For the past couple of years, I've been working as a consultant, traveling to various locales to generally help others think about innnovation in education. This work has included running an online global education conference, delivering presentations at conferences, conducting one day workshops, curating news, writing curriculum and offering insight to individual schools, school boards, and established companies. Interestingly, I'm increasingly getting more inquiries from ed tech start ups on how best to connect to educators as well.
I've been inspired by many places I've visited and by many people I've met along the way; one project has stood out to me as particularly ideal. Since last Spring, I've worked with fellow Apple Distinguished Educator Larry Baker to think about customized professional development as part of his school's "Mercy 2.0" initiative. Mercy High School is located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and is currently transitioning its one-to-one device program for students from PC tablets to iPads. All faculty members and freshman students have iPads; upperclassmen were given the choice of sticking with the PC tablets or purchasing an iPad (approximately 200 students did so, interestingly enough).
It's important to note that Mercy has an amazing leadership team (comprised of the head of operations, tech director, dean of students, principal, department heads and president of the school) that has been thinking and planning this transition for a significant period of time begininng with two briefings with Apple. The admin team is all on the same page in terms of believing in the power of technology to transform learning and also in their shared goal of creating a more robust digital culture within their school. For Mercy's leadership team, using iPads in the classsroom is not an optional choice for their teachers and they fully understand that they need to provide the support and professional development necessary to help their faculty become more successful. This leadership team is also very willing to listen to feedback from their faculty and alter plans as necessary in order to meet faculty needs. I think the role of this leadership team has been invaluable to Mercy 2.0 and I've encouraged Larry to document the digital transformation process. You can read more about what they've been up to in his blog, and Larry will also talk more about his work during a Mobile Learning Explorarations webinar for EdWeb this coming spring.
Because Mercy has been a digitally-oriented school for a number of years, Larry and his admin team colleagues have felt that that Mercy faculty needed specialized professional development focused on teaching with the iPad specifically and thinking through how to fully utlize iPads on the classroom. I've been contracted to spend 5 days at Mercy over the course of this year in order to help make this happen. I spent two days there last Spring, meeting with each department and conducting informal intake assessments and then returned in August to lead workshops with another Apple Distinguished Educator, Cheryl Davis. Mercy also held drop in sessions for help with specific workflow apps and workshops on using Google Apps over the late spring and summer, and required teachers to complete 10 tasks related to using the IPads and post about this to Moodle. New teachers and students attended an iPad bootcamp as well. So, by the time fall and the acutal rollout to students arrived, many teachers felt that they had had enough professional development and need time to actually implement. It was a good time to re-think about how best to use my time at Mercy.
Larry and his team then came up with the brilliant idea of inviting me back to work specficially with students. Imagine that! I was thrilled with the idea of helping Mercy iPad "wizards" come up with a plan to create a student-run tech program. During our planning meetings, I emphasized to Larry that this group should really be student-owned and that the adults would be there to facilitate, not co-opt, this group.
Thus, last Friday, I met with 26 enthusiastic and articulate young women to help them think about how they could establish a tech group at Mercy and serve as leaders within their school community. To see what we discussed, take a look at our agenda which is a little messy, but you can see our course of action for the day. You can also learn about other student-run tech programs linked to in this document and shared by colleagues from the ISED-L listserv.
We started off getting to know each other by sharing our favorite apps and tech super powers. The girls also gave us postive constructive feedback on how well the iPad program rollout is going. We then dove into a list of links and did some preliminary research on other student-run tech programs. Steve Hargadon happened to ping me while trying out videoconferencing on his phone, so we chatted with him for a bit, and also held Google Hangouts (of which one is recorded) with Jason Markey and Kern Kelley. Jason included one of his students in our conversation and they discussed their for credit student tech help desk; Kern talked about his Tech Sherpas program. Make sure to watch Kern's video and to read Larry's reflections on the day for more details. At the end of the day, we brainstormed ideas for the structure of our program, started an outline and joined a Ning created by Mercy tech director Tom James in order to faciliate group communication going forward.
Friday was an incredibly satisfying day for me, most notably because I spoke my piece, and then let the girls explore, discuss and brainstorm ideas for THEIR group. I was really impressed by their poise and enthusiasm and I was also stunned to realize how much I miss teaching. There is nothing like working with students and having synergystic moments when you know you are reaching them.
At any rate, working with Mercy High School has been such an amazing experience. We've mutually learned from each other and I've grown to really admire the leadership and teaching exhibited at this school. I can't wait to see what these tech "wizards" come up with as they continue to form their group, and I hope that I'll have the opportunity to work with others schools in a similar fashion in the future!