This week, our New Tech school development coach (@edutwitt) sent out some reflection-starters to our staff. I thought I’d jot some things out, since many of them relate back to topics I’ve been writing on this year.
1. I was most proud this year when…my students took charge and moderated an interview with author producer Alex Kotlowitz. What a day of student empowerment. This is definitely a direction I’d like to venture into at least once per year. Skype has a lot of possibilities when it comes to connecting people; I’m happy to see Skype, as a brand, recognizing their value in education and providing means for more teachers to connect each other’s classrooms.
2. At the start of the year I thought…technology was a big motivator and tool for engagement but now I know… that being organized online doesn’t promote productivity for students and being plugged in at all hours of the day can be pretty dehumanizing. Authenticity has been a much better selling point than many of the new, cool, technology tools I’ve introduced this year. When there is more on the line (impressions that students will leave for local leaders or national figures), students step up to the plate. Also, I wonder if there is less wonder about using laptops/computers/gadgets now that kids are so connected. I used to think kids would access the Web at home, now I get more and more complaining about not having access to features, etc on their phones. What a mobile world we are entering…
3. If I could go back in time I would…spend more time on culture-building than on getting students seated and signed into a computer at the beginning of the year. Also, I was surprised at the number of activities that just worked better on pen and paper. Plagiarism is less rampant on assignments that require some pre-planning and thought are less rushed… I’ve been toying around with the idea of creating a project driven by the question: “Can we still identify as New Tech without the ‘tech’?” I know what my vision for our New Tech classroom was, but I’m not sure that my young group will leave this year with a shared vision for how things should have been. (What is the old saying? Never assume; it makes an….) I’m afraid that many students are focused too much on other benefits (listening to music, talking, etc) and don’t see the process or culture we try to build. While that starts with me, it also must be seeded in them somehow. I’ll be spending a lot of time this summer pondering the next steps…
4. If I could wave a magic wand for next year…I would rebuild the technical aspects of my teaching space and tools I’m using. Sometimes, it’s not a bad thing to sit in a cubicle to plow through some work; I do this (and even look forward to it) every Sunday when I go to the library. With the room setup and alternatives I have at my disposal, I still don’t feel I am providing a good space for my students who need to be distraction-free (i.e. not facing friends, not being surrounded by other tables, etc) to get even quick writing or reading done. Oh, how could I forget air conditioning? (I don’t know how a double-block class plus laptops doesn’t have some sort of air circulation…) In all seriousness, though, there are some times where I feel our space and our table setup (even the tables themselves!) aren’t conducive to giving directions, etc. While we have a big room, spreading isn’t necessarily the answer; that can make the room even louder sometimes as students who “have to”(?) talk with another group will do it any way they can. When it comes to tools, I can’t even keep track of the number of times when students wanted a paper book instead of accessing an online/electronic copy… and how many times our school resources came up short on books!
5. In addition to rest and relaxation, one thing I hope to do this summer is…write. As much time and thought as I put into posts, I certainly don’t write often enough. I’m happy to be joining the Illinois Writing Project this summer. I’ve already been jolted out of my creative writing hibernation just in the first preliminary meetings/interviews I’ve had. I saw a teachers-only fiction writing context pop up, and I hope I can put something together for that. Oh, and I want a Kindle, too, because reading for enjoyment is a term I haven’t felt connected to in a while.
Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.
~ John Locke