Change is Hard

There is a tremendous amount of content to cover over the course of a school year.  Allowing time for experimentation and discovery can be scary.  How will be sure to address all of the required subject matter and standards if we don’t stay on a schedule?  How do we hold kids accountable for achieving these standards if we allow them to go off the beaten path and work outside the familiar?

As I have worked through the process changed my teaching to a blended learning model this year, I have had to really spend time thinking about how and why we do things in my room.  If I am truly going to allow students to experience and experiment with everything technology can infuse into their education, I have to let some of my conditioned responses go.  Did I mention this was scary?  Because it is.

I have combined some new habits with some changes that have helped me:

  1. Backward design thinking – what do I want them to know and be able to do at the end of a unit of study? (We are far from covering the curriculum in any order they want to.  I still drive the bus!)
  2. Creating a draft of the post assessment/unit of study project rubric – summative assessment
  3. Creating a draft of the pre-test
  4. Brainstorming possible ways for them to show me what they know so they can show growth and reflect on their learning – the more options the better
  5. Brainstorming tech tools for student use and then evaluating them against a standard app rubric
  6. Creating learning resources for the topics included in the unit
    1. Hook activity – I want them excited!
    2. Resource/assignment list for students
      1. Strategies list for acquiring new knowledge
      2. Examples of how they can be creative within the unit
      3. Recommended websites related to our topic(s)
      4. Text sets with text dependent questions to develop background knowledge – formative assessments
      5. Discussion prompts/journal entry prompts/reflection on learning prompts – formative assessment
      6. Vocabulary work and word wall
      7. Entrance and exit slips – formative assessments

Sitting down and working through all of this can seem overwhelming but I have found that I already have much of this work done – it is just framed differently or in a different format.  The time I spend transforming my units is not wasted as I can use the work products I create over and over in the years to come, either in part or whole, as I am creating them digitally.

Of course, this is all extra time no one has!  Then there is the black hole that is the internet that holds so many educational apps for me to scour for quality and ease of use.   In the interest of remaining sane and a pleasant person to be around, I have to redesign only a few units per quarter.  Pacing myself will, I hope, prevent me from reaching my burn out point too rapidly.  So far, so good.  The students seem to be ok with the back and forth between having more and less choice.  Summer will give me more time to work on the redesign and having worked on some with students will help inform my future work on unit creation.

The storage of all of this digitally is a real bonus – can we say goodbye to binders?  Hooray!