Vision

I think one of the most important things we can bring to our classrooms, and schools, is vision.  Vision for what can be, regardless of what is right now.  This morning I was asked the question, “If I was to pick one word to describe who I am as a teacher, what would it be?”  For me, I think it’s vision-caster.

My school isn’t one that has technology embedded in every class or grade.  If used, it’s often an add-on or research tool.  However, I believe it can be different.  And I’m going to try my best to make it so.

There are a few days left in our current semester, however, I’m already looking forward to the next one.  Next semester I teach a technology class. It’s the first one our school is offering in at least four years.  And I have 25 students enrolled, which may not sound like a lot, but you have to understand, we’re a small school.  And of the students it’s offered to, over half are enrolled in my tech class.  Why so many?  Because I cast the vision, for my students, of what it will be.

I believe in offering my students the highest calibre of teaching I can.  And technology makes that all the more possible.  While a lot of this class will revolve around digital storytelling, they’re going to learn how technology is not only entertaining, but also a powerful educational tool.

My students are excited that they’ll be blogging.  They know they’ll be making movies and editing pictures, but beyond these they’ll be introduced to tools such as Google reader & RSS, Diigo, Evernote, and Jing.  And they’ll be using Symbaloo to keep track of their tools.  For many of my students, I think they’re looking forward to the challenge.  It’s like nothing else they do in school.

Today I got to share more exciting news with my students.  Next year we’ll be offering a new course — Global Studies 30.  On my syllabus I plan to call it Global Studies 30: Connect. Communicate. Collaborate.  We’ll be the only school in our province with it.  This alone is enough to make my students excited. Over the next month, I’ll be developing a local course with one of the curriculum consultants in my division.

The class, as I envision it, has a great degree of technology embedded.  For some of my students, the extent of the technology will be a challenge.  My hope is that in addition to units on human rights, wealth & poverty and the environment, we will study cultures in a number of parts of the world.  Here’s the exciting thing. I want to be connected to classrooms in each of the areas we’re studying, so that my students will learn about Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America from students in those places.  And they will learn about Canada from my students.

There are many in education today who are espousing the importance of students being globally minded.  I think this course is an important beginning.  In addition to learning about other cultures, it will ask them to critically evaluate their own, and hopefully begin to show that the solution for a culture’s problems must come from within that culture, rather than be imposed from outside of it.  I hope by connecting with students from other cultures it will help my students begin to step outside their North American ethnocentricity. 

Furthermore, not only are my students excited, but my colleagues that I’ve shared this idea with are excited, and amazed, at what we are able to offer our students.  One of my colleagues stated, “You can do that? I’d love to be able to connect my students with another elementary classroom in the world.”  I told her she can; I’ll even show her how.

While I typically am a Lone Ranger in my school, I had a technology conversation today with our senior math teacher.  I asked him if he’s teaching a split math class next semester.  He is, 30B and calculus.  I mentioned that he should consider using a wiki.  I explained that it would allow his students to be more self-sufficient, and those who grasp concepts sooner can move ahead.  Through the use of Khan Academy videos, and other relevant media, students will never have to wait for him again.  Instead, they can work ahead, which will allow him to monitor their progress and help where needed, while freeing him up to work with students who struggle.  Additionally, if a student misses, the information is all there.  And at anytime, parents can see what their child is learning.  This is why I love wikis.  He thought about it and said, “okay, you might have to show me how this wiki thing works.”

This is how I plan to teach my chemistry classes next year.  I tend to have three students who understand most concepts very quickly, but sit around for three days, while the rest of the class learns it as well.  And it never fails that two or three students need more time, and begin to fall behind.

Using a wiki this way, students who catch on can work ahead, and as more students learn the concept, they can move on as well. This will allow me to spend more time one-on-one with the two or three students who need me to sit down and explain what we’re doing, and why it’s done that way, multiple times, if necessary.  For the first time, stronger students might actually get to the optional units that are offered.

I think part of my job is showing my colleague’s how incredibly useful these tools are.  While most students use technology for entertainment, I think this is often true of adults as well.  Most adults, including teachers, don’t realize the power many of these tools offer.

I think I have the ability to show people what can be, by painting a picture of the potential that things have.  This is why I’ve decided I’d like to become an administrator in the next couple of years, although I still I want to teach too.  I enjoy showing students and teachers what technology can do.  And while I don’t think changes can be, or should be, forced on anyone, I believe that if you show people, one person at a time, the power of technology, change will slowly occur.

photo courtesy of flickr cc: alles-schlumpf

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About shelleywright

I love education & learning, which likely explains why I'm a teacher. My areas are ELA, Sr. sciences, and technology. My classroom is best described as a student-centred, tech embedded pbl/inquiry learning environment. I am currently a PhD student in the area of Curriculum and Instruction. My focus is play-based learning in high school, and it's impact on brain development.
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16 Responses to Vision

  1. weens11 says:

    WOW! How wonderful that you see the power in collaboration and learning that technology has to offer! I see it too. I think most of my older students have been able to learn that in the past couple weeks too. It is exciting to be a part of all these changes in this digital world, isn’t it? I really like your description of yourself as a teacher: vision-caster. I agree with it wholeheartedly!

  2. Alan Stange says:

    I thought grade eleven was global issues in Saskatchewan. When I had a chance to teach it I found it well designed. My interest was dialectical thinking.

    • Grade 11 Social Studies has World issues, which has some overlap with what I want to do. Currently, we only offer History 10 & 30 at our school, not Social Studies. The dialectic certainly offers the opportunity for our students to think. It’s one of my favourites as well.

  3. David says:

    Yeah last year I felt like a lone wolf. This year, when I’ve moved into my position as a learning specialist of technology (which is a semi-administrative position) I’ve seen other teachers being MUCH more willing to explore & experiment with technology. I’ve witnessed their frustration when it doesn’t work how they want, but also their excitement when they realize they can do something pedagogically that they’ve never really been able to do.

    I’d totally support your move to administration, and I’ve only really interacted with your work a few times through your blog (and that awesome description of your changes in your bio class), so I think you are there already.

  4. Thanks! I would love the opportunity to have a part tech/part administrative position. That seems like it might be the best of both worlds.

  5. Chris says:

    Hi
    Only found your blog a few months ago, but you have made some excellent comments that have helped me out in my thinking and leadership of technology adoption in my secondary school.
    Wikis baffle me though … (daft I know, but I can’t get my head round them and their place in the classroom!)
    I am a bit like your teacher colleague … “He thought about it and said, “okay, you might have to show me how this wiki thing works.”” …

    Have you any examples? Or could you expand on it a bit in a future blog posting – even if it has specifics to your subject area, we (I?) could probably learn from it … I am one of those people who learn by seeing an example :-)

    Regards
    Chris

    • Hi Chris,
      I can definitely expand upon it in a future post. I only discovered wikis a little over a year ago, and at first I didn’t see their potential either. You can take a look at my wiki at wrightsroom.wikispaces.com Each subject I teach has a different page. On my Biology page, we’ve created an on-line textbook for Biology. My ELA 20 class created a reader analysis of one of the novels we studied, and all the instructions for our TEDX project are under another link. I’ll be adding my new classes for next semester to it this weekend. If you’d like to keep an eye on it, you’ll see how it develops over the course of a semester and that may help too. And feel free to drop me a question anytime :) Shelley

  6. Heather M. Ross says:

    Shelley,

    First I’ve been reading your blog a lot and am so happy that you are playing such an inspiring role in the conversation.

    Second, your upcoming course sounds great. Wish you could do it as a MOOC (or even a SOOC).

    • I’m thinking maybe we can do it as a SOOC, at least I like the idea of offering it that way. But I’ll have to talk to Dean Shareski to see what that would look like. Thanks for writing!

  7. Jamie MacRae says:

    Hi Shelly

    I have been involved with a wonderful school in Queenstown, South Africa for ten years. While the school I work at will not be going back this year as we are now working with a school in Cape Town, it may be a school that you could connect with for your course. I know that they are now wired for the internet and each classroom has a projector and the teachers have a laptop. It makes the school sound like it is without needs, but that is not so.

    I have sponsored a young boy there for the past 7 years and will continue to pay for his education until he graduates. As I am going back to Cape Town with some of our students to our new school in March I can also check out what they have as far as technology and let you know.

    You can find out more about the GAP school by going to http://www.leacockfoundation.org/home/index.html
    and clicking the GAP school. If you need an introduction please let me know:_)

    I think what you are doing is outstanding!

    My school is at http://www.crescentschool.org

  8. Scott Ferg says:

    Hi Shelley,

    Great posting, I’m actually going to keep your two new courses in mind and perhaps propose them at my own school next year, especially the tech course since I’m the Educational Technologist. I’m in Alberta, so not sure how easily we could get funding for such a course but I love the idea, and I’d like to teach again. So I hope you keep us posted on the new courses, and how they turn out. Also, thank you for the wiki link, I too was wondering how you used it. I supposed I need to put more pressure to unblock youtube, to fully utilize Wikis and Reverse Instruction

    • I will, absolutely, be blogging about the new courses that I’m starting. I do use a fair amount of youtube, on both the wiki, and for Reverse instruction. Especially for science, there are so many great videos to use with students. I wonder if your school district could see the many educational uses for youtube, and the great potential it has for students to create, and upload, their own videos, that they might change their mind?

  9. Thank you so much for this blog post. I am lucky that I have a “partner in crime” that speaks the same language – although I think I am Tonto and she is the Lone Ranger most days.

    What was important to read in your post was that you are building your PLN to meet your needs? As someone working in pre-service teacher education, I feel that helping our new teachers learn how to build a professional social presence and then giving them ideas of how to build and maintain professional learning networks is one of the most important things to do. However, like you, not many other professors are there yet.

    Great to have your voice – as a classroom teacher – confirming what I believe is true for our pre-service teachers.

    • I think building a PLN is crucial to pre-service teachers, especially those who will end up in small schools or rural areas. It will not only help them to continue to grow as a teacher, it will be a life-saver at times!

  10. armstrongl12 says:

    Hi Shelley,
    I started following your blog yesterday (the Lone Ranger post was shared by a colleague) and you inspired me to start my own blog and to get off my duff and figure out Twitter. Today, I have two blog posts and I’m following 28 people on Twitter.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how you use the wiki in the classroom. Thanks for sharing the link and for all that you share.

    Lori

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