Unexpected PD Topic

In November 2019, I was preparing to speak at a Professional Day event on Concept Based Curriculum. I prepared the content, rehearsed it multiple times, and felt ready to go. As the session began and people were filling the room, I was finishing the setup of my presentation, which on this day was being done via Google Slides. I welcomed everyone and without even really thinking about it, I explained that I was going to be using my slide deck hosted on Google Slides and for ‘fun’ I would be turning on the live closed captioning that is offered as a tool. People were in shock. They had no idea that Google Slides had this option. So of course, people were starting to ask questions and discuss how this tool could be used in their classroom. I took a few questions, showed a few of the features, and then eventually moved onto my presentation for the day. After the session ended, I had a number of conversations with people regarding implementing a concept based curriculum, but I also had just as many people talk to me about the feature I introduced at the beginning of the session.

I reflect on this because it is easy to forget that there are so many little ‘tricks’ and ‘tools’ out there. What I think is a little and fun ‘trick’, can be significant and have a large impact on others. As I did in this presentation, even though the topic people wanted to discuss was not around my primary objective, I needed to stop and engage with others who were curious and excited to learn. This ‘rabbit trail’ took a maximum of 5 minutes, but the lasting impact it had on a number of teachers’ teaching practice was changed. They could’t get back to class fast enough to try this new tool out. As an instructional leader, I also need to remember that my staff and colleagues are always watching how and why I do what I do. For a presentation, I attempted to engage with the audience in a variety of ways. I spoke to them, but I also had what I was saying right on the screen as it happened. This allowed everyone to be engaged in a way that was most useful to them. Even though the primary focus of a discussion or presentation is important, it is all the side aspects that can sometime have the largest impact.

Effective Student Engagement

One of my weekly opportunities is to run our school’s Makerspace program. This program provides all students with an opportunity to apply their learning, become creative in new ways, solve a variety of problems, and work with others. Students look forward to this program every week and they are frequently asking what they will get to do when they come to their Makerspace time. At a surface level, it is great to see that students want to ‘get their hands dirty’ and make something new. Some students require little direction, whereas others require a very specific outline of what they need to accomplish. But, the common theme is that they all want to try something new.

One of our larger goals with this program is to demonstrate to our teachers and students a variety of ways that students can take what they have been learning, and apply it to something completely different. They could be learning about the culture of a group in a different country, but using what they have been learning in Makerspace, they could be building tools out of cardboard that could have helped this different culture group with a struggle that they were having. This is about helping students learn to ‘think outside the box’ for ways to demonstrate their knowledge. I am excited that this is a weekly opportunity, as it continues to challenge me on coming up with new and innovative ways to challenge all students.