Moving forward

Those of you who know me, know that that by traditional measures, this has not been an outwardly successful year in my career.  I have faced numerous professional obstacles that have led me to a lot of reflection and soul-searching.  Without focussing on the negative, here’s how I’m moving forward.

I’m embracing technology for the power it offers in revolutionizing my teaching practise.  I grew up at the cusp between Generation X and the Millenials and while I find myself a moderate technology user and digital native, my classes and I got very little use out of the computer labs at school and the couple of archaic machines in my classroom;  I wasn’t going to use technology for technology’s sake.  Then I got a smartphone.

I started downloading all the apps that I could find and came across  a few useful ones.  Gradually I started pulling the phone out in class to access those apps and found the students didn’t cry foul (too much) when I used my phone professionally to aid their learning, even though we have a no-technology-at-school policy.  A few students began following my lead and using their phones for school work too.  I didn’t cry foul either, and now the sound of that policy is rather abhorrent to me.

It’s unlikely that I’ll return to that same school in the fall but I will be pushing toward a BYOD policy (bring your own device) in my new school.  At least I’ll have one in my class, and don’t think I’ll have a difficult time convincing an administrator that this is a beneficial educational tactic considering the following:

  • zero cost to the school
  • faster internet access than our strained district network
  • ability to back channel and communicate meaningfully
  • natural and pervasive communication tool for digital natives

I have seriously engaged in Twitter and I am building a PLN (professional learning network) on it. Every year I endeavour to engage in a professional learning community within the school I am teaching at and this year was no exception.  I worked explicitly and implicitly with some incredible people and saw growth in myself and my school community.  Further to that, when I got a smartphone, I dipped my toe in the Twitter pool and found the water just right.  Now I’ve dived right in and daily I get to learn from powerful learner-educators and put my two-cents in where I can.   The power of this Twitter network astounds me and I can no longer fathom why any teacher dedicated to their profession wouldn’t wand to tap into this type of international powerhouse of educational goodness.

I have discovered what it means (to me) to be a 21st Century Learner/Educator.  A recent symposium I attended opened with the question, “What is 21st Century Education?”  And it was suggested that nobody should have an answer to that question.  I agree that this is something that we should all struggle with, but I have to disagree that we can’t come to any conclusions.  I believe that 21st century education is about collaborative problem solving using any of the tools necessary–technological and traditional–and that communication is the key process.  This communication comes between students in the classroom and around the world as they collaborate on projects that address meaningful problems.  It also comes between students and teachers as teachers give formative feedback that helps to deepen the students’ learning.  Evaluation is outcome-driven and explains to what depth the learning has occurred.  It does not reflect behaviour, or the length of time required or taken for the learning to occur.

I could go on at length, but this is neither the time or place.  Right now I am grateful for the time I’ve recently had to deeply reflect on teaching and look forward to moving on and better implementing positive changes into my practise.

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2 thoughts on “Moving forward

    • BYOD has been an interesting experiment for me this year. Because I have such a wide variety of devices coming to school every day, I tend not to plan lessons around using the devices, rather, use them when it’s natural. Students use their dictionary and thesaurus apps regularly, listen to music, and use eReaders frequently.

      It turns out that the students rely on the school’s wireless network and it’s unreliable at best. That adds another reason not to plan around being able to use the devices. On a positive note, I’m very pleased about how casual students are about their devices. It’s not a big deal to have them in class, so students aren’t sneaky about it too often, though I have had a few that try to play games instead of getting down to learning so often that they’ve lost their privileges to bring a device in now.

      I think I’m on the right track with using devices this way. I know I can’t rely on being able to use them all the time, so I encourage their use where applicable and trust the students to be able to handle it. This has been reinforced by the 6 week pilot project I’m in the middle of right now with a set of 15 iPads in the class. I’m finding their use much more limited than I had expected. They fit in naturally in some ways and for some tasks, but I’m yet to see any reason to have a large number of them in classes. There’s more useful, cheaper technology out there for what I’d like to be doing in class.

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