This is my first post as part of the Compelled Tribe, a group of teachers and leaders looking to encourage each other to blog and grow.  You can find more information in this post by Jennifer Hogan.  Now on to my first post.

I’ve been blown away the past two weeks by the people I work with.  A lot of really exciting things have been happening.  I’m lucky to be a part of a group of seven teachers who decided we wanted to start a book study and grow together.  We chose our first book, Hacking Education:  10 Quick Fixes For Every School by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez, and got started collaborating using the website http://www.realtimeboard.com (the software is pricey, luckily you can apply for a free education license).  The first “hack” of the book is titled “Meet Me In The Cloud” regarding cloud based professional development.  This came at exactly the right time as our Principal has asked me to lead some professional development this week on Restorative Practices.

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I struggled at first with whether or not to try something new with this PD.  I know when someone else fires up a Google Slide Show on a PD day I’m the first person to grab a pen and start doodling, not because I’m not listening, but because I need to be doing something with my hands in order to keep my attention on the speaker.  I wanted to break out of that mold, but I was nervous that people wouldn’t respond to something different and something new.  More than that, I didn’t want to put anything additional on the plates of people who are already giving most of what they have to our scholars every single day.  I had resolved to try something cloud based, but when I was running it by a few people they weren’t sure, one person telling me they didn’t like the idea and another telling me straight up that teachers wouldn’t participate.

Luckily, someone I trust very much (shoutout to @mskaestner) convinced me that it was worth a shot.  I took the presentation I had been working on, which was mixture of sit-and-get plus active learning, and flipped it into full on information mode.  23 slides packed full of everything I wanted teachers to know.  Then I made a new board on realtimeboard.com, posted the presentation with some directions on how to work the software, and gave people a KWL template to work with.   As I said above, I’ve been blown away by the response.

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You can see my presentation on the left side.  In the middle you see the KWL chart.  Each post-it note is something another teacher has written.  On top of the post-it notes you can see little orange chat boxes, those are comment threads that other teachers have started regarding the content of the original post-it notes, some containing 5 comments themselves.  On the far right you can see part of the resources and activities that we will be using when we get together.  Our time will be 100% activity based because of all the work these great people have done looking over the material and discussing it with each other.  I’ve seen them log in at all hours of the day and night, reading and posting.  Their conversations have been powerful and their questions have led us down a number of different paths that we’ll be able to explore in person on Monday.  The content promises that those conversations will be interesting, possibly even difficult, but the level of participation has proven to me that the engagement will be there.

It’s amazing what has happened here.  I’m ashamed I doubted the dedication and willingness of the great people I work with to engage with these materials on their own time and start a dialogue with their peers.  Sometimes we just need a platform and an opportunity to grow together.  I hope this is just the beginning of our PD in the Cloud journey.  It’s been really exciting so far!

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