Professional Learning Communities

A week ago I wrote about implementing Edmodo Snapshot in my classroom. Using Snapshot was a great experience, and I’d like to elaborate more concerning this excerpt from my previous post:

Many teachers may not like that the tests are already made, but I think it’s wonderful. Instead of using valuable PLC time creating assessments, teachers can instead mine the student data for all it’s worth and create effective lesson plans to address student need.

A few years ago, it was understood that the weekly Professional Learning Community (PLC) time teachers were given in my district would be used to collaboratively create common formative assessments (CFA), correct the assessments, and analyze the data for how we could teach specific standards more effectively. This was a great concept, but getting five or more teachers to agree on a proper CFA proved to be difficult. How many questions would properly assess each standard? (Keep in mind, most teachers do not have extensive training in statistics.) How should we articulate the questions? How many multiple choices should there be? How often should we give a CFA? Should the test be part of the grade?

After the long process of creating a test, a week or two would go by. Many more questions would then ensue: Were all the teachers still teaching the same standards? Were the tests administered, collected, graded, and analyzed for student feedback by all team members? Did we have time to use the data to effectively modify our strategies and lessons to reteach concepts where we found student deficiencies?

If you’re a teacher, perhaps you’ve faced these and similar questions. At times, you might have felt like your PLC was working really slowly, unproductively–and, at worst–dysfunctionally.

I think it’s because the model of creating, grading, and analyzing CFAs poses a Herculean task for teachers who have a lot on their plates. With grades, lesson planning, coaching, and other extracurricular events, time during a 180 day school year is a rare and precious commodity. I’ve been forced to wonder whether there is a more effective, and sustainable, way to collaborate.

This is why Snapshot works so well. Like I wrote before, instead of using valuable (very valuable) PLC time creating assessments, Snapshot allows the teacher to pick standards that kids will be tested on in a quick and efficient manner. Teachers don’t have to use time to create tests–this is huge! I’ve always believed that PLC time would be better spent mining data and collaborating to create engaging lesson plans for students. Who wants to sit around in a committee and make tests when there’s so much other stuff to accomplish and create? Why not allow Edmodo to do this work?

Also, there’s no grading or scanning Snapshot tests because Edmodo does it for you. Goodbye bubble sheets and scanners that jam! I haven’t even mentioned yet how teachers can collaborate via Edmodo, so they don’t even need to be in the same room.

The biggest question we should be asking is: What should PLC time look like now?

Technology is revolutionizing the way educators operate. It’s a very exciting time to be a teacher.

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