Capturing Student Learning with a Digital Camera

Well, last week was another busy one and I didn’t get any posts up. This week I have no trainings scheduled, and even though I have A LOT of prep to do for the coming weeks in October, I think the time at my desk should translate into daily posts. Here’s the first.

Last Monday and Tuesday I was training at the Visalia Learning Center, just North of Fresno in the heart of California. (The VLC is not to be confused with the Lifestyles Center in Visalia, where I discovered a $10 day-pass to the gym, a good cafe, and free wi-fi!)

Scott Smith, Director of Instructional Technology, organized two great events and I was happy to be a part of both of them. (I was also grateful that Scott hosted me at his house for two nights.)

On Monday, Scott and his staff of four full-time technology coaches (teachers on special assignment) hosted a full-day event dedicated to professional development for the site-based technology support teachers (teacher-leaders identified at each site and offered a stipend to support their fellow staff member’s technology use). This model of full-time district coaches and site-based teachers with stipends is very like the structure I was familiar with in my days at the Newport-Mesa USD in Orange County, and I think it is one that supports innovation well on a limited budget. Sadly, I see many districts who do not provide both (or either) of these resources for their teachers.

At any rate, the day was an interesting experience for me as well. The district is a Program Improvement (PI) district, meaning they have not been making their AYP goals (largely on account of their results with their English Learners) and consequently face certain state sanctions. As a result, this inspiring day began with a discussion of how technology can support “base program” – and EL students in particular. Scott got them to a point where they were able to stand behind the statement that “if you have access to technology and you do not use it for teaching your students, you are not teaching the base program as well as you could.” Good stuff.

For my part, I ran “Capturing Student Learning with a Digital Camera” (a CUEtoYOU workshop) twice during the day. In the morning I met with 22 primary teachers, and in the afternoon I met with 8 more secondary teachers.

I started each session with a tie-in to their earlier discussion, asking them to brainstorm ways a digital camera could be used to support “base program” and EL learners. These folks were definitely technology leaders… the ideas they shared were inspired – and they moved quickly through the technical how-to segments that followed. In fact, many were already using digital cameras in the classroom, but were also happy to spread the wealth of the new camera back at their site. I shared with them the metaphor of the digital camera as a “gateway drug” of teacher technology use, and I encouraged them to get other teachers at their site “hooked.” (Unfortunately, I think this metaphor makes them “pushers” and CUE a “dealer”… but for a good cause, right?)

The fact that they were walking away with a new camera was a surprise to both the am and pm groups, so it was pretty easy for me to have a good time with them (and to get great evals) to boot.

For other (non-technology support) teachers, I lead a very similar workshop the following afternoon. This was part of Scott’s ongoing “Toolbox Tuesday” series of professional development opportunities. These folks did need more time with the technical how-to’s, but they were every bit as creative with how they will use their cameras to support “base program” and EL learners.

I also prepared a handout (which I used both days) called Instructional Strategies for Digital Camera based on Robert Marzano’s nine research based strategies for increasing student achievement in Classroom Instruction that Works. (I quite liberally lifted or customized phrases from the book here.) Scott had mentioned that these strategies were important in his district and I wanted to make the connection explicit. I hope this handout, and the other resources linked to the workshop titles above will prove useful for some of you as well.

UPDATE: I’ve also added these handouts, links, and resources to the wiki Burt Lo created for the Digital Camera class he’ll be teaching at CLMS in November. I thought I’d share the wiki here as well, so that perhaps others might contribute:

Up Next: reflections on recent AB 430 workshops for school administrators (including the one I led with Ted Lai last for the OCDE last Wednesday), more on games in education (lots more!), and a little something called “The Infinite Thinking Machine.” I also have to get back to the Senge, Evans, Fullan, and DuFour quotes I’ve been setting aside for the blog – and those link posts I always hope to get to.