Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pause and Ponder: Your Education Career

The speed of change and innovation related to educational tools and potential can be daunting which creates a frequent need to pause and ponder the following questions:
  • What is working in my current practice, and what do I want to change?
  • What trending topics do I want to embrace, explore and implement?
  • Where am I headed with regard to my educational career, and the work I do?
Current Practice
During the February vacation, I hope to step back and rethink our classroom routines and schedules.  I won't make any big changes as students are responding well to the many small changes that occurred throughout the year as we integrated many new tech tools and processes into the daily routine.  I will, however, finesse with regard to the following areas: cognitive overload and feedback.

While it's true that I guide, mentor and coach my students with lots of feedback throughout the day and regularly add responsive comments to our classroom NING, I believe I need to create a realistic meaningful, weekly feedback loop of sorts where individual children are receiving targeted comments and response to their work in a timely fashion.  Feedback is an important aspect of teaching and when done well serves to motivate and encourage students, hence I'll explore and implement that concept with greater depth.

cognitive overload
Secondly, I need to think about cognitive overload.  While I'm anxious to share new ideas, projects and learning with students and families, I don't want to overload them as that causes shut down. I believe the answer to this lies in the weekly schedule and communication venues.  While I want lots of enrichment there for the taking (NING, project work, content websites), I don't want to present it in a way that overwhelms young learners leaving little room for their own voice, creativity and ideas.  

As systems change, cognitive overload and feedback need to be reviewed and revised.  Hence, I'll focus on those areas.

Trending Topics to Embrace, Explore and Implement: Active Learning
I want to read more about active learning endeavors.  I have many students who resist the passive learning action of sitting for long hours and working with paper/pencil, laptops or other sedentary venues.  I believe that interactive Kinect-like virtual experiences and gaming, outdoor/outside-of-school adventure and hands-on building and exploration should be increased as a way of responding to these learners and young children in general.  This kind of learning seems to be a good match with regard to the latest research in cognition too.  The challenge here is that current standards do not embrace the way knowledge is developed and expressed in these endeavors.  I believe that knowledge process related to this type of learning results in greater time for basic literacy and numeracy development, yet less time for the attainment of concepts related to scientific and mathematical knowledge and relationships.  I don't have research to support this, and I am just beginning to think deeply about this type of learning as I read about the latest research, tools and programs.

Where Am I Headed?
I'll start by rearranging the learning environment yet again.  I find that I am constantly changing the way my classroom looks to respond to the learning changes we embrace. That takes time and energy, but it is a necessary action.

Then, I'll take a close look at all the work students have created and completed this year as well as student/family feedback.  I'll provide feedback related to each child as I prepare for upcoming conferences, and adjust the schedule to better meet individual student's needs while still focusing on the standards at hand.

I'll continue to engage in weekly discussions and reading related to the quickly changing education landscape with specific focus on learning design and active learning.

Finally, I'm planning a summer with time to read and catch up on other areas of life so that I can be prepared for another year of inquiry, implementation and response as I teach fourth grade. After all, "all school and no play," makes teachers dull.

I do not see an end to my education career, but I do see an eventual transition from the heavy time-on-task days as a responsive school teacher to greater focused effort related to the ideas and innovation that serve children and our world well.

Pause and ponder, then list and act.  Is this how you move forward?  If so, where are you headed in your education career? What pattern of action will lead you there?