Thanks for the introduction ColleenNoffsinger @LitLovgal1 on Twitter.
If you've never read my blog before - Thanks for stopping by! Just a bit about me. I've been an educator for 28 years. I enjoy coaching teachers in order to improve student outcomes and enhance teaching and learning. I'm always pushing teachers to try new things and get outside their comfort zone. That's where the learning takes place for teachers and students!
Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller is an easy read with so many practical ideas for those starting out and great reminders for those of us who have been at it for a while. Ditch That Textbook is partially a true suggestion and partially a metaphor for - let go of that Industrial Revolution mentality that exists in our schools. The Industrial Revolution is over and the mentality that goes with it needs to disappear in our schools. I believe this book was written to be read cover to cover, but could also be used as reference material.
Section 1 - Why Go Digital?
Chapter 5 - Reinvent Education
All of us that are part of this book study, #D100BloggerPD, are lucky enough to work in a district that has been reinventing education since 2009! We have been 100% 1:1 with Macbooks and/or iPads since August 2012.
We are a model district in Suburban Chicago. Over the last 6 years we have hosted site visits for over 2,000 teachers, administrators, school board members, business people and state officials. They come from approximately 150 school districts and business, 20 states and 4 countries. They all come to see how we facilitate teaching and learning with our students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
For us it was not just about bringing in the devices. In Berwyn South we changed many things:
- Teams of teachers were given at least one 70 minute block of common planning time each week.
- We made professional development a priority before, during and after school. Staff meetings became PD opportunities not housekeeping sessions.
- We hired Instructional Coaches
- We phased out traditional grades and brought in standards-based reporting.
- We dumped the desks and got tables, which then led to flexible seating areas
- We changed to fitness based P.E. especially in our middle schools
- We overhauled the food in our lunchrooms, no more soda or juice machines, no more chocolate milk.
- We focused on the positive benefits of student attendance with our families.
In fact, I would argue that bringing the devices into the classroom of a teacher who is not willing to grow in his/her teaching practice only magnifies that problem. A growth mindset or fail forward mentality is a must in order to effect change.
If you are not lucky enough to work in a progressive district there are little things that you can do to make changes in your classroom. I would encourage you to get on Twitter if you aren't already (have you been living under a rock for the last 8 year?) and follow educators who are blazing trails in many different areas of education. If you don't know who to follow. This list is 2 years old, but has some amazing educators on it. Start with your state! Keith O'Neil's 50 States in 50 days #eduFollowChallenge - Follow 100 Educators in Each State
Chapter 6 - We Are No Longer The Gatekeepers
The devices give our students the ability to have all the information and experts in the world at their fingertips. Teachers are no longer the sole source of knowledge. Teachers should be the "guide on the side, not the sage on the stage." In our district believe - the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning. The amount of student talk in the classroom should be greater than the amount of teacher talk. That's why as a coaching department we often do time studies on teachers showing them how much direct instruction, group work and independent work is going on in their classroom. This way they can make changes to their instruction to increase student talk.
With the sheer volume of information that exists these days, there is no way that one person can be the expert in everything. This was once the case in the classroom. You must relinquish some of that control. Learn one app or program and do it well with your students once you have it mastered move on to another. If there is something you don't know or understand chances are your students, even if they are first graders can help you. Miller talks about using YouTube in the classroom. If you are just starting out using devices with students, YouTube to engage your students is great. I once learned how to fix the wiring in my bathroom fan with a YouTube video.
In Berwyn South we want our students to create their own content to demonstrate their thinking and understanding of a particular skill or standard.
I CHALLENGE YOU TO HAVE YOUR STUDENTS CREATE THEIR OWN CONTENT to demonstrate their thinking and understanding.
You don't have to post to YouTube, but you need to have students creating blogs, websites, epubs, podcasts etc.
Chapter 7 - Real World Skills
Miller makes the point that there are 10 skills that all students should have:
- Adding value
- Creating content online
- Continuously listening and watching for new ideas
- Glamorizing hard work
- Turning wasted time to productive time
- Cultivating relationships
- Being financially responsible
- Staying on the cutting edge
- Maintaining the balance between professionalism and being a real person
- Becoming a twenty-four-hour worker
I'll let you read this chapter to see what his suggestions are in these areas! Before you read what Matt Miller says - ask yourself - What do they mean to me in my classroom with my students?
This quote really stood out to me. Many of the teachers that I have worked with say that the more control that they give up in their classroom the more joy they get from their students! Is there any teacher that doesn't want that to happen?
Chapter 8 - Make It Personal
Make students the stars of your lesson. Use their names and experiences to personalize the content that you present in the classroom. An example would be to liken a conflict in a book to a real-life experience that students might have had. Miller says that asking students relevant questions and using questioning techniques to connect the content through real-life experiences will help them make better sense of the content. I would argue that this also helps build relationships with your students. Students see you as more than just the purveyor of knowledge and the authoritarian in the room. They will begin to see you as a real person who "gets" them.
Chapter 9 - Fun and Magic
This a great section for me to end with. Once when my former team of five members was being introduced at a professional development session each of the members was introduced with their particular area of expertise, Apple, Google etc. I was last and I was introduced as the Fun One! Maybe it was a knock on me, I'm actually still not sure. I took it to mean that I am a jack of all trades master of none and relished being called the Fun One. Be the Fun One in your classroom. Learning can still happen if you embrace this persona.
Ask yourself if you had a choice would you be a student in your own classroom? Kids are naturally curious so don't stifle that use it to your advantage. Create experiences not just lessons! Again there are plenty of ideas out there on Twitter and another great resource is - Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess!
Next up is Literacy Coach LeeAnne Layden over at Word Detectives. Click here for the all the links to the #D100BloggerPD Ditch That Textbook blog posts!