Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trust Me -- You ARE Doing Great Things with Tech

I have said it before, but it is worth repeating.

Hardly a day goes by without me hearing about something a teacher is doing with tech in their classroom that is both transformative and engaging for students. These are things that were not even possible without the use of technology (an "M" or "R" on the SAMR framework).

Yet, I often hear from teachers, "I'm not doing anything special with tech in my classroom."

What a wonderful sign for our growth as a staff. We predicted a few years back, "There will come a day when you will take the use of tech in your classroom for granted." The reality is many teachers across our system may have arrived at that point already.

However, we have to be careful here.  Not everybody is in that same place with their tech adoption. We have people who are just available to learn about how the tech might support instruction. We have new staff members.

For that reason, we must reflect on the things that we ARE doing with tech already. They are a big deal. There are teachers in our system that would be so thankful to be able to do what you already can. There are teachers who are unsure of what Google Classroom even is or how it could be used. There are teachers who don't know how to use Google Docs to have students collaborate. There are teachers who do not teach from their iPad or who are new to some of the core apps. These are just a few things that you may with ease that others would feel is a monumental task.

While the things you do with technology daily may feel small or insignificant to you, taking a moment to teach a colleague what you do just might be the support they need to try something new in their classroom.

So, if you have thought, I don't really do anything special enough to present at The One Conference, stop yourself and shift your thinking. Instead try, Maybe sharing the things that I do naturally in my classroom with technology would be beneficial to my colleagues.

While you are at it, congratulate yourself for your investment to learning and growing in your instructional practice to find new ways to engage your students with technology. It is an investment of time and energy that is paying dividends for your students.

Friday, December 9, 2016

It's that Time of Year Again!

This always feels like a strange time of year for me. I can't believe it is already December and I am once again encouraging staff members to present at the One Conference! Didn't we just do this? I LOVE the conference and the feel that our professional development has on that day. But it only happens when we as staff members are willing to share what we are doing in our own classroom/instruction with others!

In talking with staff and maybe trying to nudge a few into participating; I often hear, "It's nothing special," "Everyone knows how to do that,"  or the famed, "It's not techie enough for the conference." We do tend to be tougher on ourselves than anyone else would. No idea is too big or too small; we have staff at all levels of technology integration and you'd be surprised how many may not have experience with a tool or activity that you are using.

STEP Outside the Box! will be the theme for this year’s conference. We are asking presenters to explain how they have taken their technology practice to a new level.
  • What are you doing now in your classroom that you could not have accomplished without the technology?
  • What steps did you take to get here?
  • How has it transformed your instructional practice?
  • How are you meeting the needs of your learners through the use of technology?

It is through this open minded mentality of sharing and risk taking that we all grow and learn a little more. For some of you presenting would be a venture outside the box!  Help us make the One Conference a phenomenal day! Please submit a proposal to present at the One Conference, proposals are due by 12/19/16.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Consider the Benefits: What students need versus want

Every teacher and parent knows one universal truth:
One role adults play in children's lives is directing them toward that which they need, even if it isn't necessarily what they want.
That is the kind of thing that you can say to almost anybody that is responsible for children and they will nod in agreement.

This week  I had several conversations with educators who shared that something they were trying out in their classroom wasn't exactly what their students wanted to happen. With my lens in technology, you can be sure that these issues revolved around pushback from students in using tech for teaching and learning.  I believe that we should take our students opinions and ideas into consideration when developing our learning environments and plans.  However, my challenge to these teachers, and to all of us is to ask two simple questions:

  • Why are the students pushing back on this practice?
  • Are they getting something they need, even if they don't want it right now?
I'll use an example of one of my former students.  I did a lot of project-based learning in my English classroom, and we used technology quite often (NO, not every day! And that is okay!).  She was adamant that my teaching style and use of technology did not fit her learning style, that she learned more in other classes, and that she hated having to use technology in her classes.

I spoke with her regularly about what I could do better, what I could change, how I could better meet her needs as a student. I asked her why it was not working, and I even made some of those suggested changes. But I did not back off of my students taking greater ownership of and responsibility for their learning. I also did not back off of my belief that learning to use the tools we had available gave my students a voice beyond the footprint of my classroom walls, and taught my students how to use technology to be creative, collaborative, productive, and efficient.

In her senior year (when she was no longer in my classes) we were talking and she shared with me the underlying issue to why she complained so often (and loudly) about my class. In summary, she was frustrated in my class because I changed the routine of school. She was really good at playing the game at school. She sat attentively. She showed up on time. She took the notes and completed the homework. She answered questions when asked. 

Her frustration with my class was that those things alone were not enough to get her the results she wanted -- an A in my class.  She was good at writing papers and taking tests. When she had to learn how to use iMovie to make a movie trailer in class (it was much harder then), that stretched her skills.  When she had to moderate her group book discussion and record it for a podcast, that was a new skill that she had never developed before. When she had to write reflections as she read a novel on the class blog, and then comment on other people's reflections by challenging their thinking, that intellectual discourse in a public venue was new and uncomfortable. As she said, "Your class was really hard. I actually had to think about doing what I was doing before I did the work."

The lesson I took from that student is that sometimes our students push back on what is happening in class, and we need to listen and consider what they are really saying. And sometimes we need to weigh that against what they are getting from the activity, use of the tool, or instructional method we are using. 

When the instructional benefit to students is essential your students' success or growth, sometimes we have to offer students what they need, even if it isn't exactly what they want.