What is it about overachieving educators that we can't seem to take time for ourselves? Here we are at the beginning of our "3 month vacation" and in perusing my calendar, I truly only have 3 weeks off. I will be spending 4 weeks serving as tech support for the South Central Kansas Writing Project and will definitely be promoting Web 2.0 applications during that time. I will also be participating in a workshop on podcasting, a workshop on SMARTBoard use and the newest version of Blackboard. Add to that 5 days at a Student Council camp (I will be head sponsor) plus my own 2 children's activities and there is no time left! So why am I up at 4:55 a.m. and adding a blog post - insomnia??? or too many things on my list?
My goal this next school year is to be more of an advocate for student learning. I will be mentoring two teachers this next year -- a first year teacher and a pre-service teacher. I need to get off of my own agenda, and on to the focus of facilitating the learning process for my students via technology. I teach sophomores and seniors in a paperless English classroom which a colleague and I developed through an Instructional Learning and Technology grant through our school district. We just finished our second year of successful integration of technology into the classroom. The data we collected shows that student success increases with technology (most likely because they are more engaged). This past year in completing my master's degree in curriculum and instruction, I focused data collection on reading comprehension using technology and found that while the online classroom contributed to a larger degree of student success, the struggling reader was able to use technology to level the playing field on assessment and assignment quality.
I will be using this research to develop project based learning units for the coming year. However, it appears that I may be thwarted by the "powers that be" with the district's focus on pacing guides and end of quarter assessments. All of these mandated standardized tests are forcing me to eliminate "tests" from my lesson plans. Instead, I am opting for more essays (cringe) and technology projects. How I will incorporate vocabulary instruction and assessment remains to be seen. I can hit the state standards except for vocabulary with the lessons I have produced so far - some of which I will be sharing at the SCKWP this summer.
Perhaps this is what I have to teach my protege teachers - how to meet state, federal and district expectations, while exercising your creative freedom. The content of sophomore curriculum is composed of the "dead white guys" and we don't truly add color to the literature until 2nd semester. This is my challenge -- to make the content accessible and interesting to my students. Technology helps a great deal in this area, but not all 10th graders in my school are technology literate (some are too literate).
I was reading Will Richardson's recent blog (weblogg-ed.com) postings and am on board with the new focus of our profession -- instruction in how to use technology effectively and safely. But when educators are restricted by uninformed administrative personnel and scared parents whose focus is to block all "bad" technology - who are we cheating? The students will always find a way to circumvent policy and usually do not suffer the consequences -- the teacher does, even if the activity was during "off school" time. I will be interested in reading Richardson's ideas on how cell phones and iPods can be used effectively in the classroom setting.