Friday, November 24, 2017

The Importance of Creating Significant Learning Environments

It's been a few months since I have received my Master's Diploma, had a baby, and started back up in the classroom again. I'm exhausted, yet I still can't help but to hold high standards for myself in the way I design my learning environment. I find it important now, more than ever, to create significant learning environments (CSLE) for my students. 

Within my IB program, the Diploma Candidates that are in biology, chemistry, and physics are required to complete something called "The Group 4 Project." Many times these projects are simple research projects: gather information on a topic, put it on a PowerPoint presentation, show it to your classmates, and call it a day. B O R I N G !!

My seniors have been working on a project with the Dallas Zoo over the last year and this last week they got to see it come alive. We partnered with the zoo in the spring to design enrichment programs for some of their animals. These are activities and devices that promote the natural behavior of animals. We spent time learning about the animals' ecosystems, as well as their innate and learned behaviors. My students interviewed zookeepers to finalize their initial ideas in the spring, and developed presentations that I sent to the zoo's education team. 

From this point, zookeepers provided feedback on a handful of projects. We spent 2 days last week on this "Group 4 Project." The students took the feedback and actually created the enrichment devices! They spent time doing Google Hangouts with zookeepers for further advice and feedback, and then finalized their projects. On our second day of project time, each group showcased their enrichment device to the zookeepers through Google Hangouts as well as to the Director of Education on her campus visit. And I'm excited to hear that 3 or 4 of the projects are going to be implemented into the zoo!

Research, preparing their speeches for zookeepers, and presenting to the zookeepers via Google Hangouts and the Director of Education, Marti Copeland, as she visits.
 An enrichment device prototype for the chimpanzees and Galapagos Tortoise
CAD rendering of a new feature for the Gorillas.

The moment we become complacent in our efforts to engage students...the moment we spend too much time digging into data...the moment we turn curriculum into a check-list...these are the moments we forget who we really are as educators and administrators. There are a lot of things I believe about education... and one of those things is that it is my job to provide opportunities for my students to own their learning experiences. It is my job to create learning environments that have significance and value to those around us, and to my students. There is a time and place for lecture, writing, quizzes, and even worksheets. Those are needed at times, but at the end of the day, we're all "teaching to the test," so why not enjoy the ride while we get there? :)

There's value in significant learning environments. The amount of information my students learn and retain when they begin to own their learning is priceless. Not to mention that it makes my job easier as a teacher; I'm the facilitator of the learning environment and experiences help my students to internalize information and construct meaning. The hard work and effort they put into my class makes me proud to be their teacher! 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Leading Change, One Moment At a Time

Oftentimes, we are not aware that we are leaders, but our actions and words make an impact on everyone we come into contact with. Leaders are often looked upon as figures in the spotlight, but the reality is, we ALL have an opportunity daily to impact someone. Maybe the impact will not turn into change and growth right away. Maybe the impact is a negative one, or maybe the impact is life changing. But in each moment we encounter someone, an opportunity presents itself to demonstrate and promote best practices in education. Everyday, there’s a moment to show how valuable developing significant learning environments is for students and educators.

I have seen my innovation plan grow and evolve over the course of the last 15 months. The overarching (BHAG) goal has been established: “to empower learners to achieve their highest potential, we must analyze our current status and intentionally develop and facilitate a framework of unique environments and learning experiences in order for students to collaborate, communicate, think critically, and creatively in a 1:1 iPad learning environment.” What has ultimately evolved during this graduate program is how this goal can be achieved.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

COVA and Creating Significant Learning Environments

Being a part of the Digital Leading and Learning program at Lamar University over the last 16 months has been a very unique and enjoyable journey in achieving my Master’s in Education. This program has allowed me to grow my leadership skills, cultivate the importance of effective digital learning, and develop a heart for leading educational change. From the beginning moments of this experience, our learning environment has been authentic to our situations. We have been challenged to develop mastery and critical thinking. Our culture and circumstances have been leading the way throughout each course, which are key components of Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE) (Harapnuik, 2015).
In addition to developing this significant learning environment, a learner centered approach has always been the environment we have operated in, through the COVA approach. COVA stands for the following:

Choice: freedom to organize and present our evidence of learning as we see fit.
Ownership: personal responsibility of our own learning
Voice: opportunities to reflect learning and share knowledge publicly
Authentic experiences: the ability to cause change in our own educational workplaces.

(Cummings, Harapnuik, & Thibodeaux, 2017, p. 6)

Friday, January 13, 2017

ISTE EdTek Hub: 6 Ways to Give Feedback That Helps Students Improve and Succeed

Over the last several months I have been studying in both graduate school and professional development effective feedback to drive student understanding and growth. I took a chance to write an article for ISTE's EdTek Hub, and they have decided to publish it! You can read the article by clicking on the link below:

6 Ways to Give Feedback That Helps Students Improve and Succeed

I'm glad to contribute to a community that I believe in, one that has inspired me in the last few years, and to help other teachers utilize the technology for efficiency and effectiveness to help our students improve and succeed in a timely manner. I would love to hear other ways you may use technology to provide effective feedback to students!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Need For Effective Professional Learning

What most teachers want to do in their career is do well for their students; they want to help their students grow in their learning and skill so that they become better people, and have something to offer this world. There's no doubt that education is changing: new initiatives, new learning philosophies, and new technology have infiltrated the classroom. 
  • We need hands-on, purposeful guidance that gives them opportunities to learn alongside of their students. 
  • We need "conditions that foster growth, not finding quick-fix professional development solutions" (TNTP, 2015, p. 3). 
  • We need someone in the trenches with us.
  • We need support.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Developing Professional Learning in Science

I have been given the opportunity to help design a professional learning day in January for the science. I thought that my current course for graduate school would be a great time to apply what I am learning about effective professional learning. I hope that the day in January can be a starting point for ongoing support and time for teachers to implement new strategies into the spring semester, in an effort to model what effective professional learning can look like.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Support for Teachers in Professional Learning

The dreaded words..."professional development." Yeah, I said them. You would think that many teachers would love the day away from the classroom, but many teachers fear those words and often don't want to partake in a day of being "developed."

As a teacher with less than ten years under my belt, I am grateful for the learning I have received. Not all "PD" I've been involved in is me, some of them have been BAD (the kind that makes you want to crawl in a hole because you've sat in the seat all day long and have done NOTHING). When I think of professional development, I think of the type of learning that has stuck with me: hands-on training with science experiments and technology, my Apple Institute training, and technology conferences. These were amazing opportunities where I wasn't "developed," but I actively learned through collaboration and discovery. It was learning that was authentic and meaningful to me.