Posted in Innovation, Learning Environment, Student Voice

Let’s Find Out Together: Incorporating Student Voice

Student Voice is a powerful tool to increase student engagement. We see the benefits when students are engaged: they “demonstrate internal motivation, self efficacy, and a desire for mastery” (Guthrie qtd in Davis). This is key to personalized learning and the Future Ready framework.

Allowing for Student Voice is scary for both student and teacher. We begin constructing a “journey of us.” This co-constructing of knowledge isn’t easy or comfortable. It might mean sometimes saying “I don’t know” (Alber). Better yet, it could lead to us saying, “let’s find out together.”

How do we frame this co-construction of knowledge? Here are some ideas adapted and modified from AlberMcCarthy and myself:

  • Develop norms together.
  • Brainstorm or pre-assess student knowledge and interest: pose questions, use surveys.
  • Create inquiry teams to explore the class’s interests and needs: jigsaw topics and share results.
  • Listen: students will be more invested if they know you care.
  • Model thinking: read, discuss, pause, question, make connections in front of your students and with your students.
  • Provide project options: when student choose, they are more engaged in the outcome.
  • Practice reflection and feedback: coach questioning strategies, establish class protocols, provide opportunities for reflection and feedback.

What tools are available to facilitate this?

  • Padlet: pose questions with real-time answers, vote on responses, brainstorm together, KWL
  • Today’s Meet: create a question and see the live responses, a backchannel during presentations, videos, discussions, lectures
  • Flipgrid: video responses to questions or scenarios, formal or informal feedback, respond to each other
  • Sketchnotes: visual note-taking and journaling
  • Blogs: journaling, reflection, evaluation; Weebly and EduBlogs do provide private classroom options
  • Surveys: Google Forms, Microsoft Forms
  • Socratic SeminarsSpiderweb DiscussionsFishbowl

This isn’t an easy part of the journey. It’s messy and can be unpredictable, but the results are worth it!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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