Where I work we started our year by thinking about this golden circle from Simon Sinek’s work that describe what great organizations do. In great organizations, there is a strong focus on the WHY we do what we do, not just HOW we do it, or WHAT we do. So in my school district we are asking ourselves...what is our why? What is our moral imperative as educators? It took me a bit of thinking as I ran down a list of possibilities. What I settled on, my reason for getting out of bed every morning was “EMPOWERING LEARNERS” - I want this to be my bottom line.
So what do empowered learners look like? In my opinion these are some of the things that empowered learners do. Yes this sounds a lot like what we talk about when we mention 21st century skills. So then we might ask...if those are the kinds of graduates we’d like to see, then what does that look like in primary school, in intermediate, and secondary school? What does that look like for teachers?
I have to tell you - that very often I feel like a first responder in classrooms. Teachers call me in because they know that technology could play a part in making their teaching better. They know it excites and engages (and there is a word that needs a lot of unpacking doesn’t it?) their kids.
BUT what is NOT always present in the classroom is that culture conducive to empowered learners...that ambient culture as John Seely Brown would say....that supports these things that empowered learners do.
I would argue that technology in elementary school is that wonderful element that allows us to focus on empowering our students. To take those wonderfully curious and excited students that come to us in kindergarten and KEEP them engaged.
I would make the case that if we keep our WHY focused on empowering our learners, then our HOW and WHAT becomes all about setting up rich environments for learning and by environment I mean that in a social, emotional, cognitive and physical sense. Then, technology fits seemlessly and invisibly into that picture as a means to an end, rather than the end in itself.
start with what you have 1 to 1 would be awesome but I make do with what we have - what that means for most of our elementary classes is one computer in the classroom, sometimes an LCD projector (just over half of the time) wireless network that allows teachers and students to bring in their own devices try to encourage teachers not to ban the computers that are in their pockets focus on those whys - eg if you about learning how to learn collaboratively then 1:3 might be just great reassuring people that you can do a lot with the one computer in your classroom
So getting back to the WHY - I’m going to show you some of the things that I’ve been supporting teachers in learning in my school board
But before I do that I need to share some of the context around the HOWS we are asking our teachers to use in Ontario. On the wiki I shared some of the monographs that our Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat has produced to help us with our professional learning province wide. We feel that one the most effective ways that teachers learn is by using collaborative inquiry - we teacher explore together, over time, and directly related to classroom practice...and actually this inquiry happens primarily in the classroom. We do this through school-based PLCs and also through release time for teachers to co-create lessons, teach, observe and then later debrief together and revise lessons - somewhat like the Japanese lesson study method. The inquiry is usually related directly back to SIPs.
What I’d like to show you are some of the ways that I support teachers in choosing technology that meets those pedagogy goals for sure, but also in ways that promote student voice, authentic tasks and learning how to learn. For the teachers I work with, the learning seems to be around using the technology for capturing learning, collaboration, differentiation and construction of artifacts that document learning, not just for assessment - but for going deeper and having a more recursive process of inquiry in the classroom.
In Ontario our media literacy curriculum in elementary is embedded into our Language Arts documents and involve students as both consumers and creators of media. - that’s from grades 1 - 8. Digital storytelling has been a really powerful way for students to express themselves and I’ve been organizing a Digifest - a digital storytelling festival - and we are having our 5th annual this year. 7 classes of gifted students from grade 4 - 8 create production pieces around themes and then we gather at Erin for a the world premier evolution of process along with teachers - knew nothing and then 4 years later - integrated projects with lots of depth. check them out at brendasherry.com student voice, planning and execution and learning that comes out of production teams has been awesome - this year we are extending our audience to character ed projects that will be used throughout the board and beyond
Voicethread is one of those tools that I love to share with teachers because it has its roots in having conversations, so it lends itself well to authentic audiences, to descriptive feedback and to accountable talk. Royan Lee - democratize his classroom - not just the cool kids talking teacher modeling great feedback means 24 teachers not just one empowering - great focus on the WHY - had mostly seen it used for posting work and then folks having Kevin Jarrett - inquiry focused voicethread starting with student questions - then inviting experts in to answer their questions
Combining Blogging with Global projects -iearn.org -explain the project -our Countries around the world project -our insects unit -integrated literacy project - authentic audience - parents commenting
Idea Hive Heather Durnin from Ontario and Clarence Fischer from Manitoba are two teachers using google docs to help students get connected - 2 classes met online, created some community with some trust building and getting to know you activities and then began a book study of - Book Thief didn’t stop there...they then created this document - a field guide to Molching, the fictional town where the story took place and published it on lulu.com they shared it with the book’s author - not sure how he would take it...but he loved it and skyped in especially for them.
MyHero - another great project for late elementary that allows teachers and kids to explore the questions - What is a Hero? kids select and tell a story about one of their own heroes (written or film) and it gets posted to the web
- free on the web - - environmental inquiry - OISE knowledge building folks - one of my next projects will be to work with a school who is implementing this and finding how technology might enhance their work
Iste lead conf 2012
ISTE Leadership Conference October 2012 brendasherry.comThe Golden Circle - Simon Sinek
Empowered Learners...• know how to learn (by themselves and with others)• monitor their learning (plan, do, reflect)• have a voice• take action to make the world a better place