Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Goal Setting...and Thanks

It's not New Year's (those ads start next week) but anytime is a good time to set goals.  Having something to aim for keeps one on the right path.  So what sort of goals could we, should we set for our 4th grade one to one iPAD program?  Since we first received approval, four words have seemed to capture the immediate possibility and potential of integrating this technology into our current curriculum:

Creativity, Collaboration, Independence, Assessment

Creativity being the capacity to produce ideas, processes, or products that are novel and useful or valuable, I hope integrating the iPads can help both teachers and students express their creativity in new ways.   I hope we think of more diverse, meaningful, and innovative educational experiences. I hope these experiences present interesting problems our kids are eager to solve in their own ways.  I hope our students surprise us by putting their own spin on the goals and expectations we set while discovering new talents and passions.  

Since collaboration and teamwork are and will continue to be essential skills out in the real world, I hope integrating the iPads can inspire true collaboration beyond us sticking students with a partner or a group.  I hope they realize they need each other to learn and enjoy learning from their peers.  I hope they have deeper experiences of multiple brains processing the same information and mulling over the same problem.  I hope they push each other to try new things. I hope they become each other’s most important teachers.  

My goal as a teacher is to be fondly remembered, but not needed.  I love to develop explorations and set up challenges, but I don’t want students to follow me to get to the “right” solution. I hope integrating iPads will help me do less leading and more guiding.  Teach people to fish and all of that.   I hope the iPads help us all feel comfortable enough to let go a little, to worry less, to explore more.  I hope students think of solutions I didn’t or couldn’t.  I hope they can take ever greater responsibility for their education and feel like powerful partners in our learning community.

We are having some great conversations about meaningful assessment these days.  I hope integrating iPads shows us more about students, how they learn, and what they can do.  I hope their strengths become even more visible, to themselves and to the adults in their lives.   I hope our classroom can document our processes more dynamically and share more thinking.  
I hope we teachers embrace more diverse ways to demonstrate competence as we move from a culture of "assessment of learning" to a culture of "assessment for learning".  I hope there are more opportunities to individualize and differentiate.  I hope in the end assessment means less about students meeting my expectations and more about them exceeding their own.   

Of course, creativity, collaboration, independence, and thoughtful assessment were already valued and happening throughout our school and in our classrooms before the iPads showed up.   However, these are the type of goals that can always be improved upon and reached to a greater degree.  Of course, the iPads will not do any of these things on their own.  However, in the hands of inspired teachers and motivated students they can become a powerful tool.   

Since returning from several recent conferences on iPads and learning and the brain, our faculty has been on fire with new ideas and new attitudes towards both teaching craft and student experience.  This Thanksgiving I am grateful to work in a dynamic educational environment with amazing people who are committed to elevating their own practices. In the process, they are both challenging and supporting me in my goal to become a better teacher. I am thankful to be having these experiences and conversations and to try many (or a few) new things. Pedagogy will continue to lead.  Technology will appropriately follow.  And may we all be a little further along in June.  

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