Hi! This is Curtis White. Thanks for coming on a little journey with me today. I want to talk about what's growing in your classroom. I'm going to assume that you’re a teacher and that you're interested in making some changes... or interested in thinking about change at least. Let's take a little journey together and think about what might be growing.
Ah! Nuclear chemistry. One of my favorite units in chemistry. It's one of the students' favorites too because they have so many questions and it's always in the news. It's a really cool unit to teach. And I know, based on research, that one of the things I need to do is to do is a pre-assessment. I need to find out what my students know and what they think they know. Then we need to start debunking their misconceptions and building a more robust understanding. So, I walk into the classroom, start asking for student feedback and asking them questions about radiation. And I think to myself, "This is exactly what I did last year, and it takes a lot of time... I wonder if there isn't a better way to do this?"
But when we talk about what's better, we really do need to get back to the core. What's the core of your teaching motivation? What's the core of mine? I teach so my students will discover Truth their minds can understand, their hearts will believe, their wills can embrace and their lives can reflect. This drives everything that I do. What about you?
Sure. That sounds great. But even if I know my core values are how am I supposed to do that?
Are you willing to take some risk to accomplish your big motivations? I'm willing to teach by any means available that will make Truth clearer, the discussions about that truth more relevant and the consequences of those truths richer for my students. How about you?
So how about you? Are you willing to use anything to teach? Are you willing to explore something new, something fresh? Have you thought about replacing those highly repetitive instructions with a different delivery method? Have you thought about maybe letting your students' chose, within the scope of the unit, what or how they will learn? Perhaps there are new and different ways to get student feedback for pre-assessment. Or maybe there is a different way to give feedback on assignments. How many different ways are there to teach? Have you found the best one yet?
I like to think of myself as a good teacher; someone who is able to motivate students, explain concepts, grow understanding and encourage depth of thinking. But I know that I'm not the best teacher I can be yet. I know that there are new tools out there that I can use to grow my classroom more richly, broadly and more efficiently so I can do more activities with my students. Have you been exploring what mobile technology might be able to do for you? Maybe there's an app that is just the right thing for your class and your content! Let me make a couple of broad suggestions for you to consider.
I'm sure you probably guessed by now that I'm suggesting we use technology in our classrooms in new and different ways. I am suggesting that we think about blending our learning. We can use normal, traditional classroom techniques but also blended with mobile technologies and online tools that can really engage, motivate and allow our students to do things we could never have done in the past.
I've had this growing, nagging feeling inside of me for the last couple of years that there just has to be a way to use the super-computers that are stuck underneath my students' desks and inside their pockets for something better than texting, Snapchat, and Facebook. They're just has to be something more that we can do with all of this power that is sitting at our students' fingertips. I don't even have to teach them how to use it! They already know.
So this year when I started my Nuclear chemistry unit, I didn't walk in and just ask them what they knew about radiation. I had them pull out their cell phones and I asked them to text their responses to "What is radiation" to an app that I found. It allows students to contribute to the conversation and in real-time see their answers show up on my Smartboard. It was a really cool moment.
And I'm not done exploring this! I think about the potentials for collaborative documents to be made in real time in my classroom using iPads. Or for cell phones to post to cloud-based documents like a Google doc. Or to conduct surveys or... My mind starts spinning about the number of possibilities that exist blending together mobile technologies in a classroom setting to engage my students.
This doesn't even begin to explore the kinds of simple apps that I might be able to install in a computer lab with IT help. Or maybe even allow my students to learn material on their own using flipped lessons; either in the computer lab or even at home. So that my classroom can become free for richer discussions or more in-depth projects that the students can do and the students can create. I get excited about this!
But what get's me even more excited is to think about Educators like you and like my colleagues all growing together. That together we might grow our classrooms into something that's richer than it is, more engaging that it is, more vibrant, and more mature. What's growing in your classroom?