Every year our district hosts a week-long academy called INTERACT. It focuses on Marzano’s instructional strategies while also providing ways to integrate technology into the classroom and looking at 21st Century Learning Design. This year we had a total of 131 teachers join us for the week. The participants apply as teams of 2-4 from each campus in our district. They must go through an application process where they complete an individual application as well as create a team video. A winning team from each campus is chosen based on this application.
In the beginning of May we have an INTERACT Boot Camp. Participants come after school for a couple hours. Here they receive a laptop and an iPad. We do this ahead of time to get the teachers familiar with the new equipment. It also provides time for us to address any issues we may have with the equipment and lets the teachers load a list of apps and programs we provide to them that will be used during the week of INTERACT.
The first week after school lets out is when the actual week of INTERACT occurs. We run 5 days from 8:00-4:00. Lunch is provided each day so the participants are with us the entire time. It is quick moving and intense. By the end of the week everyone is exhausted, including the presenters, but we all walk away excited for the upcoming year and what it has in-store. All teams completing the entire week of INTERACT are then rewarded with a $10,000 stipend to purchase equipment for their classroom. They are also provided with an IWB if they do not already have one in their rooms.
This was year 6 of INTERACT. You would think we would have settled on a format and sequence by now, but if you know the CITS team from LCISD you will not find it hard to believe that we change, or at least alter, pretty much everything each year. We are never satisfied by what we have…we always look for improvements.
The biggest change we had this year was incorporating a Learning Activity Gallery Walk. We have always spent some of our time every year teaming teachers together to create a “new” learning activity they can take back to their classroom to use the next year. They decide what the activity is and what technology to include where appropriate. We have never seen a commitment to this in past years. Since this is right at the end of the school year it was difficult for teachers to be motivated to “write more lesson plans”. I was hesitant to incorporate the gallery walk for fear it would fall flat on its face.
I have never been so proud to admit I was wrong! I guess having the participants know that they will be presenting to many other teachers lit a fire under them. The walk was a HUGE success! There were so many great ideas being shared in that room I did not have enough time to visit even a fourth of them! We then uploaded all the activities to a Skydrive folder so everyone can access them and use/tweak them for their classrooms.
Throughout the academy I was amazed at how committed our teachers were to taking a chance. They “sold out” for the entire week. We were gaming, hunting, and creating…yet nobody stayed on the sideline. They all jumped in and ran with whatever we threw at them.
It is weeks like this that remind me yet again why I love my job. I am re-energized to get next year going already! Don’t worry though…I still plan on taking the summer off!