In my constant effort to try new interventions and create flexible spaces and times with which to meet with teachers and introduce new or changing technology tools, I’ve been trying out “Lunch and Learns” for the first time this year. Andy Losik, a fellow instructional technologist in Michigan, has been doing lunch and learns this year with his staff in Hamilton Schools, and after reading a few of his blog posts about his experiences, I felt encouraged to try a few of my own. As of today I’ve held 3 of these lunch time meetings across our school’s campus, and I felt as though I needed to get a few thoughts out now to make them better for next month.
What I’m Trying to Do
The idea and need for the lunch and learn is simple enough. Teacher’s time is precious, and it seems like every professional development (PD) hour is filled with looking at assessment data, restructuring curriculum guides, Common Core discussion, a bit of technology, and a whole heap of others topics. Far too often there are tiny little “tech tools” that undergo changes, or introduce new features that don’t warrant the same priority during PD days that a serious look at Common Core crosswalks and data from student assessments merit. I mean, let’s face it, we don’t need to slice out PD time to discuss every single time Google changes the icons and layout for Docs or Gmail (which seems to happen more frequently than you would think). However, the change over that Google made from the basic “Docs” app to “Drive” is big enough, and brings about enough changes that I felt like I should offer something for my staff other than just the occasional “calls for help” or videos.
So I setup a small list of goals for myself with this first set of lunch and learn gatherings:
- No more than 20 minutes (keep it simple)
- Introduce new features or tools in a way that’s not “mission critical” and warrants a full PD session or workshop
- Show teachers how the tool can be leveraged in their instructional practice, not just what it does
- Make it completely optional and obligation free so people don’t feel compelled to attend, and those that do will (hopefully) value the time
- Make it casual and comfortable (hence during a lunch period)
My Thoughts on Lunch & Learn Thus Far
- Plan AROUND conferences – A lot of people warned me about planning lunch and learns during conference season. Not wanting to wait until December to start them, I pushed through and scheduled them anyways during conference weeks. My experience as a former “specials” teacher obviously gave me a skewed perspective of what conference prep means, as I rarely had to prepare (I would average a dozen or so visitors during conferences in a school of 900 students). Lesson learned, stay away from conference week.
- Fridays aren’t always the best day of the week – I choose to hold these lunch and learns on Fridays because I thought it might be the most relaxing and casual day of the week, and teachers might feel relaxed and ready to just chat about something simple. Fridays in our schools are “casual dress” days, and most teachers are doing end of unit or chapter assessments if they can. Turns out, in at least one of the buildings, the grade levels have this nice ritual of “lunch time” together where they can all chat about the week and connect if they weren’t able to earlier in the week. I knew that this happened, but I gambled that they might be willing to have that same casual connection with me present talking about some tech stuff. It didn’t happen, so lesson learned, other days of the week are a go for next time.
- Providing examples of integration into instructional practice is great! – One of the things that has gone well was my inclusion of a few examples of how other teachers in the district are using Google Docs or plan to use Drive. Teachers getting to see what’s happening in other classrooms, grade level, and buildings is a huge motivator for them to try new tools and ideas for themselves. They see that they might not be the first to try, and are more willing to experiment knowing others have had some success. That, and it was great to actively develop new ideas on using Google Drive as we were talking about it! One 4th grade teacher was excited about students creating shared “Writing Portfolio” folders that students could drag and drop exemplary work into from their Google accounts throughout the year.
- Making the gatherings optional and “come if you can” has paid off in spades! – While I’m certainly not connecting with a large number of teachers (less than a dozen in each building), the casual conversations I’m having with the teachers that attend goes a long way in developing and strengthening my relationships with them. I used to work alongside many of them and have existing relationships, but many I am still trying to “figure out” and connect with on a professional level, so this has been a great way to have conversations in a very informal and comfortable setting; their own classroom.
image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nuskyn/4462573611/