The CUE Rock Star Admin Hero’s Journey is all about providing new, hands-on skills for administrators who desire to create a positive, disruptive process of change in their organizations. These will be three full, hard-working, challenging and rewarding days. The faculty and curriculum will deliver administrators (Assistant Principals, Principals, Curriculum Coordinators, Directors, Assistant Superintendents and Superintendents) the skills they need to lead their districts in more agile and adaptable ways.
I started teaching in January of 1995. This is who I thought I needed to be in the classroom and to some extent it was required. I took over a fourth grade classroom for a retiring teacher who had taken every Monday and Friday off the entire first semester. When I had been there eight days, it was the longest stretch of consistency these kids had had all year.
If I wasn’t being Sergeant Hulka from Stripes I was coaching like Bo Schembechler. I had high expectations. I was loud with very low tolerance. I expected my students to be exactly like I had been. Do what I ask when I ask it with few questions…It wasn’t very fun. I wondered how I would ever endure 30 more years of this.
In 1998 I faced what I figured would be a “make or break” task. I would be teaching a 5-6 split. I would have six 6th graders who all were academically gifted in one way or the other and seventeen fifth graders who hadn’t been selected for the previous year’s 4-5 split, primarily due to academics. How was I going to tackle this?
This is what I discovered when I started using project based learning with the sixth graders….primarily to keep them occupied while I tried to get my 5th graders ready for the state assessment….MEAP test. That approach overtook my teaching that year and by June all kids were working on all kinds of projects and learning together in so many ways. It also became one of my favorite years of my career. You can smile and cheer instead of bark and gripe when your kids are constantly engaged.
I have also discovered that everything we need to know about engaging learners is in an 80s movie somewhere.
I present to you the ultimate piece of educational technology. Just watch this trailer and think about how this phone booth does exactly what we want our technology to do. These guys have incredible access to primary sources and get to witness history. It is total immersion in content.
If you remember how the film ends, these two put on an amazing rock concert-like oral report. They had the tools to gather information and then presented in a way that expressed the learning through their skills as rock and rollers.
The next step is to value the time together. We can not monopolize the time. Jeff Spicoli actually makes a great point in the following clip from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Mr. Hand shouldn’t be the only one having all of the fun…if we can call it that.
There is probably a better way to set up a “feast on our time” though.
Kids love to the make stuff. It’s our job though to channel that energy into the right opportunities. Gary and Wyatt learned the hard way about being responsible with tools. Okay….this 3d printer might trump the phone booth for top tech honors but we are still talking abouttechnology being used educationally! Weird Science brings one more thought to mind. Did these “two guys” grow up to the “Two Guys and some iPads” that host a fabulous Google Hangout on Tuesday nights and are augmented reality ninjas?
Kids love to mess with stuff…even back in 1983 they were monkeying with NORAD and its super sophisticated computer the WOPR. Then in 1986 a kid who looked a lot like the War Games kid was hacking his high school attendance computer so he could go to the museum and a Cubs game. Poor Ferris. He asked for car and got a computer. Talk about being born under a bad sign. But….he had Internet in 1986. That’s not all bad. I wonder if David Jakes ever bumped into Ferris’ principal Ed Rooney in any Suburban Chicago educational circles. Rooney could have learned a lot from Jakes.
One of the hardest concepts for me to get my head around was the idea everything cannot be the same for every kid. Adam Bellow mentioned it at MACUL, the idea of an IEP, or individualized plan for every kid.
So, here is your opportunity to do just that. Pick one character from the Breakfast Club: Bender the Criminal, Andrew the athlete, Allison the basket case, Claire the Princess, or Brian the Brain and design some engaging learning activities for them.
We have assembled an absolute All-Star faculty made up of several Apple Distinguished Educators, Google Certified Teachers, a recent tech director of the year, the current MACUL Tech Educator of the Year, and California’s “Oustanding Emerging Teacher” for 2014. Not only are these people “kind of a big deal” in the educational technology world, they were all hand selected because they possess the uncanny ability to work with teachers in a fun way.
As we approach August, a lot of professional development initiatives are ramping-up. A word that drives me nuts is “training”.
It is a pretty bland word and it has gotten to be so prevalent we don’t think much about it, Here is what bugs me though. The results of training are mindless. We train monkeys to ride bikes. We train bears to ride bikes and we know from YouTube that letting them race is a really bad idea. Football coaches train linemen to take the proper footwork so the player can put all energy into exerting physically without having to think. Choreographers do the same with dancers.
Teaching is a creative, artful process that takes constant decision making and reflection. When you “train” a teacher to use a piece of technology you are essentially just programming them to use it in one way without thinking about the device or app’s full capabilities or new ways learning can be impacted. When we are in the “training” mindset we get future questions like “Who said it was okay to use Google Chrome? They showed us Firefox.”
That type of thinking is inherently a death nail to innovation and problem solving. All we create when we train is very expensive robots that are easily distracted by “The Bachelor”, Kardashian’s, and fantasy football.
This might be semantic hair-splitting, but consider the alternatives available. When I lead professional development sessions I really try to adopt the “lead learner” approach. I state right away that by no means do I know everything about what I am sharing and that my presentation should simply be a launching point for conversation and many questions that begin with “What if…’. I want my co-learners to share their ideas. This creates an atmosphere of collaboration and an expectation that the conversations and exploration will be ongoing and not just a one-shot lesson in button pushing. That type, the training type of PD doesn’t stick. Learning sticks!
Wendy Baker who covers Sandyview Elementary and Hamilton Elementary and I are expanding our roles as elementary Infotech teachers. This year in addition to teaching 40 minutes of combined media and technology instruction to students in grades Young Fives through Fifth we will be providing elementary staff a number of professional growth opportunities.
Instead of sticking with the old model of professional development coming in the form of a one day workshop where the great new idea has little follow-up we are choosing to truly differentiate and do PD on an individual needs based level. No matter where anyone might be on the road of technology integration we will help them grow in ways to improve their teaching and engage learners.
The following are the goals of our program:
•To provide elementary teachers with relevant, usable, needs-based professional development in the areas of educational technology and its successful integration into the curriculum
•To create team-teaching opportunities for consultants and classroom teachers to integrate technology together into the core curriculum
•To develop collaborative projects based on a combination of technology skills taught in Infotech and the content being taught simultaneously in the regular classroom
•To create a repository of online self-help reference materials for teachers to utilize. Most likely a blog or Weebly site that houses help guides but also highlights the successes we are having through teacher reflection pieces and examples of student work accomplished through this process
•To champion and highlight professional development the way it should be . . . a bottom-up approach that is individualized, not a top-down shotgun approach that is presented one day and then never addressed again
This blog will share my experiences working with staff members at Blue Star Elementary and Bentheim Elementary this year. It will feature many of the lessons we learn, tips and tricks, as well as reflections from real educators sharing their experiences with this PD model.
I hope you will join us on this journey by reading and leaving your own comments.