Philosophy of Education

Recently I had to write my philosophy of education; something I have not done since my undergrad days many, MANY years ago. I wish I had a copy of what I wrote while an undergrad. Certainly I must have changed considerably although the way we teach has changed less.

Here are my thoughts. What do you agree with? Anything I missed?

An ideal classroom is a community of learners with the teacher as lead learner. Each classroom should provide a safe environment where risk-taking is encouraged. Children need to discover that it is acceptable to struggle sometimes, that it is okay for things to be difficult sometimes, that it is all right not to understand sometimes for it is from our mistakes that we learn the most. Students must learn more than facts; they should learn how to learn in an environment that is differentiated with regard to content, product, and process. Students will learn best when their learning experiences are authentic and include hands-on learning and manipulatives as often as possible. Parents are integral partners in their child’s learning and should be included as valued members within the classroom community.

Schools must consider the “whole child”. This includes their social, emotional, and physical aspects, as well as the arts. All children can learn and school needs to meet their individual needs through differentiation and teaching to the multiple intelligences. Children need to feel successful, be encouraged to push themselves, and have positive experiences in school. Providing choice for students when appropriate involves students in their own learning and empowers them. Children need to feel a sense of self worth to be successful learners and successful members of society.

Learning should be joyous; laughter should be heard in every classroom. School should provide experiences that might not otherwise be possible. Learning is a lifelong journey and children of all ages need to experience wonder, success, and challenge.

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The Online Addiction

BalanceThis morning I came across a post on Beth Still’s Nebraska Change Agent blog titled, Finding Balance. Beth writes about her commitment to finding balance between her online time and spending quality time with her family. This is a struggle many (all?) of us face. Here is my response to Beth’s post on how I am trying to ‘unplug and reconnect’.

Beth,

You describe a struggle many of us face. Not only is there work to be done (I’ve got my office in my lap!) but I often justify that I am fulfilling my lifelong learning goals by being connected.

It may seem silly, but I find the need to schedule time for relaxation and family/friends. I am trying to flip that and schedule time for online work/access. This will become more important as I have just begun a yearlong, rigorous online A&S certification program.

I have long since turned off my email sounds and taken the twitter pop-ups preference off. This has helped immensely. I check email at intervals, rather than constantly. During the school year this will change a bit due to the nature of my job, but when I am home, I am pledging to be more ‘present’.

I am also not constantly walking around with my phone in my pocket at home. I actually leave it upstairs for hours at a time! There are days where I just can’t turn on Twitter due to limited time. I know I am missing out on some great things, but I also know my PLN is always there; I don’t need to know or read everything.

As for my Reader, I am spending more time reading ‘offline’ when I have the time: on an airplane, waiting at the dentist, etc. Blogs, Readers, email, Facebook, they can all wait. Family and friends cannot.

Gotta run. I’m out the door to walk the dogs. It’s a beautiful day!

What are you doing to create a balance between your online life and your family?

Image attribution: http://u.nu/74uk

Effective Technology Leadership

2009leadershipday02Happy Leadership Day 2009! As I watched my twitterfeed today, I noticed the hashtag #leadershipday09. After a little investigating, I learned that Leadership Day was started by Scott McLeod in 2007. The idea behind this day is for bloggers to craft posts to assist their (or any) adminstrator with the idea of being a leader with regard to educational technology. As Dr. McLeod says,

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Most of them didn’t grow up with these technologies. Many are not using digital tools on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.

There are a list of prompts on Dr. McLeod’s blog entry for this year’s Leadership Day. I have chosen this one:

Do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?

This prompt is particularly meaningful to me due to the fact that I have recently begun an administration and supervision program through Johns Hopkins University in partnership with ISTE, so I have been thinking about the link between adminstration and leadership with educational technology.

To be an effective administrator and technology leader in the 21st Century, one must:

  • understand technology is a critical piece to teaching and learning
  • support and expect the use of technology in their schools
  • recognize and understand the difference between effective and ineffective uses of technology in the classroom
  • provide professional development opportunities for district staff (including themselves) to learn more about effective use of technology in schools
  • budget and plan for the replacement of technology equipment
  • surround him/herself with tech-savvy staff
  • hire technology staff to manage and maintain the district/school infrastructure
  • stipulate accountability for teachers to use technology both personally and with their students
  • communicate the district vision of the use of technology in the teaching and learning process
  • develop a community of learners to foster continued learning with technology

I think administrators can be effective technology leaders without blogging, podcasting, or even having a twitter account. What is important is for administrators to understand the potential and power of these tools and value their use for students and teachers.

Crossposted at JudithEpcke.wordpress.com

Rethinking my work with teachers

I spent a wonderful 2 hours with Diane Sweeney, author of Learning Along the Way: Professional Development by and for Teachers. Diane has been working with the literacy ‘lab teachers’ in my district for a few years helping to develop a model for ‘gradual release’ with our district teachers in their journey to learn more about comprehensive literacy and guided reading. This session was for those in our district who take a leadership and coaching role with our teachers.The two hours flew by; which is a feat to accomplish on a sunny Friday afternoon!

Three things really resonated with me:

1. Diane’s ability to connect with her audience.

I was thrilled at how quickly Diane was able to connect to the diverse roles of those of us sitting in the meeting. There were literacy coaches, gifted teachers, and technology facilitators (like me!).

2. The idea of ‘coach’ as a verb, NOT a title.

When I was hired, I asked that we change the name of my position from ‘tech coach’. I didn’t think it sounded collaborative enough. I envisioned a coach barking out orders and drills (as many of my athletic coaches did). While those being ‘coached’ may be better after these drills and orders, for some it means breaking them down and building them back up. I didn’t want to work that way or to give the impression of Me=expert You=novice, so listen up and do it MY way.

3. The Continuum of Student-Centeredness in School Based Coaching

The model for coaching she presented led me to begin thinking about changes I may want to make to improve my effectiveness as a ‘tech coach’. I like thinking about the idea of student-centered coaching with regard to technology. I have implemented the relationship-driven and teacher-centered coaching, but at times, I am not as effective with teachers when I ask about the students.

This is an oversimplification of a conversation, but represents a typical scenario. This type of encounter often takes place as I pass by a teacher walking her class through the hall.

Teacher: “I want my kids to do a PowerPoint for social studies”.

Me: “What are the students learning?”

Teacher: “They’re doing Native American research.”

Me: “What are you hoping the kids will gain from using PowerPoint for this project?”

Teacher: “They’ll know how to use PowerPoint and how to add the fancy elements.”

Me: “How will the learning be evaluated?”

Teacher: “They’ll be sharing with another student.”

Me: “There may be some other ideas that would accomplish the same thing. Would you be open to other suggestions?”

Teacher: “No, they need to learn to use PowerPoint.”

Sigh! This interaction does nothing to examine the value of this experience (or lack thereof) for the students. The focus is solely on the tool; not even the best tool! When I have an opportunity to talk with teachers about their goals for their students, not only does it help me to best tailor an appropriate learning experience for the children, but it allows the teacher to focus on her students’ needs. The biggest obstacle to this kind of planning is TIME; there is never enough time for teachers. These conversations needn’t be lengthy or numerous, but they need to happen, and not while passing in the hallway.

The second largest obstacle is teacher tech-phobia. Teachers often see my role as solely about them and what they are not able to do. I think that is why many teachers don’t contact me. There are those who say, ” I already use technology, so I don’t need your help.” or “I hate technology and I don’t see the value for students”. Again, a slightly dramatization of actual comments but the message was similar. By focusing on what the students’ needs are, the topic of conversation is about learning — not technology!

I have begun the first chapter of Learning Along the Way and am thrilled that Diane will be returning next year to work with my district. I have already requested time to sit and talk with Diane for some student-centered coaching of my own!