Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cell phones in class, anyone?

On Wednesday, December 1st, Northern Highlands Regional High School was the recipient of a wonderful Professional Development program. Angie and Sandra, from the Pearson Foundation, flew out to New Jersey to introduce our staff to the use of mobile devices as educational tools. The training was part of the NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence!

We were all very excited to get this training. Thirty staffers volunteered to attend the after-school session, including our school's Superintendent, Mr. John Keenan and our Principal, Mr. Joe Occhino. I was also thrilled to have our Technology Director, Mike Rightmeyer, present and actively engaged in our shared discovery.

Staff from every department participated in our exploration of the use of 21st Century tools. Julie Goldberg, our school librarian and PD coordinator even canceled a previously scheduled meeting to attend and to allow others to get involved.

This is the way great communities work - we all come together to learn and to support each other. I was particularly impressed with such participation because it was the Wednesday after Thanksgiving and everyone has so much on their personal and professional plates!

In our workshop, we looked at the best and worst-case scenarios of mobile phone use. Mobile phones have more power than a room could house, when computers first came out years ago, and our students love using them.

How do we direct this use?
How can we empower our students to engage in meaningful work with their own electronic devices?
What do you do if some students do not possess this equipment?
How do teachers balance individualized electronic engagement with teacher directed activity?

We talked about all of this and watched some serious and humorous video clips to inform us and to prompt discussion.

Then, we went right to texting, polling and connecting with the use of these mini computers!

Most folks came away thinking that they just might give this a try at some point in the future. We grew and enjoyed the shared learning!

I was so happy that the NEA Teaching Excellence Award included this staff development from the Pearson Foundation! It's the first prize that I have ever received which included a gift for my colleagues.

The student newspaper was really interested in what we were learning and I got an inquiry from a student reporter.

In the end, this staff development encouraged teachers, students and administrators to put their heads together around how we might consider inviting these powerful new technologies into our classrooms. That's a fantastic outcome!

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