Thoughts and Tools

Growing COVA

A shift of seasons…


There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

    a time to plant and a time to uproot… (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, NIV)


Life is full of seasons: both natural and metaphorical.  If you’ve been reading these posts, then you know that this has been an intense season of ‘planting’.  I’ve been working on a master’s in education degree from Lamar University in Digital Learning and Leading.  It has been good and intense!   But this season is coming to a close.


In looking back over the last season, there has been a distinct ‘flavor’ to it.  My lead professors, Drs. Cummings, Thibodeaux, and Harapnuik have worked hard to create a learning environment infused with what they call COVA (2017).  Let me take some time to unpack what that has meant to me.


C is for Choice


Step one: make your own e-portfolio. Okay…which host platform should I choose?  My choice.  (In this case, a friend with Drupal expertise helped me out.  Thanks, Scaled Solutions!)


Step two: figure out what you want to change in your professional life.  Simple, really…just make it meaningful! 


Step three…and four…and on… are infused and informed by my choice, my audience, my ability to determine how much this will mean to me.  That’s the C in COVA at work.


O is for Ownership


Naturally following the responsibility of making my own choices comes the need to own the choice.  If I say that I want to use cellphones in my classroom for learning, then it is up to me to make that happen! 


V is for Voice


The fact that this post is written in a casual voice that (I really hope) helps my readers connect with what I have to say is VOICE.  I’ve been able to choose not just what I want to say, but how to say it.  It’s been refreshing.


A is for Authentic Learning


Well, what do you think you’d get if you allow (or maybe gently force) someone to choose a meaningful project that is their responsibility?  What if you held that person accountable to actually doing something?  I think you’d get progress and something real as a result.  Well, at least that’s what’s been happening with me!


What’s been growing in my classroom?


So, now I’ve had this COVA seed planted in my soul and I see the power of it.  It is making me think about the different ways I can empower my own students or their learning.  The way of creating space and accountability for others to make progress on what will be meaningful to them is a great way to foster mindful learning. 


Of course, I’ve also been working to change smartphones from pocket warmers into collaborative learning tools.  It seems that the COVA plant is already bearing some fruit!


Growing a Garden


I think it is also important to mention a caveat with using COVA.  It is only one part of a healthy ‘learning garden’.  Gardens don’t just have one kind of plant in them.  Sometimes, it is important to build up walls and fences that nurture sensitive plants (like a COVA plant).  You have to cultivate the soil.  You might even have get rid of some problems (weeds or stones) before the garden can really take off. 


I think a classroom that tried to use COVA 100% of the time would have problems because not all education is about individual expression.  Part of growing and maturing is learning how to become part of a community and understand how things have been done.  I don’t think it would work very well to teach dimensional analysis or quadratic trigonometric equations using COVA.  I know that students have to be trained in how to maintain an official, 3rd person, as-objective-as-possible laboratory notebook.  And I want to foster academic responsibility in how my students cite their research. 


And yet, while these caveats are true, there are many benefits from the COVA tree that’s growing in my classroom!


What’s growing in yours?


Cummings, C D., Thibodeaux, T. N., & Harapnuik, D. K. (in press). Using the COVA learning approach to create active and significant learning environments. In Keengwe, J. S. (Ed.). Handbook of research on digital content, mobile learning, and technology integration models in teacher education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

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Curtis White, M.S., M.C.E.
High School Faculty
Math, Science, Bible & Computers
Abundant Life Christian School
A Madison Christian School