Friday, March 8, 2013

Hanging out with teachers

Submitted by IASL member, Ernie Cox, Teacher Librarian at Prairie Creek Intermediate School, College Community School District. 
Ernie will kick off the IASL Spring conference Sunday April 7.

A winter storm shut down the normal routine today resulting in lots of shoveling, plenty of warm beverage consumption, and no school.  Several folks from my district had scheduled time to plan a keynote for the upcoming Iowa ASCD Conference (PDF document).  Due to full calendars and the need for immediate action we had to plan today - we turned to Google Hangouts to make the conversation possible.  A snow day did not mean learning was turned off.
What did we find?  It worked great and we got so much planning done from the comfort and safety of our snow bound homes. Why did it work?
  • Compelling purpose - collaborating with colleagues to share work we value with a larger audience.
  • Google makes it darn easy (and fun - look at the eyewear options)!  Everyone figured out how to use this tool via trial and error, tutorials, asking someone else, or all of the above (sounds like 21st century skills).   

Today’s Hangout engaged teachers in the kind of learning described in the Iowa Core Standards.  “Share knowledge and skills with local or distant teams of peers, experts, or others using technology tools and resources to create group works and/or innovative solutions.”  (Grade 6-8 Technology Literacy).  I look forward to using this teacher example in future lessons with my students. These standards are tricky though because so much of “schooling” is tied to the physical building and the official “instructional time”. Our students learn around the clock; they need new ways to engage in school sanctioned learning. 


Some kids need time to process (I do), others have a favorite place to work (coffee shop for me), and many have preferred technologies (ipad and droid here). Can educators displace the time and location of learning to better reflect these preferences while also meeting standards? In addition to Google Apps for Education accounts we recently rolled out Edmodo for students at Prairie Creek Intermediate School. “Hey it looks like Facebook” was a common response in the first few weeks as students set about building their learning network. We’ve settled into this school based social networking tool as our main learning platform for the library and tech class. Slowly, we’re breaking out of the idea that all the learning has to happen in that 45 minute time and in the lab/library space.  Kids are using the mobile app to access learning modules, teachers are forming groups for their content purposes, interactions are happening that teachers are moderating but not controlling. 

The big challenge is not the tool - it is finding the real world challenges in need of solutions and giving kids academic freedom (when to work, who to work with, and where to work from) necessary to meet the vision of the standards.

What digital tools are your schools using to facilitate these kinds of collaborative interactions?

*image By The Avery Coonley School ( [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons