Some time ago, I imagined that I could work on two innovation plans at once. Oh, if only I had listened to the advice given by the 4DX guys: you can only wear one WIG (Wildly Important Goal) at a time!
I started out wanting to turn my classroom into a blended/flipped classroom AND discover how to use those pesky, ubiquitous supercomputers (smartphones) for fostering learning instead of distractions. I quickly had to decide which one to jettison!
It turns out that creating a flipped classroom is something that has been investigated fairly thoroughly. Just do a search for “blended classroom” or “blended education books” and you’ll get more than enough to take you where you want to go. There are existing libraries of online mini-lessons (think Khan Academy or Sophia for starters) to curate for any content you might want to host. There are platforms that exist to help you build up an online environment. In short, while this will be a useful innovation plan for me personally, it is not innovative in the grand scheme of things.
Working towards a blended classroom turned out to be more like transplanting a mature plant into a garden. While it would take work, I could already see what it would look like when done!
A Narrow Way
So, because I found out that there was so much work already done on the flipped classroom, I decided to drop that initiative for a season. (And, to be honest, I really want to create quality videos…and that takes time I just don’t have quite yet!) Instead, I focused on the tools and techniques that might turn those ‘smart’ distractors into something useful for my classroom.
This took more imagination, persistence, and research than I thought it would. Just because you have an electrified Swiss Army Knife on steroids doesn’t mean you know what it is really good for or how to best use it! Reading about technology tools and their uses around the globe helped me learn that. I’ve since read even more invaluable resources that have helped me see past the tool and into what I really want to do.
You see, I’m not sold on technology per-se. I don’t think technology is the solution to education. At least, not any more than libraries or educational television programs are. Of course, it is amazing to have information at our finger tips. But what information should we be looking at? What use should technology play in education? And, even deeper, what are the best ways to lead students to understand and relate to truth? What is at the core of our teaching? No cellphone manual can answer those questions. And even the highest quality app can’t help. Those answers come from State standards or curricula designers. Most importantly (and powerfully), though, they come from the mind, heart, and soul of the teacher in charge of their students.
As I continued to research, think (and pray!) about these things, I found myself drawn to the power of parallel processing that cloud-based documents afforded. Students could create richer, deeper documents more quickly using smartphones and laptops than any other means available to me in the classroom. This allows for greater collaboration AND creates more time in the classroom for face-to-face discussions than before. Imagine it – using smartphones can lead to MORE human interaction than less! I’m sold…and you can read a full article on my thoughts if you’d like.
However, as I’ve stated recently, there is a change of seasons happening. I’ve made some good growth with positive smartphone usage in my classroom. But is that all? No way!
I’m finding a voice for championing digital citizenship in my school. And I’m starting to work with other colleagues in my school who want to grow too! And there is still much to do with creating good content as I move into blending my classrooms. Now that much of the plowing is done, it’s time to start moving into planting so that, God willing, next year will be an even greater season of reaping good learning everywhere.
What season are you in?