What matters in teacher professional development?

Cross posted at the SMARTBlog on Education.

What’s been your most valuable PD experience? Come on, there’s got to be one! I want you to think about what made it meaningful for you. The time where you left feeling excited to try something new and jump in feet first. You felt like you were ready to conquer the world and couldn’t hardly wait to impart this new practice/knowledge to your students.

Was it one thing? A combination of things? Was it the facilitator? Another attendee you connected with?

While I haven’t been facilitating PD for teachers for very long (coming up on 9 years), I believe there are some factors that make professional development work well and help teachers leave feeling successful. I’ve encapsulated them within three things, in no particular order.

Choice

Everybody likes choices right? Aren’t we keeping to a pretty narrow-minded view of learning if it’s only presented in a “one means to an end” fashion? Teachers need choices about what they’re interested in, passionate about, and what matches their readiness level.

These choices can be given as a traditional model of professional development, in which teachers attend a class/workshop on a specified date and time and have to physically be in attendance, or choices could be given in the form of online learning via screencasts, live webinars, or social media. The point is to offer choice and in turn allow whatever choice teachers make to be credited as a viable means of professional development.

Value

What types of learning illicit value? Fill in this blank: Learning is valuable to me when _____.  If teachers are going to invest time in professional learning, whether it be face to face or online, voluntary or involuntary, we all want to finish feeling it was valuable. When I facilitate PD, do I have a set agenda and plan in place? Of course I do. Do I ever intentionally or unintentionally deviate from the plan? Always. I am sure to let teachers know that this is their learning and I want them to feel our time together was valuable. If that means detours are taken and even some things are repeated so be it. We should want all students, regardless of age, to feel the value in what they’re learning.

Sometimes discovering the value in our learning experiences can lead to taking a self-directed deeper dive into a topic as well. Do you remember the last time that happened?

My response to the fill in the blank above? Learning is valuable to me when I understand the ‘why’ before the ‘how’.

Support

We’ve offered choices, come to understand the value, and are ready to accept the charge laid before us. Or are we? What if something doesn’t go according to plan (this never happens with technology)? If I’m in need of help where do I turn?

Teachers need multiple lifelines of support. This is a critical component of teacher professional development. Let’s say it’s the end of your face to face workshop. We need to make sure our teachers are aware of whom to contact, where to look, what to Google, etc. before they leave us. It can be an email address, the link to a backchannel, a Google Group, an Edmodo group, etc. Sure, teachers in my district know how to contact me, but I still remind them to please contact me whatever outlet I choose to provide. It can be a one way communication to you or a tweet on a hashtag. It can be both. Learn about the teachers you serve, just like we learn about the students we serve. We all need to know that support is there if we need it.

Are these the only components to making teacher professional development have meaning? No, but I think they’re three of the most important. What matters to you in making your professional development worthwhile? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford

YouTube Settings Teachers and Students Need to Know About

We all have gone to YouTube at one time or another to watch a video of some kind; educational or not so educational. We’ve watched the latest viral videos sweeping the world by storm for their hilarity, shock value, or powerful message.  There’s no shortage of content to be consumed on YouTube. If you’ve never checked out YouTube’s statistics on their traffic you can go to their press page and give them a glance. An hour of video every second! That is astounding!

More-so than ever, content is available in abundance via YouTube. We, including our students, can consume content constantly from any device with an internet connection. Have you ever stopped to think about what it means when you upload your own original content to YouTube? Things like: How do I upload something? What settings are crucial to know about? How is this applicable to my classroom and students?

Whether you’re uploading content you’ve filmed yourself or uploading a screencast for your students, I thought I’d share some of the YouTube settings that I’ve found to be most important to make teachers and students aware of.

How do I get started? 

Once you’re logged in to YouTube with the preferred Google account, click the Upload link in the top right corner of the YouTube home page. Once on the upload page you have a few different options for uploading (I am using Google Chrome as my browser):

1. Upload a file from your computer (most common)
2. Upload multiple files
3. Record a video directly from your webcam

Basic Settings

As your video starts uploading, you can go ahead and begin to enter basic information for your video such as the title, description (which appears below the video when someone watches it), and keywords you’d like to tag your video with. Once your video is done uploading, you can also choose the thumbnail image that your video will have (the still image that will show before clicking Play). Remember: these are items of information that you can always go back and edit later, so don’t feel like these are set in stone but it’s always something good to do while your video is in the process of being uploaded. YouTube also does a great job of automatically saving these changes while your video is uploading as well (YouTube is a great multi-tasker!).

On the right side of the Basic Info tab (still on the upload page) you will see the Privacy and publish settings. These are very important settings to keep in mind, particularly for publishing student produced content. The screenshot below shows these settings. Public means that your video is out there on YouTube for the world to not only watch, but for anyone to find by searching for it. Unlisted means that your video will not be able to be located by searching for it on YouTube. The only way others can view the video is by you sending out its specific link. Private is another level of security beyond that. This is where you at the owner of the content can give explicit permission to only individuals you specify to be able to view the video. Again, these are settings specific to each individual video and can be changed at any time. Definitely important settings to know about. Videos uploaded to YouTube are set to public by default.

Also at this point be sure to properly categorize your video. Everything I upload I make sure and categorize with “Education”. When I’ve forgotten to do this, I was quickly reminded because the “similar videos” section on the right side of my YouTube video were not usually the greatest. By that I mean they had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of my video and were sometimes inappropriate.

You can also set the License and Rights Ownership of your video at this point. You can leave it at the standard YouTube license or mark your video with a Creative Commons attribution. If this option is chosen, that means you are giving others the right to use your work. This could look like someone using the YouTube video editor to incorporate your video into another video they have uploaded (with proper credit always pointed back to the source (link) of your original video). Be sure to check out the YouTube Creative Commons page for more information.

Basic Settings


Advanced Settings

Here’s some more important settings you’ll want to remember to check. Again, I like how this can all be done while the video is still uploading (especially if it’s a large video).  The most important advanced settings you’ll want to notice when you click on the Advanced Settings tab, are the check boxes related to comments and ratings. There might be sometimes you don’t want to allow viewers to comment on a video that is uploaded.  To do this simply uncheck the box next to “Allow Comments”. Or maybe you do want to allow comments but you want them all filtered through you first (this is a great option for student work that is uploaded). You can click the drop down menu and change that to “Approved”.

You’ll also notice you can turn off the ability for viewers to vote on comments, give a rating to the video, or create a video response. You will also see syndication, embedding, and information such as adding location and date to your video. I have seen the comments feature work great for teachers and students, and also work not so great.

Advanced Settings

Lastly, notice in the top right section of the upload page you will see two buttons: Share and Add to. If you’d like to immediately get the shortened link, embed code, or ability to share to another social network you will find all of these options by clicking on the Share button.

If you click the “Add to” button, the newly uploaded video can be immediately added to an existing playlist or a new playlist can be created for the video. Another very handy feature. Above those two buttons you will find buttons for the Video Manager or clicking Add more videos will take you straight to uploading another video in the same manner. Inside the Video Manager is where you will find all of your uploaded YouTube videos where you can go straight to any single one to check all of these settings by clicking the Edit button.

To reference back to creating screencasts, which I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I particularly like to use Screenr to create these. It’s web-based software and after recording them you can instantly upload them to your YouTube channel if you choose. It’s simple and works well consistently. If you do upload these to YouTube be sure to head to your YouTube channel and go through your basic and advanced settings for each screencast you create to make sure they are named, categorized, and privacy settings are all set how you need them to be.

Whether teachers or students are publishing digitally, YouTube or not, it’s important to make the time to learn how to make the content work best and publish properly.

While I’ve only scratched the surface, the “Googlers” have put together a great YouTube help site with loads more to learn about. We haven’t even got to the awesome video editor built right in. Maybe that calls for another post!

Happy YouTubing!

“Become an empowered participant rather than a passive consumer.” ~Howard Rheingold

Awesome Empowerment

First, a great story to share about an email I got from a couple of kindergarten teachers this morning. They had emailed me to share exciting news. But first some back story. I have partnered with these teachers many times over the last few years to help them with various instructional technology topics. Last year, they had found a video on YouTube that was produced by another kindergarten class (not in our district) on the life cycle of a butterfly. They decided they’d like to re-create this project for teaching this important science topic. I helped with the “talent” (kindergartners), camera work, and worked with them as they learned the editing and finalizing of the video. I was also lucky to get to attend the video’s premiere at a parent night. The teachers and their students did a fantastic job with their production of “The Butterfly Life Cycle – Kindergarten Style”.

Now back to their email they sent me earlier this week. The subject of their email was “Look what we did!”. When they say “we” I knew they meant that in reference to their students, not them. They had attached the video of this year’s version of “The Butterfly Life Cycle – Kindergarten Style”. I watched the video while smiling ear to ear the entire time. The students did a fantastic job acting out all the different stages of the butterfly life cycle (how can you not smile at them?!?) and the teachers did all the planning, preparation, and video production work on their own this year. I am really proud of them and told them how lucky their students are!

Being an Instructional Technologist, I always strive to empower teachers, not enable them. What I mean by that is, it doesn’t matter if it’s one teacher or a group of teachers; no matter if it’s the first time they’re learning about a topic or it’s part of the continual support I offer, I will not “do it for you”. By enabling, or making it easy, doesn’t empower someone to step out of their comfort zone and learn something new.  I will teach, re-teach, and always be there for support for any teacher that wants it; without fail. I always make sure teachers know this. Teachers need to know this. Our students need to know this. My goal is to equip with the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge base to increase comfort-level and success rate.  Doesn’t project-based, authentic learning lend itself nicely to empowerment? Shouldn’t we want this for all learners, regardless of age?

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”–William Arthur Ward