Monday, March 6, 2017

#IMMOOC Week 2

Innovation: Newer and Better 

A few years back my admin challenged me with coming up with ways for technology to help the ESL  and the at-risk students.   Th main concern was vocabulary development in these groups of kids. As I started researching and thinking this through it occurred to me that these students may not have the same kind of experiences as some of the other students.  My own children have traveled to 25 states and have been exposed to various types of land forms, climates, historical venues, etc.  When their teachers talk about The Battle of Gettysburg, or mountains and rock formations, they have prior knowledge to pull from.    After talking with the librarian we decided that we needed to create more experiences for all students to have them better understand what was being taught,  We were not given a budget for this and needed to work within the school day with the technology and programs we already had access to (this is our box).    What came out of this was a newer and better way to introduce students to units of study. We started taking them on virtual field trips.  Keeping the experience to just one class period we have set up trips where we took students to Pakistan and to a carpet factory so that they were better able to relate to the story of Iqbal.   We have taken them to fight in the battle of Gettysburg so that they understand the importance of the battle and of the Gettysburg Address.  We have set up museums so students were introduced to the 60s for The Outsiders novel or explored the Holocaust to prepare to read The Diary of Anne Frank.  Food and music is involved whenever appropriate to appeal to all 5 senses.  These lessons and experiences are probably one of the things I have created for my campus with the students in mind that I am most proud of.   We took the information they needed to learn and introduced it to them in an innovative way - newer and better.

Critical Questions for Educators

We have to know who our students are and how to connect with them.   The critical questions outlined in Chapter 2 are a good reference in considering who we are teaching to and how to make sure they are part of the equation.  Here are a few more questions that I might add:

  •  "What has the student been asked to do in other classes that day."  This is based on a conversation I had with a teacher who was shadowing a student for the day.  She remarked how the student was asked to do the same thing in multiple classes.  We talked about how we need to shake things up for them so that they are not in "school" mode and are more engaged in the day.   
  • "How have I designed for the edges?"  I just watched "The Myth of Average" TedxTalk by Todd Rose. (Please watch this is you have not.)    He talked about their is no such thing as an average student and we should be designing lessons for students that addressed their varying needs and interests.   I was curious what that looked like in a classroom and found another website that said it was about creating authentic learning experiences, differentiation in instruction and giving students a choice in product.  
Although the questions in the book hint towards these, I would need to ask myself these 2 questions directly. I think these questions are important to me since I have been passionate about designing different learning experiences since the 90s when I attended professional development about Multiple Intelligence and Differentiation and when I implemented these ideas I saw the engagement levels of my students increase.   

Characteristics of the Innovator's Mindset

Networking has been crucial to my development as an Instructional Technology Specialist.  Recently the 8th grade math teachers wanted me to present ideas for integrating technology into their classes.  This is an area that I have struggled with for a while since my background is in history.  I turned to social media for ideas.   I posted on twitter and on a Google+ community that I belonged to and asked for ideas.  Within a day I had enough ideas and several concrete examples that in the end I was very proud of the final product and the math teachers were happy with their training.  If I had been isolated I would have drug out the same old ideas and tried to sell them again.  Instead I was able to deliver some good ideas that have continued the conversation between us about technology integration.  In fact I agreed today to help develop a minecraft review session for them.    We are also in talks about trying out a BreakoutEdu game soon.    Opportunities that would not have existed without my network of amazing folks.


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