Saturday, January 30, 2016

How we can get "fully trained" teachers?

Graduating class of the Lady Stanley Institute for Trained Nurses in Ottawa, Ontario
I hopped on to #satchat this morning. The chat was lively and focused on assessment practices. One of the participants made this comment:
A5: Technologies in the classroom are only as effective as the teacher using it. Realistically, most are not fully trained
indicating that most teachers are not fully trained to use technology in assessment. That comment stuck out to me. What does it mean to be fully trained?

The term fully implies a finality, that there is such a time when we are done learning and can then go out and perform. As a teacher educator, I fight this notion all the time. Most hiring officials want fully trained teachers. We work hard to prepare capable teachers, but most evidence shows that they have much to learn and the good ones will keep on learning for many more years. Professionals are always working on improving their craft learning of innovations and reflecting on their practice. 

The other fallacy is the idea that there is a set of practices and tools that sum up the profession. If you master this set you will be fully trained. The problem with this notion, of course, is that we do not have a set. Instead, we have an ever evolving set of practices (hopefully supported with evidence) and technology tools. There is no way to be fully trained because the what we train for keeps changing. In fact, the changes in technology do not just change the tool but the affordance in a way that can change the nature of the task and as a result the nature of what and how we teach.

So what can we do? 

1. We can provide teachers with ways of thinking and problems solving. Having productive strategies to think through Problems of Practice is a key element in our work. This is what we do in our student's Capstone Projects.

2. We can provide an environment that supports professional learning for all. Teachers have different problems of practice and thus different professional learning needs. To be ready to tackle the ever-changing challenges of teaching we must help teachers define their learning needs and seek out the right supports. These can be as far ranging as informal edchats on twitter or formal as graduate degrees in education.

3. Change our expectations. We should not expect fully trained. We should expect innovative teachers who keep trying new ideas. Sometimes we will fall on our faces, but with the help of a supportive group of educators we can get up dust ourselves off and learn.

We should keep trying because there is an important lesson for our students in seeing us try, fail and try again until we all succeed together, students and educators. This is especially true of our attitudes toward new technologies.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Four Favorite Podcasts...
Lately, I have been on a podcast binge. Since being adopted by our dog Yuki, I suddenly have to listen while we go on our early morning and night walks. I thought this would be  a good time to share some of my current favorites.

1. Teachers Talking Tech- Eric and Mike are two elementary teachers that produce a delightful podcast that is focused on classroom use. I love the free flowing approach and the useful information that only two practicing teachers can give you. It is also a great example of what teachers can do with technology to support others while still staying in the classroom.

2. Education Next- Paul Peterson gives voice to relevant ed reform ideas. While I seldom agree with his stance, he does present an informed and often challenging views.

3. TED Radio Hour- Originally TED was consumable, you could watch everything. Now with time and many local TED conferences I need someone to help me get inspired. TED radio hour does just that by organizing multiple speakers around a topic. The hour does not include full talks, instead, there is just enough to whet my appetite, inspire and send me looking for the full talks.

4. History of English podcast is my guilty pleasure. I will readily admit that I am a history Nerd and the podcast combines history and language. Kevin Stroud is very thorough (although I have to admit that I listen at 1.5 speed). If you are interested in English and have some commute/ walk time this is a great way to learn something about the most commonly spoken language on the planet.

What are the podcasts you listen to?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Social Media Vacation

I have been on a social media vacation for the past month. I have not blogged or participated in many of the regular social media activities. The idea was to take a deep breath.
No, I did not go to a sunny beach. I just spent some time evaluating my goals, my approach, and simply recharging. The question that guided my break is a simple A, B testing. The question guiding my quest was: Am I on social media because I am in a cycle that compels me to participate or risk becoming irrelevant? Or am I using social media because I think I can make a difference? The proposition was simple if I feel compelled to stay on social media during this time than it is more of a self-reinforcing cycle. But if I am able to take this break without feeling the urge to participate then maybe, just maybe I am actually contributing.
So what lessons did I learn from my social media vacation?

1. I survived. I enjoy participating in social media, but when I stopped being significantly involved I was perfectly fine. Social media is work and it is nice to stop for a while. I learned that the momentary compulsion to check and post were easily discarded once I made the decision.
2. I enjoyed it. It was actually enjoyable not to be on social media for a while. No, I did not use my productively. I just enjoyed some free time.
3. I am eager to come back and try and make a difference. My mission for the past few years have morphed but in many ways, it is still about making sure that all students have access to top-notch 21st-century education in and through technology. The way to reach this goal is collaboration with teachers who are the ones that change their students lives.

That's it, I am looking forward to a productive social media year!