One of my professors recently asked our class to reflect on the ways in which we are digital age leaders at our school sites or within our school districts. That was a great assignment because it forced me to think about that idea and really dig into the concept of what a digital age leader is.
Here is my reflection: If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever be a "Digital Age Leader," I would have laughed out loud. I was always two or three cell phone models behind my friends, and as an English teacher, found myself rather happily immersed in essays and discussions involving Emerson, Thoreau, Jack Kerouac, and Emily Dickinson- not at all pondering how I could navigate those items digitally. Honestly, it never occurred to me that we would be where we are now in education. Whether I realize it or not, I am a digital age leader in my school district, in my family, and within my circle of friends. But the digital world can be interesting to navigate. To some people, the knowledge I have of technology and how to integrate it into learning experiences in a way that is transformative... well, it's amazing to some people who aren't doing that yet. To others, I know what the average person knows, and to some... well, I look up to them when it comes to amazingness with technology in the classroom and the flexible, forward thinking mindset that goes with it. It just depends.
I can say for certain that what my school site is doing with online and blended learning, no other school is doing yet in our district. We are on the frontier, and we have become comfortable with being on the frontier. I have to say it is both an uncomfortable and exciting place to be. On one hand, it is uncomfortable because the road is unpaved. We are dealing with logistical factors in education that no one in our district has encountered before, and we are obviously trying to navigate it with grace and with the best interest of students in mind. But it has its share of frustrations. For example, our site offers concurrent enrollment to other high school students in VUSD... but , as a school of choice we have to be specific and selective about which students we accept into our courses. The reason is, our courses are teacher-created and offered online with very little built-in support, meaning that students work mainly independently, and must come to our school with the ability to manage time well, and be resourceful, especially when struggling with course content. It is tough for counselors and teachers at other schools to understand this, because"alternative education" in the past has really only included watered-down, packet-based credit recovery programs such as what has typically been offered at continuation high schools. Many school counselors require quite a demonstration of how our 4X4, online and blended program works before they understand that our courses are very rigorous, fast-paced, and require a certain skill set in order for students to be successful.
I've also come to see another way in which I am definitely a digital age leader: I'm not afraid of technology. I have learned that I can learn any piece of technology. I can click around within a new tool and I won't break it. So I have come to understand that being a digital age leader is mostly a mindset rather than a set of tech skills. Last January I accepted a position in my school district as a blended and online learning resource teacher, and when I did that, many people automatically began to assume that I expertly know every tech tool and piece of technology out there, which is absolutely preposterous. I don't know every tech tool at all. . . I am just confident that I can learn it, and willing to put in the time to learn it.
More than anything, I can say that being a digital age leader in education means that I have had a MAJOR mind shift in what education is and what it can look like in the 21st century. This course, along with others in this program (like EDL 630 and our Enterprise Architecture and Design Thinking courses), have truly realigned my thinking in regards to education. I am all in with personal learning and authentic educational exploration. I have led workshops on Voice, Choice, and Authenticity because I have become so passionate about this pursuit. My own children tell me that they don't like school. They don't like they way they are taught. I don't like hearing that, and I can only hope that what I teach, role model, discuss and present is helping us along the way toward what is possible in education in the digital age.
To sum up what I have learned through this master's program about what it means to be a leader in the digital age, these are the most important elements of a digital age leader:
It is July 6th, and as I think about the last 45 days I am simultaneously amazed at how much has transpired in that time, and gratefully acknowledging a much-desired shift in pace and intensity. The end of May through the end of June invited me to spin many, many plates in the air: end-of-school-year activities and commitments as a mother AND as a teacher, including my high school's graduation and the graduation from high school of my little brother. It also included the ending of the spring courses in my MA program, with an immediate jump into my summer courses. My husband and I moved our family into a new house (which included a lengthy stay in Escrow Hell)- an experience that was wonderful, exciting, creative, exhausting and discombobulating at the same time. During this time I also received news and shared deep emotions with loved ones regarding health issues of close friends and family which left my heart unsure. Right after we moved into our home, my colleague Vicki and I facilitated three days of truly exhilarating professional development in our school district around the topic of Voice, Choice, and Authenticity in which we created a space for a cohort of teachers to collaborate and support each other and their students in an authentic way, using 21st century skills and technologies- which will continue on for the next school year. Long before all of this was happening I had also volunteered to plan a retirement party for a close and dear teacher friend of mine, and I wanted it to be awesome. Intense coursework in my MA classes and intense unpacking in our home led me (finally) to vacation time at the end of June. I am writing this now from an ocean-view perch at the Present Moment Yoga Retreat in Troncones, Mexico. In the last week my heart has found a new rhythm, my breath has lost its anxious shallowness, and I am finally feeling relaxed. This morning's sunrise found me in a meditation class followed by two hours of yoga on a platform facing the ocean. Whirlwind turned summer breeze.
Why do I share all this? Because clearly I have to learn how to find balance in my life, and I bet you do too. Most teachers I know have minds and hearts larger than their energy reserves. Finding balance and restorative practices that are authentic to each of us is so important if we are to have the energy that leads to the creativity and empathy with which we connect to our students. I'd say I usually experience more balance in my life than this recent chunk of time, and I don't want to put myself in that type of taxing crunch again, even though most of what I experienced was positive and good. It was just MUCH. I'd love to know what YOU do to help you stay balanced. How do you reserve space within yourself just for you?
This afternoon I logged on to the Google+ community for our new Voice, Choice, and Authenticity cohort, and the collaboration that is happening in that forum just made my heart smile. It is just what I imagined: teachers coming together because they want to, finding real connection, and creating and sharing because they are passionate about it an feel supported. I am enjoying that same type of collaboration and support in my MA program as I come together with fellow students who are teachers and collaborate on projects- even from Mexico! (Gotta love technology!) I am realizing that part of creating that sense of balance in my life as a mother, wife, teacher, student, friend, family member- is connecting with other people who support me, genuinely care about me, share their ideas and want to hear about mine, and enjoy and acknowledge that same magical synergy that is created when we share, connect, and flow. To all of you (you know who you are)- thanks for helping to support and balance me, and for listening when I'm not so balanced and start freaking out :) Let's keep tapping into our support systems so we can stay energized and keep the good stuff coming.
I think back to my days of student teaching as my most authentic experiences in the classroom with students. During that time I connected with an amazing (& I mean AMAZING) master teacher who brought out the absolute best in me and encouraged my authentic tendencies in the classroom. When I was a student teacher I was SURE that I was meant to be a teacher. I was SURE it was my calling. I remember teaching my students about Transcendentalism, reading Emerson and Thoreau with them, helping them unpack the golden ideas trapped in so much difficult vocabulary and diction from language written in the 1800's. I celebrated with these students in Fontana, CA, many of whom were second language students, when they stretched themselves to understand and to make connections from the literature with their own lives and the world around them. We went on to study Beat poetry and make connections between the Beats and the Transcendentalists. These intrigued kids wrote their own streams of consciousness, pondered social issues, wrote poetry- all culminating in an end-of-term open mic Cafe where they shared their own work, much of it personal, and the community created within that classroom was so close and supportive. I treasure those memories. I write all this to contrast it to my experience as soon as I received my credential. Right after I began teaching and working with colleagues who I didn't connect with as well as my master teacher, I began to be self-conscious and second-guess my natural instincts in the classroom. The teachers I worked with seemed to take an entirely different, "more academic" approach to teaching (what I call drill and kill), and I felt I had to blend in. No Child Left Behind didn't help that situation any, as we all began teaching to the test. So, knowing what I do now, if I could go back and change my teaching methods from years 1-15, I would. I would trust myself and know that how I was inclined to interact with students was good and it would have led to student achievement as well as student connection. This is my 17th year of teaching, and I feel I have come back to the joy that called me to be a teacher in the first place. I honestly can't believe for 15 years I taught in a way that wasn't authentic to myself. Sure, my classroom had an authentic personal culture, but my actual pedagogy was off- it was not connected to who I am. For many reasons, this year has brought me back to myself as a teacher. Those reasons include fully embracing the creativity allowed within the Common Core state standards, turning 40 and caring a bit less about whether other people approve of me, making the decision to go back to school and immerse myself in learning again, and the experience of our EDL 630 class where I experienced the mentorship of someone who encouraged authentic teaching and learning. That class felt like permission- permission again to teach the way that I have always been drawn to teach. So while I do wish I could go back and reclaim that lost time, knowing what I do now, I at least am infinitely grateful to have returned to myself and I know without a doubt that I will never turn back.
I find it interesting that this week's law reading for EDL600 is all about the employment of teachers, the evaluation process, and the laws and rules that govern how teachers and classified staff may or may not be dismissed, and that our essential question to be answered is not so much about the law, but about leadership. Like most people,I see law and leadership as two distinctly different things. I align law with the term 'authority', but I see leadership as something entirely different. I am a teacher who would prefer to be led by a true leader, and not just be evaluated by someone with the authority to do so. For myself I became a teacher because I was drawn to a career of service and meaning. Evaluation is part of the job. I will be evaluated. But other than the nerves that come with being under the microscope, evaluations never bother me because I am in my career for the right reasons. I work hard, I care about my students and colleagues, and I will do all I can to help my students learn and grow. I am not naive enough to think that every teacher thinks or feels that way, but most teachers I know got into the profession for the right reasons.
In my eyes, courageous conversations should be the only conversations. If a school employee is not performing to his or her best ability, the principal should absolutely have the courage to talk to the employee about performance and both parties should be willing to work on it. The leader should work hard to establish trust and a caring environment so that feedback can be accepted as a natural and needed part of the process of becoming the most effective teacher possible. Teachers don't need to be beaten into submission, in terms of performing up to the expected standard; teachers need to be led- by a leader who cares, not by just a person of authority.
I guess in any organization the law has to be set down so that there is an arena with set boundaries that everyone is aware of. In California School Law the decision of Morrison v. State Board of Education is discussed, which resulted in seven criteria known as the Morrison factors (Kemer & Sansom. 2013). These factors lined out the guidelines regarding immoral or unprofessional conduct within the teaching profession. These factors provide the boundaries of the arena regarding conduct, and help the authorities decide if a teacher in question is fit to teach. So, yes, these types of laws and boundaries do have to be in place so that there can be order. I have to say, though, that the laws, while important, are called into question, not by a majority of teachers. That is to say, most teachers are teaching because they want to teach and make a difference in the world. So for most, the laws are not much of a worry. The laws aren't what make good teachers good teachers. True leadership is what makes good teachers good teachers. A true leader will have courageous conversations with teachers and mentor them along by establishing trust and common goals. It isn't enough for leaders to say the right words. True leaders mean and feel what they say, and the employees working under that leader know a real, courageous leader when they see one. The problem is that not all "leaders" are actual leaders. Some "leaders" are just autorities. It is an important distinction.
I am a fan of Simon Sinek, an ethnographer and leadership expert who writes a lot about leaders and the traits they possess. In a talk he gave titled Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe he talks of how a true leader creates a safe environment of trust and caring, so that all parties feel part of the group and can trust that they are safe to let their gaurds down and learn. Through this kind of leadership, he argues, a natural flow of trust and cooperation ensue. When there is a natural flow of trust and cooperation, all people involved feel that they are on the same team. It can feel like family, and in a family, people aren't usually "kicked out" or shunned. Usually within a family an investment is made into each and every member, and each member can work to reach his or her best possible potential.
I was happy to hear in the interview by Dr. Cheryl Ward with Lamont Jackson, that Mr. Jackson advocated that if a principal was concerned enough about an employee's performance to send them to training, that the principal should attend the training also. I liked that because it seems like something a good leader should do. It demonstrates investment and genuine care, and that goes a long way in leading, as it builds trust. Trust is the key factor. If a teacher trusts and knows that his or her principal cares and wants him or her to be the best possible teacher for students, that teacher is likely to work hard to learn and self-evaluate, knowing that he or she can make a difference, and that the principal believes in him or her. In an environment like that, evaluations will be seen as helpful, rather than punitive. The entire posture of the interaction between teacher and principal will be more positive, and positive change is likely to happen resulting in a teacher who grows personally and in his or her practice, and also resulting in the leader not having to resort to looking at the language of the law to try to create the environment for a dismissal.
I know I am an optimist, but I do believe that true leadership can be the fix for many problems that arise in organizations, including education. Teachers are human beings, and human beings want to belong and prosper. Teaching can be a lonely profession if teachers find themselves alone in their classrooms all of the time. But courageous conversations between teachers and leaders can change that completely, by making teachers feel that they are not alone, and that they are worth the investment of time that a true leader should give. It can make all the difference in the world.
Kemerer, F., & Sansom, P. (2013). California School Law Third Edition. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.
Sinek, S. (2014). Why good leaders make you feel safe. Ted.com. Retrieved 24 November 2014, from http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_why_good_leaders_make_you_feel_safe?language=en
Ward, C. (Interviewer) & Jackson, L. (Interviewee). (2014). Human resource and the law (Interview transcript). Retrieved from https://blackboard.sdsu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDL600-K1-Fall2014-ExtEd/Human_resource_and_the_law_interview.swf
Here's Simon Sinek's talk on "Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe":
It struck me this morning as I woke up and realized I was officially on vacation for the Thanksgiving holiday, that this year I am grateful for more than I usually am. It is my practice to regularly reserve time and space to take stock of all that is good and abundant in my life and experience gratitude as a result. I have endless gratitude for my family, friends, our health, our safe and cozy home, our cars, and our jobs that allow us to help other people and also help us to pay our bills and live a comfortable lifestyle. Today, though, my gratitude for my job actually extends beyond that. I realized this morning that I am grateful to be learning and in service in education in this time- 2014- because it is an exciting time in our profession. Because of my experiences so far this school year with my graduate school work, changes at my school site, including site administration, and the spark and synergy I am fortunate enough to have with my colleagues at our unique school and with our unique students, I am experiencing the most vivid, and bright-with-possibilities year in my career thus far.
I am being exposed to brilliant, open minds in the education world- people who are authentic and open and willing to push over walls that have stood awkwardly in the way of authentic student learning for a long time. I am reading (A LOT), sharing resources on Twitter, and taking chances and risks with student learning and projects in the classroom. I am having enlightening conversations of depth with my colleagues, and for the first time, there is a sense of true sharing between colleagues that I work with. I have a growth mindset and have made the decision that my students will experience voice, choice, authenticity and REAL audiences when they work with me. My students are reacting with smiles, questions, enthusiasm and energy. There is an ownership of their work that is beginning to emerge, and our conversations are personalized, tailored to their needs, and many times joyfully surprising.
My gratitude springs from my experiences recently with other educators who are willing to share their thoughts, ideas, and innovation because they know that we all have the common goal of creating authentic learning opportunities for our students and supporting student success. My friend, Kiki Bispo, share this Tweet this week:
I love this because what she wrote is what I experienced for years as a teacher. But right now, I am not experiencing that. I am enjoying a great circle of educators, near and far, who are willing to share their ideas. When I sit with an energized colleague and exchange ideas, good things happen: sparks fly, one idea is refined into the next, new ideas are born, and we create unique and authentic experiences for our students. It is the best kind of leadership, to lead by sharing. For that I am grateful.
I had the pleasure of visiting some innovative schools this week, and one school in particular, Design 39 Campus in Poway USD, blew me away. It wasn't just the gorgeous architecture, stained glass, and beautiful learning spaces on 22 acres that wowed me. It was the willingness of principal Sonya Wrisley to personally take us on a two-hour tour of her campus, explaining her educational philosophies and allowing us to observe and speak with her students that impressed me most. Ms. Wrisley is a true leader, and her non-conventional ideas that her school district allowed her to implement in a public school are amazing. She explained how there are no bells at her school- only music. There isn't an administration office, there is a Welcome Center, and her office is a wide open space shared with other office staff. Student recess times aren't set in stone, just a range of time, allowing teachers to make decisions on when their students need a break. Teachers use Google Forms to solicit input from students on what topics they would like to study for Deep Dives and also for activities they would like to participate in during Minds In Motion time (P.E.). Students at D39 learn through inquiry and regularly create prototypes as research into solving problems. It is a school that I wish I could send my children to, and I am so grateful to Sonya for her willingness to share that with me and countless other people. Here's a little video I put together to share Design 39 Campus with my staff:
My gratitude this Thanksgiving includes being grateful to be part of the leadership in education that will help to create a "collective shift in imagination" and the way we do school. I am learning so much about what authentic learning looks like today, and how different it is from learning from years past. Our world is different and our learners are different. As we say at VVA, it's time to #schooldifferently. I have a list of people I have gratitude for in education, and I'd like to share it here (in no particular order). These people willingly share and inspire:
My mother, Bernadette Bruster, who has modeled life-long learning for me
My aunt, Gail Lindsay, who is a leader in her field and a mentor to me for how to lead
Erin English, who cares for kids, says yes whenever possible, and encourages authenticity
Sandra Barnes, who listens, advises, shares her owl mind and is the best cheerleader
Donna Markey, Jessie Estrada, and Mac Greenlee for listening and sharing
Doug Simon who models authentic connection with students and shares his musical gift
Victoria Curtis, who is my favorite person to collaborate with
Kiki Bispo, who shares my passion for students and many other philosophies about Life
Sarah Graybeal and Susie Bristow, who have the biggest hearts in education
Bill Daumen, who lives outside of the box and taught me the value of relationships with colleagues
Jeff Heil, who has ruined school for me forever because he allows and encourages students to explore while learning in a way that I have never been given permission to do before. Opened my mind to what is possible and makes me think.
Alicia Butters and Cheryl Ward, for being supportive and always available to communicate if needed
Sara Chai, a fellow student in my cohort who I haven't even met face-to-face yet, who has connected
so easily with me and is a natural collaborator.
Shelly Yarbrough, who is a life-long friend and educator who connected with me when I was a first-year teacher, and whose philosophies I share to this day. Miss you Shelly!
Thank you Everyone! and Happy Thanksgiving!!
As I read this week about Connectivism, something very natural resonated within me, mostly as a student. The highlights of Connectivism that resonated within me include the idea that one can learn in a course that is without content (by design), not because there is no content, but because there is a surplus of content, and the instructor is leaving it up to me to go out and find the content that resonates with me- that works for me or that I am passionate about. As a student, I am drawn to learning experiences where I can create, share, and make connections. That is authentic learning in my eyes. Funny that I should make the distinction that Connectivism resonated within me as a student, and not necessarily as a teacher. Upon reflection I realized that I used to have Connectivist tendencies, but Education-ese and things like NCLB sucked the Connectivist tendencies right out of me. Almost to the point that I didn't recognize them anymore. And then I began this Master's program, and I have been enjoying a sensation in teaching during the last two weeks that feels as though someone has taken the lid off of a box that I had been stuck in, and the breathing is easier- the moving is easier. That is to say, that through some of the ideals and activities in the very short time I have been a student in this program (coinciding with the hiring of a brilliant new principal who has Connectivist tendencies at the school where I teach) have somehow given me permission to lift the lid off the box and experiment. The air is fresher now.
I teach independent study high school students, so this week's question regarding the challenges of independent learning is something I contemplate and live every day. I think the challenge is to remember that independent learning refers to students learning independently. It doesn't necessarily imply that they are working independently exclusively, but the learning takes place largely independently. So even if I have students working collaboratively on a project, the rate at which they learn and the learning styles they each employ, can be vastly different. I've written about this before, but it takes a dedicated amount of empathy and attention to detail in terms of getting to know each student and what makes them tick. We all know that what works for one student doesn't necessarily work for another student. The challenge with independent learning is getting to know what each student needs and is seeking, and making sure that resources and guidance are available to each student in a way that meets their needs. Everyday I work with students who are working with the same curriculum in a particular grade level. Some need very little guidance from me, and are naturally resourceful when they get stuck on a concept. Others I must hand-hold for a majority of the semester until they finally begin to gain some confidence and core understanding in what we are working on. And that is ok. Students come to us from so many different backgrounds and life experiences. I fill in the gaps where I need to- sometimes drawing on particular skills I didn't think I would ever need in my role as an English teacher. It really is more about Life than about School- so my job as a teacher is to dig into my bag of tricks and pull out whatever it is I need to to assist a student in making connections, creating, and sharing. This week's reading about Connectivism reminds me that it is less about remembering content, and more about authentically creating and making connections that are lasting and make an impression- ultimately changing the learner for the better- leading him or her to be the kind of person he or she really wants to be. It's about connection and growth.
It's nice to be let out of the box. I like the view from here.
I appreciated the module 2 readings regarding the importance of, and selection and evaluation of digital interactivity tools in education. I was really engaged by Joseph R. Friedhoff's piece about the importance of educators evaluating digital tools to understand how particlular tools promote or constrain the desired learning outcomes. Friedhoff's explanation of the exploration of the proper tool for student reflection (threaded discussion or blog) was perfect for helping me to understand the sometimes subtle nuances that make a particular tool effective for a particular learning goal. It is vital that as a teacher I take the time to do that type of evaluation, and I have to start with a clear articulation of my learning goal for students. With that goal in mind, I have to look closely, not broadly, at the tools I consider, and ask myself which tool will help my students learn and demonstrate or express their learning in the most specific way possible.
With so many digital interactivity tools available, it can be an overwhelming task to choose one for a particular project or learning task. I appreciated how this module's Cool Tools assignment featured tools in categories, and the tools within each category usually had some features that differed from each other, offering options and limitations for particular tasks. I could see that certain tools would be better suited for certain projects. As a teacher who is relatively new to utilizing these types of tools, I would say that the area of evaluating digital interactivity tools is an area that I will need to stay focused on, and continue to grow in. Of course I'll do that by continuing to investigate tools, with learning outcomes in mind, and I'm sure I will experience a mixture of successful experiences with these tools, and instances where the use of a particular tool didn't lead my students to my desired learning outcome. When the latter happens, I will be sure to evaluate what about the tool was limiting to our learning outcome, and use my findings with that inquiry to help me select a tool that would better suit the learning goal.
This week's Edl 621 course information and assignments provided me the opportunity for personal realization of important details regarding digital interactivity tools and a chance to explore a variety of those tools. I enjoyed participating in the Cool Tools presentation, mostly because I benefited from the ideas and reflections my classmates provided as they exposed me to new tools.
Friedhoff, J. R. (2008). Reflecting on the Affordances and Constraints of Technologies and Their Impact on Pedagogical Goals. Journal of Computing In Teacher Education, 24(4), summer, 117-122. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ834074.pdf .
I've sort of lost count, but I think we just completed the third week of our program. I have adjusted to my new schedule pretty well, and am getting used to functioning on less sleep. Honestly, though, when my alarm goes off at dark-thirty am, I really don't mind getting up to jump into my schoolwork (as long as I remembered to set the coffee on automatic brew before I went to bed ...ZzZzZz...). What we are learning in Edl 621 and in Edl 630 is completely engaging. Not only that, but I am putting my learning into practice daily at Vista Visions Academy with my students. Three weeks in and I'm already doing things differently in my profession.
This week in my creative writing course we stopped, dropped, and created student blogs so that my students can share their beautiful work with a larger audience than just me. My students are having fun creating their pages and personalizing their sites. While I was at it, I created a Weebly site for my school's literary and creative arts magazine. We are a K-12 school, so I plan to collect writing, artwork, and music audio files and videos from our music classes for all the grade levels and upload them to the site. I really like this platform because it can be updated regularly, and we can include more than just text and still images. I plan to highlight a featured student or teacher artist each month on a blog on the magazine site as well. There is no artwork up yet, we haven't named the magazine yet, and I need to get rid of the stock images that came with the site, but that will happen next week. I also drafted a letter of parent permission for my students to submit some of their creative writing pieces to the "Reader's Write" section of The Sun magazine, which is a really cool art publication that I subscribe to. So that is pretty exciting. I'm eager to observe the experience my students have taking their work "live" to a real audience on the internet. I drafted some blogging guidelines for them as well, to help make it a smooth transition in our course.
So far I'm not having any troubles with our coursework. Just enjoying it and doing my best to stay up with our assignments. Ready for the next project!
Wow. I have had one incredible week! It is going back to school to the fourth power! My children went back to school (three different schools), my husband, also a teacher, went back to school, I went back to school as a teacher , AND I went back to school as a student. WOW!! Back to REAL life it is!
My mind is standing at attention, and I've had to work at talking my body into relaxing a bit- and it's working, thanks to some running, yoga, cooking, massage, live music (saw Jack Johnson this weekend), and pet therapy. I hope everyone else in the cohort (and our tireless instructors) are adjusting to the new school year as well
Just to start out, this picture conveys my feelings as I'm trying to learn APA: This is my son Lohgan learning new tricks on his skateboard. It takes courage and trust in one's abilities to try new things. APA is a new thing for me. I had this image in my mind as I attempted my resources list on this week's Narrable project. (yikes! I am afraid I fell really short).
I know I'll learn APA- it will just take a bit. #olddogscanlearnnewtricks I have found a few resources to guide me, but if anyone has a tried-and-true resource, I'll be grateful for your sharing.
Student Engagement was our topic for Module 1, and I can't think of a better topic with which to begin our program. After all, it is student engagement that allows actual learning to happen. Without students being engaged in what they are learning, there is just a "going through the motions" or "checking the box" (Click here for my "Checking The Box" video featured in my English 11 course) Needless to say, I was thrilled with our week 1 topic. What is Student Engagement? It is that palpable vibration that we, as educators know when we sense it. It is when one of our students has found something of relevance in our course, and we know they are on a learning continuum that is unique to that individual. It is when an educator knows that a student "gets it" and when a student knows he or she has "got it." Student engagement is found at the intersection of what an in-tune teacher has to offer, and what a self-aware and ready student is ready to learn and experience. Student engagement is really a perfect storm of those two things, and includes a bit of tech and school savviness on behalf of both parties.
This week I experienced the whole spectrum of the Student Engagement concept in both my professional and personal lives. I do know why it is desirable to be able to measure student engagement. (We want to know if we are doing it right and if we are effective). I also know that it is difficult to measure something as intangible and personal as student engagement. (What makes us unique as human beings is that we are innately different, and different elements make us tick). I can meet in the middle and say, "Let's do our best to design lessons and curriculum based on what we know from data collection, but let's also not forget that every student is an individual and invites a unique connection." I know that. I can do that. My family and friends will tell you that that is how I operate as an educator. I endeavor to design curriculum based on what I have found to be engaging for most students, but (in the independent study model where I am fortunate enough to teach) I strive to be observant of individual student needs, and tailor my communication assistance individually.
After a marathon week, and a Saturday evening spent enjoying a concert, I devoted literally ALL of Sunday to my graduate school work. I couldn't believe how fast the day went as I started with coffee and some reading, progressed to some laundry, a bit of breakfast and my entire Narrable project and Weebly website design for EDL 630. Talk about student engagement! Suddenly I realized it was 6:30 pm, my muscles were stiff, I had eaten only one meal, and I really did need to stop and take a break. I went for a long walk and then created a scrumptious dinner (garlic-basil shrimp linguine) for my husband and I, and we watched an episode of Orange Is The New Black. Only after a break was I ready to start up the computer again and reflect.
My reflection is this: Student Engagement is just as important as content in our courses. And it is difficult to quantify. As educators we are charged with knowing our content and then presenting it in such a way as to be engaging to our learners. It might mean that we have to be creative, or think like someone much younger than ourselves, but it will make all the difference in how our students interact with our lessons. Student engagement is everything.
That said, my Narrable needs a lot of work :) I'd like to think it is engaging, but upon review, I know several of my slides are text heavy. I am a wordy gal, and that is something I will have to work on to help ensure the engagement of my students :)
Happy holiday weekend everyone!