The last two years of my life have been heavily dominated by the work I have been helping to lead in Alabama through the Alabama Best Practices Center. We designed a two-year professional development program that engages educators from participating schools in powerful conversations about 21st Century Learning.
In 2005, with support from Microsoft, ABPC recruited small teams from 20 forward thinking schools across the state and established a virtual learning community built around an online curriculum I developed called, “Keeping Up with the Net Generation.” Feedback from our first group of schools was very positive. Twenty more schools were selected to participate this year. Schools that had begun working the previous year continued their professional development in an “advanced strand” of the project.
The project is supported by 10 Alabama educators who have been selected and trained to be ABPC’s “21st Century Teacher Fellows.”
The Best Practices Center created a 21st Century Project wiki as a learning resource for schools in the project. The wiki can be accessed by everyone at http://abpc.wikispaces.com. The team projects can be accessed on the book-marking page, Del.icio.us: http://del.icio.us/abpcjohn.
Culminating Event- 21st Century Learning Showcase
We held our final event for year two on May 8. Advanced schools (and a few Beginning schools) prepared learning station presentations to share their Learning 2.0 projects they had been working on all year. In addition to my keynote and Allison Knox's (project manager from Microsoft) presentation, three schools were selected to present their work to the audience of 300 plus attendees.
Teachers from 67 public schools across the state gathered for the event held at Gardendale's First Baptist Church. The showcase is part of the Powerful Conversations Network, a program of ongoing professional development for teachers. View picture set here.
Teams of educators from three schools were chosen for their outstanding work in the arena of 21st Century Learning:
- George Hall Elementary School in Mobile uses digital cameras and online tools to help students retell educational field trips. The project (www.georgehall.wetpaint.com) boosts vocabularies and communication skills.
- Teachers at Challenger Middle School in Huntsville created a professional development wiki to help the school's faculty learn to use technology for instruction.
- Cullman Middle School students are co-writing online books in different genres of literature at www.cullmancollaborativebooks.wikispaces.com.
During the Learning Fair sessions, teachers from 20+ schools demonstrated successful projects. (9 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.)
- A 4th-grade teacher from West Blocton Elementary in Bibb County treated students to a day without books, using all online resources for lessons aligned with the state course of study.
- Most students at Calcedeaver Elementary in north Mobile County are Native American, and they have produced virtual field trips of Native American cultural resources.
- At Wrights Mill Road Elementary in Auburn, teachers developed a Web quest (an online scavenger hunt) to teach students about Internet safety. The Webquest is available online at the school's homepage.
Complete list of Learning Fair schools
- Athens Middle School, Athens City Schools
- Buckhorn High School, Madison County Schools
- Calcedeaver Elementary School, Mobile County Schools
- Cedar Ridge Middle School, Decatur City Schools
- Central Park Elementary School, Birmingham City Schools
- Challenger Middle School, Huntsville City Schools
- Chestnut Grove Elementary School, Decatur City Schools
- Cullman Middle School, Cullman City Schools
- Dean Road Elementary School, Auburn City Schools
- Fayetteville High School, Talladega County Schools
- George Hall Elementary School, Mobile County Schools
- Hewitt-Trussville Middle School, Trussville City Schools
- Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa City Schools
- Liberty Park Elementary School, Vestavia Hills City Schools
- Mountain Brook High School, Mountain Brook City Schools
- Northridge High School, Tuscaloosa City Schools
- Oak Mountain High School, Shelby County Schools
- Ogletree Elementary School, Auburn City Schools
- Terry Heights Elementary School, Huntsville City Schools
- Vestavia Hills East Elementary School, Vestavia Hills Schools
- West Blocton Elementary School, Bibb County Schools
- West Jasper Elementary School, Jasper City Schools
- Winterboro School, Talladega County Schools
- Wrights Mill Road Elementary School, Auburn City Schools
A huge thank you goes to Cathy Gassenheimer, ABPC's leader, for her visionary leadership in this work. The Alabama Best Practices Center receives major support from Microsoft Corp. and the Wachovia Foundation.
The A+ Education Foundation, home of the Alabama Best Practices Center, has been working since 1991 to advance policies, programs and initiatives that result in high achievement by every child in Alabama's K-12 education system.
Currently, I am fast at work analyzing the results of the evaluation we are doing for this two year project. The evaluation plan has several components including a customized LoTi survey comparing 21st Century Powerful Conversations members and non 21st Century Powerful Conversation members, a content analysis of conversations within the asynchronous Tapped In virtual community, analysis of a representative focus group, and the outcomes from a highly structured facilitated debriefing with 21st Century schools teams where they developed next year's plan for professional development using what they have learned these past two years as the foundation for their plans.
When the evaluation work is complete- I will be sharing the results.