You Don’t Know COVA, Until You Live COVA

I have viewed and shared the video RSA Animate Changing Education Paradigms so many times I can probably recite Sir Ken Robinson’s speech from memory. This video became my battle cry for my personal “why” of teaching. My problem was that I did not know how I was going to assist in changing the paradigms. COVA (Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authentic Learning Experiences) and CSLE (Creating a Significant Learning Environment) were the concepts I needed to move my American public education system in the direction I wanted it to go. Implementing COVA and CSLE will ensure the culture needed to shake the current education trends from further use and the beginning of the education revolution in our public school system. For more on the COVA approach and CSLE please visit the Professional Learning for the Digital Age page of my site.

As I begin to reflect on the process, my first thoughts go back to the missteps I took. Classes I saw as strewn individual puzzle pieces were completed sufficiently, and classes that I placed connections between earned a deeper engagement. Being focused primarily on the happenings of daily life as a classroom teacher, I compartmentalized my graduate work as separate from practices within school. However, it was not until last week that my eyes finally adjusted and saw the complete puzzle together. This happened when I was building a set of Google classrooms to be used for a “New Teacher Orientation” professional learning day. While beginning to start my last classroom, I realized that I had found a way to bring my innovation plan to my school. In the whirlwind, I could only focus on what was directly impacting my life: the resistance directly coming from within my organization. Without even knowing it, this program provided me the time and resources to build my innovation plan outside of the whirlwind. As I moved through the beginning stages of the process I took a mindset that I was accomplishing practice for later, now I realize the design ensures that my “practice” is directly influencing the work I am doing within my organization. The weekly artifacts completed within the courses provided me the stepping stones to the knowledge and the leadership skills I would need to influence my colleagues into giving my innovation plan a thought.

The COVA approach was a great fit for me and allowed me the freedom and opportunity to advance myself as an educator. The significant learning environment created through the LMS Blackboard structured my growth and ensured direction. There were times when I felt like my innovation plan was becoming spread too thin and was heading in differing directions. Without the structure of the program, my ambition would have pressed me to try and accomplish too broad a spectrum of goals within my innovation plan. The combination of the significant learning environment and the COVA approach fit perfectly into my philosophy of teaching. This gave the program credibility in my eyes and motivated me to continue my work. This also built support that my graduate work was my career work. Alas, I continued the separation of graduate and career work under the preconception that school and work were separate entities. Once I realized that this was not the case and that the two were indefinitely intertwined, I acknowledged my project I was building “for my university” was also the project I was building “for my organization.”

The COVA approach provides a label for my teaching philosophy I have been honing since my undergraduate work. Learning how to create significant learning environments was the skill I needed to bring COVA to my organization. I will be implementing the station rotation model in my classroom using Google classrooms paired with my online textbook. I must maintain my practices involving teaching the state standards through the district mandated curriculum. However, novel-studies and research projects will find life in Google classrooms that students participate in using the station rotation model. Students will choose which novel they will be studying and what topic they will be researching from a curated list. They will engage in discussion boards and reflect on assignments by blogging alongside daily grammar, vocabulary, and writing lessons. Students will be provided a pacing guideline, but will need to take ownership of their time management because the deadline for work to be completed will be the at the conclusion of the unit. As students create their own voice through the authentic learning opportunities within the blended unit, discussion boards, blog posts, Socratic seminars, in-class debates, and a concluding performance task, they will rise to the challenge of becoming self-directed learners.

My students will live the COVA approach throughout the year in my classroom. Being that self-discovery is so key when instilling life-long skills and mental approachs, I will not introduce the COVA model to my students until the conclusion of the year when they can reflect on whether they actively chose to be a part of the model or not. This method will allow for more genuine practice during the year from my students and myself. I believe piloting this model of blended learning will hone my facilitating skills, collect the data necessary to spread the model through my school and write a 1:1 grant for my school. My learners will face the challenge of seeing this model solely in my classroom. It will be my responsibility as a coach to inspire them to make the choice to take ownership of their education, find their unique voice, and engage in authentic learning experiences.