Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reflections on the Innovator's Mindset and George Couros's PD Presentation

My mind is still processing all of the ideas and challenges presented by George Couros during our most recent institute day this past Friday. After this day of professional development, I feel revitalized, encouraged, and motivated to stretch my teaching muscles and rethink how I incite learning in my classroom. Technology has opened a world of opportunity for us as learners, but as Uncle Ben quips in Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility."

When technology is implemented effectively, and when it is not merely a replacement for paper or a required element of a lesson, technology can help both students and teachers to gain access to information, demonstrate knowledge in unique ways, and communicate with authentic audiences. The ability to share information is infinite as students become not only consumers but creators of ideas as well.

Here are my takeaways:

What does this mean for my classroom?

During Couros's presentation, he asked us to think about whether we would want to be a student in our classrooms. This question is a compelling one to consider and should be considered every day. Are there days when we need to use direct instruction to disseminate knowledge? Absolutely. At the same time, this question made me think about how I vary instruction, differentiate, and promote student engagement each day. Students, like technology, are always evolving. As new groups enter my classroom, so too I must change, and this requires careful reflection, observations of my current students, and daily adaptations to deliver the best instructional experiences to my students as possible.

What do I do on day one?

Rethinking one's classroom does not mean scrapping every lesson plan or assignment that one has ever included in the classroom. The purpose of this speaker's message was simply to challenge us to think about the "how" students will acquire and demonstrate knowledge and consider "why" we choose certain modalities to learn content in our classrooms. The biggest immediate takeaway I have is to make sure that I am empowering my students to take ownership of their learning. How that ownership will manifest will varies from class to class, but it is an important first step in ensuring my students are active learners and innovative thinkers.

As I have been reflecting, I have a few learning activities that I want to consider:

  1. Using blogger or edublogs to publicize student writing and create more authentic audiences for students. I have dabbled with portfolios for my Speech courses, but I want to be more intentional and specific with encouraging students of all levels to write for real audiences. Students should have opportunities to share their work on a larger stage (Even if that is simply creating private blogs for our class only. It is important to start somewhere!). 
  2. Teaching students to explicitly write emails and write for online audiences in a variety of contexts. Students certainly need instruction in this area of writing and are doing this type of writing all the time without the skills and foresight as to how what they post will reflect upon them as individuals and creators of content. 
  3. Addressing digital footprints, professional presences online, and how to network. These are real skills that students will need to possess in the future. Being aware of online presences can help students to promote their best selves and showcase talents. A positive digital presence can lead to job opportunities and connections that they may never have imagined. 
  4. Providing students with more choice in demonstrating knowledge, differentiate pacing for students (especially at the lower level), and vary assessments. Students can learn a great deal from assessments and projects that are not necessarily multiple choice. Videos, different forms of writing, visual representations, podcasts, websites, etc. can showcase student knowledge and provide memorable and meaningful experiences for students. 
  5. Showcasing educational wins and success of my students. Using Twitter, blogging, Instagram, and other platforms (even Snapchat) can allow me to focus on the positives, highlighted exceptional students, demonstrate student growth, share successful instructional experiences, and demonstrate how exciting learning can be. The use of these platforms also allows me to connect to other inspiring educators and utilize the knowledge of my colleagues to make my students' experiences in my classroom better! This type of connectivity is game-changing and an important part of the learning process for both my students and me. 

What effect will assuming an innovator's mindset have on my students?

Couros shared many video clips that highlighted the power of innovation on students. His examples reminded me that relationships matter, and when we encourage our students and foster strong ties, amazing results will occur. As the video below highlights, access to technology and enriching experiences can not only allow a small child to hear his mother, but it can open all students' minds to greater educational opportunities.

Tweets by @Steph_SMac