How Learners Become Leaders

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, “The only constant is change.” The evolution of the digital universe demanded that I allow change. With a release of an updated version of your device each year, new software must be learned with each update. This constant updating demands a growth mindset. Once the growth mindset takes effect, learning digital tools joins the list of never-ending things to do. As a new homeowner, I can say I never thought mowing the lawn and learning how to use my computer would fall under the same list. As an educator, the impending change due to technology finds realization in each year’s lesson plans. I observe veteran teachers roll out the same lesson plans year-after-year, and I cannot help but wonder how they are not bored to the point of insanity. My lessons, while only three years old, have taken on new characteristics and supplemental activities each year. Some of those supplemental activities will be described and linked to further on.
First, I must acknowledge where I believe I fall short within my digital learning network. I have accumulated numerous resources and uncountable texts, pictures, and videos to be used within my arsenal of educating tools. I have used formal education, social media, and the much discussed “sit and get,” as well as a myriad of other platforms, to put together the lessons I use day in and out as a high school teacher. However, I have not contributed the artifacts that I have created using all of these inspirations. With the culmination of my first graduate program in sight, I look past the stage and view myself working on insuring my work can be used by the masses that I so graciously borrowed from. The digital world provides me with unlimited opportunities to publish my material, so the responsibility falls on me to put in the ground work to accomplish my goals.
One of my major takeaways from this program is that you must model the behavior you wish to see. Whether you are teaching teachers how to effectively implement digital tools within the classroom or teaching students how to use digital tools to display their evidence of learning, those receiving instruction must view the skills being used before using those skills themselves. My weakness lies in my inexperience with a variety of digital tools. I am still learning what digital tools are out there and how to use them within instruction. I have ensured that my students are being provided the opportunity to develop digital content and practice positive digital citizenship skills by lining my curriculum with supplemental digital activities. After taking my students through a grammar lesson, they complete an assignment using NoRedInk. After copying a unit of vocabulary words, they complete a set of exercises posted on their class’ webpage. I use videos provided through my online textbook to supplement content; however, a reflection piece that can be typed or hand-written will be paired with the video to guarantee engagement. I have experimented with the The Gutenberg Project to provide my students with digital copies of text that we read inside the classroom. Most of the ways I use technology to support teaching in my classroom are channels for students to complete assignments from outside of the classroom. This safeguard method came out of my need to accommodate a number of students that miss large amounts of class time. My current experiment provides my students reading Romeo and Juliet the opportunity to create their own comic of the play using Storyboard Creator. My challenge with using all of these digital tools is keeping up with how content is created and submitted. I hope that my students view my eagerness to allow them creative freedom through digital outlets as motivation to begin developing their digital footprint.

 

For a digital tool to earn value and create educational impact, that digital tool must allow the user/s proper space and time to comprehend the tool, to practice using the tool, and to demonstrate the ability to synthesize understandings of the curriculum and personal connections via the tool. When users are rushed through a digital tool or are provided a digital tool with no instruction or practice, the quality of learning and the quality of the artifacts being created decreases. I am currently awaiting on approval of a mission to travel to Dominca and St. Thomas to assist in professional learning revolving around implementing iPads and interactive whiteboards within the classroom. My challenge will be to hone my skills in the use of these technologies to ensure that I am providing effective and meaningful instruction to those listening to my presentation. My plan is to take the Romeo and Juliet Unit Plan I have built to incorporate a number of digital tools and assemble it into a Blendspace Unit. I can then take those at the professional learning through the unit using an iPad and interactive whiteboard. While this may not be fully inclusive of what the capabilities of these tools can accomplish, I believe that a “stepping stones” approach must be taken when instructing and learning digital tools. Due to the vast amount of ways an iPad and interactive whiteboard can used, learners would find themselves experiencing cognitive overload by attempting to master those tools in a matter of days. As I continue to introduce myself to new tools and hone my skills within already known tools, I hope to model positive digital citizenship and to inspire those around me to develop their personal digital citizenship.

I first saw “Changing Education Paradigms” by RSA Animate in my undergraduate years, and I have shared it and viewed it more times than I can recall. This video provided me with a moment of clarity that has driven my desire to educate myself in the field of digital learning. When I combine the concepts brought to mind by Sir Kenneth Robinson and the concepts brought to mind by Steven Johnson in “Where Good Ideas Come From,” I find my inspiration that allows me to induce a state of flow when at work. Jago (2000) describes the state of flow as state of mind in which an individual loses sight of all distractions due to being entirely engaged within the current objective (p. 89). Understanding that the field of education will be transformed in such a way that the previous model will be unrecognizable to the present combined with the understanding that my personal ideas must be tended to and developed provides balance that fosters innovation and leadership. I have began my career in providing my country with a premium educational product; however, the goals I am achieving now are the beginning steps to what ideas will combine with others to assist the change in education paradigms.

References:

Jago, C. (2000). With Rigor for All. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

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