Sunday, September 14, 2014

Google Sites and PLCs

The Problem 

This year, I'm facing an important problem. Many of the teachers in our department know what PLCs (professional learning communities) are all about, but I'm not convinced that they have a clear vision. I'm not convinced that they know what it's supposed to look like. Perhaps I am being impatient, but let's act like I'm not.

In our district, the problem of collaboration is supported by Google Apps for Education. This means teachers can make folders for PLCs and work on documents simultaneously. Not many, however, have realized the power of using Google Sites to merge the curriculum objectives with the material.

Google Sites 

This year, I'm not scheduled with a particular PLC, so I'm working with the 9th grade teachers because they meet during one of my conference periods. This also helps move forward with my plan to strengthen our department, which starts in the 8th and 9th grades. Additionally, since my time is limited with them, I made a Google Site to demonstrate what it looks like when the district curriculum is merged with instructional resources.

Home Page (click or touch for site)
The first image shows a general homepage with access to two of the most important resources the students will need in 9th grade: vocabulary and current events. The second is an example of a lesson page with student-friendly directions, guiding questions, and resources such as videos, website links, images, and worksheets and other advance organizers.

The underlying goal of this site is to provide teachers with a resource that's usable so they can dedicate more of their time to making assessments and providing feedback, the most important elements of the instructional process that too often take a backseat.
Lesson Example

Getting Started

  1. It starts with the standards. 
  2. Once the standards for a unit are identified, it's often easier to teach and assess if questions based on the standards are formulated. This makes assessment design more effective.
  3. Make assessments for each standard and identify the standards that will be assessed on the unit exam. If there are too many standards on the unit exam, now is a good time to break the unit into parts one and two. This is one of the reasons we start with standards and assessment. 
  4. Next, the resources that will support the learning required to achieve mastery of the standards are found and organized. We do this on Google Drive both at our district and campus levels.
  5. Lastly, the resources are organized on Google Sites, which can be shared via link with the students and directly with the PLC members by sharing editing permissions for the site.
This was a little bit about how I'm responding to an important problem. Part of my motivation to solve this problem comes from a difference in opinion about how to provide professional development on the elements of an effective PLC. My way is heavy on application, learning by doing. Others seem to think that a book study will solve the problem, yet another group thinks it takes a long time.

We don't have long time. If I take three years to teach, I won't be teaching the same teachers anymore. Turnaround is an issue. Book studies are helpful, but we have to follow through and apply what we learn in a way that demonstrates progress.

Thank you Google for Sites and Drive.