Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Mashup of January Wonderings

Change Management: A Realization

I had a realization of late that may already be second nature to many of you.

It sounds something like this: 

"If I were to implement blended learning properly in the classroom, then I need to start from scratch and throw out my preconceived paradigm of school."

By products of this if/then statement include:  
-The teacher is not the holder of all knowledge nor should they make all the decisions.  
- Good students are not just those who blindly follow directions without complaint. 
- A classroom can look chaotic, but students are still learning. 
- Critical thinking skills are much harder to teach than route memorization. 

 My realization made me think about the current state of my class and assess it critically. When I created a Google form and used it as a worksheet, I am basically substituting one thing for another. Time to create the form equals time I used to use to correct papers. Equal amount of time (roughly) that was shifted from after the work was done to before the students started the task. The medium was also different, but the questions and level of rigor stayed the same. 

 Baby steps I justified in my head. 

 When students use Google Presentations to create an endangered animal project, we substituted presentations for Powerpoint. Again, same list of endangered animals (plus or minus a few), note taking graphic organizer, just slightly different software.  

 Baby steps. 

 Recently the SAMR model resurfaced on my Google Plus feed. In the past, I had only heard it used in reference to iPads, but I'm slowly coming to the realization that it's can be applied to most technology usage. +Laura Mitchell  explained it well in her last post here on the edible elephant. I have lots of questions about the SAMR model. 

 - When do teachers know it's time to move up the pyramid (ex. go from Substitution to Augmentation)? 
- Do you need to show a certain level of proficiency at one level before moving to the next or can you just jump to where ever you want to be? Is that even possible? 
- Are the different levels in a chronological order where you must go from Substitution to Augmentation before you ever have hope of Modification? Is it possible for me to leapfrog from Substitution to Modification? 
- Must we always aim for the Redefinition level or can we have some activities at each level? 

Someone once told me that if I tell other people my intentions, the universe hears me and responds, so I'm hoping you can share with me some of your thoughts on this and other matters. :)

Thinking Beyond Year 1

I have always found it fascinating to read about other people's lives and progress towards goals. Autobiographies intrigue me, and I like asking colleagues and mentors, "How did you get to where you are now? Please share with me what you did". No two paths have every been the same. Reading or hearing about their ups and downs is like being given a cheat sheet of what to expect. The downside to that is that it also has me worrying about things that I can't do anything about, yet I know are coming up.  

Recently, I stumbled upon a comment that +Alex MagaƱa  made regarding long term planning. He is the innovative principal over at Grant Becon Middle School and has been gracious and generous in sharing his knowledge of blended learning. This comment was made over two months ago, so I am late, yet again, to the party. However, it was very timely to me because my school has started some long term planning of our own. 

 “Much like any start up, the excitement can carry you the first year but now I want to work with my team in planning out the next 3 years.”

 Reading Alex's comment made me pause in all that’s happening and wonder. The excitement from year one has tide us through some of the lower points. Where are we going to get our energy from for year 2 and on? How do we sustain that energy and excitement? How do we remain fully committed to blended learning if/when a better packaged "latest and greatest" idea appears front of us? 

Professional Learning Communities (Update)

We had our first official technology PD lead by teachers two weeks ago. As a presenter, it was nerve wracking. The room was packed (adults sitting at desks for fourth graders- I thought of you +Jessica Raleigh  and your kiddos on your classroom floor), loud, slightly chaotic, and we had technical difficulties. Google permissions and I are acquainted but not quite friends. Did we bite off more than we can chew?   

But….. it was loud because people were talking on topic. It was chaotic because teachers were moving around and helping each other with the technical difficulties. Most importantly, all the teachers were engaged, and all the teachers stayed on task with their conversations. Several of them made comments on the pretty flower background on the Google Form, but they humored me by filling out the technology survey and wish list. 

We have data now!! *dances jig around the room*

 More importantly, people told me afterwards that they actually found the format useful. They got something useful for themselves and left with ideas on how to use something like this in the classroom. Other teachers shared privately their desire to use more technology, but they were fearful because they will be starting from the beginning. What they needed was a lot more help than everyone else. I count this as a small victory. How do we keep building this momentum and deliver on the promise of personalized learning for teachers? Some ideas have started formulating, but we want more input. 

 Luckily for us, we're meeting with +Kevin Croghan  next week.  Just in time for us to plan our second PD. :D

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