Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Me, An Innovator?

I just finished "The Innovator's Mindset" by George Couros (@gcouros). I am not going to treat this post as a review of the book, maybe that will be at a later date. For now, I really want to focus on one of the discussion questions George posed at the end of the last chapter: "What is one thing that you are going to try immediately to help move closer to a new vision for learning?"

I really like this question for several reasons: One, it asks what is the ONE thing that you can try. This is perfect for me because I have a bad habit of trying too many new things in my class that I never feel like I come close to "mastering" any of them. The second reason I love this question is the word immediately. Again, I usually spend too much time thinking about ways to change my class. I will weigh the pros and cons before deciding on whether it is a go. The bad part of this? By the time I make a decision, I feel like a "new, better version" of something comes along that I want to try.

The focus of this post is on the last word in the above question: learning. I love the word because it does not specify whose learning we are talking about. As I usually view things, I saw it as the learning going on my classroom. The learning going on for everyone in the class. Including myself. What change am I willing to make to help improve the learning for both my students and myself?

Well, this week we began having all 6th through 8th grade students create their own blog through Google Blogger. I am seeing these blogs being used for the students as a place to display their learning and thinking. I am hoping they use if for more than just math. I want them to use this space to display the cool things they try: making videos, podcasts, powerpoints, or just plain writing. The students seemed genuinely excited about setting them up.

I am hoping our students use these platforms as a digital portfolio when they begin to decide where they want to go to high school. I hope they use these portfolios as a symbol of the work and dedication they put into their learning while at our school.

I will be learning more about upgrading my blog right along with them. I am working hard at creating a blog that really reflects my educational beliefs. This is a work in progress, since I really saw a blog as some place to write. George's book really opened up my eyes to the different ways I can use my blog. I am hoping to add these new elements over the next couple of months.

Thank you, George, for creating something that will resonate with a lot of educators. I hope we help to accelerate the learning as we share how impactful this book was to us, and ultimately, our students.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pushing Boundaries

There comes a point in your career when you begin to feel that something needs to change. You begin to slightly resent the mundane things in your routine. You try to challenge yourself to push past this, but you find it hard to let go of that feeling. Why am I not excited about going back? Why am not really looking forward to the school year starting? I was really struggling with these questions as the summer drew to a close.

It was then that I realized I needed to push myself out of my comfort level. I needed to do this to get the excitement back. I needed to do this for my students. If I could force myself to make this change, I would be a better teacher for my students.

Sometime late in the summer, I made the decision to implement a rather innovative (for me) idea. I am asking my students to create something to demonstrate their learning each marking period. I no longer want them to be consumers of knowledge in my class. I want them to be able to take the information and create something new as a result. In doing this, I am hoping to unleash the creativity in my students. By doing this, I am hopeful that my students look at innovative ways to demonstrate their understanding of concepts.

I am really concentrating on this one addition this year. I have a bad habit of getting so caught up in the latest fad, app, or program that I end up trying too many things. Forcing myself to focus on this one activity each marking period will help simplify things a bit. Do I expect this to be easy? Absolutely not. Will there be bumps in the road? Yes. But for me, focusing on this one change was enough to get the juices flowing again. I hope it does the same for my students.