Thursday, January 2, 2014

Educators Have BIG Buts



Are you a Teacher, Principal, IT Director, Superintendent?  Do you have a BIG BUT when it comes to  technology, flipped classroom and other innovative advances in education?

Make a New Year's resolution to shed those unsightly BUTs!



BUT my lectures are brilliant! Why would I ever change the way I teach? 

Kick that lecture but out the door for the New Year!  Your lectures just might be more riveting than the best TED Talk but if the way you are teaching now requires students to sit passively while you disseminate information with the intent of having them regurgitate it back to you on a test…. please stop now!  

Students need to be actively engaged in their own learning.  Students need you to empower them to be masters of their own learning.  Students need to learn how to learn if they are going to be successful in college and in their future careers. 


AND…. if your lectures are that brilliant why not share them with the world by flipping your class?  Seriously!  I know several teachers who are riveting lecturers.  These teachers really should record their lectures so that their knowledge can be shared with more students than the ones lucky enough to be in their classes.  (Learn how to easily record your lectures with Google Hangouts On Air HERE)



BUT I need to be teaching "to the test" so my students will perform well on standardized tests.

Thom Markham addresses this issue better than I can in his article, Inquiry Learning Vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist?
If you’re a teacher in tune with the needs of your students, you sense the disconnect between the curriculum and reality. You’d like the freedom to respond more directly to student needs, but standardized information and testing remains a barrier to innovative teaching. 
Education’s core task is to prepare young people to generate new ideas, filter them through a net of critical analysis and reflection, and move the ideas through a design process to create a quality product, either as an idea or a material object. Students need information, facts, and specific knowledge for a successful outcome.


The "teaching to the test" mentality didn't work too well for Atlanta schools caught up in a massive cheating scandal nor has it worked well for other districts caught in the same desperation to improve test scores for fear of not meeting AYP or other measures invented by politicians who have never set foot in a classroom as to whether a school is "successful".




BUT not all of my students have access to technology.

Not all of your students have access to a computer or the Internet at home so there is absolutely no way you could possibly flip your classroom or integrate technology into your lessons.  

Really?? 

Way back when I was in school we didn't have computers or the Internet.  We had encyclopedias.  But not everyone had a set of encyclopedias in their homes.  Did that ever stop our teachers from requiring that we use them?  Heck no!  So why are we allowing it to stop us now?  

Here are just a few alternatives schools can offer for students without a computer/Internet:
  • Check laptops out overnight. Students can access free wifi from McDonald's, Starbucks, etc.
  • Expand the hours at your school library so students can work on projects before and after school.  Provide busing (similar to busing for athletics) so students can take advantage of extended hours.
  • Work with your local YMCA and/or Boys and Girls Clubs to provide access to computers/Internet.
  • Encourage students to use their public library.
Ultimately you have to also take into account that if your students can find a way to be on Facebook and Twitter they can find a way to complete your tech savvy assignments as well.





BUT I don't have time.

Time. Perhaps the number one excuse for not doing something different.  

I don't have time to learn all this new technology.

I don't have time to teach what I need to teach and use technology.

I don't have time to flip my lessons.

Guess what?  You don't have time NOT to change.


The investment of time in learning new technologies like Google Drive, Doctopus, Goobric, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Flipped Classroom, etc will save you a tremendous amount of time in the long run.  You will scold yourself for not getting with the program sooner.



BUT I don't want to look dumb.

"I don't want to incorporate new technologies into my classroom until I am an expert at using them or I will look dumb in front of my students, colleagues, administrators."

Technology changes too fast for you to take the time to be an expert.  Jump in with both feet!  Turn your classroom into a learning environment for you and your students.  Let the kids teach you!  Let the kids see that it is ok to not know how to do something but still be willing to learn.  Teach them through example that it is ok to fail as long as you keep trying.  It's the only way to really learn and develop the skills needed to be a life long learner.  An added bonus is that you boost your student's self esteem and build solid, supportive relationships within your classroom as you all learn together.

BUT my students are too dumb. (Yes.  I actually had a teacher in a packed room during one of my Flipped Classroom sessions say this…out loud…in front of everyone)

First, if this is what you are thinking, please, GET OUT OF EDUCATION!  Every day your attitude, even if unspoken, is being absorbed by the students you encounter.  They are internalizing your negative messages and will eventually begin to believe they are too dumb to learn as well.

Have you ever empowered your students to feel confident enough to be masters of their own learning?  Are you judging a fish by how well it can climb a tree?  Are you providing differentiated learning that goes beyond giving one student a whole worksheet to complete and another student just the odd problems on the same worksheet? Have you made learning in your classroom rewindable for those kids who need to hear your lesson several times before the "get it"?  They don't want to look dumb any more than you.






BUT my administrators/parents don't understand.

Yup.  I hear you.  But I'd rather be misunderstood than hurt the children in my classroom.

When I was a kid in school, math was pure torture for me.  I had the teacher who would walk through how to do a new math concept on the chalkboard and then have us open our books to an intimidating page of problems for us to work out on our own in complete silence while she sat at her desk.  I made the mistake once of asking the teacher for help because I didn't understand how to complete the work.  After she yelled and berated me in front of the whole class for not listening while she had explained it on the chalkboard I sat down, felt stupid, and NEVER asked a question again.  To this day I am terrified when I enter a math classroom or have to do anything remotely math related.

When I became a teacher I vowed never to make any of my students feel like I felt.  I actually taught math when I was a 6th grade teacher but I taught it the way I wish I had been taught.  Lots of hands on learning, engaging activities, laughter and trust.  Use of the textbook was a strict no no.  My kids scores each year were off the charts yet I received the worst evaluation of my 22 year career from my principal who actually said, "A math class should have students in their seats with there books open and you at the board".  Guess what?  I didn't change the way I was teaching even with that bad evaluation.  Why? Because I'm not going to hurt children in my classroom the way I was hurt.  'Nuf said.



BUT if I learn this [insert technology here] now it will change and I'll just have to learn something else new later.

Heaven forbid you should ever learn something new!  

What if the students in your classroom said the same thing to you about what you are teaching in your classroom? 

Aren't we as teachers supposed to set an example for life long learning? 

Personally, I feel as if my day has been wasted if I haven't learned something new no matter how big or small.



I get it. Change isn't easy and educators are some of the most resistant to change.  Here are some exam­ples of how edu­ca­tion has been very resis­tant to change: (Rethink­ing Edu­ca­tion in the Age of Tech­nol­ogy by Collins and Halver­son (pg. 30))


  • From a principal’s pub­li­ca­tion in 1815: “Stu­dents today depend on paper too much.  They don’t know how to write on a slate with­out get­ting chalk dust all over them­selves.  They can’t clean a slate prop­erly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”
  • From the jour­nal of the National Asso­ci­a­tion of Teach­ers, 1907: “Stu­dents today depend too much upon ink.  They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pen­cil.  Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”
  • From Rural Amer­i­can Teacher, 1928: “Stu­dents today depend upon store bought ink.  They don’t know how to make their own.  When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the set­tle­ment.  This is a sad com­men­tary on mod­ern education.”
  • From Fed­eral Teach­ers, 1950: “Ball­point pens will be the ruin of edu­ca­tion in our coun­try.  Stu­dents use these devices and then throw them away.  The Amer­i­can val­ues of thrift and fru­gal­ity are being dis­carded.  Busi­nesses and banks will never allow such expen­sive luxuries.”

 wrote a wonderful post encouraging educators to innovate and excel or face extinction. Below is an excerpt from that post that I hope will help you to kick those BUTs and move forward in the new year.
We need to accept and face the following facts:
  • Technology is here to stay. We must embrace it, not fight it. It is a useful tool that can help reach our students in a way that is meaningful to them (which is all that matters). There are a variety of different tech tools and software that actually makes teaching and learning more engaging.
  • Learning is collaborative now. Students can work together productively and still learn skills without just cheating.
  • Being a teacher no longer means standing in a room in front of rows of students lecturing for a 40 minutes
  • Homework every night doesn’t always promote learning; it should be purposeful and that purpose transparent.
  • Worksheets and textbooks aren’t the only activities and sources for your class content and work time
  • Social media is not your enemy – it is here. We have an obligation to teach our students to use these networking mediums appropriately
  • Learning doesn’t necessarily have to happen in the classroom – Blended classrooms offer students opportunities to learn on their own at their own pace online.
  • Teachers serve as facilitators now – we are still authorities in our subject matter, but we must also be technology specialists and communication connoisseurs – modelers of skills, practitioners, content and research curators
  • A quiet classroom is not necessarily a productive one – noisy can be productive too
  • Testing isn’t the only way to gather data and all tests are not the same or appropriate
  • Project based learning offers students the opportunity to practice skills and synthesize data
  • Choice is an essential and necessary part of learning
  • Teachers don’t know everything and they should be allowed to admit it, model it and then get answers by asking or searching on their phones and/or laptops.
  • Sometimes students can teach us – especially when it comes to technology
  • Flipping a classroom offers a teacher opportunity to work with students on specific needs
  • Differentiation and scaffolding is a necessary part of learning in a least restrictive environment
  • Traditional number or letter grades shouldn’t be a means of classroom management and don’t tell us anything about what a student know. Standards based feedback that is specific and immediate will provide opportunity for real growth.
  • Teacher education and evaluation must be improved to support teachers become excellent educational facilitators – Admin must work with teachers to support these changes. We all need more training, constantly

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