It is my first official day of summer and I, for one, am completely exhausted, both mentally and physically. But for good reason, for a fantastically, positive reason. Our team just completed training almost 400 educators who will be receiving a class set of Chromebooks in the fall. It was a huge undertaking and we spent a lot of time, to thoughtfully plan it out.
We wanted to make sure that the training was not about the device, not about Google. We wanted it to be about the learning. This could have gone either way...
direction it took. It definitely was about the learning, but that definition of "learning" is different than what we had thought during the planning stages.
Each of our four sessions were jam packed with great information on how to use the device and programs to move students forward. They were filled with great strategies to increase student engagement and learning. One teacher attributed it to "drinking water from a fire hydrant"...and that is exactly what it was. Although people were very positive and excited about their new learning, their heads were full, their heads were spinning, they were overwhelmed. Finally, in my last session, on the last day...I had a huge "AHA" moment.
In my session, participants work in collaborative groups to complete a task. The first part of the task is to come up with a team name. I listened in as these groups were working. One particular group of principals and teachers, blew my mind. They came up with the team name "Silkworms". That in and of itself was not mind blowing...it was the conversation that took place: "I have gone through a metamorphosis in these two days. I have changed. I am a completely different teacher than I was two days ago!" OMG! Chills...tears...a flutter in my heart! That's it! THAT is the learning!
As our team debriefed, my colleagues heard similar sentiments. We talked about the "drinking from a fire hydrant" phenomena. Finally, in this last session...I realized that I kept talking about the same "philosophical" ideas...it is my hope that this is what the learning was; as it transcends any subject, any grade, any title, any position, any age......I found myself saying: "I don't care as much if they learned the strategies, the tools in my session...my hope is they took away..."
1) "The only thing constant in life is change" Although some may fear change, embrace it...it will happen with or with out you. The face of education, the face of our students is in a constant state of flux...we too must be flexible and transform with it.
2) "Our students may know more about something than we do" This could be a harsh reality for some. But it is the reality; especially when we bring technology into the mix. We need to be ok with that. In fact, I say we celebrate it! I talked about the fact that I checked my ego a long time ago and I, for one, am excited to learn from the students! When students teach, it not only solidifies their learning, it boosts their confidence. And the added bonus is, we learn something as well.
3) "Be awesome and dare greatly" We talked about the idea of "taking risks". This idea makes many uncomfortable. But...we need to take risks to change and grow. If we aren't growing...what's the point? We need to try new things. They may not all work, but if we don't try, we will never know. It is important for students to see us take risks, it is important for students to feel comfortable enough to take risks themselves. Building a climate, a culture where all feel safe to jump in and take risks is incredibly important and a game changer.
4) "Fail Forward" Whether you call it "failure", "mistake", "bump", "blip", "oops"...those moments are going to happen. How do you handle it? We have a choice...to let it take us down, or to let it propel us forward. The key of "failing forward"; is to own it and find the learning. I would go so far as to even say; share it. By sharing our stories of failing forward, we can model for others that aren't quite there yet. Talk about our "failures" and how we handled it, how we moved forward, how we learned. There is power in sharing our stories.
5) "Lean into the discomfort" With the introduction of these devices and technology, there is bound to be discomfort. I say...lean into it. Go with it, don't fight it. Push through the discomfort and you will find magic. You and your students will find learning and growth, if you just let go and go for it.
6) "Student centered learning is key" We are hoping that there will be a much needed shift in classrooms. No longer is the teacher "the keeper of all knowledge"...There is value and huge gains, if we relax on the reins and allow the students to dig in. Move from "Sage on the Stage" to "Guide on the Side". When students DO, they LEARN. Student engagement will increase, student buy-in will increase. With this autonomy, the students own their learning. The ones talking, the ones doing the work are the ones learning. Let them own it.
7) "Soft skills are as important, if not more important than content" Not only do we want to instill content knowledge in our students, we want them to be able to successfully function in the "real world". Those 4Cs (Critical thinking, Collaborating, Communicating, Creating) are some of those important skills. We need to provide opportunities and support for these in the classroom. Students need to be able to "play well with others". To adapt to new people and situations. We also need to instill the idea of "grit" and "perseverance" in our students. How will they face challenges that pop up? How will they cope? One participant said: "These skills are what students need, they will help them in life much more than knowing "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue"
8) "It's about the journey" As one group played Journey's "Don't stop believing"...it was a great reminder that learning is about the journey, the process...not necessarily about product. It is important to give time, honor and reflect on the process. This is something that students will need help and guidance on, but it is so important. This goes for adult learners as well. The hope is that as educators, we are life long learners, we are on a continuous journey.
9)"Just because something worked in the past, doesn't mean it still works now" Times are changing rapidly and we as educators need to do the same. This doesn't mean that EVERYTHING we have done before needs to go away. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. But maybe it is time to look at things differently. If there is something that we want to hold on to, let's look at how we can make small changes, to make it relevant and engaging for today's learner.
After I show this video, I ask my participants: "What would a school museum look like if you were to create one based on when you were in school?". This always brings out a lively discussion, about ditto machines, eating paste, straight rows, quiet classrooms and for some, some bad memories of rulers and closets. But it always leads into a great understanding of the idea that: Just because something worked before, doesn't mean it necessarily works now.
10) "Don't let the pendulum swing too far one way" I am afraid of what could happen as these new devices are introduced in classrooms. I am weary of two things, either they will not get used or they will get over used. I am more worried about the latter. When people say "I am going to have a paperless classroom", it causes me anxiety. There is a time, a place, a reason and research to back it up, for putting pencil/pen to paper. People need to cut with scissors and stick things with glue. They need to color with crayons, markers, colored pencils. They need to have an actual book in their hand, turn and mark the pages. I caution teachers to not completely move away from these things. Everything in moderation, an equal balance must be found.
So as teachers were incredibly positive, excited and overwhelmed about all of their learning; for me...the above are the take aways that I wanted to instill. The other things in my session, can be taught/learned at a different time, if needed. My hope is that on top of or regardless of the content of my session, the participants are now thinking differently. The hope is that seeds have at least been planted .
It is not a sprint, but a marathon. I hope that the participants are able to take small sips from the fire hydrant. Start with small changes and continue to grow and evolve.
I am very proud of the educators that we have worked with, these last two weeks. They came in with such enthusiasm and open minds! The days were filled with much positivity, learning, growing and collaboration. It was an incredibly powerful way to kick off the summer!
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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