What’s my “why”?

As I created my statements of why, how, and what we do as educators, I found the task extremely simple. My statements were focused on the teachers in my school and my efforts to convince them that technology could be used more effectively to change the way their students learn. I struggled as I reflected on my statements though, because I couldn’t figure out how they would be changing anything. Understanding that I was trying to speak to their hearts, I quickly remembered that my colleagues weren’t the people I needed to target.  They know how important technology is. They use it, even if not as effectively or as often as they could.  

The hearts I need to speak to are those of administrators – not in our building – but in our district. I believe our teachers are willing to use the tools that have been made available to them. The problem is that they don’t all know how to do so. They don’t have time to learn it on their own. And they don’t know what questions to ask because they don’t know what they don’t know. Our administration can help by changing the way they do things.

The concept really is simple. Everyone in the education world knows how important it is to prepare learners for the future. What they’re not paying attention to, is the fact that everyone is a learner. The learning environment shouldn’t just be about the students, but the teachers as well. That is the basis for my statement.

Why – Our goal, as educators, is to create a learning environment that inspires thinking, dreaming and doing.
A learning environment that promotes thinking, dreaming and doing shouldn’t just be doing so for K-12 students. It should be a goal for all of us, because learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It happens in auditoriums, presentation rooms, and even the faculty lounge.  We are all learners. And wherever and whenever learning is taking place (staff meetings, professional development opportunities, and even administrator led presentations) thinking, dreaming and doing should be promoted.

How –    We bring experiences into the classroom that offer students real world opportunities and challenges every day.
Anyone who has sat through a presentation in which a PowerPoint has been read to them understands the frustration of being thought of as nothing more than an audience or recipients of information. This type of instruction is not only the bane of productivity it communicates a message that the most important person in the instructional process is the presenter. If the learner is not the most important person in the learning process, time is being wasted.
Learners need experiences, not lectures. They need to be able to see concepts from a variety of perspectives, and to apply them to their passions. They need opportunities to discuss their thoughts and learn from one another, and to ask questions and seek answers independently. They need to see that the process of learning doesn’t always require a “teacher”, and can continue on their own.

What – We create lifelong learners.
It’s the goal of educators everywhere to prepare our students for their futures. We want them to be able to find solutions, or apply previous knowledge to get results on their own. We want them to know how to ask the questions that need to be asked, and where to find the answers they need. We want them to be able to recall previously learned concepts to get their own independent results. The most effective way to prepare them is to let them practice in an environment where guidance is available when they need it. That is the classroom, wherever it may be.

My Innovation Plan is based on creating a more blended learning environment in our district. I learned through research that a majority of teachers resisting the shift to a blended learning environment do so not because they aren’t interested or don’t support the idea. The problem is that they don’t have the time they need to prepare and feel comfortable with presenting strategies in new ways.
The plan includes a push for district administration to dedicate time for teachers to work together to learn from one another about how they’re making the shift. It also calls for that dedicated time to be one of collaboration, independent learning and sharing, as opposed to the traditional presentation model. My hope is that my statements will call to the heart of district administrators, creating a sense of urgency for changing the format of professional development opportunities and training meetings. Students (teachers) who experience learning through a blended learning environment will be more likely to use it as a strategy of their own, which will better prepare learners for the future.