I always loved If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and its related titles. The domino effect described in the book can be explored in so many different contexts, including my own teaching practice.
In my last two years in the classroom, my teaching and learning in my classroom shifted dramatically. In fact, the term "shifted" does not seem to accurately reflect the change that occurred in a relatively short period of time. The change was primarily sparked because of the introduction of technology to my classroom and my struggle to make the best use of it that I could manage. If I look at it from a Piagetian viewpoint, the introduction of technology to my classroom disrupted the equilibrium in my teaching practice. And that simply wouldn't do! I struggled to find my new equilibrium and realized that I really needed to shift my conceptual understanding of what teaching and learning could and should look like.
- To start, I shifted to delivering instruction in a flipped model with recorded lessons that could be viewed at home or in school. That freed me up in new ways to work with students in ways that I hadn't known to be possible.
- That segued to a self-paced system where students accessed lessons through our learning management system and in which I served as a coach and I had to cede a lot of control to my students. Boy was that hard.
- Because my role changed, the physical structure of my classroom no longer served my needs or the needs of my students. I reorganized the room to create open space. Students gladly sprawled out on the floor to watch videos, read and discuss when necessary. My teacher space was no longer front and center in the room because I was no longer the sole center of attention. My desk's placement on the side of the room was an accurate reflection of my new role.
- The following year, a foray into mastery-based grading again changed the face of my practice. That was probably the single best change I have ever made in my practice and it was also the most difficult because it challenged deeply held beliefs about grades on the part of students, parent, fellow staff members and of course myself. Ultimately though, it focused the conversation in the classroom on learning instead of points.
- Lastly, putting iPads into the hands of students meant that they had, at their disposal, an incredibly powerful content creation device. The challenge was trying to determine how to make the best use of that device. Inspired by the work of Daniel Pink, among others, I realized that a device like an iPad can encourage both student choice and voice. My middle schoolers had a lot of freedom to demonstrate their learning in ways that they identified with personally. I got music videos, essays, screencasts, and so much more from my students. Not only did it give me insight into them as individuals, I certainly understood a lot more about them as learners.
Just to be clear, it really isn't about the iPad. It was the tool I was presented with that I had to grapple with in my own practice. Perhaps it's a laptop, a
I was pretty happy with my instruction even though it looked so very different than what I started with towards the beginning of my career. Not to toot my own horn, but I got a lot of positive feedback from others locally and otherwise because of my work. What I realize now though is that the core of my instruction still needed a lot of work. It was couched in pretty technology and supported by strong assessment for learning. But the more I learn about the 5E model and social constructivism, the more I realize that I still had a lot of room for improvement. I am still very much a work in progress. And you know what? I'm okay with that.
PS. Thanks to my last site administrator for supporting me on the crazy journey. I appreciated your advice and that you allowed me the opportunity to take risks and make changes to my practice.