogical death.” So why do so many schools use the worst forms of pedagogy to deliver professional development to staff? Instead, we need to find ways to get teachers excited, engaged, and “ignited” about PD and ongoing learning. Teachers need experiences and strategies that are authentic, hands on, and practical while having time “to play,” practice, and learn from one another. In many ways, the “Ignite” format allows for many of these opportunities.
4) “America’s Untapped Opportunity”: 60% of new STEM jobs will be based in computer science yet only 1 in 10 schools offer courses in this area. Why? Computer science prepares students with “real world” foundational skills in problem solving and critical thinking that move well beyond the skills needed for a career in computer programming. In that sense, computer science is for everyone! To get started, all schools should participate in the “Hour of Code” national event that will be held at the beginning of December. For more information, check out https://learn.code.org.
5) “Teachers as Futurists”: In 1964, Isaac Asimov predicted that telephone calls would one day become “video calls.” He was right. In 1999, the dry erase whiteboard was the newest “must have” in every classroom. It has since been replaced by SMARTBoards, Apple TVs, and 1:1 environments. What will the world look like in 10, 20, or 30 years? It’s hard to know, but it’s incumbent upon teachers to prepare students with the necessary skills for a future that is uncertain and a marketplace that is yet to exist. Creating connected communities of innovators inside of our classrooms is a great way to get our students started on that path.
Have a good idea for an “Ignite” topic to share in schools? Comment below!