This year my administrative partner and I decided to move our staff toward utilizing the computer lab for project-based learning and away from the traditional scheduled periods on our 10 day cycle. There were a number of reasons for this decision but largely what we were seeing a lot of was meaningless game time with no end product. The move to guide teachers toward booking "chunks" of time for project-based learning is a powerful way to engage students with their learning. Initially, I was unsure how staff would respond and work with the new direction. I finally came to the idea of "nothing ventured, nothing gained". I knew we had staff who were comfortable with technology and were developing excellent project-based learning activities for their students, but we also had staff that were not as confident with technology but certainly accessed the computer lab on a regular basis. How this new direction would be viewed and implemented were questions that stayed with me until this past week.
In communicating the direction we wanted teachers to move with integrating technology into their programs the first step was to explain the reasons behind moving to a computer lab that did not have regularly scheduled classes. This would allow teachers to block "chucks" of time over a few days so that students would be have a better experience completing projects. I was pleasantly surprised at the response many teachers had to the idea. There were a lot of "that makes sense". The second step was to create a blank timetable and method for teachers to book the lab, with the caveat that the schedule would be monitored and that they should respect their colleagues, booking only the time they have planned a project for. Again I was very happy with how our staff worked with the new process. Times were being booked for the intended purposes. The third step and most important, in my view, was to provide support for the new model. I would be the support, providing "Partners In Action" time everyday for teachers that wanted and/or need to plan or work together on a project.
During the first few weeks of school the computer lab was unused most of the time. Maybe it was due to the hustle and bustle of the start of the school year. Maybe it was because teachers were still getting their heads around the new direction. Either way I started getting a little worried. I reminded teachers of my availability for planning and co-teaching. Slowly I started to notice teachers booking "chunks" of time in the computer lab and asking me to support them and their students in different projects. Over the last couple of weeks we have had grade 5 students using Frames 4 to create video diaries for a trip across Canada, grade 6 students using our green screen technology to create persuasive infomericals for a product they had created and intermediate students creating paper slides to describe the process of creating scatter plots. My hope is that this trend continues and that we continue to find ways to engage students using the technology that is available to us. Below is a short paper slides video completed by a group of intermediate students. Enjoy!