The faculty and staff at Cloverleaf Elementary School made good use of their professional development day last week.
Around 70 teachers, paraprofessionals and administration attended the school's first EdCamp Wednesday to learn more about topics related to using technology in the classroom.
"Sept. 23 was designated as a professional learning day for all Bartow County school staff," Principal Dr. Evie Barge said. "The administration and teachers who had attended Bartow County School System EdCamps in the past had such a fun learning experience that we wanted to replicate it at the school level."
After a brainstorming session, the school leadership team met to plan the event, "and we realized that we had teachers at all levels, from very new to experienced," Barge said.
"So an EdCamp was a great way to differentiate the professional learning for teachers at all levels by offering a wide variety of professional learning activities, from STEM training to the utilization of Nearpod, a student engagement platform," she said.
The day featured a rotation of 10 sessions on such topics as Schoology, Nearpod, Flipgrid, Screencast, Padlet, STEM in the classroom, the engineering and design process, professional learning communities basics, teaching writing, response to intervention, English to speakers of other languages strategies, vocabulary strategies and positive behavioral interventions and supports, and "the teachers were able to choose the sessions that they needed or were interested in to help them improve as an educator," Barge said.
"Each session focused on using technology in teaching," she said. "Distance learning has really pushed the use of technology to the forefront in teaching. With sessions being taught in a rotation schedule, it gave teachers the flexibility of choosing sessions that best served their needs or interests."
Teachers had requested some of the topics that were addressed, and sessions were led by administrative and teacher experts and district-level personnel.
"The most popular, by far, were the technology sessions such as Schoology, Screencast, Nearpod, Flipgrip and Padlet," Barge said. "At Cloverleaf, we are working on our STEM certification this year, making this a hot topic as well."
Fourth/fifth-grade teacher Katie Ceci said she participated in four EdCamp sessions.
"Those included were a session covering teacher utilization of Nearpod for digital instruction," she said. "My second session covered the engineering design process, Flipgrid and Padlet for STEM. Another session covered Schoology — our online platform — basics and other tips and tricks to aid in utilizing this online resource more effectively. The last session focused on writing with Dr. Barge. I chose each of these sessions to add new, or different, ways to engage our students."
Barge called the event — for which attendance was mandatory as part of the districtwide professional development day — "a huge success."
"Based on teacher feedback, our first-ever school-level EdCamp turned out even better than anticipated," she said. "The EdCamp model gives those in attendance a voice in the professional learning sessions that they attend. Teachers can share ideas on trainings that they might need then sign up for the various sessions that are meaningful to them. They have a choice in the training that best suits their needs."
That was what Ceci, who has taught in the school system for 16 years but is in her first year at Cloverleaf, liked about the EdCamp concept.
"I feel that this was a great way to provide teachers with the opportunity to choose their own professional development," she said. "I believe that teachers learn more and become better teachers when they are given opportunities to learn from and with their peers."
The teachers were "energized to use all that they learned in their classrooms" when students returned to school Thursday, Barge said.
"Sept. 24 was a STEM day at Cloverleaf so those strategies that were learned [were] put into practice the very next day," she said. "Teacher feedback was positive."
Ceci was one of those who couldn't wait to try out some of the strategies she learned.
"I am looking forward to engaging my students with technology resources such as Flipgrid and Nearpod," she said, noting she's also excited about "being part of the writing subcommittee at CLES to improve student achievement in this subject area."
Besides the learning sessions, the educators were treated to breakfast from Chick-fil-A, received a free Cloverleaf EdCamp T-shirt and were entered in a drawing for dinner at Jefferson’s Restaurant, according to Barge.
"During the sessions, teachers were given tickets for drawings at the end of the EdCamp," she said. "Baskets of all kinds of items, from cleaning supplies to gardening supplies, were given away, along with a grand prize of $150 from Publix for groceries. We all had a great time, and I know that it will not be our last EdCamp at Cloverleaf."