GCTE Preview: See You in Athens!

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The Georgia Council of Teachers of English (GCTE) conference in Athens, GA is in just a few short weeks, and this year feels particularly special since I have so many of my colleagues presenting this year too. I cannot entirely pinpoint why I wanted to ensure more of the ELA teachers at my school presented this year, but I know part of the inspiration came from the stellar work they were doing. I have always, no matter the setting, worked with phenomenal ELA teachers. My current school is no exception, so when the time came, I sent an email encouraging several of my compatriots to submit a proposal. Thankfully, most all accepted the challenge, submitted a proposal, and were accepted! In today’s post, I will preview many of the presentations/workshops my colleagues and I will be showing on the weekend of February 9 and 10 as well as why you should check them out! For anyone interested, it is not too late to go to GCTE this year. Go here for conference information. Continue reading

Reflecting on My Recent Professional Development Effort: The Power of Teacher Vertical and Cross-Curricular Collaboration

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All professional fields incorporate professional development (PD) into the structure of their occupations. There are always ideas to share and experiences to be had with the intent of growing employees or to simply improve one’s self. The unfortunate reality–at least in education–is a great deal of professional development can feel inadequate at best and a waste of time at worst. It is with this understanding of my own PD experiences that I went into planning a professional development of teachers in my cluster of schools with trepidation. To be transparent, I was nervous I would let my colleagues down and planning a PD experience that lacked the right substance and the right balance of experiential learning and collaboration with some dreaded sit-and-get as well. This was not my first rodeo–I had developed and delivered PD for others before, but rarely do I feel I hit the mark or pushed a narrative forward. Well, this time, this PD, felt different. I walked away after three days of rigorous work with my colleagues believing we had all experienced a PD worthy of our time, energy and effort. Continue reading

Join Us at GACTE July 12th!

My protege and partner-in-crime, Mr. Nic Carroll, and I will be presenting at this year’s GACTE (Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education) conference at the Cobb Galleria Center in Atlanta on Friday, July 12th.

We’ll be focusing on the topic of using Google Apps, specifically Google Sites, as a way to develop student e-portfolios:

Digital Portfolios: Using Google Sites and Tools to Build Student Developed Project Portfolios

We’re excited for this opportunity to share what we’ve been doing with our PBL Studio students for the last few years. Feel free to visit the GACTE website for more information if you’re interested in joining us!

We’ll be presenting at 10:00 AM that morning. Hope to see some of you there!

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When the STEM Community Gets it Wrong

I call it the pendulum effect. American society has the interesting habit of fixating on something considered ‘the solution’ to any given problem–in this case education–and when we do this, we easily lose sight of the bigger picture. In essence, we go from one full swing of the pendulum in one direction to a full swing in the opposite direction where the pendulum stays locked often forgetting the pendulum is meant to swing both directions–consistently–at all times–in order to maintain proper momentum.

Recently, we had two of our juniors win a prestigious web design award that is partially sponsored by Google. The competition centered around a group’s ability to design, advertise, create a business plan, demonstrate functionality and market. My colleague, Nic Carroll, sponsored their group’s efforts and went with them to receive the award. (They won in all categories overall!) While at the Atlanta Google office and listening to Google leaders speak, Mr. Carroll was struck by how hard they pushed STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) as the solution to all educational woes and downplaying the efforts of studies in humanities and the like. This got both of us thinking. You see we’re both firm proponents of STEM, but like most ideas in education or business its merely a buzz word that doesn’t give credence to what matters most–critical thinking.

What we’ve learned in our time as PBL teachers using a humanities base is that it really isn’t about how much STEM is implemented into a program of study; rather, the onus should be on innovation, critical thinking and problem solving. All three of those concepts can be accomplished in any area of study if presented through inquiry. STEM is not the only solution and if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves swinging the pendulum in the other direction to sit and stay once everyone realizes that our kids can’t write or draw off of history’s critical lessons or create with any new ingenuity due to a lack of art. It doesn’t have to or need to be this way. We can have both STEM and humanities working in conjunction, asking the right questions, and developing critical thinkers. I worry, however, that those in the technology businesses and large technology conglomerates will stifle the idea that the humanities are as important a resource as STEM studies.

What do you think? Isn’t a balance necessary. We’ve have a humanities-based PBL classroom for three years now, and we’ve seen tremendous growth in thinking and innovation through our program. We must be careful not to fool ourselves into thinking there is ever one, black and white solution.