After attending 4 days of the InnEdCO conference I have been slightly overwhelmed at the amount of great ideas and information I was given by so many passionate and innovative educators. Though it may have been overwhelming it was also extremely inspiring and recharging to be shown how to implement so many great ideas from the simple tweaks of existing practices to the reinvention of how we do business at my school district.
One theme that was woven throughout the conference was the application of Design Thinking to many of the issues we face in education in order to come up with innovative, applicable solutions that help address all the stakeholders needs. Watching this process being applied to facilitate discussions for so many various topics has really proved its value in how we plan and problem-solve in education. I plan on bringing this process to my own district and technology team as we plan for the upcoming year with various tech initiatives and professional development opportunities.
Several Sessions that I attended and plan on utilizing resources from are:
Developing PD that Matters- This session was a great crash course in working through the design thinking process to identify an issue or need in a group and work through the steps to try and create helpful and meaningful solutions to creating meaningful PD.
One topic that rose to the top of our priority list was the effective differentiation of PD to keep all staff engaged and is an issue my department is constantly struggling with. I will continue this design process with our staff to work through a meaningful solution and develop some valuable PD that benefits all.
Using Google Sheets to Facilitate Discussion- I really enjoyed this snapshot session by Scott McCleod on a quick and easy way to utilize Sheets to facilitate and record thinking on a variety of discussions that are often held with staff, students, and the community. With some simple formatting Sheets can be transformed into a recording tool that follows protocols like Mission impossible (example, template), Start-Stop-Continue (example,template), and 6-3-5 brainwriting (example, template). All of these and more are protocols we have used many times in my district and transforming them from paper hard copies to a digital medium will be greatly appreciated and more efficient.
Quality Student Feedback - Maximizing Their Work Time and Yours- Providing quality student feedback is always a priority for teachers, but the ability to do so can be difficult and time-consuming. Elementary teachers Penny Potts and Betsy Sise gave some great examples of how to utilize add-ons in Google Docs, Google Form practices, Chrome extension Screencastify, and the feedback tool Kaizena to rethink how we can give students (and get from students) meaningful feedback on various assignments. Sharing these resources with my teachers and connecting them with educators like Penny and Betsy will hopefully encourage them to try new avenues and not feel overwhelmed about implementing new processes that will benefit their students.
Strategic Planning to Improve PD and Eliminate Silos- This panel session included administration from Weld County schools and showcased their strategic approach to how they planned initiatives at a district-wide level and involved as many key stakeholders as needed in order to eliminate silos of people who wouldn’t typically work in conjunction with each other to accomplish goals, PD or otherwise. They praised the StratOp process in helping them create a plan that was actionable and adaptable as they revisited through the planning process throughout the year. My biggest take-away was having the buy-in from all the district administration to commit to this process and work together to enact a plan that will result in real action and solutions. I hope that by sharing this model and its success with my own district will encourage them to take a look at our own process for planning PD and other initiatives and how we can improve it for the betterment of our staff, students, and community.
Design Thinking About Grades- One of the final sessions I attended at InnEdCO was lead by Brian Rozinki from Peak to Peak Charter school and had our group really think about grades and how we might re-invent that idea to best benefit teachers and students. Brian walked us through the design thinking process and recording our thinking on a Padlet to better be able to review and come back to the ideas we cultivated as a group. Though we didn’t walk away with a concrete answer I feel we had good discussion as educators and many of us were on the same page in wanting to make grades something meaningful for all involved. This is definitely a topic that needs continued discussion and I know I have many teachers on staff who would like a chance to look at how we are grading our students and what the best method, if any, really would be.
There you have some really great ideas, tools, and conversation from my time at InnEdCO. Though there are definitely more things to explore from my time in other sessions I think my focus on the take-aways from the sessions described above are really great focus points that can produce some meaningful change in my district. I plan to push on our use of the Design Thinking process to help plan out future thinking with any of these initiatives, as I feel like it can really help organize a deep dive into ideas and produce realistic, actionable next steps.
Director of Technology for Traverse City Area Public Schools. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Former Tech Integration Specialist and 4th grade teacher at Aspen School District and Spartan for life! Go Green!