I have referred to myself before as a 'fly on the wall' in my work with C.I.S. 339 School of Technology, and today I had two other 'flies' observing proceedings. The two visitors were Dr. Michael Fox (psychologist and high performance coach for athletes and businesses), and his wife Karen, an Assistant Principal at St. Ursula's College, and one of the best educators with whom I have had the pleasure of working along side.
Michael and Karen sat in with me during two morning Skype meetings, and were astounded by the ease with which the teachers and administrators at C.I.S. 339 handle not only the technology, but grapple as well with pedagogical issues like differentiation and student goal-setting.
The visitors were first treated to a Differentiation Task Force planning meeting with the AIS, IEP and Bilingual Coordinators, Ms. McHale, Ms. Lovett and Mr. Betancourt respectively. After making the initial Skype contact, we flicked between shared Google Docs and Google Presentations, and ventured into discussions about how we would live stream the next Differentiation Task Force meeting using ustream.tv.
This level of comfort not only with the technology but also with such effective collaborative planning, barely existed before the start of the school year. Without a doubt, technology has been our accelerant for positive school change.
Following this first meeting, Karen and Michael were welcomed into a Curriculum Team session, with noone in the team even slightly fazed by their virtual presence. This time Google Spreadsheets came into play as we discussed our need to 'close the loop' in terms of some systems in place to support teachers. These systems involve members of the Curriculum Team providing instructional and goal-setting feedback to teachers on Google Docs, which are all tracked on a spreadsheet.
Every day there are exciting new developments, whether they be a class recording podcasts, a teacher using chat for the first time, a novel use for blogs, or making contact with educators in other schools through an iteach-ilearn ning, set up by Lisa Nielsen.
What is most exciting about all of this is that there is a sense of a shared vision and a united commitment to improving learning opportunities (for everyone within the school community) together.