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WA STEM Grant Proposal

by Alfonso Gonzalez on December 18th, 2010

My awesome PLC has accepted the challenge of social networking. I shared the WA STEM grant idea and they all jumped on board. So I wrote a proposal and sent it in! I sure hope we get the grant because I think it’s a great project for us to work on. (If you want to see other grant proposals I’ve written, look here.)

[We got the grant! On January 24, after having to respond to some follow up questions (see below), we heard that we were awarded the grant.]

Here’s the proposal I wrote:

WA STEM Entrepreneurial Awards Proposal
Chimacum Middle School
Applicant: Al González
Email: al_gonzalez@csd49.org
Website: http://educatoral.com/

Need and Rationale
Chimacum Middle School and Chimacum High School Math and Science teachers have been working together as a professional learning community (PLC) to improve student learning for the last two to four years. A few of the middle and high school teachers have been trained as teacher leaders to facilitate our PLC work. I trained and learned with the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership (NCOSP) and am now participating in the Olympic Math and Science Partnership (OMSP) as a teacher leader for my PLC. After six years of working with Science teachers from all over Washington I have noticed that teachers are not making use of social networking for improving our craft. Our students have embraced the joys of 24/7 access for communicating, connecting, collaborating, and learning yet few teachers use social networking for themselves and fewer still make use of social networking in their classrooms. This proposal will make it possible for seven of the eight members of our district’s 6 – 12 Math/Science PLC to use social networking for 24/7 reflection, sharing, connecting, collaborating, communicating, learning and professional development. By increasing teacher comfort with social networking, teachers will not only improve their craft but will also increase their comfort with social networking, social media and technology, which will in turn benefit our students as the teachers will be more likely to embrace the use of social networking and mobile technology in their Math and Science classes.

Our Math/Science PLC employs a cycle where we choose from our power standards an area that students struggle learning or where misconceptions remain . We plan lessons that teachers conduct with students using Assessment for Learning (AfL) techniques that we learn through OMSP workshops. These AfL techniques allow us to collect data about student learning that can show how groups of students understand our standards while at the same time allowing for nuance of data that informs us about individual student learning. Each teacher conducting the lesson videotapes the lesson to share at the PLC meeting. After viewing each other’s lessons we then look through student samples of the work, not just statistics, and find ways to adjust the lessons to improve student learning the next time we teach that lesson or the time we teach the unit. Often we make changes to the unit so that we can address misconceptions with students. This is powerful work that we are doing and our PLC has been doing this work for years now so we work well together and are able to talk deeply about our practice and student learning. This is why I thought of my PLC when developing this grant proposal. In my personal experience I have grown as a Science educator because of my social network. The teachers at my school and even in my PLC have taken me only so far. By reaching out to teachers all over the world I have gained access to tools, learnings, questions, and points of view that have stretched me in my profession and in my work with children and Science.

Applicant Information
I have been a Science teacher leader since 2004. I have been a tech leader, coordinator and trainer in my building since 1997. I am grant writer and have written, implemented, and managed several grants. This year I acquired 13 iPads and five Dell netbooks for my students creating a 1:1 student to computer environment. I have been maintaining a webiste to communicate with parents since 1997 and I have become an avid Twitter user and blogger for the past year and a half. Using Twitter I have connected with teachers from all over the world. I am able to post a question at anytime of day or night and get answers, with links of resources even, from other teachers, principals, tech directors, and even superintendents! This group of professionals connecting through social media are collectively called a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Through my PLN I started to read other teachers’ and principals’ blogs. I enjoyed reading other people’s perspectives on the same problems we all face. I was so inspired by what I read that I started to blog more myself. I will write about a lesson that went well, a frustration I’m having, or a great AfL technique I learned in an OMSP workshop and through Twitter I share it with my PLN who will read it and give me feedback. That has been powerful learning for me and has improved the way I help my students learn. One example of this is how after 19 years of frustration with grading students I completely switched the way I assess my students. I now use standards-based grading thanks to a few teachers whose blogs I read and with whom I talked through Twitter and email. They helped me figure out how I can better assess and help my students learn and now I’m the only teacher at my school who uses standards-based grading. Here is a blog I wrote sharing my journey with the world:
http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2010/03/06/do-grades-help-or-hinder-learning/

Implementation
My goal for this grant is to help the other six members of my Math/Science PLC start this process for themselves, to see the power of 21st century, 24/7 reflecting, learning, sharing, connecting and communicating. To start this process I plan to give each teacher his or her very own iPad. In my 20-year career I have used desktop computers to do my work. When I first got a laptop I kept my desktop at my desk at school because I didn’t think a laptop could replace my desktop. It did. Then I started using smart phones. With a smart phone I was able to access information and do some work without needing to drag out my laptop. I was able to access information, do some work, and read books, websites, and blogs anywhere and anytime. Then came the iPad. With the iPad I am able to do everything I could do with my smart phone and do it as often and anywhere just like my smart phone but I can do it better because the iPad is big enough to be easy to read and better to type on. I have been more willing to check my email, view my blog, write a quick blog, respond to a comment, check my Twitter stream, chat with teachers from around the world, respond to students on Facebook, and read an eBook more often and at all times of the day quickly and easily with an iPad than I ever did with my laptop. When I go to conferences and workshops I take out my iPad and it’s not obtrusive yet it is easy to use to take notes or share what I’m learning with my PLN. Before the iPad I used to hesitate to pull out my laptop unless I really needed it, which meant missed opportunities, because it was rather clunky. It really does make a difference for the better. While neither my smart phone nor my iPad is yet able to fully replace my laptop it will someday. What the smart phone and iPad do right now is make it easier for me to connect, collaborate, communicate and do work more readily than I could with just a laptop. That is what 21st century learning is all about and this is the first step in bringing my Math/Science PLC into the 21st century.

The second step is to show my PLC how to start their own education or personal reflection (or both) blog. One topic of interest in our PLC is AfL so this is a great starting place for topics to blog about and share. We will reflect on our OMSP AfL workshops and how we are using the techniques and strategies with our students. Instead of just discussing these topics at OMSP AfL workshops or at our PLC meetings we can do it anytime, anywhere! If any member of my PLC is nervous about sharing we can keep the reading and commenting between ourselves in the beginning (at least for those who are hesitant). These teacher blogs will serve as evidence of our work and show how we reach our goals.

The third step, depending on the group’s level of readiness, is to have each person start his or her own Twitter account and jump into the world of social networking full force. I have a PLN of over 1,640 people so by introducing my PLC to my PLN I can jump-start their process. Once they have connected with my PLN I will show them how to share their blogs with others and how to collect blogs they want to read. Our blogging and sharing through Twitter will be in addition to our already successful PLC work with the intent to use the newfound social networking and social media skills, tools, and techniques into our Math and Science classes. The OMSP is so excited about this work with blogging and Twitter that those in charge want us to help the other schools in our region, with whom we already work as part of the OMSP, delve into this type of 21st century professional development. The work we do as a result of this grant has great potential to spread to other schools in our region.

The specific outcomes of our social networking work will be as follows. I will help each of the six teachers in my PLC to
* use her or his iPad,
* start her or his own blog account with either WordPress or Blogger,
* use her or his blog account to begin writing (a reflection of one aspect of our PLC work that they find motivating or invigorating), and
* how to read and leave comments on each other’s blogs.

Reflecting is a great start but the power of social networking is to share and connect with others to get and give feedback, to have discourse that challenges and stretches our thinking about our craft. I recently came across an article in Edutopia by Andrew Marcinek where he describes the qualities he wants from this type of professional discourse. He writes, “I want someone in my PLN who is going to give me constrictive criticism and also accept it. I want someone in my PLN who is going to share both professionally and personally (i.e. picture of his or her dog). I want someone who has a sense of humor. I want someone who wants to learn, listen, and consistently share. I want someone who provokes my thinking. What I don’t want in my PLN is someone who is going to blindly re-tweet something I post. I don’t want someone who is going to cheer me on when my material isn’t that good. I don’t want someone who is going to bully or criticize without any context or insight into the topic at hand. I don’t want someone who is going to give me an award.” I will share this with my PLC to guide us in our sharing and connecting work. This will be phase 1, which will occur at our first meeting.

By our second meeting we will share our blogs and comments, phase 2. The behavior and attitude change that I will be looking for throughout this work is for my PLC to see that there is time in their busy schedules for 24/7 learning. This will be measured by how much blogging and commenting happens in between our meetings and after school. For the next step I will show teachers how to
* find other teacher’s blogs that they would like to read,
* how to use an RSS reader to subscribe to those blogs to keep up with those teacher’s writings, and
* to comment those blogs to stretch their reach even farther, beyond Chimacum.

At our second meeting we will also discuss our AfL training and each person will write a blog about one aspect of AfL that has transformed the way she or he teaches. By our third meeting, phase 3, I will show teachers how to
* start their own Twitter account,
* sign up to the Educator’s PLN, http://edupln.com/, a Ning site for educators,
* use Twitter to connect with educators all around the world (by introducing my PLC to my PLN I will get them many members to begin sharing with and learning from), and
* share one of their blogs to get feedback from someone not in our PLC.

Phase 3 is where the exciting work can happen when teachers begin to see the power of having people to connect and communicate with anytime and anywhere. By this phase I’m hoping teachers will see the benefit of social networking, the way our students see it. Our students just need guidance from us as to how social networking can be more than just social. Social learning is a learning style and we can help our students develop it for life-long learning. By our fourth meeting, still phase 3, teachers will
share their experiences with social networking,
* share any obstacles and brainstorm ways to overcome them,
* share successes and celebrate them, and
* blog about all of the above.

I will have a perception survey to give to teachers before phase 1 and after phase 3 to see if their attitudes and behaviors change. Their blogs will also serve as evidence of their journey. If the teacher’s attitudes and behaviors do change then phase 4 will happen. Phase 4 is the change in classroom instruction. Teachers will be more likely to
* encourage students to use mobile devices for learning in their classes instead of asking them to put them away,
* think of ways social networking can be used in their classes, and
* be open to student ideas about how they want to learn.

The above is only the surface results we hope to see by this work. By tying this social networking work to our PLC and AfL work the impact on student learning will be even more powerful. Through our PLC work we are being mindful and deliberate about how we assess our students for understanding and how we should adjust our instruction to help improve student learning. By reflecting, writing about amd getting feedback on our work with students we will accelerate and improve our PLC work. This is the incredible opportunity this project has, to be able to improve the work we are alrwady doing. This is what I have seen in my own practice thanks to my Twitter PLN.

My PLC videotapes classroom lessons to share, further breaking down our walls and deprivatising our practice. The OMSP is looking for examples of PLC’s working together to share with PLC’s in our region who are struggling. We could videotape our PLC meetings as well to share with our region. We will also share our blogs to encourage the other teachers in our region to read and give feedback. We could also help them start their own blogs. Karen Lippy and Jeff Ryan from the OMSP have offered to support us in helping the other teachers in our region.

Four of our PLC members are high school Math and Science teachers in grades 9 through 12. Each teacher sees over 100 students each day. The rest of us teach at the middle school. Three of us teacher Math and Science in grades 6, 7, and 8. We also see over 100 students every day. One of our middle school teachers teaching a mostly self-contained 6th grade class of 29 students. The class she focuses on for our PLC work is Math. Our middle and high school have approximately 700 students so between the eight of us a majority of those students will be impacted by this work.

Budget
We are requesting a grant of $10,000 to propel our Math/Science PLC into the 21st century and meet our students head-on. The indirect costs will help cover the secretarial time necessary to help us implement this project. Approximately half of the grant monies will be used to purchase the iPads for seven teachers. The remainder of the grant monies will be used to pay for two full days of training for the teachers to help them use their iPads and start their blog. On the second day of training those who are ready will be shown how to start using Twitter to connect with other educators. As a PLC we will decide whether we will meet for two, full, seven-hour days, or whether we will meet for four three-and-a-half hour half days.

This proposal was written on one of my Science class iPads.

We heard from the WA STEM Board and they had two follow-up questions. We will find out in late January if we actually will get the grant. Here are our responses to the follow-up questions:

1. What evidence do you have that your teaching colleagues are ready to embrace and utilize technology to develop their professional network and instructional practice? What commitments have they made to participate and sustain the work beyond the funded period?

Each member of our Chimacum Math/Science PLC was asked this question and here are his or her responses:

I foresee several benefits of additional technology tools in my classroom.  One is that when my class is in the computer lab, all the computers are being used so I do not have the availability of one to research questions or additional relevant websites on the spot.  This limits my ability to be flexible during those occasions.   I am hoping that the practices of exchanging information through a network will expand my resources for offering extra credit assignments and also complementary work for students who are absent, particularly those away on trips.  Lastly, the ability for me to have access to the web as I move through the school and my classroom during the day ought to provide multiple opportunities to gain information, prepare lessons, and share ideas.

DD

– past and ongoing participation in the CMS Techin20 sessions

– willingness to attend CSD instructional workshops on social networking (during the school day, after school, weekends?)

-willingness to attend outside the district workshops in the area of networking

-due to the fact that we are a small school district, there is an increasing desire for collaboration with non-district colleagues to enhance subject area instruction (keeping up with the latest and greatest)

-opportunities to uncover new or different strategies in providing classroom management and content based knowledge.

DB

I have started to use social media in my teaching and professional development, but this project would likely accelerate that use.  For example, I follow a small number of educators on Twitter, but I never post anything.  Perhaps I would start to post.  I wrote a guest blog post for a group blog concerning education, but with this project I would likely write even more.  In my class, I had students use a Google Docs spreadsheet, essentially a social media version of Excel, to collaboratively record and analyze data.  This project would likely encourage me do more projects of a similar nature.  If I have already started doing projects like this, and incorporated them into my classroom teaching and professional life, it seems unlikely I would stop just because the funded period of a grant was complete.

MJ

I am deeply committed to using technology and social networking to improve student enthusiasm, achievement and preparation for their futures. Since most students are already comfortable with social networking and using the Internet, any use of these tools generates excitement and enthusiasm, which translates into achievement. Any students who are not comfortably using current technologies need to be given practice in as many forums as possible. I strongly believe we should be teaching students using the technological tools they must have a foundational knowledge of in order to be productive in the 21st Century. The most advanced tools we have available today are the precursors of the tools they will use. I am eager to explore and expand my use of these tools so that I may use them in class as soon as possible.

JS

Technology is the way of the future, if we as teachers do not embrace it the students will get discouraged and or frustrated with our teaching methods.  The students have to be able to compete in business and industry of today, so we as staff need to stay connected and up to speed with technology.

JP

As a novice blogger I hope to use our PLC group as a forum in which to become more comfortable with this form of social interaction.  Since we are already working together effectively as a team, and have each other for support, the likelihood of our success will be greater than if we were to undertake this project on our own.  By blogging with our small teams (math and science) we can get more immediate feedback on our lessons rather than having to wait until we meet with our larger PLC group.  While that input is extremely valuable and important, the more immediate feedback we could receive from blogging would help us to adjust our instruction and better use formative prompts and assessments to inform our next steps. Two of the  AFL (Assessment  For Learning)  components are providing peer and self feedback. It would be more efficient and timely to blog in order to improve communication.

JL

First let me say that I know that my colleagues in our Science and Math PLC are extremely  interested in continuing to improve their instructional practices. I have seen continual evidence of this in the commitment that every one of them has made to their enthusiastic involvement in the work of our Professional Learning Community. The days we  meet face to face are looked forward to by everyone and the discussions are taken seriously and fervently. Teachers share ideas and honestly critique each others work and I know I leave the meeting rejuvenated and excited to try ideas raised by my colleagues once I get back in the classroom.
So when given the opportunity, though this grant, to extend that interaction through the use of technology I think people are excited and interested to see how it works. Overall I think the teachers in our PLC are open minded and willing to try new things, and using technology to do this is a natural result of that curiosity. I think we are all hoping and expecting that if professional networking through technology can build upon the personal and face to face networking that we already do this can only be a benefit to our teaching and by extension to our students.
As far as continuing to participate beyond the funded period of the grant it seems that will happen quite naturally if the professional networking works like  we all expect it to. I think my colleagues and my own commitment to sharing ideas and concerns will be improved though this project and as such I think it will continue whether there is a funded enticement or not.

TM

2. How do you foresee the work with teachers translate into impact on student learning? What preliminary classroom-based evidence would you look for to show student success?

 

As part of our on-going work with the Olympic Math and Science Partnership (OMSP) our PLC meets four times a year to do our lesson-study style, videotaped, student learning analyses. In those four days, which are augmented by our district’s priority standard work (meaning we also get early release time to do this work), we analyze and adjust four full lessons/units. The participants of this grant have been working together for at least two years if not over five years as a PLC. On top of that we also attend four OMSP training workshops where we hone skills to improve student learning that we use in our PLC work. We have been working on assessment for learning (AfL) techniques and strategies.

By participating in this WA STEM grant project our PLC will enhance and expand this lesson-study, student learning analysis and AfL work through teacher reflection and networking. Through this grant project our PLC will take more time than the time we already spend with our OMSP work to improve how we use AfL to improve our students’ learning. It is through conscientious assessing of our students where we see what they know and what they still need to learn that we can better guide them towards deeper learning. Two of the teachers in our PLC are certified through the national boards process and we know how important reflection is in attaining national board certification and in growing as professionals.

Since our PLC analyzes and adjusts our teaching each year we have a running record of how students are learning various Science and Math topics. At each meeting we have a recorder who takes notes, which include our evaluations of the student work samples we share with each other. When we review our past notes and compare that work to our future work, present and post WA STEM project work, we will see the impact of student learning in our classrooms. During the funding period of this grant we will be revisiting some of the work we have done this year so we will be able to note any changes in our instruction and in student learning. Some other ideas we came up with of how this work will impact student learning  include:

– the work we do will allow students to actively guide their own learning and draw some of their own conclusions rather being told,

-the work we do could help motivate students and engage them more meaningfully in a variety  of different types of study,

– students will be able to do more independent work, therefore the teacher will serve in a more facilitative role providing more individual assistance,

– mastery learning will demonstrate how the individual student has progressed in relation to his or her past performance instead of comparing to other students, and

– ongoing evaluation of students actual work as evidence by their communication to others beyond the classroom.

At recent district-wide technology meetings we have been discussing and collecting data to determine our vision for technology use in our schools. There’s no denying that our students live and communicate in a 21st century, flat world where they are connected 24/7. There’s no denying that many of the jobs we are preparing them for don’t even exist and most if not all of those jobs will require the use of technology. Mobile technology is not only the preferred method of staying connected of our students it is also the way people do work. What is in question is whether we the teachers are preparing our students not just for their futures but in the way they will be working in those futures. By training teachers to find a valid use for mobile technology we help ensure that that instead of banning the mobile devices our students already possess they will be able to educate students on how to use those devices to demonstrate learning. It is our job is to educate our children on how to use their technologies to learn and to demonstrate learning of our content not ban them.

In our experience the best way to make tech integration in classrooms possible is to put the tech in teacher’s hands and give them the support they need to learn how to use them. Once teachers become comfortable with different technologies and see how to use different technologies in their everyday lives and in their work, they will find ways to use those technologies with their students. More and more we don’t have to worry about our students having access to computers because they come into our classrooms with their own mini-computers. By facilitating our PLC to use the mobile technology of a tablet computer to connect with, share with, and learn from a network of teachers they will be more likely to find ways for their students to create their own learning networks. Empowering our PLC to use technology in new ways is the next way this WA STEM grant project will have an impact on student learning. The classroom based evidence of this grant’s success will be that our PLC members use social networking within our group as well as implement social networking in our classrooms.

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