Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Managing Expectations

Spawned out of a Twitter conversation that I thought died and then was reignited, a blog post. Thanks to John Spencer for poking a thread I thought was done.  Let’s do this!

All connected educators deal with a huge number of excellent educators in our PLNs who do great things. How do we, as educators, deal with the expectations that come out of this knowledge? That was the gist of the conversation that got reignited last night.
"Men's high jump" from Wikimedia by Marie-Lan Nguyen

Clearly, this is a place where the adage ‘Different strokes for different folks’ rules. I’m looking forward to hearing what my fellow conversators have to say about this. But my two cents? Here they are.

How do I manage the expectations of the Twitter-sphere? Or to put it better, how do I deal with expectations I have of myself because I’m connected to so many great educators? In an age where I can see into so many great classrooms, and in an age where people are hesitant to share the mess that is their collective classrooms, it is easy to beat yourself down. To set the bar to unreachable levels. Or get a serious case of FOMO about what you’re NOT doing.

So how to manage? Here’s my recipe.

  • I want to keep getting better. Always.
  • Better doesn’t always mean new. Better means improvement, not shiny.
  • I get to look into a lot of classrooms. That sets the bar high. That bar motivates me. I know that I won’t reach the best of what my friends and colleagues from all over the world do. But I know I need to be okay with that failure. The bar I set for myself is higher than any administrator could - or should - set it. It’s still the bar I want to set for myself.
  • I have some things that I believe are almost static: I believe in them strongly. Can I change them? Yes. Do I anticipate changing them? No. (More on this idea here.) My semi-static beliefs:
    • Student creation: regardless of what I am using - technology, or paper and markers - I believe that students need to be creating knowledge, not consuming knowledge. Do you need to consume some knowledge to create? Yes. Do you need to consume all the time? Or even most of the time? Heck no.
    • Curiosity rules: want to talk about rigor? The Common Core? Good, neither do I. If I can get my kids curious about something - to the point when they have questions, and iterate questions on top of answers they find - I don’t need to worry about rigor. Or the Common Core.
    • The grey area of history is the most important area: what makes history interesting ISN’T memorizing facts. Is it the story? Maybe. Is it getting to cast judgment on the past? Yeah, that’s a possibility. Is it big ideas that cut across time and subject area? Sure. Students need to be tossed into the grey areas of history with the skills to create and defend arguments. The answers they come up? Inconsequential. What matters is the why.

Additionally, we all need a place to do something that isn’t education. For me, the combination of a Fitbit plus a love of taking and editing pictures on my phone has become an extremely important balance to deal with this bar I have for myself.

Thanks to Melissa, Victoria, John, and Jeremy for the conversation.

For more reflections on this conversation, check out what John had to say.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

About That Blog You Purportedly Have...

So yeah. I haven't blogged in like forever. Or since early August. And October looks like it will be busier than September.

One reason for all of the busy is that I've enrolled in the Leading Edge Certification - Digital Educator course. As I was writing a post for next week is occurred to me that the post - and perhaps several other that I will do - made a decent blog post.

So the discussion post is below. The prompt is in italics. More cross-posting to come?

How might the pedagogy for a digital educator look different than that of a traditional brick-and-mortar teacher? In what ways might it stay the same? Does technology change the way we teach, or just enhance it?

Pedagogy looks different for a digital educator than that of a traditional teacher in a number of ways. However, I believe that the most important way is that given that information is now almost ubiquitous, learning should be almost ubiquitous as well. If we are teaching and learning digitally as professional educators, we must extend that same courtesy to our students. No longer should all students be learning the same thing at the same time for an entire year in a course. Students should have time to dive to more depth in areas they are interested in and pursue answers to questions that they create - NOT driving questions the teacher creates like PBL says to do! - and genuinely want answers to. This requires a significant letting go of control for a digital educator that a brick-and-mortar teacher may not be comfortable with.

However, kids are still learning. They still must read, write, and synthesize information. Students must still defend their beliefs and understandings about a given topic of study. But most importantly, education was, is, and always will be about relationships. All good teachers focus on relationships - they always have and always will.

For me, technology dramatically changed the way I taught. I ran a relatively progressive inquiry-based classroom for about three years. Then, everything changed: I did the MERIT program, learned for a year online with my PLN, and attended CUE Rockstar. Things are different now, not just enhanced. An infusion of technology, a dynamite PLN that lets me see into their classrooms and challenges me to be better every day, and a belief that students no longer need to all be learning the same thing all the time has dramatically shifted what my classroom looks, feels, and sounds like. I firmly believe that my classroom is evidence of the transformative aspects of technology in education.