When you listen to a podcast and it sparks something in your soul...Chuck Poole is a podcaster who asks "Are you a Blockbuster teacher in a Netflix world?" After listening to his podcast, I could not let the analogy go. It was the perfect description of the two main categories many of us fall into.
Let me explain. Blockbuster was once the go-to place for personal, home entertainment. They were everywhere, respected, and successful. One day, a small startup came to them to pitch an idea for a new way to approach entertainment. Blockbuster wasn't interested because they were already successful. Poole states that just because something isn't broken, it doesn't mean you can't go ahead and make improvements. I truly believe the same can be said for teachers.
Poole outlines Netflix's three basic characteristics of success and compares them with those of a successful teacher. I have summarized below.
Netflix is very adaptable. As the need for new options arises, Netflix changes to meet those needs. Teachers are the same. Some teach more than 30 unique individuals at a time. As we strive to create authentic learning experiences for ALL learners, we must be able to not only change our pace or approach but also our mindsets. The tasks, presentations, and methodology from 10 years ago, do not always work with today's students.
This is where your technology tools come into play. Using Google Classroom, interactive playlists and other tools allow you to duplicate yourself in the classroom. Screencast lessons and teacher created video tutorials can be used in conjunction with best practices to allow teachers to remediate and/or enrich learners.
Like Netflix was willing to take a risk and leave the comfort of a brick and mortar rental business, you must be willing to take a risk from the "old" way of teaching. Worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, and trifold posters were all great tools. That's how I learned. However, we live in a time where the majority of our students have their own devices, idolize YouTubers, and have never had to rush home on a Thursday night so they wouldn't miss their favorite show. We've got to step out of the comfort zone to that place where the magic happens.
Some teachers are afraid of technology as it is a new and sometimes scary resource. However, transparency, trial and error, and support from your iTeach coach can combat this problem. Also, try to integrate in small doses. Dedicate a week to using Google Classroom with fidelity. The next week, add in a Google Forms quiz. Before you know it, the technology will be the tool it was meant to be. Remember, a laptop can never replace a great teacher, but it can save a lot of time and make a great teacher even more efficient.
One thing Netflix definitely had was a vision. They were able to anticipate the future and make plans to meet the driving need. We are preparing children for jobs that do not even exist yet. Think about that. Think about how amazing and scary that is at the same time. I currently have a career that didn't even exist when I was in high school, but now I'm constantly trying to explain to curious teachers how they can have an amazing opportunity like mine. Educators love their content, and it is important. That's what they pay us the big bucks to teach. But we also have to teach our students the process of learning and achieving competency. True, a student might not ever balance a chemical equation in adulthood, but the skills required to solve a difficult problem is the foundation for being a productive citizen.
As we anticipate the changes in our world and the global economy, we must always remember the 4Cs--collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Technology seamlessly promotes all 4. Google's G-Suite, Nearpod, Flipgrid, screencasts, blogs...those are just a few tools that a visionary teacher can use.
The path to Netflix and...Achieving (Shameless Plug ALERT!)
So you say you want to try the Netflix world of teaching? As your instructional technology coach, I'm here to help you integrate technology in a way that makes you more adaptable while taking your risk-taker and visionary spirit into consideration. Please let me know when you'd like for me to come to your classroom to offer support. Remember, I'm available to you for co-planning, modeling, and/or co-teaching.
We're often told that we must differentiate for our students. We are told that we have to make lessons relevant to their experiences and needs. We must meet them where they are. But do we offer those same accommodations to our teachers? The other day I had an agenda planned out for a meeting with a group of dedicated educators. However, one of the teachers was having a rough day and needed some encouragement. Instead of going on with the planned agenda, the four of us brainstormed ideas that could help with her issue. It was funny because each of them apologized several times for going off topic, but I assured them that the topic at hand was way more important than what I had planned, and it was. I'm not writing this as a pat on my back, but as a warning that we must listen to our teachers. We must differentiate and give them what they need as well. Educators are so involved making sure that we stay within the scope and sequence, that content is covered by a certain time, that the kids are ok... but how often do we really and truly take a moment to make sure that the adults in the building are ok as well. I once saw a phrase that said "If you don't feed the teachers, they will eat the students." If we don't work to meet the emotional and academic needs of our educators, they are unable to meet the same needs in our students. Ok. Stepping off of my soapbox now.
So, I kind of started over...again! I left my old district in search of a change. A change that would make me feel as if I were actually impacting education every way I wanted. I liked working for a university. As an outside contractor in schools, I was able to do my job and go home. But I forgot one thing--relationships are my thing. While I was able to build some long-lasting relationships with teachers at my school, I was only there a few days a week. I never felt truly part of the school.
As I waited to see if our contract would be renewed, I started looking at other positions in the metro area. I had always wanted to work in Atlanta, but I didn't think that would be possible. I mean, EVERYONE wants to work in Atlanta. I applied, and I actually kind of forgot about it. Again, the likelihood of me getting a call was slim, right? Wrong. About a month or so after I applied, I got an email asking me to interview for a site-based Instructional Technology Specialist. I researched the school, called a few friends, and the consensus was I'd be crazy not to as least try. So, I did. I went into the interviews thinking that I wouldn't get the job, but at least the experience would be great. I mean, I had a job I liked. Then, I interviewed. The first interview was with Instructional Technology. The interviewers were AMAZING! It felt like I was talking to old friends (probably because I had been Twitter stalking some of them for years), and I loved the vision for the position. I went home feeling great but waiting to see if the principal of the school chose to interview me. Soon, that interview came as well. Again, I went in thinking I wouldn't get the job, but that was ok. I had a job. UNTIL I walked into Inman. As soon as I met the principal and the panel, I wanted that job. So much so that for the first time ever, I froze in an interview. I was able to answer the questions, but I left feeling as if I might have left something off. I was devastated because I thought I had missed my chance to work in the absolute best school ever for me. Long story short (a little late for that, I know), I was blessedly wrong!
So now, I'm the ITS for one of the most amazing places I've ever been. I was teary-eyed in the new employee orientation as the fabulous superintendent outline a philosophy that was so in sync with my own. The staff at my school is brilliant. Pulitzer prize winning author? We've got that. Dedicated educators with not only a plethora of advanced degrees and experience but also a love for education. They actually CARE. A lot. I now work with people who like me care more about the whole child than they do test scores (ours are great, by the way), and I work with a leader who is a dedicated to incorporating technology as I am. Google certifications. An aggressive plan for being one to one, and a joint vision of being THE 21st century school. I am so excited to be an Eagle and I can't wait to share my adventure with you!
Deployment! One of my schools had their chromebook deployment today. It was both exciting and scary for me as I was unsure what to expect. However, over 1000 students were able to get their devices in less than an hour. That was the easy part.
Now, the emails from panicked teachers have began. Where's the caps lock? How do the students use Word? What happens if they leave the devices at home? One of the best parts about my job is being able to alleviate those fears and help my teachers create interesting and exciting lessons using a variety of resources. I am so excited about the wonderful things we will create together.
While this may sound cliche, I honestly want to change the world. That has been my goal since I was old enough to determine a goal. That being said, as I worked in research and development years ago, I was unfulfilled. I felt as if I was not attaining that goal. Thus, I became an educator.
As a Digital Learning Specialist, I was charged with creating new learning opportunities for teachers in my district. Working with my team, I designed, implemented, and assessed professional developments for my district. At one point, I supported approximately 20 schools with the implementation of digital tools that include but are not limited to a learning management systems, G-Suite (formerly Google Apps for Education), online assessment tools such as Socrative, and all district instructional technology hardware. In addition to this, I attended district Teaching and Learning meetings where I worked with directors, content coordinators, and lead teachers to evaluate and support district instructional practices. During this time I also became a Google Level 1 & 2 certified educator as well as a Teacher Support Coach.
On June 29th, I made the difficult decision to leave my former school district after 11 years. It was tough, but it was time to pursue a new dream. Being a member of the KSU iTeach team is an amazing opportunity that will give me an opportunity to work closely with a new school district. I plan to spend this year learning as much as possible and helping as many teachers as possible. Personalized learning, BYOT, all of these plans are designed to meet students where they are and enrich the learning process. As a member of your professional learning network, I will continue my quest in changing the world one student at a time by helping with these initiatives. I will not only offer sound instructional support, but I will also offer professional coaching, and I will go above and beyond to ensure that all students are given an opportunity to be successful.