Magnificent Seven Websites to Support 21st Century Staff Development

Posted by Bob Blackney on September 18, 2014

Magnificent Seven movie poster
The Magnificent Seven is a classic movie released in 1960. Click the image and check it out!

I know that you have been to one, probably several.  I’m talking about a workshop focused on changing classroom instruction, using the Internet, having students use technology for learning, and changing the teaching paradigm. In an age when everyone is connected everywhere, the only place that people are not connected is the classroom. Perhaps you’ve led such a workshop. Regardless, you know the workshop.

Yet, how is this paradigm-changing message delivered? Usually it’s done by means of whole group lecture, typically with a bad slide show that does not model media literacy. This needs to change!

If we want to get workshop participants excited and motivated to change, we need our workshops to exemplify the 21st century teaching and learning that we advocate. Seeing is believing! Experiencing is understanding. Professional development needs to model 21st century teaching so teachers and staff become motivated and engaged. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you seek in the world.” It is time to walk the talk.

Here are seven websites that can be used in staff development to model 21st century teaching and learning. Each offers a free version for education, and is relatively easy to use. None require participants to have a computer and can be accessed with a smart phone. Since the vast majority of the members of every workshop have a smart phone, they can be easily integrated into a presentation.

Collaborize Classroom

This is a new website and has some great qualities that are not available in other websites. The one that I like is the “vote or suggest” option. It allows teachers or students to suggest solutions and have other participants comment on the suggested solution. Having teachers list the ways that they could use the information in their classrooms provides a number of alternatives to the other members of the group and allows the teacher who posted the idea to get feedback and ideas to improve their suggestion.

Today’s Meet

If you believe that everyone in the room has something to contribute, then using Today’s Meet is a wonderful way to put that into practice. This is a great site to use as a workshop back channel. By setting up a second projector and having it display your “Today’s Meet” page, participants can comment and ask questions as the workshop proceeds. If you need any help setting up and using this web site, watch this short video.

Classflow

Classflow is a new web-based product from Promethean, the interactive white board maker. To use Classflow you do not have to use an interactive white board, a projector will work just fine. The presenter should plan to download the free App for their smart phone. It is available from the iTunes Store or Google Play. The app allows the presenter to take a picture on their smart phone or tablet and immediately post it for all to see on the projector. This replaces the old process of having groups work on chart paper and then post the charts. In a workshop, a group can work on a problem, list solutions, or draw a picture on a sheet of paper and the presenter can snap a quick picture and show the group. Additionally, you can use all the tools of an interactive whiteboard to annotate or add ideas to the picture from the computer that is attached to the projector. There is much more to this website, but I will leave you to discover it yourself. There are many support videos and resources on the website, but here is a video on getting the Classflow teacher app.

GooseChase

This is a website and an app combo that is used to create a high-tech scavenger hunt, or “GooseChase.” You use the website to devise tasks for the teams of GooseChasers to compete. Teams of GooseChasers use the smartphone app to take photos documenting their accomplishment of a task. These tasks can be silly, or they can be attached to workshop material. For example, you might ask teams to take a photo of their team each holding a fifth grade Common Core writing standard, or take a photo of the entire team next to a classroom poster of PBIS guidelines. The goal of the teams is not to do everything on the task list, but to pick tasks they can do in the time provided. Generally, you do not give them enough time to complete all the tasks. They select tasks from the list and each task has a different point value. The team with the most points wins, but everyone has a great time and reviews the material, skills or content that was included in the workshop.

Infuse Learning

Infuse Learning allows you to construct quizzes that participants can take on their smart phones. You can select from multiple choice, fill in, open answer, sort in order, numeric and Likert Scale. There are other programs that do this also, but what I like about Infuse is that there is an option for drawing your answer. This allows you to ask workshop participants to represent their learning in a diagram showing the interrelationship of ideas. This is a great summative activity! Another feature that I really like is the ability to give the quiz takers immediate feedback on how they did. I frequently use this as a pre-test to open a professional development session. This does two things. First, participants are given information that they do not have all the answers on this topic and secondly, it piques their interest in the correct answers that show up during the training.

Kahoot

This is very similar to Infuse Learning above, but they do a nice job with pictures. I have made quizzes that are nothing but pictures from around the training area. I break up the group into teams and they use their smart phone to find the area that is shown in the picture. When they find it, I have hidden a QR code there. After viewing or reading the resource accessed by the QR code, they must answer a question from that resource before they get another picture. Kahoot allows you to mix up the questions for each team, which is important so they don’t all go to the same spot at once. This gets teams active and engaged in the content in a fun way.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is great and has been used for some time. This is a polling resource that allows you to display the participants’ responses in real time. Participants use their cell phones to text their answers to true/false, multiple choice, order and open-ended questions. Recently they have added a real time word cloud feature that is great. Ask participants for three words that describe anything, from the skills they will need to develop or the differences between traditional math and Common Core math. In real time the text messages of their three words will be constructed into a word cloud that will clearly display the needs or priorities of the group.

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Bob Blackney

Bob Blackney is currently Director of Technology at Azusa Unified School District. He has worked for over 35 years to build his understanding of how to use technology to improve education, and sees it as an essential element of learning in the 21st century—if used correctly.

5 thoughts on “Magnificent Seven Websites to Support 21st Century Staff Development”

  1. Great ideas Bob, as always. We should incorporate them into our Lead 3 presentations. Maybe our Winter cadre meeting should allow time for us to upgrade our upcoming presentations!

  2. Great resources! I really appreciate the examples you give of how you’d use the tool in a professional development setting. Your examples and descriptions spark ideas for our purposes, thanks!

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