Stepping Outside My Comfortable Limits

The title of this post should speak for itself. “Stepping Outside My Comfortable Limits” – it is a statement that we hear from time to time. Well, I can say that I have done this recently. As a kid, I always dreaded reading. It just was not my thing. Give me some math problems to solve and I was right there ready to go with my mechanical pencil. Yes, I LOVED mechanical pencils! Well, fast forward to March 2018…who knew that I would be co-leading an online book chat with the librarian in my school, Jessica Gilcreast, as a means of delivering professional development. In fact, when I told my family about this, my brother thought I was lying and my mother smiled. In the end, once I truly convinced them of my task at hand, they were impressed with me. Put a smile on my face.

The Journey
This inspiration came from Tina Zita, whom I have never met before, back in Winter 2016. My friend Mary Marotta, said she was reading a book called “Launch” and came across a book chat that was happening in Canada. She decided to join in on the conversation and told me that I should participate. I reluctantly did. I found this model to be interesting as I am not one to just join a neighborhood book club. I did like how questions were being posted online and people responding.

Mary then decided to do something of similar nature in one of our co-taught graduate courses. She took the lead and I more or less followed along. Again, I thought it was great to see conversation amongst people online.

It was not until seeing Mary run her version of a book chat that I thought, something like this could be done at the high school that I work at. So, what better person to join in the fun with me, but the librarian of the high school, Jessica Gilcreast. I mentioned it to her at the beginning of the school year. We both thought it was a good idea but we both were extremely busy. Plus, no one is interested in doing something like that at the beginning of the school year…too much to accomplish. February of the same school year and it was brought up again. We looked at each other and said we don’t have the time, however this time, we convinced ourselves that it was important to try this out. We thought it would be a good collaboration project to do. So we did. I could not be more happier in that decision. The book that we decided to read was “Empower – What Happens When Students Own Their Learningby John Spencer and AJ Juliani.

The Design
Thanks again to Tina Zita for sharing out her version of the similar professional development that she delivered to her own staff, as we were able to remix her ideas with our own (it is so nice that we live in a world now where people are willing to share ideas to help inspire others). This is what we came up with: Google Presentation.

We split the book up into four different sections (same format from Tina) – one each week of the month. During each week, we focused on a particular tool by which staff had to use to share their thoughts online.

Week 1 – Twitter
Week 2 – Adobe Spark Post with Twitter
Week 3 – Booksnaps with Twitter
Week 4 – Flipgrid and Twitter

We knew that not everyone had experience with these tools so we made a point of sharing instructions on how to use them. We also provided the questions ahead of time and when they were going to be posted so that people knew when to expect them. To see the conversation from the chat, check out #sau25bookchat.

I was also thrilled that John Spencer, one of the authors of the book, agreed to participate in a half hour Google Hangout with us. This hangout was streamed live to those that participated in the book chat, and could be enjoyed either in the actual hangout with John or after the fact. We did ask participants to provide some questions ahead of time to help John in the direction of thoughts. Such a great way to end our experience as he is very knowledgeable and personable. He truly answered people’s questions.

The Success
This professional development is something that I am really proud of. Very thankful that our administration in the building was open to this idea and opportunity. Jess and I were not sure how many people where going to participate. Let’s just say our expectations were met and some. It was completely different for me, for Jess, as well as the staff that participated. I appreciated the fact that people decided to join in on the adventure, willing to try some new things on the way, and have fun with it. Using Twitter as a means to chat with others is not exactly something that everyone is comfortable with but I do believe that people were still about the learn from each other in the thoughts that were shared. And, I LOVED the fact that people from outside of our district also participated. It was refreshing hearing from those that we don’t necessarily work with each and every day.

So the moral of this story is, just when you think you shouldn’t, when you think you don’t have time, or when you are questioning whether to do it (whatever it might be in your situation), make it happen. You might be surprised at the end result. One of the BEST PD opportunities that I have helped organize.

And that is my spiel…

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