Caroline Haebig is the 2012 International Society for Technology in Education Outstanding Young Educator. She participated in the recent online virtual forum Creating a Culture of Learning, which was held on November 14, 2012. Below, you’ll find the second part of her reflections on being a technology coordinator. To hear more digital literacy conversations like the one below, RSVP now for the upcoming virtual fourm, Assessing Digital Literacy: Outcomes and Impact, which will be held on December 11, 2012, at 7:00p.m. EST.
Creating Personalized Learning Opportunities
At each level teachers and I work together to engage in a study of a teachers’ or teams’ current lessons, plan new units, explore how different apps and the iPad itself allow students to capture their own learning, produce in new ways and substitute for old technologies when appropriate. I like that as we move forward on our iPad journey we are providing teachers with a choice to identify what type of professional development (in terms of content and format) would best benefit them, incorporating professional development learning opportunities into the school day (as opposed to just lunches, evenings, personal time etc.). I think it is important that we are providing opportunities to attend this training with other teachers on their content teams.
My goal to find out from teachers what they need to enable me to present new ways that technology can help them accomplish an instructional goal and ease the transitions brought on by new technologies. Teachers may often be overwhelmed with technology, curriculum changes and other emerging responsibilities. I know I’ll never have all the answers, but as long as I can understand where my teachers are in their comfort with technology, plan accordingly, and provide learning opportunities that allow them to leave with a concrete strategy to implement then I think I’m on the right track.
MODELING: If you are doing it, you don’t have to say it- this is your classroom!
It is easy for people who work with adults to revert to instructor-centered presentations, or quick, click and get tutorials. Why does this happen? Perhaps it is a perceived lack of time to instruct, model and support our adult learners in the same ways we want teachers to engage their students. Maybe we think because our participants are adults they will just automatically understand that they are to teach as we say (no matter what we do). I think this is a very, very dangerous line of thinking. Yes, creating successful learning opportunities (for young people or adults) takes time, effort and anticipatory problem solving. I believe that by modeling the teaching practices we desire to be implemented in our classrooms we will be one step closer to helping teachers understand how to take their instruction and technology further, not to mention the trust of the teachers you are working with.
Thus far in creating professional development short courses, I have strategically introduced any new tool, app, or device in ways that allow the teachers to experience that technology from a teacher and student perspective. When I say “as a teacher,” I am referring to how educators might organize and distribute directions, model collecting student artifacts etc. I think it is important for educators to experience how it feels to create, share and engage in course content using the specific app or device, similarly to how students would be able to use the device.
For example, when I organize iPad training I use iTunes U as a way for teachers to access and refer to course materials, learn about my instructional goals and desired participant outcomes. Just as teachers would want to know if their students understand the learning targets, I think it is important to have my participants engage in formative assessment as well- specifically in ways that integrate the technologies I’m teaching about. By engaging participants in formative assessment, I am better able to adapt to their needs, spark group conversation or make the adaptive decision to hold a public conference to support anyone who is struggling and serve as a model for others.
What is better than leaving a training having learned something? Producing something! In addition to facilitating my participants in experiencing the technology as a student user (say completing a formative assessment about what they have learned in the training with apps such as Socrative or Google Forms), I provide my participants with time to apply the app or device and learning strategy by creating their own formative assessment that they can bring directly back to their classroom.
There is nothing participants love more than leaving with something they can directly go back to their teaching and learning environments and use the next day. Overall, successful professional learning should incorporate the gradual release of responsibility. Job embedded learning and modeling are a powerful way to help educators to adapt their instruction and grow as problem solvers.
Reflection isn’t for Wimps!
When it comes to thinking about one’s own thinking, practice, and growth self-reflection is key. While some people engage in reflection frequently, I believe there is an added benefit to articulating one’s thinking aloud and capturing it on video.
During my professional development sessions I review some of the key aspects of powerful reflection like giving examples or telling stories to illustrate ones own learning, urging participants to share what they wonder about, what their perceived strengths are and areas for growth. In order to help teachers think more about their own learning, share their thinking and professional learning experience with others I have teachers create their own video reflections.
In order to model how teachers could collect their own students’ video products, I have the participants upload their video reflection to YouTube, and then submit it via a Google Form. Seeing and hearing oneself on video isn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, sometimes it is raw and reveals a vulnerability about ourselves. Yet, sometimes, hearing and seeing ourselves helps us to think deeply about our own learning and how we share our experiences with others. I’d also argue in a digital age, and a time of increasing demands for more transparency and documentation of professional growth, video reflections (if done well) might be another way for educators to share their learning and professional growth with administrators and even with themselves over time.
Like I said, these are just some conclusions I’ve drawn from my own experiences as an emerging technology coordinator. After all, it is only the end of November and I know there is much more learning to come!
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