Thursday, March 5, 2015

Essential Components of a 21st Century Classroom

What are the essential components of a 21st Century Classroom?  That is a presentation I was recently asked to put together for an interview - and I though I would share it for week 9 of the #youredustory blog challenge.

The slide deck is shown below - and my script was just a template...but I think you will understand my ideas.  I will put in a "DING" when you should change slides - like when we used to have books on record that would read to us as kids (now I guess I may be dating myself).

Here goes...

What do I believe a 21st century classroom or school looks like?  (DING!)

To me the goal of education in our century is to embrace technology beyond the simple use of tools, and work toward personalizing education for our students.  Never before have we had the tools at our disposal to make personalized learning a possibility for our students, so we must work toward that goal.  When I first saw this task I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to put this presentation together - and I got to work right away.  (DING!)

I didn't turn to Google for the answer like I may have done 3 years ago.  (DING!)

Instead, I turned to my PLC - my peers and colleges on Twitter, Google+ and Voxer.  Of course I have an idea of what I think a 21st century classroom looks like - but I am no longer in the classroom - so who am I to decide for our classroom teachers what their classroom should look and work like day to day?  (DING!)

My first step was to put together a Google Doc and share it publicly (with editing rights) to ~100 or so of my PLC via Google+ and Twitter.  I only left the doc open for 4 hours - and in that time I had 24 people offer their opinion and help with my question.  (DING!)



These were real educators from real schools -  they gave me information than I could not have found on Google with days of research.  I had principals, teachers, tech tosas, a director of technology, innovation leaders and even one of our own librarians sending me input on the 21st century classroom.  So I want you all to know that everything I say here today is not just me - because I do not come alone - I have many people willing to help with the push of some buttons!  (DING!)

You see, to me, the first and most important quality of a 21st century classroom is collaboration.  My first response to this task was to collaborate with people I know, people who have been in this longer than me, have seen things work or fail, people who are willing to share their knowledge and experience - just as I would have if someone emailed, tweeted or called me.  So when I need help to move our district forward I will always gain as much information as possible...and social media allows me to do that in a better and more efficient way.  (DING!)

I want to introduce you to Logan LaPlante - a 14 year old from Lake Tahoe who has started a new type of schooling - hackschooling.  (DING!)


(DING!)

I think we have many Logans in our district that are looking for ways to be creative and change their education.  I don’t want technology to be something that gets in the way of the enthusiasm of these students.  So what do we need in our district to create a classroom for Logan...  (DING!)

The 21st century classroom needs a teacher who is comfortable using technology - but also will allow their students to use the tools and devices they are familiar with, but the teacher may not know.  A 21st century classroom needs a teacher that is a lead learner - not a lead explainer.  (DING!)

Like the slide says - using technology successfully in the classroom is a Mindset, not a skill set.  Technology is constantly changing and teachers need to guide and teach their students but also be willing to learn alongside or even from them.  (DING!)

Of course any 21st century classroom will need to have the 4 c’s.  Even if you take the Common Core out of it, I believe the 4 C’s will play a critical role in the future of our students.  I have already talked about how important I feel collaboration is - so lets talk about critical thinking.  As we change our classrooms from 20th to 21st century classrooms, students will learn in new ways - through inquiry, projects, building, making and play.  Learning in this way does not allow a student to “Google” the answer or look in the back of the book.  They have to understand the problem and find a solution.  Students will be forced to think critically each day in a 21st century classroom!  (DING!)

Communication is a key for the classroom of tomorrow - students will need to be able to explain their thinking and describe how they came up with their solution to a problem. This is not to impress the teacher or to get a passing grade - they need to communicate to others within their classroom and across the world in order to share their knowledge with other students. This may come in a 140 character tweet or a 1400 word blog post - either way, our 21st century student will need to communicate.  (DING!)

And finally comes the creativity.  I tend to look at creativity as innovation.  Can a student take an issue and find a new way to solve the problem?  We no longer want to create a student that can find the right answer and bubble an answer sheet - we want students who can find multiple ways to answer a problem and give you the pros and cons of each.  (DING!)

So you may be saying to yourself that I have described a lot about a 21st century classroom - but I have not mentioned what devices or equipment I expect to see in one.  That is on purpose.  I strongly believe the device does not matter.  (DING!)

We can put an iPad or a Chromebook in the hands of a student - and most of them would rather have their cell phone.  (DING!)

We can take a class to a state of the art computer lab to research and write about Martin Luther King - but many would just assume we increase the bandwidth so they can use their tablet.  The device doesn’t matter - we need to build a robust network and allow teachers and students to find their best way to learn, create and explore.  (DING!)

The first iPad was released in April 2010.  (DING!)

The first chromebook shipped in June 2011 but didn’t make it to our district until 1 year ago...and now we have almost 4500!  (DING!)

I can’t predict the next iPad or Chromebook - but I can guess that when our kindergarten students walk across the stage at graduation they will think that the phone in our pocket looks and feels like a brick and they won’t know how we used to use those things!  Technology changes way too fast - all we can do is plan for what we think we need 5 years from now and adjust that target when needed!  (DING!)

The last thing a successful 21st century classroom needs is for the district to offer quality professional development to all of our staff.  That includes teachers, classified, admin and district office personnel.  We can no longer buy something and put it in the classroom and walk away.  There is study after study about how that does not work - and we don’t need to read any research...we can look at our own district.  Without proper training, any money spent on technology is wasted.  The edtech side of our technology team is a great start to what we need for our staff - but we need to allow them to create and train our users with best practices that have proven to be effective.  Anything we plan for and buy will not be effective without proper PD.  (DING!)

I want to leave you with this short video clip of a 4th grade girl…  (DING!)


(DING!)

Lets not be the district that is stuck at the top and is scared to go down the jump.  Like she said at the end - It’s just the suspense at the top for the first time that freaks you out.  Lets not be freaked out by technology - lets make the jump and move this district forward!  (DING!)

Here is the Slide Deck that goes with the narrative above:


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why a Teacher?

Week 8 of the #youredustory blog challenge brings the question "What was the defining moment you decided to be a teacher?"  To me this is an interesting question because I can not think back to one moment - it was more like a series of events.

My mom was a teacher - she retired three years ago - so I grew up with a high school math teacher as a my mother.  I would always be one of the first kids dropped off at school since my mom's school started early and we didn't have anyone else to help out.  She was also the cheer adviser for a long time so I remember going to practices, games and competitions - and even now I know more cheers than I think a grown man should know!

But I don't think anything my mom did made me decide to become an educator - in fact, as a kid I wanted to be a lawyer or chiropractor.  I didn't decide to become a teacher until my third year in college.  I was a Biology major, so I was in classes with all of the pre-med students and the competition was fierce.  I held my own, but I realized then that I did not want to spend another 4 years in school with that type of student.  So I started looking in to the teaching program.

Nice farmer's tan!
At that point I started to think back to my grade school teachers and a few stood out.  There was Mr. Huff in 4th grade who made me "try-out" for the basketball team (I played ever year after and ended up as a high school coach for several years) - I don't really remember him in the classroom, but I loved that he pushed me to do more outside of class.  And many of my high school teachers - Mr. Simpson, Mr. Barbour, Mr. Booth and Mr. Webster.  The first three were also my coaches - basketball and football respectively.  And Mr. Webster was my favorite science teacher (and I eventually became a science teacher).

I can't point back to one moment in time when I said to myself that I was going to become a teacher - but with so many caring educators who took the time to teach me, coach me and mold me in to the person I am today I found my path.  Sometimes I think about all the students that I had pass through my classroom and I wonder what type of seed I may have planted for them?  Hopefully one day they will sit back and think that I had a positive impact on their future - though I may never know!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why I Do What I Do

Week 7 of the #youredustory challenge - "People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it" Simon Sinek - Why do you do what you do?

As a technology coordinator I do what I do now for the teachers and the students.  I work to keep things working in our district so when a teacher has an awesome idea for a project - the technology won't be in the way...instead it will help make their work easier.


I do what I do so that when a student wants to use a device to get their work done and needs technology to do it, they can.  I would love to see a device in everyone's hand, and I do what I do to try to make that happen.

It isn't very glorious day to day - but when you see what you have done "behind the scenes" working without people knowing it in the classroom each day - it makes it all worth it!

I've always said that the technology department can never win - we the tech works, people don't think about it...but if it doesn't work it is your fault.  So I do what I do each to so teachers, students and admin don't have to think about it!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How do you connect?

Week 6 of the #youredustory challenge brings a topic I have worked on personally over the past 3-4 years.  The prompt is "What is connected learning and WIIFM?"  Now honestly, I saw this and my first thought was - what in the world is WIIFM?  I thought maybe it was a game of some sort, you know, because of WII.  But upon further investigation I found that is stands for "What's In It For Me?"

If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I was a connected educator I would have told you yes!  I met with colleges, went to district PD (even days I didn't have to attend) and I was part of a science grant that gave me a larger group for my "connected-ness".   So yes, I thought I was connected and doing a great job.  Or was I?

In 2011 I started using Twitter (it took me a year or so to realize the power of  Twitter) and I realized I was able to connect with people around the country from my computer.  I started following other science teachers and sharing ideas, getting new lessons and discovering what others were doing in their classrooms.  Now I was connected for sure!  Or was I?

Someone introduced me to Google+ and truthfully it was not my favorite to start.  It took some time for me to find the power of G+, but once I found the communities I fell in love.  I was able to reach out to more educators who had my exact same interests, questions and passion.  We could share links, pics and ideas.  Finally - I was a connected educator!  Or was I?

Conferences - now that's the ticket!  To be connected I had to meet these people face to face and really get to know them.  I attended my local CUE event and went to annual CUE.  I became an #edcamp junkie.  I had FOMO (fear of missing out) and started signing up for webinars left and right.  I felt like I had to learn everything and be able to share what I learned with everyone.  I became a #GCT and went to Google this past summer!  So now I felt like I was connected - part of the secret family after all these years.  Or was I?

Voxer, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram - new ways to connect!  I'll spare you the details, but they are not the silver bullet either.

None of those things singularly are what makes me a connected educator.  A connected educator is someone who can find what they need when they need it.  They share what they have learned so others can learn with them.  Being connected isn't done through a website, an app or in a conference room - it is all of those things put together.  I don't like to think of WIIFM when being connected, I like to believe in the #bettertogether concept so we can all do awesome things.

So yes, get on Twitter, Google+, Voxer, attend conferences and watch webinars - but don't do it to "be connected", do it to be a better educator for the students in your room, at your school or in your district.  Being connected is no longer something we can put off...it is a necessity for all educators (teachers, admin, counselors, coordinators, directors, superintendents) if we want to make our schools the best place for our students.



What is Learning?

I am 2 weeks late on this post - only 1 month in to the #youredustory challenge and I have fallen two weeks behind?!  The prompt for the week was "Define 'learning' in 100 words or less" and honestly, I was having a difficult time with putting together a post for this one.

Reading through other blogs that week I was inspired to do something great.  I loved the way people put their ideas together in different ways.  I kept thinking that I needed to do something similar, but I never found the time to make it great. 

So here goes - the down and dirty of what I believe learning is in 100 words (or probably less):

Learning is a process - something that starts on your first day of life and ends on your last. As children we soak up everything we can, from watching our parents, siblings and friends to hearing things in books, TV, playing games or (nowadays) in an app or on a computer.  The best way to learn is to practice, and with practice comes failure - but with perseverance comes success...and that process from failure to success is where we learn.

Only 76 words and two weeks late, but I think you get the point.  We learn through experience and failure - it may be by our selves, with a teacher or in a group - but we have to try things in order to learn things.  So, what have you failed at today?