Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Bridge Between Two Worlds

Today I was planning a lesson/activity about respect.
Insert complaint here about how some teachers don't want to spend time planning with me, but will, on occasion throw a topic of interest my way such as "Can you do a power point or something about respect?"
Insert second complaint about how I only have the students for 45 minutes a week and try to have them working on the computers for most of the time. This does not leave me enough time to activate background knowledge or really get too deeply into discussions with them, etc.

Ok, no more complaining. I promise!
This week I got them into groups of 3 and had them begin an Inspiration diagram showing/describing self-respect, respect for others, and respect for property.
So today I wanted to plan part two of the lesson. I really want to have them use Voice Thread.
I love Voice Thread. It's a great, new tool. I know it would be a good vehicle for exploring respect with the kids. 
So, finally getting to the point here:
I haven't used Voice Thread yet. 
I call Voice Thread a "new tool." In the world of online, connected teachers, the leaders, movers and shakers, whatever you call 'em, Voice Thread is so last month! They've moved on to the next cool new thing and I haven't even figured out Voice Thread yet.

As I thought about this, two blog-post worthy ideas came to me. 
First idea: Process not product. We have to be free to fail, free to try things, free to make mistakes and free to LEARN. If we are always focused on getting a good final product, we will not venture into trying new things that we've never done before. Don't get me wrong - I know that products are important. I want the kids to have something to be proud of, something to share with the world.  I am all about product. 
But I am even more about process. The process IS the learning. 
I am excited to get into Voice Thread because it is something new for me to learn. I relish trying new things with the kids. I know in the back of my mind that whenever I do something with a class for the first time things might (and often do) go wrong. You just can't foresee everything when trying to incorporate a new technology with a group of kids. It's the process that teaches me and the process that makes me a better teacher. It's the process that teaches the students, too, and I think it is important that I model for them HOW to learn, that it's okay to try things, okay to make mistakes and figure things out as you go along. 
And the product? Most of the time we end up with a great product. 

This brings me to the second post-worthy idea: I am the bridge between two worlds. I was thinking about the freedom I feel to trust the process and to try new things. Part of it is because very few people at my school really know what I'm doing.
The culture at my school puts heavy value on grades and straight, old-fashioned academics. I don't give a grade therefore what I do can not possibly be that important. I'm not complaining here, just saying. Of course, I know the value of the teaching and learning that takes place in the lab. The kids know it. A few others know it. And it is my job to bridge that gap so that everyone gets it.
As I was saying before, VT is already old news in the world of the people I learn from. I read blogs of brilliant educators and follow people on twitter who are so far along this 21st century path. And then, there are the educators with whom I work at school. This is in no way a put-down of my fellow teachers; most of them are, in my opinion, excellent teachers. But most of them are stuck in the past. C'mon folks, the 20th century ended over 8 years ago! It's a whole new world! 
I realize that I am the bridge between this fast-moving, web 2.0, globally networked world of creation and innovation and my physical school which is still getting its bearings in the modern day. I think it is a privilege to be in this position, and I hope I am able to do it justice.

Image credit: Oaks, Linda. coveredbridgeatlanta_2.jpg. 2007. Pics4Learning March 27, 2008 <>


Pam said...

I love the bridge analogy! I never thought about it, but that's exactly what we are as technology educators. We're bridges between the quickly evolving web 2.0 world and the more traditional classrooms that exist in most of our schools. Great post!

Andrea said...

Thanks for the comment Pam. I hadn't thought of the bridge analogy before either, but I like it. I feel that I can't keep up with what is going on tech-wise although I am 100% immersed in it, and I work with some people who don't know how to click on a link. It makes me feel more right about what I am doing in terms of pushing people even though they resist.

Unknown said...

I am studying special education in college and am taking a class on computers/technology in education. Your blog really inspires me to not be afraid to try new things with students. Maybe one of the students will know how to use something and thus, they are teaching the class. Inquiry based classrooms are all over in schools now, and having a student teach you and see that just because you are a teacher doesn't mean you know everything about everything, that is something worth learning. When I was in school I always thought of the teacher as a sort of god, they seemed to know everything, and when I finally realized that they didn't know everything, they became so much more approachable. It's an amazing thing. I really like the bridge analogy and this post is great!

jheisler said...

I Think a lot of school district technology teachers are feeling your pain. It seems that a lot of our school systems are stuck in the past. The only way many of these teachers know how to teach is to stand in front of a class and lecture. The problem is, students learn differently in our technology age. From my experiences, students gain more from hands on activities and lessons that are out of the ordinary. The use of technology in our schools makes that possible.