Saturday, March 10, 2018

#IMMOOC Week 2: Critical Conditions to Support Learning & Innovation

Empower (John Spencer & AJ Juliani) #EmpowerBook
Suggested Reading: Chapters 1-3

Oh where does the time go in a week! Gotta 💖 early Saturday morning with a quiet house, pup snuggled next to me on the couch, and reflecting on all things education. Deep breath ... here we go! (Gotta man a Girl Scout Cookie Booth in a bit!)
“Student choice is the heartbeat of ownership and empowerment.” Respond to that statement and describe how you are honoring that statement.

Now, more than even, we need to work with students on make choices. As with everything in education, we need to remember our "WHY" - it's the students! When I join a teacher in a lesson, I see students differently than the classroom teacher. I have that luxury. With that in mind, I see students struggling to actually MAKE choices. In the Week 1 podcast of the YouTube discussion, I was reminded that WE have conditioned the kids to rely on us to tell them what to do. WE need to help them learn how to make choices --- the only way to do that is to GIVE them choices. 

Probably the most powerful example I can offer is from working with 4th graders right before Christmas break. For fun, I showed them Eric Curts blog post 12 Days of TechmasI gave them the opportunity to pick any of the 6 Googley Winter Activities They literally sat there and stared at me. I prompted them, "Which one are you going to do?" One girl piped up & said, "The one you tell us to." I smiled and said, "No. YOU get to pick. Which one looks like fun? Scroll through ... read a little bit and decide on one you'd like to try. And guess what? If you don't like it, try a different one. There's NO right answer." 

Deep breath. Jump in. And once they realized I was being serious, they jumped in. And had fun! And can I tell you ... I worked with a small group of these same kids just this week (more than 2 months later) and one student showed me how he was STILL loving the Pixel Art Ornament activity so much that he was continuing to create new drawings. The teacher of another class I had shown these activities to asked me to help her created a Google Sheet so her students could create a book cover in this fashion. So I created "Pixelated Book Covers" for her. [See my blog post about it ... HERE

Now, let's be honest. These kinds of activities may not appear to be super "academic", but think about it for a minute. They were:

  • CREATING a [substitute the project "de jour"]
  • CRITICAL THINKING about how to make their project
  • USING all the tools in the app
  • COLLABORATING w/others if or when they needed help
  • DECIDING about what to use or how to lay it out or the colors/borders/font/size/etc
and ultimately 
  • COMMUNICATING their finish product 
The ultimate way our students have choice is WHO to share it with.  With Google, it's simple ... click the share button and as long as you have email addresses, students can learn appropriate sharing with each other, the teachers, their parents, and the world. As a parent, I often think how wonderful it would be to open my email with the sharing of one of my daughter's work at school. They haven't even come home from school and they are sharing their work with me. AMAZING!

How do you embrace technology as a way to “open up a world of learning opportunities and then give our students the chance to own those opportunities?”
Technology is my "thing". I love it. And I am extremely lucky to be able to have that be the focus of my job. I love partnering with teachers to take their excellence in math, or science, or ELA, or history, or music, or art, or whatever ... and use the tech we have to add a layer of "AWESOMENESS". When our district went 1:1 a handful of years ago, my eyes were opened to the possibilities with tech. I finally felt like I could truly empower my students to start guiding their own learning. 

We use Chromebooks - so the ChromeVox was hands down a.m.a.z.i.n.g. --- I could empower ALL my students to listen to what they needed (or wanted) to hear.

With Schoology - I could assign what each student needed to have. AND I could build out a folder with additional resources they could visit as THEY felt they needed to in order to best guide their learning. As I came across resources or activities, I would simply add them in. If students found something, they could share it with me & I could continue to build. 

With Google - I could work with students on collaboration and allow them to work together in ways that I know they will need for years to come. The communication and creativity is completely AMPED UP! I was super tickled to think they could write, draw, erase, enlarge, shrink, add, subtract, modify, recolor ... whatever ... UNLIMITED amounts of times! 

With digital textbooks - the additional capabilities opened new worlds for us. While we do not have a population of Spanish speakers ... yet ... our entire textbook could be Spanish with a click of a button! And it would read to us! For 7th & 8th graders learning history, this was MIND-BLOWING! FINALLY ... audio books for textbooks! It was AWESOME!

With Quizlet - I helped students make the decision on how to best help themselves learn content. I always provided a baseline (I didn't want anything to prevent them from achieving) but at the same time, we had conversation after conversation about how do YOU learn best. If Quizlet didn't work, we discussed why & tried something else. If that didn't work, re-evaluate, discuss, and try again. They were the center --- they held the power --- they made the choices --- they took control. 

With ALL of this, I was not THE CENTER of the class anymore. I turned it over to my kids. I handed THEM the reigns. I said "Here, YOU can do this. I'll be here - you aren't alone - but YOU are in control." 

And the BEST part? I learned from them. They taught me. They proved to me they WANT it. All I had to do was support them, and every so often, give them a little push to remember THEY have the power. 

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