Last week Tara, Jeff and I had our second opportunity of the year to organize and facilitate an elementary faculty meeting. We absolutely love having this dedicated time with our colleagues to help build a deeper understanding of 21st century literacy at ISB and to share practical examples of authentic use of technology here in our elementary classrooms.

As always, our goal was to continue building a collaborative community, to develop connections among faculty at different grade levels, and to allow teachers to have time to network and share ideas. Thanks to @FrznGuru (Rebecca), we had a great way to structure that experience: SpeedGeeking!

Basically, SpeedGeeking is just like Speed Dating – a way to quickly introduce people to a wide variety of new ideas in a short amount of time. Since we have a large faculty – over 70 teachers – we knew this would have to be a very organized and structured experience, otherwise it would drift into chaos.

We decided to have 12 four-minute SpeedGeeking sessions split into 2 groups (one group has six sessions, the other group has the other six sessions). This way, we could make the most of our limited time, enable as many teachers to share their successful experiences as possible, keep the group sizes limited, and ensure that not every teacher saw the exact same sessions (so they are encouraged to keep talking about what they saw after the meeting).

We also made sure that we organized the SpeedGeeking groups in advance, so they could move from table to table together and were mixed between two different grade levels. This way we had half of one grade level viewing one set of SpeedGeeking sessions and the other half viewing the other set (to encourage further conversation). We were careful to match up the sessions on each side so that each group had a session on podcasting, portfolios, VoiceThread, SmartBoards, and 2 sessions on our ETC wrap-up.

As usual, we posted our agenda online (and e-mailed the link the day before) so that teachers could know what to expect before arriving, and so that all of the work that was shared in the sessions could be accessed at any point before or after the meeting (if available online).

In order to create a positive environment, we started the meeting off with this quote:

Unfortunately, we actually lost power due to a major storm right before the meeting so we weren’t able to project the image. Thankfully, everyone had their laptops, so they could follow along with us via the agenda.

Next we transitioned into our SpeedGeeking experience. We had two large rectangles made up of 6 tables each on either side of the room. Each table was numbered and had a specific group of teachers (linked on the agenda) selected to start there. Once one 4-minute SpeedGeeking session was finished, the group of teachers seated together at their first table moved together to the next numbered table in line.

Here’s what each SpeedGeeking session was about:

Circle One:
1. Chrissy: ePortfolios using VoiceThread
2. Siri: SmartBoards
3. EARCOS: Diane
4. EARCOS: Peach
5. Susi: Class Wiki
6. Robin & Ali: Robin’s Class Blog,Ali’s Class Blog, (planning document, Podcasting Power)

Circle Two:
1. Brian: SmartFolios
2. EARCOS: Mary
3. Vince: GarageBand
4. Rebecca: Sprouting Seeds VoiceThread
5. James: Class Wiki
6. EARCOS: Jim

We used Jeff’s iPhone timer to clock each session and had a cute cow-bell sound to signify the end of each session (found on Free Sound, my new favorite place for Creative Commons licensed sounds). Thankfully my laptop was fully charged and Jeff had his laptop-powered speakers so we basically did the whole 30 minute SpeedGeeking session in the dark!

Once we finished SpeedGeeking, we asked teachers to discuss at their tables anything that sparked their interest for about 3 minutes, and then had tables share back to the larger group (if they wanted to).

The buzz in the room was amazing! Teachers were visibly excited and energized by the discussion and it was obvious that everyone found at least one thing that sparked their interest in the 30-minute session.

Finally, we wanted to end on a light-hearted note, and thankfully the power came back on just in time, so we watched the video Everything is Amazing, Nobody’s Happy (sorry, embedding is disabled, you’ll have to click on the link to watch). Of course, the video was a hit.

When we ended the meeting, I was encouraged to see just how many teachers stayed afterward discussing the ideas they had heard, asked us for assistance in trying something new, or just stopped by to say how successful the meeting had been.

This is the second time we’ve organized a sharing meeting like this for our faculty, and although both have gone well, this one was the better by far! Here’s why I liked it:

  • Because we had so many groups, we were able to highlight so many teachers – we made sure to have some specialists present, as well as some teachers who had never worked with technology in their classroom before this year.
  • We enabled teachers to interact with others outside of their grade level. It’s amazing how rarely teachers get the opportunity to just talk with teachers outside of their team.
  • We focused on the positive, on the commonalities among our colleagues, on the successes that we all have in our classrooms every day. Sure, we can all be doing things better, but that doesn’t mean that amazing things aren’t happening already.
  • We empowered others who are not normally highlighted and we helped build networks and infrastructure for supporting teachers who may need assistance.
  • We laughed, a lot, together. How often can you say that about a faculty meeting?

And, what I loved the most about this meeting is that I never, ever could have organized it by myself. It was the power of the team: Jeff, Tara and Kim, that made this meeting so successful. Without Tara, we could have forgotten how important it is to make people feel comfortable, supported and appreciated. Without Jeff, we could have forgotten about the fun and the levity and the big picture. Without me, it might not have been quite so organized and smooth. Man, I love my team!

How have you helped share successes in your school? What should we do for our next faculty meeting (assuming we’ll be asked to organize another one in the future)?

Teaching is Not Rocket Science by shareski