blogs and wikis: a teacher’s perspective

Steve Ransom pointed me towards this video of a grade 1 teacher and how she uses blogs and wikis in her classroom. There is also some parent and student commentary. Her advice is to start small, with a blog for your classroom, and let yourself grow with it.

I’d like to hear her principal’s perspective as well!

(Oh, and I certainly hope she doesn’t work in this superintendent’s district. If she does she may need to watch out.)

“Put technology where it can be best used… In the classroom!”

[cross ranted as a comment at Stephen Ransom’s EdTechTrek] [and slightly elaborated]

I am starting to think that because many teachers and administrators
still do not know exactly what we can do with technology there is a
reluctance to put it in the classroom.

Example – today the Internet had, for some reason, stopped working
in the west wing of our school. I was at the computer lab with one
other teacher. She packed her kids up and went back because she only
books the computer lab for the last period of the day so that her kids
can ‘play on the internet’.

For her, technology has nothing to do with learning, it is a form of
entertainment. I stayed with my kids and used the time to work on our
Science vocabulary while teaching them how to hyperlink in
presentations. They were linking their vocabulary words to comments and images made by their peers, creating a collaborative learning network around the new terminology they are learning in Science. (Not bad for a wing it activity, eh ;)

For some reason, this teacher has not caught on yet that technology
can be much more than a way to waste time. I can understand the frustration of the new teachers that Stephen mentions in his post, but
until the more experienced teachers and administrators at schools begin
to use technology as a learning tool, really use it, and demand that
good forms of it be available in the schools, it isn’t going to happen.

I can also understand the frustration of the more experienced teachers who are
expected to use technology but who aren’t really given the time to grow
less afraid of it and to experiment with what can be done. There is a huge divide between our students who live and breathe with technology as part of their daily lives and the teachers who don’t. Huge. and while
there are still administrators who don’t use technology in their daily lives and who don’t champion for its appropriate use and availability in the school, let alone the classroom…well…that divide can only be expected to widen.

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Motivation and change, values and passion: Making the connections

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

I will be returning to the classroom at the end of August after a year as a special education consultant and professional development facilitator. I decided to return for a variety of reasons, the most important being that I miss the energy I pick up from daily contact with students and the next that there are so many things I want/need to try with students as their learning contexts change at such an exciting and fast-paced rate.

Today I am still a consultant and I am preparing for a teacher induction session we are designing for new teachers in our school system, the Association of Jewish Day Schools of Montreal. (Interestingly enough, I will be facilitating that session on the 21st and participating in one at the new school system on the following day!) The other day I spent the afternoon looking for video examples of different aspects of classroom management to include in the session. What I found was certainly food for reflection.

Essentially, I seem to have a choice between the inspirational teacher a la Erin Gruwell
(Freedom Writers) and Jaime Escalante (Stand and Deliver) in Hollywood teacher movies or the angry teacher in student cell phone videos on youtube.

I have yet to meet a teacher who become one in order to be angry at his or her students or in order to expect mediocrity from them (check out this cute little movie on that theme :) ) yet … I know teachers who do this on a regular basis.

On the contrary, most teachers I have spoken with became teachers because they want to make a difference in the lives of learners, like Erin Gruwell, and because they want to share a passion they have around a certain subject and see it grow strong in young people, like Jaime Escalante.

I have recently had the pleasure of working with teachers who had forgotten why they became teachers.

Yes, it was a pleasure.

I want to give my reason by framing it a bit first. Kelly Christopherson‘s recent post in LeaderTalk addresses the issue of motivation and it got me to thinking.

How do teachers stay motivated to teach and to learn when the playing field changes on such an astounding level?

I am motivated to teach and to learn, to action, when what I am doing has relevance for me because it is tied to my core values, my passion. The answer for me, therefore, lies in this next compound question:

How do we reconnect teachers with their passion AND reframe it within changing contexts?

I firmly believe that before we can motivate teachers to do anything new we need to connect it to what is important to them, to tie it to their values and their passion.

Relevance and seeing purpose are key to internal motivation – and we know that internal motivation is key to learning. Dr. Marvin Marshall writes, in Using a discipline approach to promote learning:

“True change must come from INSIDE an individual, and therefore a teacher must understand how to create an environment in the classroom in which children WANT to learn, WANT to behave appropriately, and WANT to achieve.” (para. 5)

Not only must a teacher understand this for students in the classroom, but the same understandings apply for leaders about the teachers in their schools.

Now, to return to the teachers who had forgotten why they became teachers.

It was a pleasure to work with them because we began a change process that started off as some run-of the mill PD on Differentiated Instruction (DI) that is becoming a shift in school culture that will allow Differentiated Instruction to take root as a learning model in that school.

It was a pleasure because I saw angry and unmotivated teachers rediscover their passion for teaching by being allowed to have the time to talk with each other and their school leaders about their concerns and fears, but most importantly about their dreams for themselves as teachers.

At first, many of the teachers at this school did not want to learn about DI. They said it was nice in an ideal world but would never work in their classrooms. So we stopped teaching the theory and the strategies and we started to focus on the teachers. I asked them – What is it about teaching that touches your soul? And the conversation grew from there. By the end of two sessions the teachers (all but 3 who are still holding out, but their colleagues are working on them!) asked us to return to the DI workshop we had begun because they insisted it was relevant to their needs and the needs of their students.

The school’s principal fully supports the learning that her teachers need to do together and has abolished monthly staff meetings in order to allow structured time for groups of teachers to meet to talk and learn together. This support is integral. The most inspired of teachers can lose their inspiration without it. In researching this post today, I found an article that underlines this importance:

Stand and Deliver Revisited. The untold story behind the famous rise — and shameful fall — of Jaime Escalante, America’s master math teacher.

As I transition back into the classroom and into a new school community I will bring what I learned while working with this group of teachers with me. Values and passion are powerful stuff. If we can stay connected to that our schools will become powerful indeed – and imagine the students!

So, I ask you…

What is it about teaching that touches your soul?

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Conversations in edublogging


Image: Conversation by thehighschoolchick made available on flickr with a creative commons license.

Lately I have been voraciously reading and learning from different edubloggers. I am seeing my passion for authentic learning for our kids (and myself!) reflected in their posts. Here are just a few of the posts that have turned my crank in the past few days:

Connected Curriculum – Relevant Reality on Durff’s Blog

Getting Lucky and Making Change on Thinking Allowed

School Administrators are Gatekeepers on Back by the Bell

The Rules of Engagement on Notes from the Ridge

Curriculum 2.0 on MEDagogy

Failing Schools Pass Students
on TeacherJay

Important Questions about School Leader Preparation on LeaderTalk

And I’m going to include this one, which is one of mine, because I’m enjoying the conversation that is happening in the comments.

How does Technology fit with Learning? on Leading from the Heart

Thanks to all you edubloggers who help to keep my mind working and my passion strong around teaching and learning.

My wish is that the conversations continue!

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