Back in November of this school year, we decided to bridge the 29 000 square km of our rural school district with some virtual PD in the form of a first-ever PRSD8 FlipGrid Book Study. Midway through the study as we paused for Christmas break, we were experiencing some great successes and some sure signs of disconnect.
Despite initial excitement, in many ways, this experiment in virtual Professional Development was somewhat disappointing if you consider some of the statistics:
- by the end of the study right before our February break, only two of the original 16 participants had completed almost all of the suggested posts
- about a quarter of the group did not get past Chapter 1
- by the time we broke for Christmas, less than 40% of participants were still responding.
However, our feedback suggests that it is feasible to try again:
- We had 13% completion, but whenever I watch a Seth Godin interview, he often mentions that only 5-10 % of people actually complete online courses. So, I guess that we should see our 13% completion as positive!
- Over 85% would try a FlipGrid book study again or recommend it to a colleague
- 90% found the FlipGrid format easy to use and also appreciated not having to drive
- 70% enjoyed “talking” their responses instead of having to write them
But when we match the reality of the completion data with the post-survey feedback, it is obvious that we do need to make some changes. Here are some of the most commonly repeated suggestions from participants:
- We should start with an “in person” get together to help everyone feel more comfortable with each other
- YES to some sort of regular email or Remind reminder just before responses are due
- We should remind members who do not like to see themselves on video that they can just put a picture of their cat, dog, pile of marking etc. in front of the camera, thus just providing us with audio
- We should post our chapter discussion prompts further in advance
Since these are all do-able suggestions, perhaps we will try again!
It’s a fascinating thing, this district-wide teacher Flipgrid Book study. My instructional coach counter-part, Cathy, and I are leading two different book studies with parallel methodologies, dates, etc…
This is Disciplinary Literacy
Learning that Lasts
The statistics to date:
- We are at the halfway mark this week, focusing on the third of six chapters.
- Between the two studies, there have been over 100 videos posted
- The 100 videos have been viewed over 1000 times.
In past book studies that I’ve chaperoned, I’ve learned that, by the end, there will be some members who fall by the wayside – some who are just too busy, and others who just aren’t digging the book enough to contribute regularly.
This virtual experience is interesting in that the ‘wayside’ seems to have come more quickly! On one hand, we have several educators who are totally invested – they are meeting the suggested deadlines and adding rich video reflections to the posts of their colleagues. When I’ve seen them in person, they make a point of telling me how much they are enjoying this virtual book study experience. On the other end of the spectrum, we have some educators who have contributed only one out of four initial response videos required to date, and maybe one or two of the eight responses to colleagues that should have taken place by now.
Cathy and I are struggling to determine what constitutes an appropriate number of “reminders”. As teachers signed up, we assured them that they could go at their own pace if necessary, and if they missed some weeks, they could just jump back in and continue. This flexible method has certainly been the pattern for a few teachers, but there still are those others who haven’t seemed to get off the ground. So, what are some of the possible reasons?
- it was report card season these past few weeks for elementary and junior high teachers, and those tend to be the ones who we’ve heard from less often – do we chalk this up to poor timing?
- should we be sending a reminder every time that we approach a deadline? Our initial plan was to present a detailed schedule at startup so teachers could keep track of their own dates – is that too much to ask a busy teacher? do they just need a quick email or text to bump them into action?
- is our timeline too tight? We’ve allowed two weeks to read each chapter. Before the next chapter deadline approaches, we’ve hoped that teachers have listened to and responded to the musings of their book study colleagues – are we asking too much in too short of a time frame?
- after mid-December, we have a full month off for Christmas – will some teachers use this time to catch up and post a few responses that they’ve missed? or will that extra time just push the whole book study idea further from mind?
- does this virtual landscape offer too little accountability? is it just too easy to “not do” if you don’t have to walk past someone in the hall the next day and explain why you haven’t ‘done your homework’?
Stay tuned for more musings as this experiment progresses! If you have theories, please comment!
Our Prairie Rose School District is a geographically vast space in southeastern Alberta covering over 29,000 square kilometres. It borders Montana in the south and Saskatchewan in the east. Our central office is located somewhat centrally, yet when teachers assemble for meetings they travel from schools located over 2 hours from the north and almost 2 hours from the south-west. So, as you might imagine, gathering teachers for professional development is a challenge.
Fortunately, it is 2018 and it is time that we started to better leverage all of the amazing access that we have to digital technology. Many of our small, remote schools connect students via video-conferenced classes, but it seems we are generally less likely to connect virtually as educators. To remedy that, my fellow Instructional Coach and I decided that we would try to provide valuable PD that didn’t require travel. By what magic you ask? We are attempting some district-wide book studies using Flipgrid as our platform. Some of our participants are already using Flipgrid in their classes or school, and some will be catching #FlipGridFever for the first time.
We are featuring two books that align with our district goals of Deeper Learning and Literacy. Participants will have approximately 2 weeks to read a chapter/section and respond to their choice of discussion questions. Then, to make it a ‘conversation’, they have an additional week to ‘respond to’ the musings of at least two other educators on that same chapter.
Learning that Lasts
This is Disciplinary Literacy
Have you read the books and want to join the conversation? Our participants include teachers and administrators from primary to high school!
Out of district? Go to flipgrid.com and use this guest code to check out the conversation about Disciplinary Literacy: a8d729a2
In PRSD8? Click here to check out and/or join our Flipgrid discussion on Disciplinary Literacy (or join code fea160) or here for Learning That Lasts (or join code 4171a7)
One of the topics for Week 2 of Season 3 of the #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course) asks us to examine George Couros’ 8 Characteristics of an Innovator and discuss which of these we might exemplify. In IMMOOC Season 1 I wrote about risk-taking and resilience. and in Season 2 about being reflective.
This time around, I will reflect once again on the innovative habit of “being reflective”, but without re-reading what I wrote last time – this will make for some interesting real life research! The first thing that comes to mind as I think about being reflective is that it can be a curse.
My son has just started his college undergrad courses on the road to becoming a teacher. In his first month of college, he is doing an observation practicum in a kindergarten class. Yesterday he was labouring over his first journal-type entry as a “reflective practitioner”, as his text book describes it. So this got me thinking about how very naturally and continually I reflect on my teaching practice. I guess the habit has been ingrained since my pre-service teaching days when I had to do post-lesson reflections, written down on paper.
Of course as full time teachers, most of us do not have time to sit down and formally journal about the successes and failures of our many lessons a day. Despite this, my lesson plans and student handout materials are scrawled with suggestions and changes for next time. My methods and work are constantly evolving, although not always in significant shifts. Often the changes are to increase clarification or because I’ve found a better source, or often, a new technology tool/approach that I think would be engaging for students.
Thus the curse: being reflective causes a teacher more work. I often am jealous of my colleagues who are not wired to be as reflective. They can make a lesson once, and whether it was mildly or wildly successful or not at all, they can go on to teach it semester after semester with nary an alteration. I do not have this ability. I am often jealous of those who can just keep teaching the same ol’ thing. Semester after semester. Year after year.
Often jealous, but not always. In the end, why do I go through the torment of reflection and the resulting revision? Because it is probably best for our students. If we expect our students’ best work, and require them to revise and rework their submissions, knowing that they can create a better piece of work, it would be hypocritically if we were not willing to do the same.
Well, we didn’t quite make it for the beginning of the semester, but our “tangible goal” from our first ever EBHS book study is now a reality.
Our goal was to create a school-wide list of commonly misspelled and confused (eg. affect, effect) words that every student would carry with them in their binder. The dream is that it will become second nature for all our students to pull this word reference out on their desk when they write. We hope it can become one more strategy to help students ( and teachers like me) who sometimes struggle with spelling.
Last week Mrs. Laturnas and I spent some time formatting the list to two pages and then spent some more quality time together trying to convince our new photocopier to print on our cardstock. We finally were victorious over the photocopier and there are now 5 or 6 class sets that we are using at EBHS, first in the classes of our book study teachers. We’ll make changes as needed before we sell our vision to the school for 2nd semester.
Perhaps some of the participating teachers will be inclined to leave comments here over the semester as updates on our vision…..