Friday, May 18, 2012

Given Up? Get Out!

Have you given up?  Are you at the point where you just don't see the point in doing anything differently, in learning anything more, in trying anything new?  Have you been at it for a while?  Are you comfortable with things the way they are?  Are you planning to just keep on keeping on until you can retire?

Get out of the classroom!

This may sound harsh, but I think it needs to be said.  Too many people are in the profession just hanging on until they age out of the system.  Tenure protects them.  Difficult procedures are in the way of getting them to leave by force.  So just quit.  Do all of us a favor and find something else to do with your time.  Teaching is not a profession where you have the luxury of becoming complacent.  Kids deserve better.

So, get back on your horse, or ride it into the  Don't wait those last few years.  Whose kids are you going to cheat out of a better education while you ride out the last few years on cruise control?  Not mine.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 7


**comments from the survey are not listed on the last few blogs in this series because all comments have been posted at least once in other categories.  

This category includes all kinds of fears:  fear of messing something up, fear of asking for help, fear of letting go of what you've done for years and shifting pedagogies, fear of venturing into uncharted territory professionally, and fear of students misusing the technology. 

I can't ease all of those fears, but I can offer some sound reasons why you should do whatever it takes to conquer them:
  1. Your students absolutely need you to.  I don't know if anything else is needed after that, but I'll keep going anyway.  
  2. School is the best place to experiment and learn.  If you mess something up, you learn from the mistake and Larry fixes it.  No biggie.   
  3. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Don't worry about letting go and doing things outside your comfort zone.  You have to start somewhere, and remember that everyone feels like a fool when they are learning something new.  I'll support you.
  4. It will be tremendously rewarding.  Some of the happiest and most professionally satisfied teachers I know are those who have let go and were willing to do things differently.  They find that they have much more time to spend with individual students, and that their practices are in line with their beliefs about what teaching and learning should be.  Just remember you are supported.  I'll help you get there, and it doesn't matter how long it takes.  
  5. Failure leads to success.  Don't be afraid to fail. The alternative is to continue doing what you're doing and always ask "what if?" 
  6. Your students will enjoy class more.  Kids in classrooms that use technology for all parts of the learning process report that they enjoy learning much more than those who don't.  One of the things I hear all the time from teachers who use technology is that their least engaged students tend to work harder than they've ever seen them work on "normal" activities.  
  7. Kids need a safe place to make mistakes.  Think about this one:  if students misuse technology at school, we have safeguards in place so that it is a learning opportunity.  If they make mistakes online at home, it could be MUCH worse.  What if no one ever teaches them how to leverage the power of the Internet for good?  How to stay safe?  How to be smart about what they post?  Each of those things could haunt them down the road.  School is traditionally the place where kids are taught all the things they won't likely get elsewhere.  
  8. No more "Why are we learning this?" questions.  Once you learn how to plan authentic learning using technology, kids no longer doubt the relevance of what they're doing.  
  9. Technology enables students who struggle.  Students who can't or won't do things using traditional methods often take off in astounding ways when they are allowed to use technology to express themselves.  Here's a true story to reiterate that point:  a second grade student had to write a story using her iPod touch and a note taking application.  The application allowed for the use of pictures as well as other media, along with text.  Knowing she was not a strong writer, the student (without any direction, I might add) figured out how to record her voice instead of text.  The result was the best story she had ever made by far.  She had dialogue, characters, and told the story with wonderful expression.  When the teacher showed the story to the little girl's mom, she had tears in her eyes.  Powerful stuff.  
  10. It is the ultimate differentiator.  Technology allows students to do things in different ways, at different times, and to different degrees without anyone else knowing a thing.  It allows your students to each be challenged to explore and create, applying what they have learned in different ways, without the scrutiny of classmates like in a normal room in which everyone is doing the same things at the same time. 
That's just a start.  I can give you a reason for any excuse.  Try me!  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 6

No Computer Lab Teacher

It would be great to have a computer lab teacher in each building.  This person would teach skills in context with projects being done in class, or would create other projects to highlight necessary computer and Internet skills.  There would be extra planning time available as a result, and kids would have a more consistent base of basic knowledge moving forward.  We could even be sure to teach the required Internet safety skills, so that all students got a consistent message about staying safe online and having good digital citizenship.

But, even if we had such a position in every building, it would still be the classroom teachers' job to model the appropriate use of technology tools in class.  It wouldn't give you a free pass to leave technology out of your classroom, lessons, and projects because the students were getting it somewhere else.  This is something we all need to be doing.  

Imagine this scenario:  a scientist discovers something that will benefit the entire human race-something huge.  This one discovery could benefit the world, making it possible to solve problems we never could before.  In fact, this one discovery would make lots of things possible that never were before.  But instead of sharing his discovery with anyone, he takes the discovery with him to the grave.  No one benefits.  What a tragedy! 

Here is a fact:  experts estimate that 97% of all human knowledge is available for free online.  We're talking all human knowledge; everything we've ever learned, everything our ancestors have ever learned, and it's safe to say anything we will learn in the near future will go directly to digital print and world-wide availability.  Plus, it is increasingly easy to find this information, and even to have it taught to you through free courses from the likes of Harvard and MIT.  F-R-E-E.  This is a huge event in human history.  Yet, the majority of classrooms operate as if digital tools don't exist, ignoring the possibilities and opportunities they provide.  This is also a tragedy.     

Pretending (or even behaving without the intention to pretend) that it hasn't happened, that nothing has changed, that it doesn't exist, is a mistake in much the same way as the fictional scientist scenario.  Just as the scientist has a moral obligation to share his discovery with the world, teachers have an obligation to show students how to leverage the power of modern technologies for lifelong learning.  

Anyone who says they want their students to be lifelong learners, but doesn't show them how to use modern tools to learn anything, any time, anywhere is not being honest with themselves.  

The Internet can be the very thing that helps you to reach your ultimate goal for students.  Why would you continue to teach as if it doesn't exist?