Monday, July 22, 2013

My brain on new knowledge: Reflecting on my learning

I have been fortunate to be engaged in some deep learning over the past few months. It began with an excellent AQ course, Integration of Information and Computer Technology in Instruction, run by Brenda Sherry. Through Brenda, I became aware of the Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) Network, and am now taking a course on Connected Coaching.

I am very thankful of the learning with my colleagues in the AQ course. I learned so much -- new tools, tricks and tips ranging from software to online apps. I look forward to continue sharing my learning with other educators. I feel so much more capable of answering their questions about tech tools to support effective instruction. Knowing the tools means that I can ensure that teachers focus on effective pedagogical use of the tech tools.

I still wonder how to best help teachers focus on effective pedagogy with technology.  This is an ongoing concern: many teachers want to simply put the technology in the hands of kids and let them demonstrate their learning. I agree that some kids have the capacity to figure out the technology and use it to demonstrate their learning. But not all will be able to do this. Our students need direct instruction in how to use tech tools if they are going to demonstrate successfully their learning. I think that exploration of tech tools is a great thing and that students should be given opportunities to try different tools, even if the teacher doesn't always know how to use that tool themselves. This is learning. However, I worry that teachers ask students to demonstrate their learning in a video and then evaluate that video as evidence of learning. This can be problematic: did the teacher instruct about how to create a good video? What are the evaluation criteria? I worry that the slickest video will get high marks, even if it's not based a deeper understanding. This isn't necessarily a new problem -- many students have learned how to create good looking posters or presentations, but the content was cut and pasted from the internet. 

I want to learn how to help teachers effectively assess and evaluate student work while promoting a deeper understanding of material. We need to ensure that teachers are giving students opportunities to demonstrate their learning in creative ways, using technology, but with guidance and feedback. I think it's important to ensure that teachers understand things like the TPACK model in order to use tech mindfully. 

I want to learn how to best utilize my new knowledge to engage other teachers in their learning. I am truly impressed with some of my colleagues learning of late; I am discovering that nothing is moving teachers to learn like the advances in tech tools. I want to capitalize on this interest and the explosion of self-directed professional learning. To that end, I enrolled in the Connected Coaching course with PLP (taught by the wonderful Lani Ritter Hall) and I am hopeful that it will combine some of the things I think are so important in my current role: supporting teachers in their professional learning, promoting effective instructional practices (especially using technology effectively), developing understanding about good assessment and evaluation practices, and advocating literacy (esp. beyond Ontario's standardized tests run by EQAO). Additionally, I am loving the challenge of changing my mindset to focus more on an appreciative inquiry, strength-based approach.  

I am really hopeful that I can do all of this through the effective use of technology as I continue to build my PLN: I have finally started this blog, I am continuing to build my school board's Literacy Committee's website, and I am active on Twitter, trying to build #ugdsb. Thanks to my learning from Brenda Sherry's IICTIP1 class and the coaching I am experiencing in my PLP Connected Coaching course, I finally felt confident enough to start my blog and put myself out there a bit more. Next step: focusing more on specific elements of coaching to hone those skills.

Image courtesy of: Gengiskanhg