Sunday, October 26, 2014

Subversive Professional Development

This year I have a new job. I'm still at Divine Child High School, but now I am overseeing our 1:1 iPad initiative. This year all of our freshmen have iPads. Next year it will be freshmen and sophomores and we will keep adding a class a year till the entire student body is 1:1. I'm not planning on going into any of the technical details nor do I plan on starting a debate about the best device for a 1:1 deployment. I want to talk about the educational side of my new job.

Besides being responsible for the technical aspects I'm also responsible for staff professional development. I want to share one of the projects I've been helping with. Most of our 9th graders take a class we call Integrated Science. The teachers of this class has never been particularly satisfied with the textbook offerings from the big publishers. So I convinced them to look at what ck-12 has to offer.

ck-12 makes free Creative Commons textbooks. More importantly they allow teachers to take the different materials and assemble them in any way they see fit. So, basically you get to create the textbook you want to match the course you're teaching. Not only can you take the ready made materials, you can also go in and edit them. It's a great way to get started making your own textbooks without having to start from zero. I was able to convince the two Integrated Science teachers to use ck-12 rather than buy a new iPad ready textbook for this year.

I used to teach the course years ago, so I offered to help. ck-12 doesn't really seem to have a way to collaborate very easily so we split the content up. We made a different book for each unit, downloaded as ePubs and put them into an iTunes U course for distribution. Included in each unit in iTunes U are all the other documents and assignments students might need.

From the teaching standpoint having a textbook you made yourself is awesome. However, one problem is you don't have all the associated support materials assembled for you already. For this we are using Google Drive. We have a folder called "Integrated Science Teachers Manual" where we put in the unit overviews and skills/standards and such.

I volunteered to create the first unit for a couple of reasons. The first is that I know a lot more about Astronomy than either of the other teachers, but I also wanted to create a model for them to see what was possible. I tried to make the first unit as student centered as possible with assignments designed to make students use their iPads as both learning and content creation tools.

I call it Subversive Professional Development because the teachers involved have had to get much better at using Google Drive, they've had to learn to build a course in iTunes U, and have had to learn more about the possibilities afforded by having a room full of iPads, all without any formal training sessions. They've also gotten a chance to see how open ended student centered assignments can drive education. My next goal is to track their progress and see if they can keep this up through the rest of the school year.

One of the best parts about this whole process is I've heard from some of the other teachers that they may want to do the same thing once their students have iPads. Needless to say, I am very excited by this prospect. Some teachers in my building are beginning to see that they themselves can dictate their curriculum and use a textbook to support that curriculum rather than the other way around.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve, you continue to amaze me with your creativity. I used to enjoy you and Birch working together. Now you are truly a one man show.