We made a huge leap today in my school with the administrative team (as in tech director, headmaster, and me) deciding that it’s time to place a Chromebook in the hands of every one of our students in the middle school. That means that any student will have access to the Internet, Google apps for Ed, and all of our digital programming moving forward. While not a true 1:1 environment, students will pick up their device in the morning and utilize it throughout the day with teacher direction. We will now have the means to be intentional with our tech integration – helping kids learn to act with integrity online while discovering the educational value of a connected device.
However, we will remain focused that the goal here is access to information, not simply tech usage. Students will be able to research faster and connect to each other quicker. Laptops will continue to be a supplement, not a principle tool, to learning. Our commitment to intelligent dialogue and hands-on learning will not waiver.
Can you tell I’m a bit excited?
Just heard the keynote speaker for the Campus Leadership Academy. Steve Dembo from Discovery Education did a fantastic job. There were even screaming goats!
I am taking a course with the PLP Network called “Educational Leadership in the Digital Age.” I have been through a year-long program with PLP, and I have gained so much in the way I approach my own learning and that of my students. Though I am an educator who very much enjoys the opportunity to inspire my students, the PLP program (called the Connected Learner Experience) I participated in sent my excitement for teaching into overdrive. The PLP program strives to give educators new tools to develop themselves as learners first, encouraging us to rethink our own job descriptions. Rather than become a knowledge delivery service, we search for ways to inspire our students to do more with their knowledge and abilities. As Will Richardson, a founding member of the program, says: “It’s not about what you know, but about what you do with what you know." If your school is looking for a way to take educators into the next century as connected learners, I highly suggest this program.
But now that I have marketed the heck out of the PLP program (you’re welcome), I want to speak about what I am learning right now. After just one week, the instructor has me stretching my way of thinking so that I can mold my leadership position to be one of constant learning. As a new administrator, I come to my role with many ideas, and wonderful models to reference as I build a community and empower the faculty with whom I will work. But there is a bigger, greater mission. I want everyone in the building I direct to want to do more. I want them to do greater things than they imagined. I believe it can be done. Here is a "6-Word Story” I created to describe my thought:
Yes, so the sentence is hijacked from the recent reboot of Star Trek. The admiral tells James Kirk, then just a farm boy from Iowa, that his father saved countless individuals in the few moments he was a ship’s captain (prior to that ship being destroyed). He dares Kirk to do better than his father.
The image is one of the Battleship Texas and the San Jacinto monument, surrounded in a mist of low fog. I saw this picture, and I thought about science meeting engineering, about the known world and what potentially lies behind the fog. I see the strength of man rising above the unknown in a tower to overlook the world around her. This picture tells the story of how we built great things to overcome that which we do not know. We had to do more with the little we understood to open the next door.
As educators, we must inspire others (namely our students) to do more. But I think there is more to this. I think we need our students to know that we have NO IDEA what this challenge entails. In other words, I feel like we need to empower our students to search for what “better” really is…for each one of them. Our job as educators is not to provide them with knowledge, but discover what to do with this knowledge. We need to grant them the gift of self-discovery and possibility.
I dare you to do better.
As I build my curriculum at the micro-level (in other words, in building one lesson), I am starting to pay very close attention to how I can use the TPACK model in my curriculum development. As an outcome to this effort, I have built a self-guided, team-exploring effort for students to follow in my math classroom surrounding percents, decimals, and fractions. While this concept doesn’t exist in class everyday, I think that this project gets pretty close:
On many days the students come into the classroom, open an iPad to find the lesson presented for the day on Prezi. The presentation guides them through a number of “I wonder” questions at the beginning of the lesson. These questions (which they must complete as a team and turn in a report on them before moving on) focus on concepts with which I want the students to enter the lesson. I want them to leave this slide with their brains ready for the new material.
The next slides are all about exploration. Sometimes this exploration is results in a basic try these problems as a team concept; however, I often try to find ways to continue the “I wonder” idea about the lesson, either using some directed instruction followed by questions about that instruction (it’s up the students to invest in the questions).
Another piece of the lesson (to finish unpacking the concept), is an online discussion that the students can initiate in class and must continue in the afternoon via comment.
As a reflective note, I have found that “free-reign” for research and learning is difficult to manage and supervise. So a guided wondering is the goal! I have created discussions via Schoology to increase intra-class communication after school lets out. It works pretty well!
My next area of development is to have the students begin to blog about their experiences and to communicate with other classrooms about what they have learned. Any suggestions or invitations would be greatly appreciated!
Should you be interested in how I build these Prezi “zooms”, here is the link to one I created last week: