Friday, June 2, 2017

A Digital Road Well Traveled

As I begin to enjoy another summer and reflect on another school year ( my 26th year in the classroom ) I think of my students and the last group that I would be looping with. I've had this group for two years in my 2nd -3rd grade bilingual class and the digital learning continues to amaze me. I've had two other groups before this one but this group has harnessed the power of what it means to learn in a "digital learning environment". 

They have surpassed my expectations by being fearless in their learning. I found myself designing lessons deeper and more purposeful than with any other group. These bilingual students challenged me to be innovative and have high expectations about the projects they were to create. Each year the learning seems to be more streamlined with their knowledge of all things digital. The things they created on their iPads and chrome books was simply amazing. When I asked them to organize their google drive for the end of the year so that they could be ready for 4th, it was so rewarding to see that their confidence and ability to perform certain tasks was easy. Not only did they organize their drive but some were helping others not as savvy as other classmates. Is this not the culture we aspire as educators to create in our classrooms, a culture that drives instruction, empowers learning and cultivates an environment of trust and innovative thinking? It is all in the pedagogy and how these tools foster a level of engagement that is both relevant and purposeful. The impact of having these devices for two years has been a huge transformation in teaching and learning. It will change the culture in your classroom and students will benefit greatly. 

The impact has been so big that next year will be a breeze and they will need to be challenged in a different way. So what more can they learn? What impact will they have on other students in their grade level who have not had this kind of experience? My hope is that they will lead others with more courage and a thirst for innovation! Being confident and purposeful with their knowledge can help make a road well traveled. I pray that their road next year will be traveled with new friends who will have the same opportunities as they have had these past two years, that they continue to be fearless and create their own digital footprint. Its not just about the device but how this tool helps them to be confident in their learning and be proud of all they have accomplished these past two years. It is their story and I am confident that their digital roads will be well traveled from this point on. Next year, I begin my 28th year with a new group of 2nd graders. I wonder what kind of digital roads will be created? I have experts that I can call upon two hallways down. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

8 Things To Look For In Today's Classroom

Last summer, my campus participated in a book study that focused on creating an "Innovator's Mindset". This book was my anchor to how I was going to lead my students in my 3rd grade bilingual class. I have been an educator for 26 years and have had the pleasure of meeting George first hand during a summer technology conference. I continue to search for ways to empower my students, unleash their talent and lead them in a culture of creativity. For these are +George Couros thoughts and words that encourage and challenge educators to explore the "Innovator's Mindset". 

My book has notes from the beginning to the very last page, highlights of my favorite quotes and experiences that I have experienced myself in my years of teaching. When I began redesigning my own classroom, my number one thing was to change the "culture" of my classroom. Allowing for students to make learning go "viral" was key to empowering their learning. George mentions 8 things that educators can bring into their classrooms to begin the transformation. Giving students voice and choice has been easy for me because I have established a level of trust with my students. Redesigning my classroom has led to this kind of learning and level of trust. I have allowed for collaboration to be the center of all learning that requires a sense of autonomy amongst one another. They love working with each other, giving each other feedback when working on a special project. I hear their conversations and they are filled with "meaning and purpose". If you know anything about bilingual children or any language learner, they are shy and do not like to speak in front of others. It is part of their culture but that's quickly becoming a thing of the past! They have a VOICE.

George challenges us to think about those things that we feel continue to be obstacles in our classrooms. For me the two things that have been challenging are teaching students how to be "critical thinkers and time for reflection". Teaching students to ask those questions that will allow them to explore on a more deeper level is challenging and time consuming. I have learned that working with small groups at a time, has given me the opportunity to teach them how to ask better questions, for I must do better at asking those same kind of questions, continuously having a "growth mindset" perspective around my colleagues and leaders in my district. 

For the last several weeks, my campus has participated in "genius hour". Every Friday at the end of the day for about an hour, our entire campus shuts down and allows for students to explore their "genius" whatever that may be. It is still new to students and staff but I have already seen the effects it has had on my students. From baking, to rock collecting to making a movie trailer of the basics of playing soccer, "genius hour" has given my students VOICE and CHOICE that they are making a difference in the world starting with our very own campus. They have inspired other students in other grade levels to make their own movie trailers and share their learning with the world! 

In George's last chapter he talks about getting there, are we there yet....well these 3rd grade bilingual students have shown this veteran teacher what "real learning" looks like when given the opportunities they so deserve. One of my favorite quotes George uses is this, " if you want to see the effectiveness of an educator, you do not look at what the teacher is doing but at the learners whom she serves". Thank you +George Couros for your words of wisdom, encouragement to lead with passion and an Innovator's Mindset. Please take the opportunity to join educators and leaders from across the globe each Sunday evening for the live session on YouTube as we continue our learning of the Innovator's Mindset. We are all better together.