"The powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse."
- Walt Whitman
The last section of George Couros's book asks the reader to make the innovator's mindset a reality by creating a culture that encourages innovation. To this end, the readers must take action. He sets forth a series of questions reflecting on 5 key elements set up in the first sections of the book. These elements are essential for unleashing the talent of the individuals in our classrooms and schools. This is what the book is leading up to. Not some magic one size fits all solution. It's the insight to create the solutions that are right for your situation. George has frames the argument, it's our turn to fill in the canvas. If you haven't answered these questions for yourself, you haven't really "finished" the book. Below are my answers to these questions as they relate to my classroom practice.
Strengths - Based Leadership
Do I know and build upon the strengths of those I serve?
At the beginning of the year, I have students complete a personal learning preference document. I use this guide to help determine the needs of learners in my classroom. This PLP is a document that students come back to a few times over the course to reflect and revise on. But, as a teacher, I do not use it enough to inform my instruction to individuals. In addition, the reflection piece could be much stronger. Right now, students simply revise their document and provide an example encountered in class for each learning preference. I think it would be more powerful for students to be able to use these strengths to advocate for new paths or options that I have not already laid out for them. Our student population is highly compliant and may not know what new paths they can forge.
My challenge will be make purposeful use of student personal learning preferences in terms of learner reflection after a unit of instruction and advocacy as we enter a unit of instruction. I will look for ways to guide this process before implementation in the fall of 2016.
Powerful Learning First, Technology Second
Are we embracing new (and better) opportunities for learning, and making decisions based on supporting these new realities?
Powerful learning is learning that is personal. I like to look at personal learning through the lens of UDL. Technology in the classroom provides the ability to create multiple modes of access, engagement, and expression. My current classroom has a class set of iPads. This fall, all students at our high school will be 1:1 with Chromebooks. In addition, our district has Canvas as an LMS. Over the summer, I will need to become more familiar with Chromebooks. Google has an educator device training on Chromebooks which I plan to complete before the fall. In addition, I hope to address the elements of UBD in the following ways:
- Pear Deck will still be the main vehicle for large group instruction.
- Curate video and web content resources on Canvas for increased modes for student access to content.
- Create a list of reputable physics resource sites for students when doing research.
- Pear Deck will still be a primary way to engage with content during instruction.
- Canvas will host practice problem sets but also I need to find the best way to create paper copies for students who prefer them.
- Design a space in classroom for teacher guided work on practice problems.
- Create design thinking challenges using LittleBits for hands-on experiences with physics content and skills.
- Find resources for additional practice problems if students desire them.
- Design a menu of possible options students can use for expression. Construct a menu of current iPad apps with the products they can make.
- Explore different apps/websites students can use on their Chromebooks to create videos, screencasts, voice recordings, and graphic-rich documents. Basically hunt creation sites/apps for students.
- Refine rubric for presentation of content and skills in products. Make language in rubric student friendly.
Less is More
What are the few powerful areas that we are focused on?
In my classroom, there are three key areas we are focused on. Those are physics content objectives, science skills, and personal success skills. These are the “what” of our classroom. So we have three district areas we want students to grow in.
How might we align our resources to support ongoing learning and development in these areas?
The ultimate goal for me is that students be able to understand the objectives and skills from their perspective. I want them to be able to monitor their progress towards mastery of these objectives. That will require the standards and skills to be clearly defined for each student. They will need to be expresses in student friendly language. Also, the different levels of competency for each outcome must be clearly defined so learners can determine where they are in the process of achieving mastery.
The focus on personal success skills cannot be taken lightly. There are so many different skills that some consider as essential success skills. I look to frame the course around an agreed upon and manageable set. I will need to determine how these can be measured and how students will be given feedback on them. I need to refine the ultimate “why” of this to get student buy-in. This will be a big one for me.
It is my hope to ultimately design the student portfolio around these objectives and skills. But, I really need to reflect on if the portfolio should be a learning portfolio or a showcase portfolio. Perhaps a learning portfolio for skills and objective as we progress through the term and a showcase portfolio for personal success skills at the end of the course providing artifacts as evidence for specific success skills. I’ll have to remember that idea.
Embracing an Open Culture
How do we share openly and regularly to further own learning and development?
One goal for student as creators is to have their products designed for an authentic audience. The ultimate product is a public product. I really need to explore what avenues we have to share these products with the public without just dumping them on the internet without any promotion. I think one place to start is with parents. I would like to have more open sharing of student products with parents. As far as other audiences, I’m not sure. It may depend on the product. I know there are community members who may be interested in viewing and providing feedback on learner products, but I need to make those connections. If these products are part of a student portfolio, perhaps it should be refined so that it is something that would be part of a potential future application. The showcase portfolio would consist of products strictly for a public audience and would demonstrate skills that any audience would find valuable.
In the project creation process, I need to improve on the process of drafts and revision. The process of sharing these drafts with peers will allow for feedback and improvement of the product. Also, the ability to see another product could lead other learners to be pushed in their creations. I think competitive collaboration is a great term that could work in the feedback and revision process when done among peers. For this process to be successful, though, the rubric for evaluation must be clear and written in student-friendly language.
Creating Meaningful Learning Experiences for Educators
Do our professional learning opportunities mirror the learning we want to create for our students?
In August, my high school will be running it’s two day leadership academy in which we frame the initiatives for the year and design action plans which include planning our professional development for the school year. I expect to be a part of framing and guiding our personalized learning plan for the 2016-17 school year. Each teacher drafted a personal learning action plan to be put into place in their classroom for the 2016-17 school year. I hope to help design PD which will do the following:
- Decide what it means to personalize learning at our high school. We need to redefine what the goal is for educators in terms of personalizing the learning in their classroom at our school.
- Allow staff to frame the “why” and “what” of their actions plans in order to make the plan meaningful not just another thing they have to check off.
- Allow staff to share the implementation of their action plans with others in terms of risks taken, successes, and failures.
- Allow staff to reflect on their action plans and revise them.
The answers to theses questions will act as a guide for my personalized PD this summer. I may have answered these questions once. But, these are the questions I will need to continue to ask myself as I move forward with each iteration. I will need to practice reflection and self assessment. I will need to be able to embrace risk as we implement these new models. Each iteration will be new, but is it better? Is it an innovation?
This is what great PD books do. They don't end on the final page. The end of the book marks the beginning of your work. Your journey to reflect, create, and communicate.
I look forward to seeing how I implement some of these ideas into my practice this year.
- Making learners creators
- Rethinking implementation of digital portfolios
- Creating a community of sharing and reflection
I may have finished reading the book. But, the book is not done with me.