Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teaching in Beta: Do You Have a Lesson Graveyard?

I have been listening to an EdReach podcast each day during my commute, learn more in a previous post. (Edtech: Just a Tool in the Classroom). This week, I had the opportunity to listen to another great podcast from the EdReach Network. I became inspired when Molly Schroeder @followmollywho was interviewed on Flipped Learning with Troy Cockrum @tcockrum, discussed the idea of teaching in beta. It has been ringing in my ears ever since. I can't stop thinking about it!

First, what does "beta" mean? When new tech tools become available online, they are often offered in beta. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a beta is a "nearly complete prototype of a product". In other words, a not quite finished product. Often, these tools are ever changing. A perfect example is Google. It is always changing!

Molly contends that is how teachers should think about their teaching. Ever changing. Their lessons should be tweaked, upgraded, and the most important part...put in the graveyard if the lesson just isn't working anymore. This idea got me thinking.

 I think that some teachers are reticent to embrace tech in the classroom because they think of it as "just one more thing". They add it onto of all their lessons and then feel overwhelmed because they just can't let anything go. Or, maybe, they aren't aware that they can use tech to substitute or change a lesson, and then let the paper pencil part, or the packet that they used to use go, or let the students choose how they are going to show their learning. Molly suggests that we should not be afraid to try something new, and if it fails, to use that failure as a learning for the next time. To prototype lessons, to change them as they need to be change and to put the lessons that don't work anymore in the lesson graveyard.

Slate Magazine created a Google Graveyard for all the beta products that did not have as much success as they had wanted. If Google ins't afraid to put a tool in the graveyard, after all that time and energy has been spent, then why can't teachers have a lesson graveyard too? Change is exhilarating and thinking of teaching in beta might put a spring in your step. It sure has for me!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Idea Lady

I am the Creative Innovative Specialist in a middle school. This is a title that my associate principal gave me after thinking that Technology Integration Specialist just didn't describe my role in our middle school. I coach teachers in integrating technology into the curriculum.

The best part of my position as a Creative Innovative Specialist is working in different classrooms each day. I learn so very much about classroom management, differentiation and connecting with students from co-teaching with teachers in my school.  The teachers rely on me to help them redesign lessons or help them offer more learning product choices to students especially in the area of technology.  I plan with my amazing LMC director to incorporate research best practice too. It is rewarding to have the opportunity to rethink lessons, plan with colleagues (which seems to help the idea juices flow better), look at cool new tools and to design lessons that will engage the students.

There are days, like yesterday, when I hold a professional development session that I really wish I had my own classroom again! I exposed the teachers to education.weebly.com and as I drove
home, thought about all the cool things that could be done with a weebly site and students. Blogging, digital portfolios, sharing images, ideas and building their own sites. I was thinking that the teachers who came to the workshop would create a teacher website, and not choose to use the tool to change the way they deliver lessons, or allow students to connect, or encourage the students to build a digital portfolio. I was pleased that they came to learn about the tool, but worried they would not make any change to their current plan either way.

The hardest part of my position is I share a many many ideas to change lessons, or engage students, or offer more student choice, to allow the students to reach the world outside of the school, to meet the Common Core Standards, to change the classroom from teacher-centered to student-centered, and most of those ideas are never used! The staff sees me as The Idea Lady. The one who is always sharing how to change. Some love it and take me up on all kinds of ideas, while others just never plan with me. The teachers who never work with me are the people I feel the most responsible to reach.

On the days when I feel like I am not impacting education in my school, I think about returning to the classroom where I could implement my ideas and see them come to fruition. Be the master of my own universe! I could really impact a small group of students, to offer more student choice, to do Genius Hour, to blog with students, to use social media to break down the classroom walls!

Then, I remember that I love being The Idea Lady! That I impact lots of kids and lots of teachers, I am changing education in my school (slowly) and I learn so much each day from the people around me. So, I embrace The Idea Lady.