As Brady Venables said in the #IMMOOC Google Hangout, “leaders go first.” Just as learners enter our classrooms daily with an assortment of learning styles/needs/interests, our teachers enter PD the same way. It is important to recognize one size DOES NOT fit all when it comes to all learning, including professional learning.
As Brady Venables said in the #IMMOOC Google Hangout, “leaders go first.” Just as learners enter our classrooms daily with an assortment of learning styles/needs/interests, our teachers enter PD the same way. It is important to recognize one size DOES NOT fit all when it comes to all learning, including professional learning. Yesterday, I flipped our first edtech PD. Inspired by many educators who are pushing the envelope and asking teachers to do the same with regard to innovative pedagogical models, I’ve committed to flipping each professional development model to maximize collegial collaboration, afford teachers more opportunities to think critically and reflect on their classroom practice, and to meet my learners (teachers) where they are, engaging their needs and interests individually.
Admittedly, I’ve been a proponent of flipped learning for more than five years, integrating it into my teaching and presenting nationally on the topic. I think it’s important as a teacher and educational leader to model best practices for integrating technology and innovative pedagogy.
I recorded a video that combined about half of Eric Sheninger’s TED Talk called “Schools That Work For Kids” with the highlights of mobile learning research. I thought it was important that teachers understand that two things:
- Research supports technology integration in PK-12 environments
- Pedagogy must come first rather than sprinkling a layer of technology into an otherwise traditional, teacher-centered lesson.
Too often, I believe, teachers feel burdened by the need to integrate technology for the purposes of checking off that box in their lesson or an administrative observation. This type of technology use leads to using technology to accomplish low-level or more traditional tasks, like note-taking. This is not what our teachers want, and this is not what our students need! As Mr. Sheninger says so eloquently, “pedagogy first, technology second (if appropriate).”
With every faculty member (or most) entering the PD with a baseline knowledge of what the research says and hearing from a leader who has been integrating technology for almost a decade, we were able to roll up our sleeves to engage in meaningful discussions surrounding technology integration at our school.
The discussion centered around 3 questions or prompts:
- What is the goal for integrating technology into the curriculum?
- What does mLearning look like in your class?
- What goal(s) can your department set for integrating technology this year?
Although it was the end of a rainy day, I was impressed with the engagement and candor of the faculty when engaging in these discussions within their departments. Leaving the professional development, I know that each teacher was given a chance to be heard within their department, whether brand new or a seasoned veteran, and that each department now has set a minimum of one department-specific edtech goal to strive for this school year.
Embarking on this flipped PD journey, I am holding true to several tenets:
- Leaders must go first: In any classroom, we expect teachers to model for students. Likewise, leaders must model for faculty, thus breaking down any impediments to innovation.
- Provide time for the Flip: I try to send the flipped video before the weekend prior to the PD along with the goal of the upcoming PD. This advanced notice gives teachers time to watch the video, while understanding the purpose and importance of previewing the material. It’s important teachers understand what they should ‘get out’ of the professional learning time.
- Flip for collegial collaboration: Don’t just send a video for the sake of sending a video! Understand that by removing the presenter-centric portion from the PD, the facilitators role changes to becoming a ‘guide on the side.’ That is the true reason for flipping-it gives teachers meaningful opportunities to engage in conversations that wouldn’t otherwise take place.
As Will Richardson writes, “putting technology first-simply adding a layer of expensive tools on top of the traditional curriculum-does nothing to address the new needs for modern learners.” (2013, p.10) Changing the focus of education is necessary to allow the best learning for today’s students; the learning they need. There is no technology that will change the way a lesson is taught and received without first reforming the pedagogical lens from which the lesson was designed. Once a teacher has successfully transitioned to a student-centered approach, they can introduce the use of technology to the classroom.
Why wouldn’t we embrace this accessibility by bringing it into our nation’s classrooms? What year are we preparing our students for, 1980? According to Bill Ayres, “the new millennium and new conditions challenge us to start imagining an entirely new world and new approaches to production and participation.” (2012, p. 199) As educators, we need to develop ways to use this technology to reinvent teaching and learning for the digital age.
Consider that the current freshman in high school will graduate high school in 2016, college in 2020. [Technology] will permit students to not just ‘learn at their own pace,’ as it is often heard, but to learn more or less in whatever ways they prefer, as long as they are in pursuit of necessary and required goals.” (Prensky, 2010, p. 17) These students have grown up in an increasingly mobile world. Prominent education researcher, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, writes, “Preparation for future work situations requires teaching learners to use their minds well.” (2010, p. 11) To do this effectively, educators can no longer ignore the accessibility of information provided by technology. According to the National Education Technology Plan (2010), to successfully compete with other nations, “[the U.S.] Need(s) to develop inquisitive, creative, resourceful thinkers; effective problem solvers; groundbreaking pioneers; and visionary leaders.” (p. 27) The best way to develop theses skills is by adding the power of technology to student-centered pedagogy.
The American education system is failing its students. Over the past twenty years, the U.S. has declined in world education comparisons. Whether it is the American system declining, or the rest of the world catching up is not for debate. One thing is clear: education in America needs change. Students want change.
Learners sitting in classrooms across the U.S. are bored. They are tired of hearing the teacher “preach” from their soapbox while they sit passively waiting for instruction to be done to them. Teachers continue to implement strategies designed for students to succeed in twentieth century schoolhouses when they need to develop twenty-first century skills. As Dewey states, “if we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” If we continue to implement teacher-centered strategies, we will continue to fail our students, causing them to be ill-prepared for the world that awaits them upon graduation. I argue that educators need to shift to a 21st century learning model, which achieves three main goals:
Teachers need to transition to lesson facilitators or guides that implement student-centered pedagogy to foster the growth of students’ 21st century learning skills.
Teachers and learners must harness the available mobile technology.
Schools must redesign the learning space to more efficiently allow for this pedagogical approach.
The skills which educators and businesses deem most important in the 21st century are creativity, collaboration and innovation, critical thinking and communication. These skills need to be at the forefront of our nation’s curriculum and school redesign so that teachers, schools, districts and the nation alike are in line with the goal of best preparing our learners for success in jobs that we cannot foresee.