Posted in Innovation, Shift, Technology

Reflection, A Critical Tool for an Innovative Educator

Reflection is something vital to our development as educators, yet so easily dropped from our practice. The urgencies of the day can easily overshadow that moment to pause, breathe, and reflect. Those the reflective moments, however, are the moments from which we can truly grow.

Reflection isn’t a new practice in education, but it is a key practice of an innovative educator (Courcos 48). John Dewey described reflection as “behavior which involves active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or practice in light of the grounds that support it and the future consequences to which it leads” (qtd in Canning 18). A reflective educator asks him/herself questions like: What worked? What didn’t work? What would I change? What questions do I have moving forward? (Courcos 57). The process provides the educator with a view into what went well, what didn’t, why the lesson went well or didn’t, and the foundation which to make adjustments as necessary.

Talking about the importance of reflection is one thing, but what tool to use is another discussion. Choose a tool, which you’re comfortable using. I’ve used so many different tools over the years: paper (Leutchturm and Lemome are my favorites), apps (Day One is my favorite), blogs, and bullet journals. The tools isn’t what’s important, it’s the process. The process needs to be a regular process. Make the time, make it a habit.

Reflective practice is a key characteristic of an innovative educator, but student lesson reflection is also a powerful tool. I would add that a reflective educator asks his or her students the following questions: What worked? What didn’t work? What did you learn? What did you thing the goal was? What do you need me to know? What questions do you have? I had my students reflect as an exit ticket each day. It was quick, but powerful. I started with a paper form and moved later to a Google form when our school went 1:1. These were private, individual reflections where every student had a voice and provided me with daily insight as to the success of our daily goals and where we needed additional help.

If reflective practice has been around for so long, what makes it innovative? It’s innovative because it asks the necessary questions in order for innovation to happen. It helps us to answer these key questions: Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom? What is best for this student? What is this student’s passion? What are some ways we can create a true learning community? How does this work for our students? (Courcos 40).

Moving forward as an innovative educator can begin with a practice of daily reflection.

 

Resources

Posted in Collaboration, Digital Pedagogy, Innovation, Investigation, Shift

An Opportunity to Do Something Amazing

Change is hard. Change, when we don’t drive it ourselves, can make us feel like we haven’t been doing something right or our work isn’t good enough. That’s not what it’s meant to be.
“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing” (Couros 3). It’s the process of bettering ourselves, of improving, growing and always learning. To change as educators is to embrace the premise that our world is continually evolving and our students will need to be prepared to walk into a world that is different than yesterday and especially different than the world we walked into at their age. To change is to innovate our instruction to meet today’s students where they are and not where we once were.

Change, for the sake of change, is not innovation. It’s just something different. Merely using technology is not innovation, either. “Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organizations, but innovation is less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things” (Couros 20). It’s the why that gives us vision and inspires us (Sinek); it’s that how that puts our vision into action.

We have an amazing opportunity to change the learning experiences of our students on a daily basis. For that change to be innovative, we need to keep the learner at the center and ask what is best for this learner and what is best for his or her future. “Any time teachers think differently about who they teach and how they teach, they can create better learning opportunities” (Couros 21).

“The role of the teacher is to inspire learning and develop skills and mindsets of learners. A teacher, designer and facilitator, should continually evolve with resources, experiences, and the support of a community.” (Martin) Keep the dialog open. Ask questions. Collaborate. Take a risk. Reflect. Re-evaluate. Share. You have a community. Take advantage of those resources. Take the opportunity to do something amazing.

​Resources:

Posted in Collaboration, Innovation, Shift

The Risk of Change for Educators

Take a risk. That’s a difficult charge. Sometimes it sounds like we aren’t doing a good enough job. Sometimes we wonder why tried-and-true means aren’t good enough. It takes risk to move forward and continue learning. It takes risk to amend or even outright change a lesson, a target, an essential question, or a practice. If we expect our students to continually learn in order to improve, then we must also follow that parallel path and strive to continually improve our own practice (Wennergren 134). The 1:1 environment sets the stage for change in the classroom; the tried-and-true doesn’t always mesh with our current learning environment or the world our students face every day. “This age of exponential change leaves us no choice – we must change or our students will fall behind.” (Tormala). “We will need to consider how to best harness exponential change in order to create equitable outcomes for all learners.” (Swanson)

Taking a risk is hard. Change is difficult. The Law of Diffusion of Innovation says that in order to change, we must take risks, learn from successes and failures, grow with the mindset of continuous improvement, and innovate by finding new ways to solve the challenges we face (Tormala). It’s OK not to know what resources and tools are out there and how they work. We’re learning. The good news is that you have support: department or team learning leaders, instructional coaches, your Teacher-Librarian, your Digital Learning Coach. Additionally, the online world is full of learning communities ready to support and share ideas, too. Edutopia and Twitter chats are just two of the many online resources full of ideas, resources and support for educators.

Reach out. Ask Questions. Collaborate. Co-teach. Take one step at a time. You aren’t alone on this road.

Resources:

Posted in Collaboration, Digital Pedagogy, Shift

Take a Risk with your Professional Learning

Time. It seems we never have enough of it. Grading, meetings, more grading, more meetings. There’s always so much to do. How does collaboration fit in to this when there are so many urgencies? Why should we give up more time for collaboration?
Collaboration focuses around the collective responsibility to improve student learning by improving teaching (Wennergren 134). “Teachers must apply their learning to themselves as well as their students.” (Wennergren 134) It’s a parallel process characterized by mutual engagement in procedures, tools, concepts, language and different ways of acting.
So we collaborate, because it helps us help our students learn. This time is especially helpful regarding digital pedagogy: what it means, how it embeds into our daily instruction, how it impacts student learning. This time together gives us the opportunity to learn, investigate, create and share resources, lessons and ideas. We have the opportunity to learn together what digital pedagogy is and what it looks like for us, in our teams, in our content area. It is professional learning differentiated for you.
Digital technologies are fundamentally changing our world. Taking advantage of their strengths to help students learn is something best done collaboratively. Technology is not our enemy. With some patience, careful planning, and thoughtful consideration, we will create more skilled students who are ready for the future, while creating a more enriching classroom dynamic where technology is just another tool for building students’ success (Doyle-Jones 6). Take the opportunity, take a risk with your team, try something different, and explore the possibilities that digital resources bring to education.

Resources:

Posted in Learning Environment

iPads and Classroom Management

Now that our school year is in full-swing, it’s a good time to reflect on how you’re managing all those devices in your classroom. No matter what type of device you’re using or seeing in your classroom, it’s good to regularly reinforce your expectations regarding technology:

  • Make your expectations clear
  • Use consistent key phrases and non-verbal signals that signal the end of an activity or a transition between activities (“Apples up,” “Screens down”)
  • Have a consistent routine for your students and their devices. Repeat and reinforce this routine each class period.
  • Make tech behavior clear with every assignment
  • Apply consequences as appropriate

Ideas for routines with devices:

  • Devices stay screens down on top of table until it’s an appropriate time for use. You see where the devices are and students can’t hide what they’re doing with them.
  • Devices stay in their backpacks until it’s time to use them.
  • Only use the iPad for class assignments and not cell phones. We provide students iPads that are restricted and don’t have social media opportunities. Research proves that cell phones are the larger distraction, for students and staff.

As you go through your day, watch for the signs of distraction:

  • iPad is moving around
  • iPad is on lap
  • iPad is leaned toward the student
  • Thumbs or fingers are moving feverishly when there are no notes to be taken
  • Frequent double clicks or 4-finger swipes when you walk by
  • Students doing work on phones instead of iPads.

Redirect as you notice distraction:

  • Use proximity
  • Circulate around the room
  • Remind students of expectations
  • Change seating arrangements
  • Be consistent with your expectations and reactions
  • Speak with the student after class
  • Partner with parents

Don’t become outraged when students are initially distracted. Redirect and give them the opportunity to reconnect with you and the task at hand.

Remember, everyday is a new day to start, practice and reinforce expectations

Teaching in a 1:1 environment will involve all of these aspects of teaching. And while you can get by having students use technology simply as a substitute for what they would otherwise do on paper (read, write, work on math problems), there is a much larger world of discovery and creativity now at their fingertips. – iPad Bootcamp for Teachers

Posted in Innovation, Investigation, Research-Based, Shift, Transformation

When is Digital The Right Choice?

As a School of Innovative Learning and Technology, our Site Plan calls for innovative, technology-embedded programs and experiences for our students. Does that mean that everything we do needs to be surrounded with technology? When is digital the right choice?

The use of digital resources in instruction needs to support best instructional practices, further your learning target, and promote deeper learning. We have amazing digital resources literally at our fingertips every class period, but not to use merely because they’re present.

Digital resources do have the ability to increase personalization, aid in differentiation, provide immediate formative feedback, increase engagement, and provide access to authentic materials (VanderArk & Schneider). Research shows that digital learning can increase achievement by as much as a grade level (Anderson). Thoughtful implementation is essential (Schapiro) in the planning process for this to occur. Merely using the technology without monitoring student use does not increase student achievement (Jacob). Our instruction has to be founded in best instructional practices. Technology shouldn’t replace the teacher, the standards or the learning targets.

As we move forward on our 1:1 journey, consider the instructional practices you are using. Is there a digital alternative? Is that alternative a substitution? Does that substitution offer additional possibilities for differentiation and application? Does that alternative actively engage students in the learning process? Does that alternative encourage collaboration? Does it encourage students to build upon prior knowledge? Does it provide for an authentic experience? Will you receive timely formative feedback through its use? Is it an additional activity or something embedded into your lesson?

Do you need help answering these questions or knowing what possibilities we have? Let’s work together with your collaborative teams to explore the possibilities.

Resources

Posted in Constructivism, Learning Environment, Research-Based

Making Connections From The Start

It’s here, the start of another school year. Our halls and classroom will soon be filled a variety of students possessing a variety of needs.

Last week, Pine Creek High School’s new Mission Statement was revealed, opening the door for our next steps forward. Part of the Mission Statement speaks of “providing a safe and welcoming learning community.” Have you thought about how you might make that happen in your classroom? What would that look like? What would that feel like?

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to begin making the connections necessary to foster that safe and welcoming environment. Wes Kieschnick, author of Bold School, says that “on the first day of school, if you spend more time talking about rules than connecting with kids, you’ll spend more of your year enforcing those rules than teaching” (Kieschnick). Those connections are a vital ingredient in increasing student achievement (Richman) as well as building the trust needed to make mistakes and ask for help (Hattie, 2012, as cited in Richman).

How are you going to begin this year? How are you going to make those connections with your students? Take the time to make these connections. Don’t lose this opportunity. Your syllabus can wait. Model the behavior and relationships you want in your class. Take the time.

Resources: Safe and Supportive Learning Environments

Resources: Activities to build a safe, supportive learning environment

Resources: Connections

Additional Resources

  • Hattie, John. Visible Learning.
  • Kieschnick, Wes. Bold School.