Igniting a Spark: Day One of 21clc

Posted on June 13, 2008


I led the first meeting of my school’s 21st Century Learning Community (21clc). I wish I could say I set the world-at least my microscopic corner of it-on fire. I didn’t. Hopefully, I provided enough flint to ignite a spark that, with enough gentle nudging, will slowly begin to burn, to spread, to envelope our campus and inflame our teachers.

Who’s Involved?

Let me begin by recounting what we’re doing-what our vision is for this 21clc process. We (my principal and myself) selected a teacher from each of the core subjects, an administrator, and a school board member:

  1. English teacher
  2. science teacher
  3. math teacher
  4. history teacher
  5. principal
  6. school board president

This six-person team comprises the 21clc core team. This group will meet over a three-year period.

Each year, we’ll add a new six-person team. When we run out of board members, we’ll begin adding parents and students to teams. Within five years, we could have-will have, hopefully–immersed and marinated every teacher at my high school in 21st Century Learning.

That’s the idea. There are problems. First, there must be a core person-an instructional technologist-to hold all this together, to facilitate all the teams, to support teachers in classrooms as they begin to implement with students, to offer follow-up trainings. My district doesn’t currently fund that position. No matter. I’m forging ahead, confident that we will either find a grant to fund this monster or that my district will realize how important this is and will find the money.

What, Exactly, Did We Do the First Day?

Before I explain, I should note that I am no expert. I am currently a mere English teacher with a passion for infusing technology into my own classroom and with a conviction that our school must change to meet the demands of the 21st Century. That said, let me explain what I’ve done thus far and what I envision we’ll do next.

In the first year, the core 21clc team will meet two full days beginning this summer (once in May and once in July). Then, we’ll meet for one hour after school each month over nine months throughout the school year. For our first session, I created a wiki–which is ever-growing and evolving-and gathered the team in the computer lab with these goals:

  • Introduce them to the concept of 21st Century Learning
  • Convince them of the need for change
  • Inspire them with samples of what other schools are doing with technology
  • Educate them about NETS for Students, Teachers, and Administrators
  • Personalize their home page with iGoogle to create a “digital desk”
  • Create a Reader, subscribe to a few key sites (including the 21clc wiki), and start reading regularly
  • Create a Del.icio.us account and start bookmarking sites
  • Create a blog at Edublogs

This was ambitious, probably too much so. Next time, I’ll move the Del.cio.us to the second day. 

What Equipment Did We Use?

Fortunately, my principal had end-of-the year unspent money: with $1000 I went shopping at Newegg (the best prices I found) and purchased five digital cameras (I didn’t get one for the board member or myself), an SD card and reader (very cool-works just like a flash drive, eliminating the need for those annoying wires that come with the camera), extra rechargeable batteries and recharger (each person got four batteries), and headphones/mic. I sent them away with their new goodies and homework:

  1. Snap lots of pictures, which we’ll use in the next session.
  2. Read your Reader.
  3. Post three entries on your blog.

Fortunately, all of our teachers on the team, except two, have laptops and projectors in their classrooms. The school is supposed to be getting the other two laptops. Hopefully, I’ll convince them to get us wireless so that our future meetings can be more coffee-shop-like: us sitting around with our laptops, learning together. We may even meet at our local coffee shop: much fewer interruptions there, especially for our principal who is always in demand when on campus, being pulled away from our sessions to talk with our superintendent, interview a job applicant, iron out a crisis with the counselor.

What Will We Do Next Session?

Next session, I want to simply play with the tools I introduced in the last session so that we can get comfortable with them. We’ll be focusing mainly on the blog, learning how to embed images (uploaded to Flickr), embed videos (from TeacherTube) and slideshows (from SlideShare). I’ll also have them create a nameplate using PowerPoint and digital images from their cameras. They know how to use PowerPoint, so there’s no new learning there-only realizing they can adjust the slide size to the size of the image on their chosen template (using a pixels to inches converter) and save the slide as an image (JPEG or PNG) rather than as a slideshow.

I’ll keep plugging away, dotting the BHS landscape with combustibles, hoping something or someone will ignite, or glow, or even smolder-something that will evidence all my work has not gone in vain.

Posted in: 21clc, EdTech