Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Look! A Squirrel!

Please welcome guest blogger, Janice Airhart

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.  If you haven’t seen the 2009 animated film Up, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy about now.  If you have, then you’ll recall that the evil dog pack hates squirrels; they just can’t resist chasing them.   At a critical point in the story, Dug (the good dog) distracts his nemesis from tracking down his human friends by pointing out an imaginary squirrel.  It throws the whole pack off the trail.

While I generally have a healthy ability to focus on tasks, I admit to being easily distracted by technology.  Like Dug’s nemesis, I can be thrown off my trail by bright and shiny online toys: links to more blog posts or articles, web sites recommended by a friend, fellow blogger, or Tweeter, free account setup for an educational web 2.0 tool, another educator’s Pinterest board, and so on.  Sorry to say, I sometimes find myself chasing digital squirrels.

In an effort to reign in my addiction to chasing web links (seriously, they wouldn’t be there if you weren’t supposed to click them, right?), I enrolled this summer in the Eighth Floor class, What Now?  Mastering Technology Skills for Teaching and LearningDoesn’t that sound like a power trip?  Who doesn’t want to “master” technology? 

The first week of the class was entirely online on the Eighth Floor Moodle site (See? They already had us navigating the world of learning management platforms—very clever!).  The seven other class members and I watched the posted videos, read articles, completed activities, and interacted through class forums.  As we carried on our virtual discussions and shared goals, I discovered a process for first identifying learning objectives then creating a structure for the technology that supported them.  By the end of the week, I’d drafted a lesson plan for a problem-based learning unit.  But wait; there’s more!

In the second week of class, we met face-to-face for three days in a workshop atmosphere.  Each of us worked on our individual projects, and while we all had different goals, spending that much time together figuring out how to use various programs and tools sparked everyone’s creativity.  I was genuinely energized and inspired by the other teachers. 

The beauty of the course was that the eight of us had as much individual or small group instruction as we needed to complete our projects, no matter what tools we needed to support them.  Some of us wanted to learn about curating sites like Diigo and Delicious, so Linda gave us a mini-lesson.  Some wanted to produce video, and Scott introduced WeVideo.  Want to blog?  Lee Anne’s the go-to instructor.  Ed Hodge could help with logo design and assorted other essentials.   And if something wasn’t working the way you wanted, someone could help you troubleshoot.  I now have a fully developed project plan for use this fall.  In my opinion, this is the best kind of professional development.  Not only did I learn something, I produced something.  How great is that? 

To cap off the course, on Wednesday we presented our projects via a webinar that’s available on the Eighth Floor Wiki site.  Check it out, if you have the time.  I think you’ll agree that the quality of the projects is phenomenal.  Click here to watch the webinar video, but don’t forget to come back when you’re done.  You can’t spend all day chasing squirrels.

Janice Airhart teaches science and English at the Margaret Hudson Program/Broken Arrow Public Schools, and is a Freshman Composition adjunct instructor for Tulsa Community College.  She blogs at

No comments: