This morning, I was reflecting on all the opportunities I have had to learn. I am sure I made some good choices, bad choices, and some that were just choices. This year, I have spent time learning from students and amazing professionals in my district, on Twitter, and at conferences. There were opportunities to learn in all these situations. My realization is the choices I make and the mindset I have, leads to what I learn.
Everyday my students strive to teach me all day long. My question is... Am I taking advantage of all the opportunities they are offering? Or am I too busy teaching to realize I need to listen. Sometimes, I need to let them have the lead. I need to talk less and empower them to learn? (Burkins & Yaris) Just as John Michael Montgomery sings in the video, Life is a Dance. Teaching and leading is also a DANCE and WE need to learn as we go. Sometimes we need to lead and sometimes we need to follow.
As I started the IMMOOC journey, I remember George Couros saying you will get out of this what you put into it. I think this applies to all our learning opportunities. Teaching (and leading) is a dance and we learn as we go.
Today, I am trying out a blog challenge with gifs to share with you some of the bloggers that have impacted me on this #IMMOOC2 journey. I had no idea how to go about this until I read Tara Martin's blog, Story Power, and was in awe of how her gifs told her story so well.
When you start on a new adventure it can be a bit scary...
On this learning adventure, I hoped I would find more colleagues that share the same passions because collaboration, relationships, and empowerment are so important to growth.
I met Vicki Den Ouden, through her blog about curiosity. I am a bit of a "word nerd" (her term) so I connected with her blog tying the words curious, care, and cure together. If you are intrigued you can read more by clicking on her name above.
Dora DeBoer and Alex Lianne Carter caught my attention with their blog Empowering Language Learners with Technology. They share some innovative ways technology empowers their students. Technology and Language Learners have been a huge part of my teaching and learning this year. Some of my experiences can be found in the blog I collaborated on with Tina Abbott, IT Director from Newnan, Georgia.
Through IMMOOC a lot of information has been shared, but I have learned from what George Couros states in his book, The Innovator's Mindset, that less is more. We need to focus on quality over quantity.
Buddy Blog inspired by Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Tina Abbott, IT Director from Newnan, Georgia, and April Padalino, Title 1 Literacy Intervention Specialist from Green Bay, Wisconsin, have paired up to share experiences infusing technology to enhance learning.
While thinking about focusing on powerful learning first, technology second, George writes in The Innovator’s Mindset, “Technology is for empowering kids to find their own answers and launch their own learning.”
Yes! That said, technology is not the point in learning. We shouldn’t “do” technology just for the sake of saying we use technology in the classroom. But technology can provide learners with opportunities to deepen their learning in ways that would not be possible without technology. It can empower them to learn and release them from complete dependency on a teacher. That is a great thing! (After all, one day they will be out of school.)
This graphic has been hanging on the wall in our Makerspace all year (many thanks to creator, Bill Ferriter - @PlugUsIn) and it was fun to see it appear in The Innovator’s Mindset. It shows the positive effects technology can facilitate. Here are a few examples of those “Right Answers” we have experienced in our schools.
Sharing an issue through a blog or social media has far greater reach than just hanging posters or making an announcement at assembly.
Blogging and sharing through social media also invites feedback and conversation from a larger audience than just the classroom. While friends in the classroom sometimes limit their feedback to compliments and congratulations, external feedback may include more constructive criticism from which learners can gow. Occasionally, feedback may be negative. It can be a great experience for learners, with guidance, to learn how to handle negative feedback, when and how to respond, and how to divert the conversation back to the positive. Better to learn with guidance from a wise teacher than to face that in the real world, alone.
Find answers (to their questions)
We had a middle school learner take an afterschool program on 3D printing and design last spring. It ignited a fire in him! He has spent the last year scouring YouTube and Instructables to learn more and more about the subject. His enthusiasm has gotten other friends involved. They are creating a game and 3D printing the game pieces. Collaboration! Engineering! Design! Creativity! All self-taught and self-motivated.
Our kids have partnered with video pen pals in Palestine, India, and Costa Rica. After the first couple of video exchanges, the kids became very comfortable, friendly, and open with each other. They shared ideas, discussed books, and collaborated on designs across the globe! One of the most valuable things they learned through this process, impossible without technology, is that they have more “alikeness” than differences with their global partners. That has positive implications galore.
A few learners wanted to use vlogs to share about and discuss books. Working with the Technology Integration Specialist we came up with a way they could use the Schoology app on their iPads. The learners used this to show accountability, review and reflect on their own reading, and share with others about books. In the example vlog, we were totally surprised by the animation and expression we witnessed. This example makes me think about when George states, “students who have never felt comfortable speaking up in class may now feel free to share their voices through a different medium, such as videos, blogs, or podcasts.” Without technology, this girl may not have found her voice, which changed her mind and broadened her opportunities for expression. It likely also changed the minds of her classmates and teachers, in terms of how they viewed her (more confident, more expressive) after that.
Make a difference
Technology can be used as a tool to empower English Language Learners (ELLs) to read, write, listen, and speak in English. A couple of examples include using Book Creator and Google Translator. Book Creator allowed educators and learners the ability to create needed vocabulary and phrase books to support communication at school. Once started, the kids took over the books to make them their own. (In the actual e-books a speaker icon is next to each word or phrase so the kids can hear them in English) In order for them to participate in collaboration and develop relationships, Google Translator was taught to all the kids in the class. It also made a difference for our ELLs by allowing them to read and complete assignments.
Our district has been implementing personalized learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) frameworks. It has been made clear that this does not mean to only use technology. It does mean technology is a tool we can offer learners for use or use for instruction. As it states in the Innovator’s Mindset, “we should be trying to understand the opportunities it can provide for each individual.” Learners are empowered by having responsibility for their learning and how they want to learn. By offering opportunities to deepen their learning and explore their passions, technology helps empower them to take action.
In an effort to drive engagement in daily reading, we decided to explore some new ways to let kids share their reading. We found learners like having the choice of Booksnapping to annotate text using Book Creator. It gives them an opportunity to share what they know about what they read and empower them to use their thinking voice while they read.
After attending the district’s Creation Days PD and learning about app smashing with the book creator comics, we decided to try it out ourselves and then teach the kids. It has helped them understand (and enjoy) retelling stories. Example
We need to use whatever tools will work best for each learner. Can innovation happen without technology? Absolutely! We can name numerous examples of that, and maybe we will in another blog post. But innovation can also happen with technology, so let’s include technology in our toolkit where appropriate. From The Innovator’s Mindset, “Technology gives us the power to accelerate, amplify, and even recreate learning.” And that is a beautiful thing.
Some additional websites to support learning
Booksnaps - Snapping for Learning Tara Martin
Book Creator - Comics Tutorial
How to create a Vlog for students April Padalino
Sample Book Snap by a student to annotate an article
LevelUpVillage.com for ways to implement global partnerships
Chapter 8 from the Innovator's Mindset helped me to reflect on my learners who are often referred to as struggling readers. It made me think about how even the reference to students as struggling readers is not focusing on their strengths. Students who are not reading yet or are not yet at the expectations still have strengths. By stretching the strengths of our learners, they have the opportunity to build confidence, grow as a learner, and discover learning can be fun. By helping them develop a growth mindset they are able to persevere through content that is more difficult.
When I look at the screening assessments, I look for strengths so I know what learners can build on. We also refer to our reading support as STARS (Students and Teachers Achieving Reading Success). I see them as Learners working with me toward success. This year I have also been looking for ways to empower students to take charge of their learning and have started to see pockets of this happening.
The same can be said when working with adults. It is important to build on strengths and show people the way to growth. George Couros states in his book " Focusing on individuals' strengths that contribute to the vision of the school helps to move us from pockets of innovation to a culture where innovation flourishes." I can see this happening in our district. We have been offered opportunities three times this year to share what we are passionate about through a workshop model of professional development. We are given the choice how to best spend our time on those days by presenting, attending, collaborating, reflecting, or a combination of these. While working on the new strategic plan the district asked the staff the question, "If you could create a school, what would it look like?" I have to say it was nice to be asked. Our district appears to be working toward creating a culture of innovation. I am looking forward to where it will lead.
This blog was inspired by a prompt from #IMMOOC2 in reference to classroom teacher vs school teacher.
When classroom teacher vs. school teacher was first discussed in the Innovator's Mindset, I was wondering what everyone was talking about. As I read, listened, Tweeted etc., I then started to watch and listen at my school. I realized we have a building of school teachers. I noticed this as I watched teachers interact with learners all over the building. At Howard Elementary, we have embraced the idea "They are all our children."
One interaction happened that sparked my thinking. My friend and ELL teacher, had observed one of the learners I work with when she was supporting in a classroom. I am not sure she knew at the time, but I had noticed a change in his disposition and was working on trying to change his attitude for a while. She made a point of letting him know what a wonderful book talk he had shared with his class. He beamed from ear to ear. Another day, I heard her say I can't wait to hear you share again Friday. Again, he beamed. When I pointed out to her what I have been learning and that she was a great example of a school teacher, she beamed. This helped the idea of school teacher vs classroom teacher come to life for me.
In the Innovator's Mindset, when George Couros describes school teachers he states, " School teachers consider every student in the school their own, no matter if that child is in their grade or subject at the time." They build relationships with all of them and consider supervision an opportunity to get to know other students. School teachers share their ideas with others freely. I believe I lean more toward being a school teacher enjoying all the students in the school and thrive on sharing ideas with others. Going forward, I will definitely be more intentional about what I say and share with ALL learners in our building. I have witnessed what a little positive reinforcement can do for empowering others, no matter the age.
.Who's Doing the Work is the name of the book written by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris. I have not yet had the time to read their book, but was fortunate enough to sit in on their presentation at the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA) Conference. They shared ideas and prompts to help empower students to take ownership of their learning. It fit perfectly with my professional goal.
In the process of seeking out more information, I looked to Twitter and liked minded individuals. This eventually led me to #IMMOOC2. As I was reading about the 8 characteristics of an innovator's mindset, the problem finder / solver characteristic fit right in with my focus of empowering students. I especially like the statement "Guide on the Side." It was not long ago that I changed my position working with students so I was not across the table, but next to them. One student asked, "Why are you sitting next to me now?" I replied, "I want you to lead your learning and I am just here to help you." My thinking was across the table was a more authoritative position and I wanted to be more of a facilitator. I also offered them the choice of using a computer chair similar to the one I use. I think in order for them to lead their learning they need to see themselves as teachers. They need the freedom within fences to safely explore what they need and get to know themselves.
In the book, Innovator's Mindset, George Couros states it is essential that we learn when to step in and when to step aside... This statement resonated with me. Many days, I feel like I am in a dance with my students. I have to know when to lead and when to step back and let them lead. I am balancing modeling with releasing.
Some of my students are getting so good at knowing what they need, I actually have said, "Who is the teacher in this room?" They giggle and continue to tell me what they think should be next.
Since the WSRA Conference, I wear my bracelet reminder and regularly ask myself "Who's Doing the Work?" It is not easy to stay quiet and wait, but the rewards gained are worth the wait. This is definitely something new for my students and I, but we are finding our way together.
It was not all that long ago that the district I was working in was implementing a new program. The plan was to roll it out over three years. Kindergarten and first grades would be first, followed by second and finally third. In the first year of the implementation, for each grade level, the teachers were apprehensive. So many new initiatives have been introduced, throughout many of their careers, and only last for a time and then disappeared. What would be different about this one? Change is hard and takes time. They were already feeling the pressures of time and workload and were not welcoming anything that would demand more.
At the time I was one of the facilitators of this change and worked closely with a trainer for the program. One thing that resonated with me, from the beginning, was that trainer was not really a trainer she was a coach. She worked alongside us and guiding us bit by bit. She used the gradual release of responsibility model and her mantra was “Get Started and Get Better.” That became the motto we followed throughout the implementation.
As with all change there is resistance. I had been piloting this program, in my classroom, prior to the implementation using only a dvd as my guide. The original teacher’s manuals were difficult to follow, but with time and effort I found pockets of quality instruction laid out in the pages. Even with the very rough start I saw my students growing. I used this knowledge, of the positives in this program, as well as the relationships with teachers in the trenches to get people on board.
The implementation went well overall. We hit bumps across our journey, but we kept the focus on “Getting Started and Getting Better.” In my mind, staying where we were was not an option. I have always believed the #KidsDeserveIt.
The amazing thing was most of the teachers ended up loving the program. They saw significant student growth and fewer students needing intervention. What I have realized, over the years, is that it was not just the program that made such a huge difference. There are many programs with the content that was being shared. The difference was the coaching, professional support, collaboration, and lab site opportunities. The knowledge teachers had about the components of reading, word study, and writing had been elevated to a new level. There were structures in place to train new teachers, each year, to maintain the quality of instruction students were receiving. It was the PEOPLE making the difference. The program was only the catalyst. The structure it provided guided us through to what made a difference. But what made the difference was the people working together for one common goal with a safe environment that gave permission to take it slow and make mistakes.
My point is not that we should put programs in place, but that we need to work together to bring about change. At the time I was going through motions set in place for me. I chose to embrace it and make it the best it could be. It was not until recently, working in a new district, learning from my PLN’s that I realized the true value of that experience.
We were failing forward, providing safe environments, and giving teachers permission to make mistakes as they learn.
Getting started with #IMMOOC 2 is pushing me out of my comfort zone by asking me to blog. I want to grow so I need that push. I will be Getting Started and Getting Better. I will be making mistakes and the process will be messy. I am looking forward to how much I will grow and can not wait to continue to explore, wonder, and create with my PLN in order to model the Innovator’s Mindset for my students.
April Padalino and Cyndi Dull
We are educational coaches with a passion for learning and empowering students, parents, and educators to Bring Education to Life.