One Tool, Countless Purposes

Quick thought for the day…

One (of the many) things I love about technology is the variety of ways it can be used. Different people can look at the same tool and develop completely different ways of using it. This is why during technology conferences I don’t mind attending sessions discussing a tool that I am already familiar with. I enjoy hearing from others how they may use the tool. This also helps to open my mind to how I can help teachers integrate the tool into their classrooms. Seeing the same tool from multiple perspectives makes the tool and how it’s used stronger.

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Value of Feedback

A quick post today…

On Wednesdays in the summer, I play tennis. I participate in a class and am fortunate to have an excellent instructor. The instructor takes time to explain different strategies, then we (attempt to) execute and demonstrate our skills and while we perform, he gives us very specific and immediate feedback. I am always so grateful, because this is exactly the instruction I need to improve my game.
I couldn’t help but relate this feedback for what we strive for in the classroom. Of course it is ideal to give personal and immediate feedback. But, this can be difficult when class numbers rise.

During ISTE, I took a BYOD session focusing on digital tools for assessment. One of the tools we discussed was Socrative. A tool I have used before, but what stood out was how this tool was used to provide specific feedback. It’s using these tools in a specific way that serves a valuable purpose and saves the teacher time. 

I think I am finding a theme… Time!

Why Do Educators Stop Learning?

I started reading Evocative Coaching at the suggestion of ISTE Young Educator Network President, Lisa Sjogren. That’s one of the best things about the ISTE conferences, not only are the sessions (including posters, Ignites, playgrounds, etc.) amazing, but so are the connections with other educators.

I’ve only just begun the book, more reflections coming I’m sure, but it really got me thinking about the reluctant educator. In my current role, I am a full time classroom teacher and also a technology resource teacher, which means I help my colleagues with any tech issue they may be having. Over time, this role has evolved from troubleshooting problems to personalized coaching for technology integration. I love it. I love helping my colleagues discover something new and bring in technology to help meet their learning objectives. These educators usually seek me out. They want to learn more about technology. They seek out resources and attempt something new that might be scary. But, what about the reluctant educator?

Yesterday, I pondered if there really is enough time to get it all done. Is the reluctant educator reluctant to integrate technology because they don’t see how they can fit in the time for one more new idea? Is this reluctant educator simply not interested in learning anything new? Has this educator become disillusioned with the thought of learning?

I had these thoughts running through my head, so I decided to stop where I was in the book and take a look at the principles of adult learning. This led down a bit of a rabbit hole to creating a new Pinterest board for coaching/PD, but I digress… These adult learning principles are ones I am familiar with through my graduate coursework and professional development role, but I always viewed them through the lens of educators wanting to learn. But, what if an educator has decided to stop learning?

One of the principles of adult learning is that there is a perceived need to learn. A readiness to learn. What if an educator doesn’t perceive the need?

I’d argue that inherent in the traits of an educator is a desire to be a life-long learner. But, maybe, they are not interested in learning about what is presented in front of them. Maybe they don’t want to learn about technology. GASP! Yes, you could argue here that it is no longer a choice, etc. I’m on your side with that argument, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here, maybe later? Evocative Coaching talks about starting with teachers sharing a story. Listening. Being empathetic. I’m not there to convince myself of the benefits of using technology. As a coach and a PD provider, I’m there to build a safety net and landing zone for an educator to be the best they can be, so their students have the best learning experience possible. So as I approach my PD and coaching sessions next year, I’m not going to look at the “reluctant educator” as someone who has stopped learning. I’m going to listen to them to really hear what they are interested in learning about.

I thought this infographic by Nicole Legault was a great summary of the adult learning principles:

Personalized Learning, Is There Time?

While attending ISTE in Philadelphia, I tried to take a comprehensive approach to what I wanted exposure to- from specific device applications, innovative mindsets, professional development/coaching, to security/safety/digital citizenship. One of the major themes that came out from all this was personalized learning and empowering students.

One of the greatest concerns I hear from educators is that there is too much demand and not enough time. Trust me, I feel that all.the.time. I get it. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, finding time is hard. It’s like being a delicately balanced house of cards, and if you place one more card on top, the whole thing will crumble. Last year during one of my training sessions I showed this meme:

Jessie Spano

Thank you, Jessie Spano, for summarizing it perfectly

I was feeling the time crunch, and I knew my colleagues were, too. So, how in the world is there enough time for personalized learning when there is so much else to do? I wish I had a magic answer for this, but… spoiler alert… I don’t.

I do, however, think that technology can help ease into personalized learning and help to empower students. I know, I know… one more thing to add to the house of cards. But, what if technology actually simplified the process? I want to work smarter, not harder. Rather than spending my time after school placing students into cooperative learning groups, why not have students use a Google Form and select a group that suits their needs? What if the students used this form to explain to the teacher what objective they wanted to meet in class? Rather than me, the teacher, developing a personalized plan for the student, why not have the students form the plan? As a middle school teacher, I know that my students would need to guidance in formulating this plan, so I could set up a form with each component of what they needed.

This seems like a lot, right? But who says you have to do all of this all at once? I always encourage my colleagues to try one and build from there. If you build it, personalized learning will come? Last year, I had my students use a Google Form to tell me what they felt confident about in their writing and whether or not they would be interested in leading a writing revision group in a certain area. Rather than sorting through 120 exit slips, I had everything I needed in a Google Sheet. Next year, I can build on this and have students base a writing revision plan according to their personal needs. I mean, why not? I have the time… 🙂

So it begins…

Today, I decided to start blogging.

Ok, that’s not exactly true and on this blog I’m striving to be as truthful as possible. I’ve wanted to start blogging for awhile and just never pulled the trigger. What held me back? Time? Fear? Doubt? Perhaps a mash-up of all those things. What actually got me start blogging? ISTE.

I attended my first ISTE conference this year and boy was that a transformational experience. Being surrounded by so many inspiring people was a great motivator. While on some accounts it made me think, what am I doing with my life? it also got me thinking, why not me?

I had the pleasure of hearing Pernille Ripp speak on a few occasions at the conference. During one such occasion she said that she wasn’t so special (I mean, yes, she is, she is doing amazing things to empower her children, her students and educators like me), but the point is, she is one person with one idea. Hey, guess what, I am one person and I probably have at least one idea, or one thought, or one reflection. So why not me? I may not always have an original, earth-shattering, ground-breaking thought, but I do always have my voice.

So it begins, I am making the leap to start blogging. Here it is, what if I had one thought a day? What if I learned something new, or reflected on something old, or shared an idea, or expressed an opinion. One thought a day. How can my life as an educator transform with one thought a day? I can’t promise that my posts will be all that lengthy or all that eloquent or all that special, but I can promise to share one thought a day. And if no one ever reads this but me, that’s ok, too. Because at the end of the day, I am one educator, with one voice, hoping to make a small dent in the world.

#ISTE2015

After just arriving to #ISTE2015