This summer, I have a new and exciting opportunity. With our current COVID-19 restrictions, school board in-person summer camps could not operate as they have in the past. Instead of being a site lead for Camp Power at a school location, I’m one of the site leads for the Virtual Camp Power. This has already provided some unexpected learning for me.
Since our Board has now fully adopted MS Teams, this is the platform that we’ll be using this summer. While my teaching partner, Paula, and I experimented with this platform for our virtual playdates, my use of Teams was limited to synchronous meetings and a post redirecting parents to our class blog. Now, as I work with my co-lead, Carrie, our amazing team of instructors, and almost 200 families this summer, I will also have the wonderful additional bonus of learning more about the Teams possibilities.
Strangely enough, it was after one of our PD sessions on the platform that I began to think more about myself as a learner. This week, we met virtually with some of our staff for training on MS Teams and the summer camp program.
Had a great @HWDSBCampPower training session today in lead up to camp! Thanks to those from @HWDSBLearning (for the MS Teams PD), @maryanne_gage, @carriedaniels (wonderful to co-lead with you again), & our awesome instructors. This will be our first #VirtualCamp! #CantWait
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) June 29, 2020
Our Teams training was incredibly comprehensive, and between the planned training and an opportunity for questions, it took about 1 1/2 hours. Our Board’s Learning Services department has offered numerous MS Teams virtual training PD sessions over the past couple of months, and while I initially signed up for one, apparently I do not keep track of my days as well as I thought. 🙂
When you think the 28th is tomorrow, you miss the MS Teams drop-in session that you really wanted to attend. Apparently I need a daily calendar exercise…for myself. 🤣
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) April 28, 2020
This then was my first official training on a platform that I’ve been using for months now, but certainly not to its full capabilities. Listening and watching the training, I realized something important about myself: I can only take in a limited amount of information at any one time. Between the audio instructions and the screen sharing, I quickly became overwhelmed. This was not the fault of the presenters, who would have happily slowed down, reviewed points, and answered any questions that I asked. It was just about me. Like my kindergarten learners in the classroom, I need time to explore on my own. So I compartmentalized the big ideas, and decided to use the opportunities later in the week when I was working with Carrie, to get more comfortable with the platform.
My time with Carrie was about playing time.
- I made private channels for each instructor. At first, I entered staff names where student names should go. Okay, time to delete and try again. Then the names wouldn’t take. Why? I asked Carrie if we needed to add the staff to our Camp Power Team first. Yes, let’s try that. It worked! Now staff have the option of adding kids to their Team.
Setting things up with @carriedaniels on #MSTeams for @HWDSBCampPower has me immersed in a lot of new learning on Teams. Exciting to see the possibilities and learn some different options. Set up my first Private Channel today. Yay!! 🙂
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) July 2, 2020
- I figured out (I think) why the public channels don’t allow us to “add members.” If they are public, everyone would see the content without being added to the channel. It felt good to actually think through some difficulties.
- I realized some of the differences between the iPad app and the desktop app. While I was adding posts through the iPad to our “Staff For Camp” Team, I could add links to the toolbar through my computer. A cleaner look, I think.
- I figured out how to add a PDF to the toolbar. Now this may sound simple, but it involved a step that I didn’t anticipate. At first, I added the PDF as a website, as there’s a link online to it. But the website didn’t open as my other websites did. Why? Could the fact that it’s an online PDF be the reason? I then thought that I could just add the link to the PDF toolbar option, but that didn’t work. Somehow I needed to have this PDF in my channel. Where could it go? Files, of course. Usually, I would have asked for help about three steps ago, but this time, I chose to persevere and keep playing until it worked. And it did work!
For those of you that know MS Teams well, I realize that each of these bulleted points are small successes … but they are my small successes. Done on my own. Done without the numerous “please help me” tweets to Jared Bennett and Cal Armstrong, who might always be willing to help, but deserve a little summer break from me and my one million questions. 🙂
The interesting thing about this process is that as I clicked on the “three dots,” thought about “private channels,” and looked to add items to the toolbar, I remembered the PD presenters mentioning all of these steps. But I needed to be doing the work — clicking along, making the mistakes, starting again, and thinking through the process along the way — to make the information less overwhelming and more meaningful to me.
While I need to do this learning around MS Teams for my position this summer, I also realize that as I explore more of the possibilities and see the program in action through each of the synchronous sessions, I can also examine some new options for us for next year. During the school year, I understand that this “playtime” probably happens in the midst of our “work time” — as we get things ready for our students and their families — but I have to wonder if a sense of urgency makes us reluctant to play as much as we might need to. I probably feel more comfortable playing now, knowing that we have weeks until camp begins. Again, I’m reminded about the gift of time. How have others incorporated this playtime into, or after, their PD sessions? Could this support adults in “learning by doing?” I wonder how many help emails or frantic texts might be avoided with a little more “adult play” (something our wonderful PD presenters certainly deserve), but I also wonder what’s needed to make everybody comfortable with playing in a digital world. If there is, as we expect, a virtual component to schools come September, this adult playtime might be beneficial for many of us.