Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Twist on Professional Development

By Stephanie Quarles
Stephanie Quarles is the principal at Carson Elementary in Decatur ISD in Decatur, Texas. 

While getting ready for the summer break, I thought through what my goals were going to be for the upcoming school year. I wanted the focus to be on continuous improvement and goal setting. I wanted my teachers to understand and put into practice the use of formative assessments as a tool to guide instruction. Malcolm and Me: How to Use the Baldrige Process to Improve Your School by Richard E. Maurer seemed to be the perfect book to wrap this goal around.

Once the book was decided upon I needed to figure out how to conduct a book study where we didn’t actually have to meet in person.  One of my colleagues introduced me to Smore. Smore.com is a service for quickly creating great-looking webpages. Smore markets itself as a service for creating online flyers, but it's a little bit more than that. Smore's flyers are dynamic and changeable, they're not single-use PDFs. I decided on Smore.com as the format. Plus, I am always looking for ways to encourage my teachers to explore new technology: new websites, apps, and tools that could be used in the classroom.

I wanted my teachers to reflect on each chapter of the book and apply their learning to the students of Carson Elementary.  I began reading the book the day I arrived at ISTE, The International Society for Technology in Education Conference. I was blown away by all of the awesome tools that I was learning about, and I wanted a way to share them with my teachers. The idea of merging a few of these newly discovered tech tools and the Malcolm and Me book study into the Smore was born.

I started each section of the Smore with a summary of the chapter. I then gave the teachers a reflective question or a task and a tech tool in which to respond to that task. I was surprised at how easy Smore was to manipulate. You can embed pictures, videos and links to websites with ease. I sent the link to my newly created Smore to my faculty and sat back with anticipation.

Setting up the book study this way cause me to read the book with a different mindset than I might have otherwise. It forced me to tryout many technology tools and really get to know them instead of just sharing a list and summary with my teachers. Plus, now I excitedly check the Smore and each website everyday to see what new reflections my teachers have posted there! I can’t wait to see if my teachers enjoyed participating in this style of professional development as much as I enjoyed creating it! Visit

My Smore Book Study HERE

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