When Dr. Ruben Puentadura devised the SAMR model as a pathway for teachers to integrate technology into instruction, he justified its existence in the following way: “I see students taking charge of their own education. Those are classrooms where the students say…’I can see a better way of doing that!’ There is a certain excitement [and] a certain ownership of learning.” In other words, he envisioned a world (and classrooms) where the teachers and the technology would work together to create student-centric environments.
I appreciate the simplicity and step-by-step approach of the SAMR model. More importantly, I appreciate the #awesomesauce potential it promises. Truly defining 1:1 in the classroom comes down to this:
These are the goals not only of the SAMR model, but of the redefinition of learning. Today’s classrooms should be teacher-bordered and not teacher-focused. Our learning environments should encourage students to individually find a better way to think, to solve, to learn, and to re-learn.
The 1:1 classroom offers that potential, for sure. But in my travels, I all too frequently see many districts or buildings or classrooms not quite hitting the mark. (I’m not getting all Judge Judy here, I promise!) I think that we all too often get stuck at the substitution level of the SAMR model when it comes to 1:1.
And then we get comfortable staying there.
And the next thing you know, we’re wearing sweats, we’ve abandoned makeup, the hair’s up in a messy ponytail, and we’re hanging out the couch, with pizza and Netflix now a substitute for our date night. In other words, we’ve stopped making an effort.
image courtesy of The Odyssey Online
We weren’t meant to get stuck. A digital worksheet is still just a worksheet, after all.
Being 1:1 isn’t just about the technology--because the technology isn’t going to magically make students empowered and engaged. Just because every kid has a device doesn’t mean that kid is using the technology to his or her advantage. We need to keep this top-of-mind when we introduce technology into our classrooms, schools, districts: “A one to one classroom occurs at the intersection of content, pedagogy, and technology.”
When I assist teacher teams with integrating technology into their classrooms, I lay out for them the things that need to really change--and that’s first and foremost the pedagogy. We can’t continue teaching to 21st century kids as if they’re 20th century ones. With that said, when teachers and administrators ask me how they can get started going 1:1, I always ask the following questions:
Are You Willing to Change the Design of Your Classroom?
A 1:1 classroom requires flexibility for both individual and collaborative work. Are you willing to ditch the desks? Are you accepting of the idea of a space that is stripped down, inviting, and designed for collaboration? Are you willing to give up your teacher desk (or as I call it, “Fort Desk”) in favor of a have-laptop-will-travel mentality to work with students? Are you ready to make your future-ready classroom brain-friendly? Simply put, does your classroom look like your local Starbucks or the Google offices? (Okay, okay...you probably can’t make it look exactly like the Googleplex, but consider the open spaces, collaborative idea sharing areas, and inviting atmosphere.)
Are You Willing to Give Up Control--and to Be Okay with Occasional Chaos?
Are you okay with not feeding students content via lecture notes, graphic organizers, and prepackaged worksheets from Teachers Pay Teachers? Are you okay with asking them questions and then letting them explore like free-range chickens? Are you okay with not having an airtight, rigid lesson plan? Are you okay with abandoning a lesson when an opportunity for exploration presents itself? Are you okay with letting students get it wrong occasionally--make mistakes, fail, and self-correct? Are you okay with not stepping in and taking over--being the guide and not the facilitator? Are you okay with students being out of their seats? Are you okay with non-silent, working students?
Are You Willing to Let Students Create?
Are you familiar with the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy--where creation is now the highest level of learning? Are you happy to let students show what they know instead of having them take and end-of-unit summative? Are you ready to let your students be content creators instead of content consumers? Knowing that whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning, would you be willing to let students teach something to increase their retention of material? Would you even be willing to let them write a textbook or create learning materials for their peers instead of simply recalling? Would you consider allowing students to publish to a global audience via YouTube, blogging, or the creation of a website?
Are You Willing to Give Up the One-Size-Fits All Mentality?
Can you create an assignment or activity that accommodates different types of learners? Will your learners have choice and voice in how they present their learning? (As Chris Lehmann points out, “If you assign a project and get back 30 of the exact same thing, that’s not a project. That’s a recipe.”) Would you consider different instructional delivery methods that might be self-paced? (Think HyperDocs or gamification here.)
And the biggie...
Are You Willing to Become a Flipper?
Can you get comfortable with the idea of assigning homework for classwork and classwork for homework? Can you give up lecturing and instead devise active learning experiences, problem-based learning, or peer instruction? Can you challenge yourself to deliver content outside of class that is engaging? Are you willing to let students use their mobile devices in the classroom to learn and create?
If the answer to the majority of the questions is yes, then we are good to go, to explore, to learn, to transform, If the answer is no, well, that’s neither bad or good--it’s just the way it is and some guided hand-holding and confidence-boosting needs to occur.
These are all uncomfortable questions, and it’s sometimes uncomfortable for me to ask them--and for educators to even consider them. But change doesn’t happen in our comfort zones.
Speaking of getting uncomfortable, let’s revisit that date night analogy again: Remember when things were new? You know, when we actually put forth some effort? When we shaved our legs, applied the eye shadow, curled the hair, and donned the heels? (Guys, not sure what your equivalent of date-night effort is. Don't throw shade at me.) Let's get back to putting forth the effort. It makes everyone happy.
We have to encourage ourselves and our colleagues to make the effort again, too. To not get comfortable. To ask of our current pedagogical practices, What can I do to keep this fresh?
We need to keep making the effort and we can’t stay comfortable.
Because our 21st-century students, after all, deserve our effort.
image courtesy of Pixabay
t's rather unlike me to return from a trip and toss my suitcase in a corner; that baby's unloaded and returned to the attic within twenty minutes of my homecoming--which is why I apologize in advance for the delay in sharing this post. (It should have been written weeks ago!)
I'm an enthusiastic fan of edcamps and the genuine alternative to traditional PD they offer. And being an edcamp cheerleader means I unabashedly offer my thoughts and takeaways from edcamp in an effort to get more of my colleagues to drink the Kool Aid.
This year's EdCampCLE was held on March 21, 2015, and it was like a homecoming reunion, catching up with the awesome "campers" I met last year. Seriously...I wish we could take the energy, enthusiasm, and great ideas from our sessions and start our own school. But since we can't, I'm unpacking my bags and sharing my shiny travel souvenirs:
1. Homework for a grade is NOT a valuable learning experience.
I attended this session entitled "Evolution of homework: What do you assign, when, and how much? Are you flipping your content? Should you?" because I'm working with a very frustrated teacher who continually assigns homework that his students very rarely complete. Why continue the battle?, I ask. What's the point? Personally, I'm in the anti-homework camp; I see it as purposeless busywork. Too many teachers assign it because they feel they have to; too many students rush through it with the same apathy. As a parent, I know that I've spent more time than is ethically scrupulous helping my sons with theirs.
One teacher argued in favor of making homework subject-specific, like math. I can get on board with that, what with the application-necessary nature of it. This is definitely an argument for flipping the content and for creating stations in the classroom. (Teachers: you don't HAVE to assign homework. Shift your focus: make the classroom learning experience more valuable.)
Another teacher, firmly entrenched in the pro-homework camp, found a compromise with which his students can work: homework is optional, but students can't "level up" if they haven't mastered the standard associated with that homework. I like this gaming aspect of homework, and definitely think it has some merit on two fronts: mastering standards (not homework) and creating autonomy and accountability within learners.
Finally, there's the option to simply not grade homework at all, but instead, to give priority to the summative and formative assessments. This was offered up by a teacher whose administration demands homework but who personally doesn't believe in it himself.
The hour-long conversation was stimulating and thought-provoking. But homework, at least as it's still being assigned, is completely worthless.
2. If you want to transform the way your students learn, then transform your learning space.
In October, I got the chance to visit a school that's completely dismantled and rebuilt learning spaces, and the two mantras from that visit I continually quote to teachers is the following: Get the crap off your walls and remove your teacher desk (aka "Fort Desk.") Teachers are infamous hoarders and we also have the antiquated notion that we need to cover every inch of our classroom walls with posters, banners, and student work. If I had my own classroom today, it would resemble an office space similar to Google or Microsoft: stripped down, inviting, and designed for collaboration. Oh, and with deliberate learning zones (or stations or pods...whatever you want to call them)!
The teachers in the "Creating 21st Learning Spaces" session want to do the same. In fact, plenty of them already have! And the primary idea is to keep the space clean and simple to minimize the distractions. We also floated the idea of (gasp!) ditching desks. One teacher bought high rounds (like those found in pubs) for his classroom students who need a break from sitting. Another keeps a few exercise balls in the classroom; still another shared her story of finding "that room" in the building where all the castoffs go and finding tables to replace the desks in her room. Finally, one very brave teacher decided to put her money where her mouth is: the following Monday she said goodbye to her teacher desk for good!
3. If we ask teachers to change the way they teach, then let's change the way we teach them.
The majority of my job entails reaching out to teachers, and my biggest concern is that many teachers limit themselves to the confines of the four walls of our classrooms. Literally. There's very little time provided to teachers to go exploring...both literally and figuratively. Two edcampCLE sessions helped me think of new ways to encourage both empowerment and collaboration: "Administration in the Digital Age. How do we empower teachers to be the best version of themselves without overwhelming them?" and "Break down those walls! How do we collaborate with other teachers in our own buildings?"
If our goal is to make learning fun again, then let's make teaching fun again--without overwhelming our teachers by throwing a bunch of new tech tools at them and hoping something will stick. Let's face it: traditional PD doesn't work anymore. And quite frankly, I'm pretty sure most of the teachers I work with hear "I want to fix you," when I say, "You do this really well, and here's something that will make it easier and more fun for you."
Some ideas tossed around that I'm definitely going to audition:
There. The bags are unpacked. And I'm determined to not put those precious souvenirs on the shelf to gather dust. Thanks, again, EdCampCLE. See you next year!
Learning Designer. Instructional Coach. Trainer. Working my hardest to create Teacher-Bordered Classrooms.