Have I had an “ah ha” moment?

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1320/4730150195_69d614b17c_m.jpg

I don’t  know how many times I have posted my frustrations this year about my inability to motivate and encourage my staff to try to integrate more technology into the classrooms in this school.  I have tried a few things, but it took a presentation at a staff meeting that ended with feelings of frustration and anger to make me realize I had to change my techniques.  One of the things I have learned this year as a new administrator, and trust me there have been many, is that my passions are not necessarily other people’s passions. I needed to back up the bulldozer and realize that everyone is not in the same place and I need to respect that.

On the other hand I have had monumental success in the area lately! I decided to apply for a school division technology grant (TIP) this year and sent out an e-mail to see if anyone would be interested in joining me.  What was in it for them was a new Flip Video camera and digital still camera for each of their classrooms, the possibility of learning some new things about assessment in math, and some release time to do it.  I had 4 teachers jump on board and we had a great time.

http://www.edupics.com/en-

coloring-pictures-pages-photo-understanding-i11687.html

Our questions were:

1.  Could we improve student engagement in math by using the cameras?

2.  Could we increase opportunities for teacher assessment through using the cameras?

3.  Could we increase opportunities for student assessment through using the cameras?

The answer was yes, yes and yes!

We had a lot of fun doing the project and we learned a lot.  It had the exact effect on everyone that I wanted and had a few extra effects that I  was hoping would happen and some that I did not anticipate…

  • Other staff in the school were  wishing they would have jumped on board when they saw what we were doing
  • We had the opportunity to share our learning with division staff
  • Another teacher in the school wants to add some more technology into her teaching and has met with me and spent a half a day with the technology consultant discussing possible ways to do that
  • One of the teachers that participated in the action research wants to present our learning at convention in the fall and has taken responsibility for that
  • Three other teachers have agreed to jump on board with another action research grant project I have successfully applied to do in the fall

Wow! What else can I say!  Look what happened when I stopped talking and started walking!

Inquiry Based Learning

I understand the concept of inquiry based learning and see all the benefits, but I seem to be stuck hovering on the edge and not knowing how to jump over the hurdle and land on my feet on the other side.  The whole idea of asking good “rigorous” questions and allowing students to move forward with investigating answers  through various sources,  choosing their own pathways to get there and representing their learning in different ways all makes sense to me.

How do I make sure I am confident enough to know how to help when students need guidance and suggestions on their journey to answer questions?  How do I make sure that I am pushing my thinking beyond the obvious so that I can help them stretch their thinking as well?

As I am looking at various inquiry based learning projects and resource guides for my ECI 834 course, I am still wondering if I am able to support my students quests even with the guides in front of me.

The process of inquiry seems simple enough:

  • Ask questions
  • Investigate solutions
  • Create new knowledge as we investigate
  • Discuss our discoveries
  • Reflecting on new-found knowledge

The questions for me seems to be how to put theory into practice at this point.  I think inquiry is the way to prepare our students for today’s fast paced and fast changing world.  I also feel that they are so lucky to have so much information available to them instantaneously.  It is our job to guide them in using that information.  Inquiry based learning is not a passing phase and the reason I feel that way is because it  makes sense that students taking charge  of their learning and going beyond basic information gathering requires higher level thinking and who can argue with that.  This process is illustrated in the following short and simple video on inquiry based learning.

We spend a lot of time considering and wondering why many of us in education are having difficulty moving from our tried and true methods of teaching  to inquiry, student-based methods of learning.  Let’s face it though, we are not the only ones that struggle with the transition.  We have created learners that are used to being fed and some of them expect to get answers with very little work on their own.  It seems to me that to move toward inquiry learning will take a great deal of effort on the part of both teachers and students.

I don’t think anyone can argue the benefits of this style of learning for our students.  Research and our practical knowledge of learning tells us this would be the better way.  I see every day students sitting in classrooms not really engaged in some of the things they are doing because they are so far away from their personal experience and interests.   I have successfully applied for a Stirling McDowell grant for the next school year so that we can do a project on using web 2.0 tools in middle years social studies to try to improve student engagement.  We are very excited about this, but of course we know that the tools are only part of what we need to do.  We also need to move to the inquiry method of learning so that our students will be engaged in what they are doing and use the web 2.0 tools to help them investigate, create, discuss and reflect on new learning.

Perhaps the best way, as it is in most cases, is to just quit talking about it and jump in and do it!

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”
James Thurber

So glad to be back!

I can’t believe that it has been so long since I last posted a blog.  I was making a presentation at the university last night, for another course that I am taking, on topic of teacher development and personal reflection.  I can’t imagine a better way to reflect, than on my blog.

The last few weeks have been insanely busy and I am so glad the long weekend has rolled around so I have time to actually get my feet on the ground and caught up with a few things.  I have been spending some time updating my blog and making some changes so that I can have my link posted for everyone in my new course, ECI 834, to see and read.

I am excited to be taking another on-line course because there is nothing that I would rather talk about than technology integration and authentic learning.

I am also excited to see some familiar faces in my class, as well as some new people for me to get to know.

Have a great long weekend everyone!