Friday, February 4, 2011

Family of Schools - Building Capacity


That's the ratio of ICT Consultants to schools. We've has taken a wonderful step in "decentralizing PD". Job embedded, PLC, action research.... you get the idea. Wonderful steps towards empowering teachers in their own learning. Awesome things happening. Sometimes though... teachers need the support of others to brainstorm, collaborate or just figure out a tool and how it could be used best to support their learning goal. Outside of a formal cycle. In these cases a 2:105 ratio could be viewed as a barrier. Especially seeing as the ICT Consultants spend much of our time working on large-scale projects like teacher notebook rollouts, numeracy videoconference co-teaching projects, e-Learning, action research, etc. Then we realized...
WAIT. It's not about us. Its about the teachers. We don't hold the answers. But we can support the networking. So, our board created Family of School IT Teams (FOSIT Teams, because we really needed another darn acronym). One teacher from each school joined in a collaborative meeting among their "family" (a secondary and the elementary schools in the area). Some schools sent two people. The person could be anyone on staff who had an interest in the goings on of ICT in the board. There is no coaching role involved, simply a contact person so we can communicate with schools easily, and they can get a hold of us easily. Someone we can share ideas with and them us. Since these meetings (2 weeks ago) I have watched an amazing transformation and progression. Teachers calling teachers from schools next door to pop over for 5 minutes. Projects being completed between secondary and elementary. Teachers collaborating and sharing. We created a site to facilitate the sharing ( and people are sending in ideas, posting links, and SHARING. Did I mention how much sharing is going on? :)

Now, I'm certain that most of these things were happening before. They were just happening in the background and in isolation. The sharing and license for innovation has just built an excitement for sharing and trying new things that has the potential to spread.

The types of emails I'm getting have shifted from "can you please come out and run a session on smart boards" to "do you know who is in our area that could collaborate with our teacher so our own teacher can support some projects using the smart board in our own school".

We are in the process of surveying teachers to identify where our strengths are. This allows us to celebrate these strengths and network people together as needed. It also allows us to identify our needs. If there is an area where no-one knows how to use the video conferencing equipment and they are interested in connecting their class to the world, then we can support them in that way. As we continue to get feedback via the survey (simple google form) I am amazed at how many folks are out there willing to share and some of the AMAZING things going on.

Energizing and positive! OH! I've also found handfuls of teachers in our board making great use of twitter to support their own learning :) Power to the networks... I can't wait until our next round of face-to-face meetings.

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