Posted by Emile Ferlisi in Effective Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - @HCTLLP on Nov 9, 2015 7:00:00 AM
I think we've all heard the saying, "don't reinvent the wheel" - as educators, we've probably even used it as an excuse to "teach" our students using someone else's lessons (that we may or may not have actually read through before delivering) or resources that we probably should have stopped using or, at the very least, updated. Go ahead and be frustrated with what I am implying - it's likely because you know how much truth there is to what I'm saying here. For some reason, many of us refuse to take risks when it comes to how our lessons are put together: we're creatures of habit, we "know what works", we already have the whole unit done (hey, can I get a photocopy of that?) - there are more feeble explanations for our lack of creativity in addressing the needs of our learners (which will change every year!), but I'll stop here.
It's a cliché at this point, but we are living in a time where the creative possibilities are nearly boundless. We have tools that allow our students to be creative and expressive in how they demonstrate their understanding and, from our teacher's perspective, we have tools that can energize and amplify our teaching in ways that we have yet to experience. This is all true IF we are willing to CREATE - and that's where the problem lies in many cases. We seem to be looking for technology to replace our teaching...you see, when we use text books, a tough day can equal a 30-minute teaching block where "open your text to page 45, read the first three paragraphs and do questions one to six in your notebook" is the lesson. We're all human, so I think we can understand that on some days we wish we could tell our students to read independently for...about five hours. Yes, creating takes energy and practice and commitment (and that's just the planning portion, we haven't even delivered the lesson yet!) - but if we want to be great we will need to combine all of these things with the powerful mediums that we all have access to at this point.
Commitment to preparing our students for their futures also requires self-directed learning
As we move forward with our TLLP, I'm encouraging my team to not only use the tools available to us, but to be a model of CONTENT CREATION for our students. What does that mean? That depends. It could mean that we're actually using Sway to present content to our students en route to having them learn how to create with it. It could mean that we go beyond using templates in nearpod lessons and collaboration and move ahead into creating our own, from scratch! (not with scratch, that's a whole different thing!). Modelling being a content creator could be as simple as taking a lesson (even from the mathematics textbook!) and turning it into an interactive experience on the smartboard - again, with our own creativity, using the tools available to us. It's true that some of the most useful tools we're seeing are labelled as "student driven", like Seesaw - but that doesn't mean that we can cut out the modelling component for our students. Of course, that means we have to learn how to create with these tools ourselves...and guess what, once you start you won't be able to stop! The time commitment it takes to learn how to function within the virtual environment that most of these tools provide is minimal to moderate (depending on your personal comfort level with digital tools) - but the potential pay back is enormous and you'll be helping to prepare your students for a future where the ability to think creatively and critically will be the most valuable skill.
Right now might be the best time in the past 15 years to tell a colleague or teaching partner: "we should reinvent the wheel!" Put it this way, Orville and Wilbur Wright obviously didn't reinvent the wheel; they created something that could literally take us to places that the wheel could not. I'm excited to see what we're able to create for the remainder of this school year and the places we'll be able to go.