Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reflections on this week's #edchat

This week was one of those of those weeks that I carved time out of my schedule to participate in #edchat. I kick myself for not doing this every week because when I do, I always come away energized with great ideas. But the question can I take that energy and channel it into real change and progress in my job. As an Instructional Technology Specialist in my district, I have the ability to touch many classrooms.

So how am I going to take the great ideas from this week's #edchat and bring it to my schools.

1. Encourage my teachers to allow their students to be active goal setters.

By allowing students to set and monitor their own goals, the students become more invested in their learning. You are giving them a say and transferring some ownership to them. Goals can be tracked on paper or on a spreadsheet. I like the spreadsheet because progress can be graphed in an easier to see format for the students.

2. Encourage and demonstrate to my teachers how to integrate students' passions into their curriculum.

Students are passionate about things that may or may not fit into the curriculum. When students are passionate about something, they are going to put more effort into that area. Why not tap into those passions? When students are doing writing assignments, allow them to write on a subject matter that is of interest to them...not a topic that is assigned to them. When students are reading independently, allow them greater choice in books. Even when focusing on a specific genre, students can find subject matter that is more interesting to them.

One item I am working on with a 5th grade teacher this year is to build in "passion time" into each week. During their centers, one of the choices is going to be an independent project that will be ongoing and on the subject matter of their choice. The teacher will embed some 21st century skill mini lessons into this time to help the students be more successful and work on these important skill too. I am excited to see how this goes this year.

3. Encourage my teachers to share their passions with their students.

Opening up to your students about your outside interests helps build connections and community. Students feel more at ease and makes the teacher seem more like them. Students will make connections to you and feel more invested into the classroom. Student investment = greater engagement!

I am going to carry the momentum of #edchat forward this week.

How are you going to do the same?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Do We Need Teachers?

The world is changing, kids are changing, schools are inevitably changing too. Technological innovations are commonplace, one after the other. So much learning is available online and through learning systems created by billion dollar corporations. Through all this change, we still have the teacher in the classroom helping students reach their potential. There seems to be a fear that technology will displace teachers for the classroom as budgets shrink. With all this change, is the teacher still needed? After an experience today, I am happy to say YES!

Today I was facilitating a web conferenced math class with 5th grade students connecting to a middle school pre algrebra class. The students could see and hear the teacher through a web camera, see the writing on the SMARTBoard, and could participate through an IM chat and by talking through their microphone. The middle school students could see their 5th grade classmates on the SMARTBoard. So in essense, we had created a real classroom environment for these 5th graders.

All the technology made this experience possible but it would be nothing without the dedication of the teacher. Mr. Kennedy did a great job engaging his distance learners the best that he could without them being physically there and I think this will improve as both parties become more comfortable with the format.

But I still have this lingering question...would these students be better off with a teacher in their location? Every day when I walk into classrooms, I see teachers having those personal conversations that emotionally connect with students. I see the one on one help they provide when a student is struggling. The human connection just cannot be replaced by technology.

So for all my teacher friends who already started school, started school today, or will be starting in the future, THANK YOU for all that you do for our students. No matter what technological advances come in the future, nothing can replace the human connection you provide to our students.

Thank you and have a great school year!