Pass the Beaker, Man

“We should see ourselves as all being in research and development.”

That line, or something strikingly close to it came from Ewan McIntosh’s keynote address last Wednesday at BLC.  It’s not the first time I had heard a speaker ask that we all focus on our own development, or transforming our classrooms into teacher-researcher laboratories, but it was the first time where I heard it as an administrator.  Oddly enough, just the semantic shift in title changes the meaning behind McIntosh’s statement for me.  In our notes, a few of us remarked about the statement, and later on in the day I took it upon myself to synthesize some of the bigger ideas we had all been having in our debriefings at dinner.  Here is what I came up with for the R and D idea:

Teachers as researchers: one of the things we all see the need for is to create a culture in our buildings where our teachers see themselves, to quote McIntosh, as “in research and development.”

  1. What makes that happen in your school?
    one of the things I keep thinking about personally is the use of pilot programs that last only a few months.

    1. Screencasting: ask teachers to incorporate Eric Marcos “kids teaching kids” methods for 3 months and then have the selected teachers share their experience with other teachers in their building.
    2. Promote open collaboration between classrooms within the building and around the nation/world through getting the teachers into other rooms to observe, and through connecting our teachers with others outside the U.S.  Have them pitch their idea to the building principals, execute the plan, and have them present their product to the staff.
    3. Showing teacher work and student work off
      1. there is a theme running through a lot of the workshops here that incorporates the idea that we should promote the teachers that “get it.”
      2. Which teachers get it, and I don’t mean technologically only, but which teachers will look at something new and attack it, refine it and make it their own?  Find them and ask them to show how they do it.  Do this often.
      3. Let students show teachers how things work.  Have you heard Alan’s quote: “always bring a student to a technology conference?”  Let students show their teachers what they are actually capable of (from Eric Marcos’ presentation, and Ewan’s keynote: “Give a button to a teacher and they ask what to do with it, give a button to a kid and they play with it and discover
    4. District-wide PD conference
      1. We have been sitting in workshops for a day now and at some point or another we have all remarked that we have teachers doing this or doing that.  Can we pull them together and run our own “in-house” conference?
      2. The willing and able can present what they do to the rest of the staff and we go from there.
    5. School-wide or grade-wide Custom search engines
      1. we can use Google Custom Search to enable teachers to create their own search engines based on the links they already provide to the students for research.  They can still limit content to the sites they want, but it is an incredible time saver if all of the staff combines their resources into one search engine.
      2. It gives them exposure to the collaborative nature of the web.
    6. Everyone is in R and D.

I’ll be brutally honest here: I went to BLC not wanting another tool to add to my belt (although I did get a few); I wanted answers to questions from teachers who don’t see value in change.  I wanted to be able to return and say, “look, here is my magic bullet, and it’s wireless.” Truthfully, I set myself up for some disappointment, but I did walk away with several fantastic ideas worth taking action on immediately.

Among other things, I realized, thanks to a few pushes, that it’s time to get out there and share what we’re doing here.  Not that it’s earth-shattering, but we have inertia, and I think that might be valuable to some people.  We have been pushing and pulling on what we know and understand about teaching and learning there, getting a lot of feedback from our staff, and it’s time that we also looked at ourselves as researchers and developers.  What better lesson in humility than to fail in public and try again?  I think we are ready for what’s next.

Image Credit: “Comfortable Research,” from Joel Bedford (formerly J.A.L.E.X.)’s photostream


3 thoughts on “Pass the Beaker, Man

  1. These are really useful ideas, and remind me of the idea that we are all 21st century learners.
    I attended the edubloggers unconference at BLC08 (some of the conference virtually) and we had a session on effective professional development. This is a good extension of that conversation and I hope to use some of your ideas at my school next year. Thanks

  2. Lindsey,

    Glad this helped. What was very cool, at least to me, was that we lasso’d in all of our administrators into one document on Google Docs to create these ideas. All I did at the end of the day was pull it together and re-publish.

    Depending on your role in your district, we’ve got some other PD ideas and resources if you are interested. Here is a link to a published Google Notebook that has a lot of the wikis we have created for various workshops:

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