I just finished watching the YouTube Live session for #IMMOOC Week 5. I was struck by the part of the conversation (around minute 35:00) where Tom Murray talks about the popularity of conference sessions with titles like “50 Apps in 50 Minutes.” Murray notes that the 50 Apps session is “jam packed, down the hallway,” while one person shows up to the innovative pedagogy session next door.
I just saw the exact same scenario at CUE 2018. The CUE conference itself is totally worthwhile and inspiring, but the many of the most popular sessions don’t exactly involve a lot of reflection. After attending one of those tech tools sessions, I heard teachers saying, “See, that’s my kind of session. I can use this when I get back on Monday.” It reminds me of back in the old days, when I first started teaching, because I used to love it when a presenter gave me a packet full of handouts I could use right away. My new teacher self thought like this: “Well, they let that lady present and she said it was good, so…” Basically, I didn’t have to think about how or why I might use the new materials or ideas.
When it comes to professional learning involving tech, we teachers are probably more susceptible to falling into the same trap as I did as a new teacher. We are educators, not technologists. Many of us tend to trust the experts and consultants who tell us which new glittery tool to use. I’m guilty of it myself! I love new tech tools. I think it is fun to learn about them and fun to try out with kids. But, the problem is I sometimes don’t have a true purpose for using the tech—other than it is fun and, yeah, fun. I am still trying to figure out a way to use Google ‘s AutoDraw. So cool! But is it worth the limited time I have with my seventh grade English students?
Professional learning that involves inquiry, reflection, self-assessment, and sharing with colleagues is much much much harder to do. It takes time. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable and take risks. It takes an acceptance that learning is messy–for students and for teachers. No wonder the 50 Tech Tools session is full.
How Will I Move Forward?
Keep Blogging. For this #IMMOOC I reread George Couros’s book with a new lens: Because I had to blog about it, I was forced to add to the conversation. The first time I read Couros’s book, I highlighted, annotated, and thought, “Wow, that is a good idea,” and then, “I should try that!” When I reread the book for this MOOC, I was forced to think, “How can I really try that in my teaching or at my school,” and then, “What questions do I really have about this. How can I build on what the author is saying?”
I always knew blogging was a good idea for learners, but it never occurred to me that blogging can enhance learning because it forces you to interact with a text in front of an audience. In other words, I can interact with a text by myself and that is good. I can highlight, underline, and write marginalia. The difference here is that through blogging I feel like I am having a discussion with the author and other readers. That can happen on Twitter too, but the stakes are higher in a full-length blog.
Have a Purpose in Mind. As of this moment, I solemnly swear to think carefully about the tech tools I will use in my teaching. The goal is not to go paperless—even though everyone who works with me knows I hate paper. The goal is not to keep students busy—even though that sounds rather peaceful. Instead, I will consider how the tech tool enhances or improves teaching and learning.
Before introducing a new tech tool, I can ask—
- Does the new tool facilitate collaboration?
- Does it promote connectivity or provide the opportunity for an authentic audience?
- Does it give students a voice in the larger conversation?
- Does it allow for creativity and choice?
- Will it make for a more efficient workflow so my students and I can spend more time learning?
I’m not looking for a “yes” answer to all of those questions, and I am probably missing something, but that will be a good place to start.
Embrace an Open Culture. I’ve always felt drawn to this side of education. Like I said in my #IMMOOC blog post for week 4, we are all in this for the students. The more we share, the better it is for them. Otherwise, we might as well work in another field. Yes, teaching is a job and most of us need the money, but that is not why we went into education. We became educators because we love learning.
I like the idea of being completely transparent about one’s practice in education. However, as was discussed in the YouTube Live session for this week, it is hard to be publicly vulnerable. People want to believe teachers and administrators know what they are doing! To use an analogy, I don’t think I’d want to read a blog about my doctor’s failures and what she learned from them.
The solution for me is to use my blog as a jumping off point for things I want to try. It is not an open laundry list of my every day challenges in the classroom. That would probably be an invasion of my students’ privacies, as well as an invitation for them to transfer out of my class. Instead, my idea is to blog about the goals of a current project or a new strategy I am working on. And, if I feel like something went well, I can offer those materials or ideas up for others to experiment with.
All teachers borrow from each other—whether we want to admit it or not. In fact, I’ve heard some people say that creativity happens when you connect a new idea to an old one.
All teachers borrow from each other—whether we want to admit it or not. In fact, I’ve heard some people say that creativity happens when you connect a new idea to an old one. If we are open about our teaching, imagine the creative leaps we will make.
This is the first MOOC I’ve actually finished, even though I have signed up for and started quite a few. I appreciate how this MOOC had many entry points and choices: Live YouTube sessions with backchannels for discussion, Facebook Chats, Twitter Chats, the choice between 3 different books, and prompts for bloggers. There was something for everyone. This served as a nice model for the ways blended learning could work in many of our classrooms.