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The Power of the Hive

For six weeks my students were engaged in a physics unit. The culminating project was to design a ship that will get astronauts safely to Mars.  They worked on it in bits and pieces since the unit began, completing one task at a time. Part of the project has been to engage in peer review. Today, after sharing his work with a peer, one student said to me "Ms. Cimini, the peer review so useful". Um, yeah. That's why we do it! He is starting to see the power of the hive mind.

For many years I planned on an island. I was the sole teacher of my subject in my school. We were all the sole teachers of our subjects. We retreated to our rooms, planned and executed our lessons and that was that. We never planned together. We rarely exchanged ideas. If you were friends with another teacher you might share ideas with her but that was the extent of it.

Now I am at a school where department meetings are a regular thing. We regularly share ideas and I LOVE it! Five heads are so much better than one. We each have strengths and weaknesses that can be addressed when we work together. Five minds can come up with ideas that would be tremendously difficult for one. When I've exhausted my bag of tricks, and Google searches are not yielding the lessons I hoped for, my colleagues often help me develop ideas that take my lessons from good to great (or at least more good).

This has been my year of the PD. I have been consuming PD like it's my job (which it actually is). For years I sat through PD after boring PD. They were often required and not very useful. In 2015 I had finally had enough. I became an MfA master teacher and have been becoming more and more involved in their PD offerings (and this summer and fall I will be leading PD's as well). I have become involved with EdCamp, ECET2, Ignite STEM, NASA and NSTA (I even attended the national conference in LA). It's time to choose my own professional development adventure. In each of these PD's I've met science teachers from all over the city, state and country. I've exchanged ideas and developed lessons that have been more meaningful for my students. I've picked the brains of people from all over the country and my classroom is better for it. The ship project I mentioned above and my current disease diagnosis project (that my students just started today) are a product my reaching out to other educators for help making projects more engaging and challenging. My students are captivated and excited to do their work. Isn't this every educators dream?
Ed Camp PD

So, to those of you working and planning on an island, time to get in the life boat and get off the island! Take advantage of online communities, choose professional development opportunities that interest you and reach out to your colleagues in and out of your school. Develop a professional learning network (PLN). There are countless educators out there doing amazing things and they are eager to share their work with you! Let the hive mind help you create lessons that will make the classroom experience better for you and your students. Don't save peer review for your students. Use it for yourself too!


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