The “Tech Day”

I am lucky to work at a school that values professional development and actually offers 10 days of paid PD before school starts. As a team lead, I often run many of the PD sessions for new and returning teachers. This year one of my tasks was to co-facilitate the “tech day” for new staff. Our staff needed to leave the day  with the following objectives having been met:

  • How to use, at least a basic level, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Forms, Google Slides, and Google Drive (since as a staff we use GAfE for everything)
  • How to create a website and newsletter

But as we knew that we had to make the day more than just a tech day–that we needed to model that tech was a tool to be used in the classroom but that it was not the end point. So we decided to reframe the day as a day focused on building communication and collaboration skills. Our objectives became

  • How to use technology (including GAfE Tools, a website, a newsletter) to communicate and collaborate with others
  • To have fun
  • To build a community
  • to practice a growth/risk-taking mindset

We started the day off with a stoke activity called Long Lost Friend–to boost energy and to nurture camaraderie. This activity provided an opportunity for everyone to mingle and to create shared experiences with multiple partners. They greeted each other as long-lost friends, as if the person you are greeting just told you won the lottery, as if the person just told you that they ran into your ran, and as if they were your 80 year old grandmother. Lots of laughter and ridiculousness ensued. A quick debrief on the purpose of the activity and a tone was set that today was going to be fun and funny but also might ask you to step outside of your comfort zone to try something new and crazy but that we were all going to travel this journey together.

Continuing with the focus on building a community and starting a conversation about collaborating and communicating, we moved into the handy spaghetti/marshmallow challenge (thanks to my Google Certified Teacher Academy, #mtv14)– asking the new teachers to work in small groups to see which could build the highest tower using just the materials provided. Once everyone finished their tower (or didn’t-depending on the success of the tower), we debriefed the activity–what worked well and what didn’t work so well? How did the team work together? What was each member’s communication style? How did working as a team help (or hinder) the team?

The next activity, an Amazing Race Activity (another shout out to my GTAMTV#14) asked the new staff to work in teams and to work with GAfE tools to solve challenges about the school and to think about communication. To create the activity, I create a series of tasks for the participates to complete using GAfE tools. Once they completed a task, they entered a URL into a google form to get the next Google Map location and the next clue. And then entered the next URL for the next completed task into another form to get the next clue. Each location was significant and so the participants learned about the school while completing the tasks and learning about the tech tools. Some of the tasks asked them to brainstorm about communication such as Newsletter Dos and Don’ts

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First Clue

Team members who knew more about the different tech tools helped those with less knowledge with prizes given out to the winning team (and to the team who went above and beyond). Again, we debriefed the activity, focusing this time not just on collaboration and communication but also on how the activity could be used in their classroom and the difference of learning technology through a project than just learning a tool for the tool’s sake. Participants also shared stories on how the different GAfE tools could be used for other purposes–forms to collect classroom information, Google sites to share information, etc.

To share out information that the teams had included on their slide decks about communication, we modeled how to create a Google doc and how to share it with others via email and asked everyone to go to their gmail and to open the doc. Groups then shared out and posted some of their ideas to the shared doc. This allowed us to talk about communication dos and don’ts without having to talk at the participants while giving them opportunities to learn how to use the tech tools we use to communicate with students, parents, and each other.

Next up was website design. We had already discussed how to use tech (including websites) in the earlier activity and so quickly shared out different examples of teacher’s websites–pointing out examples of good communication. Teachers can use a variety of options to create their websites so we talked about the options and the teachers regrouped into groups using similar website programs (including Weebly, Wix, Google Site, and Blogger) to help each other with the tech. In addition, I created a series of help videos on “how to” on using Google Sites and Weebly as website platforms so that there was “just in time” PD around creating a website. Everyone worked together, sharing tips and ideas; again collaborating with each other to create a better learning experience for everyone.

All in all it was a successful day of professional development–our new staff learned how to use a variety of tech tools to communicate while using the tools themselves to collaborate with their new colleagues. They had fun, laughed a lot, and learned.

About Jessica Lura

I am the director of teaching and learning at public K-8 charter school in Northern California. I work to integrate technology and hands-on learning into the classroom. I develop and lead professional development for my school, helping teachers develop project-based learning and design thinking units, integrate technology and digital citizenship in the classroom, and create opportunities for real world interactions and projects. For my efforts, I was named Santa Clara County's Office of Education Charter School Teacher of Year for 2013 and a 2014 Comcast All-Star Teacher. I am also a Google Certified Innovator
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