The more reading I have been doing about technology integration and information literacy, the more I am realizing that we need to start redefining what we mean by “teaching”. That sounds simple and obvious, but hopefully, it also sound necessary.
Most of us have an idea in our heads about what it means when someone says to us “I am a teacher”. We instantly picture (more than likely) our own teachers from years ago. But is that the teacher of today?
What if someone said to you, “I like to go mountain biking”. What comes to mind. Take a look at this amazing video and see if that is what you pictured:
Danny MacAskill is redefining mountain biking. Of course there are elements of what most of us know about mountain biking but he certainly challenges the perception of what can and can not be done on a bicycle (and I love the way he deals with fences in his way too!).
How can we be more like Danny as teachers? How can we challenge the boundaries of teaching? How can we find new ways to approach (and conquer) the ‘fences’ in our jobs?
I would hazard to guess that we can do much the same as Danny more than likely did:
1. Set audacious goals for ourselves.
2. Enlist the support of those who believe in our ideas.
3. Try, Try, Try.
Danny didn’t wait for some politician, board member, motivational speaker, or author to redefine the possibilities of mountain biking. He just used his gut instincts, his passion, determination, and drive to elevate the thing he cares deeply about.
Postscript: While writing this, I couldn’t help but think of one of my mentors, Will Northrop of What-if-Concepts. Will does amazing work with empowering people who inspire by connecting remarkable ideas. His blog is a great source of daily encouragement, motivation, and thought-provoking ideas. Check it out!
This is today’s gem from Hugh at GapingVoid. Of this image he says:
“If your company isn’t innovating, it’s likely because no one is facilitating the right conversations.”
So what are the right conversations?
Well, one conversation I would like to be having is with practical innovator, Marc Prensky. Marc has been an advocate for innovation in education for some time. His latest conversation embraces the idea of Future Oriented Education. He challenges us to ask ourselves the question: “Is this future-oriented education or is it ‘past-ucation’:
There is nothing Marc would rather do than change the conversation about the way we educate in schools. His writing on technology, innovation, 21st century learning, digital natives, and the changing teaching paradigm are all priceless – and so worth reading. I started highlighting the points that really resonated with me from the following four articles and was soon swimming in a sea of neon. It is all worth reading. Check out his Global Future Education Advisory Archive.
His thinking about technology really resonates with me. Read this excerpt from his third GFEA:
It’s not about stuff. It’s not about different ways to do what we do now. Technology is an extension of our brains. It is a new way of thinking. And it is a conversation worth having if you hope to lead an innovative school. In the same way that no teacher who dismissed writing or reading or math as “unimportant” or something to be scheduled once a week, would ever get hired, should someone who is not willing to embrace the use of technology as an extension of thinking be given a job as an educator? Is it ok for teachers to say, “That’s not for me”. “I am not comfortable with that” and continue with their past-ucation ways?
Today in a problem-solving math class I asked the students if they should be allowed to use laptops and calculators when solving the problems. There was a resounding “No!” and cries of “Cheating!”. Really? Further discussion led to some children conceding that perhaps it would be ok….sometimes….but only for really hard problems. I suggested that in using technology to help solve the problem, they would still be required to think like mathematicians and evaluate the reasonableness of their answer before submitting it. Does it look right? Does it seem possible? A few more converted.
Next year, I will be teaching the one fifth grade class at our school. In addition, I will be the Technology and Innovation Advisor – a position that is new to our school. What does a person in this position do? Good question!
Primarily, the role has three responsibilities:
facilitating faculty professional development on the integration of technology in a way that sparks innovative ideas in the classroom
opening up my own classroom as a ‘practice studio’ – trying out new ideas that incorporate technology and in doing so, allow for innovation
working with teachers to facilitate the use of technology within their program of inquiry which, in turn, should lead to innovative ideas and development in teaching strategies
What does that mean in ‘real life’?
Firstly, it means I am super excited for the possibilities. I work with an amazing group of teachers and I am excited to have the opportunity to take a glimpse inside their classrooms and see how other people “do” school. For me, that can be one of the best forms of professional development out there.
Secondly, it means I am going to have to be super prepared and organized. This isn’t foreign to me, but I am going to have to step up my game! As a faculty, we each have areas we would like to focus on and this has been described as akin to wanting to select a la carte services from a menu of options. Thankfully, I have my PLC to help with their brilliant ideas!
Thirdly, it means I get to share some great ideas (other people’s mostly!) that I have picked up along the way. The one idea that I can claim as my own is the understanding that as teachers, we first need to make the mindshift or change our own world view on how we want our classroom to look and THEN we need to seek a tool to help implement that change. I know I am repeating myself, but it still hits me as being so important. Six months ago, Twitter was what small birds did and was mildly annoying. It is now a source of a wealth of information that I wouldn’t be without.
So, what sorts of things will we be doing?
One of the things that many people are keen to start with is blogging. For some, this will be their first blogging experience. So what is blogging? To answer this question, I want to quote from the YIS IT Department:
Thinking, Writing, Reading, Connecting
Blogs are about thinking, reading, writing, commenting, connecting, sharing – not just one individual’s thoughts. Try to make as many options for connecting and sharing as possible to make the blogs more than just an online workbook. Take a look at this heirarchy of blogging from Will Richardson’s first book (Blogs Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom, p. 32) to give you an idea of their potential:
Posting assignments (Not blogging)
Journaling, i.e. “this is what I did today.” (Not blogging)
Posting links. (Not blogging)
Links with descriptive annotation, i.e., “This site is about…” (Not really blogging either, but getting close depending on the depth of the description).
Links with analysis that gets into the meaning of the content being linked. (A simple form of blogging).
Reflective, metacognitive writing on practice without links. (Complex writing, but simple blogging, I think. Commenting would probably fall in here somewhere).
Links with analysis and synthesis that articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to the cntent being linked and written with potential audience in mind. (Real blogging).
Extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links, and comments. (Complex blogging).
Kim goes on to say:
Since we’re just starting out with blogging, we might be asking students to do very simple blogging now, and we certainly have the potential to develop complex blogging skills and tap into the true power of blogging. I’m also working on finding other schools around the world that are working towards this type of blogging to be “buddies” with our students.
As we ‘find our feet’ as a school, I am hopeful that we will begin to do the same.
Personally, I would like to move toward the idea of a Faculty Blog in which faculty share their experiences with technology and innovation. I have seen an example of this in the form of Striking Educational Flint – a school blog from Flint Hill School in Virginia. I love that it links to individual teacher blogs and that it also presents a school-wide approach to ideas and innovation (and use of technology) in the school and beyond. I am also really interested in starting QuadBlogging – and am really looking forward to signing my own class up for that in the Fall.
In addition, I want to spend some time over the summer taking a look at the following blogging platforms to see what would work in which grades. Many of these I became aware of after reading an awesome blog, Free Tech Tools 4 Teachers.
Wix is a free service for creating and hosting beautiful websites. It is has recently been updated so that sites created in Wix are visible on all devices including iPads. When I first saw this, I was eager to share with my very tech savvy class – I am keen to see what they will come up with – especially after viewing this video which outlines some of what can be done with Wix.
Weebly for Education allows for the creation of class blogs by the teacher as well as individual student blogs. It’s finished user interface looks more slick than the likes of Kidblogs which I used with my fourth graders and I like the intuitive way you can go about building a blog with this tool.
Webs is awesome. Some people might think it too basic, but for elementary school bloggers, I would highly recommend it. What I like most about it is the ‘drag and drop’ feature for adding things like text, pictures, pictures with text, slideshows, videos, audio recording, buttons and more. It it intuitive, looks great and is easy to set up. Love it.
Yola is another free site that looks awesome. A step-up perhaps from Webs in that it doesn’t appear to have ads or pop-ups, it is a slightly more sophisticated version of a website builder. The following ‘how to’ create video outlines all the best features and personal experience – it really is that easy!
Because we already have Google Accounts ,Google Sites is already available to us. This looks like a fun way for kids to store an online portfolio of work and I really like how easy it is to customize and add to content.
School Rack offers a free service for teachers to build and host their own classroom websites. This doesn’t look as slick as some of the other options and because there is an upgrade feature, I am always wary that I am not getting the “works” and will be ‘forced’ to upgrade to get what I want. I could be completely wrong and I do like that it is a site especially structured for teachers. Just not for me – it seems too much like an electronic mark book than a blog for sharing innovation and ideas.
Web Node is another slick looking option that does not carry advertisements on your blog and is free. I like the templates and again, the simple ‘drag and drop’ interface would make it suitable for all ages.
Smore looks awesome! Self-described as “beautiful by default and impossible to screw up” this looks like an awesome ‘one stop shop’ for publishing content online. What I really like (apart from what seems to be a ‘standard’ drag and drop interface) is the fact that the content you produce on your computer will look exactly the same when you access it on your smartphone or iPad. Smore pages could be linked to from within any of the other blog providers listed. This could be great for one-off projects (the site markets itself as a ‘flyer creator’) or for young bloggers finding their feet.
I haven’t even started to explore Wikis as a tool for a more collaborative and interactive classroom! That is probably what I am hoping to get most out of this position – the opportunity to explore, across the school and within my own classroom, how we can use technology to become more collaborative, more connected, more interactive. It is exciting!
What would you want in a Technology and Innovator Advisor?
How would you want their support in your classroom?
Gone are the days when it was “cool” to not know what Twitter was. Or any form of Web 2.0 technology that enables you to connect to the bigger picture. I took a while to become a fan of Twitter and now, I can’t imagine my life as an Educator without it.
But first, came the change in my mindset or my world view and then came for the need for a tool to support that change and that tool happened to be Twitter.
That is worth me repeating. Seriously.
First came the change, then came the need for a tool.
I really don’t mind if you use Twitter or not. What I do think is important, is that you challenge yourself to maintain a connection with other people wanting make the same kind of ruckus you are making – or wanting to make. Over the last six months or so, I have become more active on Twitter and would site this tool as being in the top ranking of the Professional Development that I have gotten as a teacher.
Why? Because I am connecting with other Educators and we are not bound by geography. We are able to quickly share in 140 characters or less, what is going on in our classrooms and to connect.
Been inspired by the amazing work happening at my former school, Yokohama International, in a post titled Tech Pilots Taking Off. It really is inspiring to not only read about a phenomenal program, but I am both blown away and grateful for the thorough documentation of the implementation and goals for this program. The example set here of initiative, forward-thinking, collaboration and leadership is truly outstanding. What’s more, it is not being hidden but put out there for others to use, copy, emulate, remix and build upon. Did I mention I am inspired?
Been taken through a very thorough analysis of what it means for a project to be authentic. “What Does It Take For A Project To Be Authentic?” gives great understanding about the use of the word authentic as it applies to Project Based Learning (PBL) or just learning in general. It cleared up a few wonderings I had and has given me a new lens through which I can take a look at the assessment of and for learning that occurs in my classroom.
Spoken often of the amazing work in inquiry-based learning that I experienced first-hand in the classroom of Tasha Cowdy. I was so excited to see Tasha post about the Morning Meeting routine she establishes with her kindergarten class. It is phenomenal and so empowering and a must-see for anyone interested in inquiry teaching and learning.
Been reminded of a tool I was introduced to a a couple of weeks ago called Thinglink but have not explored fully. Turns out I can now benefit from other’s explorations via the post 26+ Ways to Use ThingLink in the Classroom.
Been introduced to a new app called Kids Journal which I have not downloaded (yet!) but could be a fun tool for easily documenting summer activities such as the Summer Bucket List challenge we just set our fifth graders as a ‘prewriting’, information gathering exercise for their first sixth grade writing assignment in the new school year.
And this is just the surface! I use Instapaper as my ‘read later’ service. When on Twitter or browsing the internet, one click of ‘Read Later’ and all these goodies get stored on my Instapaper account – kind of like my own awesome newspaper of awesomeness.
I keep my Twitter account mostly for following educators but also writers, artists, musicians, curators, innovators, movers and shakers. I want to know what is new and exciting in education but also around education – we are not in isolation.
If tweeting is not for you, fine. But I encourage you to find some way of connecting yourself to big ideas in a way that works. You will thank yourself and your parents and students will thank you even more.