Running to Stand Still

This blog will provide a  glimpse into my journey towards teaching the way I always dreamed of teaching.  Along the way, I will share some of my adventures, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.  This week’s installment will share a combination of the good and the ugly.

The school that I teach at is in a very forward thinking school district and in September we will be hosting visitors on a byot tour of some of our schools.  In order to prepare for this, the Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS) at our school, sometimes accompanied by other ITSs,  has been touring our classrooms to see what we are doing, and how we can maybe better utilize byot in our rooms.  This past week, the ITS stopped in my room early in the week, during a writing activity.  The students were tasked with choosing the best part of themselves, taking a picture of it, and then writing about why they had chosen this specific part.    I was mildly excited that I had thought to have the kids use their devices to take the pictures of their favorite parts.  I was thinking that this was a good use of their device at that moment.  Well, there’s that oft-uttered saying, about hindsight being 20-20, and later that day I was given a gentle reminder of how powerful this reflection can be.  I received an email from my ITS  containing an informal write-up about her visit.  Needless to say, there had been a better idea for what my kids could have been using their devices for at that moment.  One word…. brainstorming!  The suggestion to use a brainstorming app such as Idea Sketch or ibrainstormer was provided to me, reminding me to focus on the writing first, instead of the pictures!  I will admit right here, that for some reason this very concept had not even occurred to me leading up to this time… I was so focused on the pictures, and using the devices FOR the pictures, that I had overlooked the most critical piece in this whole activity, the writing!  I sat at my computer after reading the email from my ITS and just shook my head.  Brainstorming, it was so obvious NOW, yet I couldn’t fathom why it hadn’t been so obvious before…

Well, I gave myself a mulligan on this one.  Later in the week, after suggesting to my students that they download a brainstorming app of their choice, we tried it again.  This time, I did not even mention the picture!  All I did was use ibrainstormer to merely demonstrate one way that brainstorming might look.  I explained itin great detail what I was looking for content wise, but otherwise left the choice of how to accomplish this goal up to the students.  A few raised their hands and asked if they could use this or that app to complete the activity.  I turned the question around on them and asked, is it possible to accomplish what Mr. G asked of you by using it?  If so, then go ahead.  I even had one student use comic touch lite to make his idea web using speech bubbles!  I gave the directions, set them loose with laser-like focus on the target, and then got out of the way.  As of this writing, we are finishing up our writing about our best parts, but I think it is safe to say that these projects have surpassed even my wildest expectations!

As for me, I was gently reminded by my amazingly talented ITS about the importance of not getting caught up in the technology, while losing focus on what should have truly been the main goal.  Sure, the technology was a big part of this project, however it was the manner in which it was utilized that finally turned this project around…

3 thoughts on “Running to Stand Still

  1. 20-20….so true! A great demonstration of how becoming vulnerable, being open to suggestion, and having a teachable moment improves the learning for our students! Way to lead! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Well said. This emphasizes how important it is to be open to feedback and also how important and powerful collaboration can be.

  3. I think learning to take feedback and look at it as an opportunity for personal growth is the beginning of true collaboration. I know it sounds simple, but many people, especially teachers, have difficulties hearing what they can do differently. However, when we do overcome this fear, magic things may happen in our classrooms!

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