View from the District: Start with Professional Development

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April 25th, 2011
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Week #2 with Andy McKiel, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator at St. James-Assiniboia School Division in Winnipeg, Canada

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One of the first things I needed to take into consideration when implementing Edmodo within our school district was the provision of professional learning opportunities for our staff.  Sure, it’s easy to sign up for an account to start dabbling with the features, but I wanted to hook our teachers on the many powerful features that Edmodo has to offer when it comes to building communities of learners.

My hope was that if I could quickly demonstrate the ease of getting started, teachers would jump on board and their enthusiasm would spill into their classrooms.  I felt that there were a few key aspects that were necessary to address with the initial training – setting up a teacher account, creating groups, inviting students to those groups and, most importantly, sharing exemplars of the many ways that other teachers are effectively utilizing Edmodo within their classrooms.

As I began to wrap my head around the best way to bring teachers on board with Edmodo, I felt that it was best to start small – teachers should have the power to self-select and opt-in to the use of this tool.  For several of our teachers, Edmodo is the perfect tool because it provides a safe and secure alternative to some of the other social networking platforms that they’ve been wanting to use with their students.  But, for other teachers, the notion of connecting and collaborating with students in an online environment is still a stretch.  As much as I’d love to see every one of our 500+ teachers using Edmodo, we’re not there yet.  But I suspect that as teachers within our district begin to share their own success stories with each other, we’ll see many more teachers wanting to get involved in the coming months.

As a result of the diverse range of needs and interest levels that exist, I started with an open invitation for our teachers.  I planned a one hour after-school webinar (using Elluminate) and had the ability to accommodate up to 50 participants.  Within just a few days, thirty teachers & administrators representing Grade 1 through Grade 12 signed up to participate.  Over half of our schools (16 out of 26) were represented in the list of attendees.  I was thrilled with the initial interest, as this opportunity would create ‘pockets of innovation’ within many of our schools.

In planning for my webinar, I decided to tap into the power of Twitter.  I threw the question out to my PLN and was delighted with the responses I received.  Many educators from around the globe offered very worthwhile tips and suggestions.  But the most valuable response came in the form of a co-host for the webinar I was planning – Ben Wilkoff, Edmodo’s Online Community Manager. Ben offered to help me facilitate this webinar to provide a more comprehensive overview than I’d be able to offer on my own and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to tap into his support and expertise!

The webinar was very well received by those teachers and administrators who joined us.  An hour provided Ben and I with more than enough time to highlight the ease of getting started with Edmodo, share some great examples of classroom use and provide answers to the few questions that were raised throughout the session.  Everyone who participated in this webinar logged out of the Elluminate room eager to get started and they all knew exactly what was required in order to proceed!

We all know that the most effective professional learning opportunities are the ones that are timely and relevant.  And, if you’re reading this blog post, I probably don’t have to tell you that technology makes it easy to provide support where and when it is needed.  Whether you’re a teacher who posts your daily lessons to your classroom blog for review, or you’re an instructional designer in a post-secondary institution, you know that digital artifacts can and should be archived so that they can be made available for ‘just-in-time’ learning.

Knowing that the information that was shared during my ‘Intro to Edmodo’ webinar would be valuable for many of our teachers at a later date, I recorded the Elluminate session so that it can be viewed again whenever and wherever teachers want access to it.  In the month that has elapsed since the webinar, a number of teachers have viewed the recorded session, created their teacher accounts and have already set up their own groups within Edmodo – and this is just the beginning…

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(Edmodo Note from Betsy:  For resources that will help you get started with a school or district implementation, check out help.edmodo.com)


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