April PD Day with Business, Computers, Math and Science!

I really enjoy our April Professional Development day in Halton.  It a chance for our various program areas to get together in one central site to do some sharing.  This past Friday, the Business, Computers, Math and Science teachers from around Halton gathered at Craig Kielburger Secondary School to hear about some of the innovative things that are happening around the board.

The day started with a session on Equity.  The student reflections about equity that we were provided were a sobering reminder that there is always more that we can do to create safe and inclusive communities in our schools.  After reading and reflecting on these quotes we watched a short video on equity by our Director, Stuart Miller.  It feels good to work in a board that values student voice and equity.  I was glad to start the day this way.

This was followed by learning sessions that we got to choose.  I started my learning off by listening to Kristy Morrison and Kristen McCoy talk about ways to provide students with more descriptive feedback.  Their tool of choice is Google Forms, which I have a very basic understanding of.  They dove deep into their method of crafting online quizzes, their rationale behind why they want to provide instant feedback to their students and the outcomes that they have seen.  You can check out their presentation here.  There are some really detailed instructions on how to make your online Google Form quizzes.  I applied my learning right away and was able to push a short quiz out to my students before the session was even over.

After listening to Kristy and Kristen, I was in the presenter seat for the rest of the day.  I led a session with Phoebe Ching titled “Do You Want to Throw Out Your Traditional Final 30%?”  The room was pretty full, so we spent the first few minutes of the presentation circulating through the room asking people what made them decide to attend our presentation.  My favourite answer was “I don’t want to throw out my final 30%, I’m just looking for ways to make it better!”.  Perhaps next time I present on this topic I should retitle it, since I’m not looking to get rid of all final 30% tasks.  I’m looking towards creating tasks that are more authentic, something that our students might encounter in the real world.  I want to give students a chance to be excited about what they’ve learned and share that learning with the class.  As it stands now, I don’t think our traditional Performance Task - Exam mindset allows for that.  I think the end of a semester should be a celebration for students.  I don’t think they are getting that right now.  Of course, I could be wrong, I only really see what happens in math classes.  I haven’t found the magic answer to revising my Final 30% tasks, but I’ve tried lots.  My favourite to date has been offering my Advanced Functions the choice in what type of final exam they completed.  Some chose to write a very traditional final exam where they answered questions that I thought were important.  Others chose to complete a more open ended exam where they provided examples of their own learning that they thought were important.  

Finally I presented with Troy Tennant again on the topic of “Responsible Use of Technology in Classrooms”.  We’ve presented on this topic before and you can read a reflection about it here.  The participants really seemed to like the signs that Troy developed for tech use in his classroom and the Green/Yellow/Red signs that Cindy Cosentino, Instructional Program Lead for Science, adapted from them.  
I like both, mostly because after establishing the culture of appropriate tech use in your classroom with these signs, your need to use the signs will diminish quickly as students become comfortable with when and how to use tech.  

All in all, Friday was a great day.  I wish there were more opportunities for us all to get together and share.  One day isn’t enough!