My school has had 1:1 laptops from 1st grade on since its inception 7 years ago. We aren’t strangers to using technology in our classrooms, but at times we have lost sight of how to use it to enhance teaching and learning. I think we became complacent, as we were ahead of the pack from the very beginning, simply because we had the tools. However, in the last few years we have begun evaluating our technology usage and innovative practices – which we now refer to as RVISioning – to ensure our students learn the necessary 21st century success skills. Below are details about some of the ways my thinking, teaching, and coaching has changed as a result.
Learning is Active
One of my best shifts, with bonus ripple effects, is that I now lead workshops or lessons with two objectives in mind. First, that I want the teaching style or technology tool I’m using to be a lesson in itself for teachers to use right away; and second, is of course, the content. A good example is when my team had returned from a visit to Shekou International School and I was tasked to report to the faculty what we had decided about our beliefs around technology integration. I could have made a long powerpoint with images and stories of what we had seen their teachers doing – but I knew that might put some on the defensive, rather than give them ideas. I decided instead to ‘practice what I preach’ by involving them in the lesson with a game and getting them to think about their experiences as students. I introduced Kahoot and asked true or false questions starting with the phrase, Did your best learning experience include. Here is a sampling of the questions that got them thinking (Check out the full game here):
- You were given the choice of which group to contribute to or which topic to learn about
- You learned about the topic in a collaborative and social setting
- You were called out for checking your Facebook or Instagram
- Your team worked towards a common goal that was real world relevant
- Your leader listened and gave you meaningful, thought provoking feedback during the training
- You had to sit and listen, perhaps following or being read a powerpoint, for 20 min. for more
- Your leader expected and trusted organized chaos in the learning environment
- Your instructor was obviously excited and passionate about the topic and task
My underlying message, that I hope was obvious, is that it’s not about the technology tool, it’s about our teaching practices. If educators could try to keep in mind how they learn best, rather than using common ‘teaching’ practices used on them during PD days, our kids would be much more engaged. Luckily, I have an easy going, reflective admin team that thanked me for “raising the bar.”
Learning is Social
To promote more peer teaching across the school, we’ve agreed to use Twitter to share articles and ideas we come across (#RVISionaries), as well as to share what we are doing in our classrooms. Also, along the line of making our practices transparent, last year I led several sessions on screen-casting which has resulted in lots of ‘bite-sized’ lessons from Google Extensions to ELL tips posted on our faculty website where teachers can refer back as needed throughout the year.
One of my projects this year is to help learn and disrupt our Personal Growth Plan model. The elementary principal asked 5 awesome teachers to work with me on this project and allow me to observe their classroom practices in order to get a feel for how the model works as is. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from COETAIL is that learning is collaborative, and therefore I feel like such an important process should be bigger than a few observations and reflections between a teacher and an administrator. With this in mind, we are going to trial more of a Critical Friend Protocol – especially because what’s missing now is the peer observation and peer teaching piece.
Parenting with Technology is (relatively) New Territory
Another project in the pipes is a Parent Workshop about technology use in school and at home. I’ve been fielding lots of parent emails dealing with either preconceived notions or a lack of information about our school’s technology use. This need has been building since we have gone to mostly online homework and a BYOD environment from grades 6-12. We are addressing many of the concerns in school by providing digital citizenship lessons across the school, but our next step must be parent education – especially since many of the negative behaviors start at home.
With a team of teachers, counselors, administrators, and hopefully some students from across the school, I am going to plan and offer a variety of sessions that parents can choose from. Thanks to @jodeejunge and the high school team leader (@brywilks), we already have a great start to, what I’m positive will be, a lot of learning for all involved. Check out the ‘skeleton’ plan below and watch for more details this spring.