Thursday, June 5, 2014

What do you want to be when you grow up?

For the past several years as I've been working towards my degree, I've struggled with exactly what I want to do when I complete my PhD. Where might I work? What type of work do I hope to do? Where can I make a difference?
These questions have become excruciating over the past few months in particular, especially as I narrow in and focus on the topic of my dissertation. This is the point in my education that will define me as a researcher, an educator, a philosopher. It's a pretty important decision. While I have so many areas of interest (literacy, professional development, technology, leadership), when I narrow this down I'm afraid of what I might leave out.
But at one point, that quiet voice that whispers in the back of my mind became clearer. We all have that voice that resonates quietly within us. It's the voice that is difficult to hear amidst the din of our insane worrying, debating, fretting, and doubt. The one we often choose to ignore.
It was in this moment of clarity that I realized it's not "what" I want to be when I grow up. It's who I want to be right now. Who I want to continue to be in the future. The type of person I would see as my best self.
So, I've created my vision of who I want to be. Starting now.
1. Someone who understands and appreciates the value of people.
2. Someone who prioritizes people over "things" or accomplishments.
3. Someone who steps back to really listen and observe.
4. Someone who is able to problem solve with resiliance.
5. Someone who values the input of others.
6. Someone who is able to contribute her own input and ideas.
7. Someone who is able to speak up for those who are unable to speak up for themselves.

Sure, I still need to narrow down my dissertation topic. This will still define a part of me professionally. But there is comfort in knowing I will still choose how I will define myself every day.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Paradigm Shift

Blogging can be both a way to share information, as well as a way to reflect on the part of the blogger. It is a little unnerving to use this blog as a way to reflect on potential dissertation topics, but I'm doing so much reading lately. This forum can serve as a way to both share and reflect. And if I get feedback and ideas in the process, even better.

I am currently going back to read an oldie but goodie, New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning by Lankshear and Knobel (2003). Perhaps the area I am struggling with the most, as an instructional coach, is the paradigm shift of the 'deep grammar of school' (i.e. teacher-centered classrooms) to thinking about a statement like this:

‘for perhaps the first time in human history, new technologies have amplified the capacities and skills of the young to such an extent that many conventional assumptions about curriculum [and pedagogy] become inappropriate’ (Lankshear and Bigum 1999:460)

I realize that the implementation of the Iowa Core should potentially help teachers see the value of teaching with a student-center in mind. Implementing the Universal Constructs and the Eight Standards for Mathematical Practice will definitely help boost students skills in the areas that they will need to function well in an information-rich society.  Yet in an age of accountability to standardized testing, how many teachers will focus on a checklist of Standards, Benchmarks, and Objectives (SBOs) that they will feel compelled to 'cover' rather than focus on the deep learning processes of the former? Until we show teachers that by using the former, students will gain conceptual understanding of the SBOs. This will take master teachers who are willing to let go of teacher-centered classrooms, giving students more control over their learning. This is uncomfortable for many teachers who have been educated in a much different manner.

We live in exciting and frightening times. The world is changing more rapidly than in any other time in history. Keeping up in the educational world means guessing what the future might hold for our students. This will continue to be uneasy times for educators.


Lankshear, C., and Knobel, M. (2003). New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning. NY: Two Penn Plaza.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Four Cs of Appy Hour

Next week, our tech cadre will again host an "Appy Half-Hour" in which we share new apps we've tried with our students. When we first received our iPads, this was a great way to collectively think about ways to use the iPads with students. I think we all have noticed, however, that not all apps are created equally. When considering Bloom's Taxonomy, many apps hover at the end of "remembering" on the taxonomy. Many educators have worked to create lists of apps that might support all areas of Bloom's Taxonomy, such as Diane Darrow, Kathy Schrock, and Richard Byrne. It really isn't about having a lot of apps as it is about how the apps are used with students.

A point made by Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2013) is that educators have been striving for over 30 years to achieve meaningful technology use in the classroom. They suggest that technology integration should not focus on technology integration. Rather, the focus should be on technology-enabled learning, and the pedagogy to support it. Students must be engaged in relevant, meaningful, interdisciplinary work (Iowa Core or Common Core, anyone?). This means a shift in how we approach professional development opportunities for teachers.

For our next Appy Half-Hour, we will focus more on the Four C's (collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication). Our teachers are already doing amazing things with students in these areas. Having the opportunity to showcase this will allow other teachers to see how apps they are already using could be used in new and different ways. I can't wait to see the amazing things they share.
Ertmer, P., and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2013). Removing obstacles to the pedagogical changes required by Jonassen's vision of authentic technology-enabled learning. Computers & Education, 63, 175-182.