What have I changed in my practice?
So many things! To name but a few…
Probably the biggest change in my classroom has been the introduction of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) for collaboration. The GAFE tools have been easy to use and opened the doors to many new ways of learning for my students. What I realised so succinctly on this course was, that to prepare my students for a connected, technology rich world, I needed to do my best to give them practice in such an environment.
I now use GAFE to join my students in the learning process and better engage them through collaboration and feedback. One of the advantages of GAFE is that I have the ability to invite my students to work on the same projects. There is just one copy that everybody accesses so everyone has the most up to date information and I can see what’s happening in ‘Real Time’.
In the time since implementing GAFE I have seen improved engagement and motivation due primarily to the inbuilt features such as comments, suggested editing, dictionary, thesaurus, and research capability. The platform has allowed a wider audience for my students writing, and improved the quality of content and their learning outcomes!
Study at the Mind Lab has also shown me that I have the ability to lead change initiatives. I can do this by involving all stakeholders accordingly in the process and implementing the innovation over stages. During and between each stage, I can reflect and responded to challenges that are sometimes related to my leadership. Successfully integrating technology into the classroom didn’t just happen – it took careful planning and preparation which required me to understand myself as a leader.
I needed to understand the various approaches to leadership, so that I could use the right approach for my situation. The way I did this was to learn more about the core leadership theories on the course, that provided the backbone of my current understanding of leadership. Clearly, how leaders behave affects their performance. Researchers have shown that many leadership behaviours are appropriate at different times (Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 2001). The best leaders are those who can use many different behavioural styles, and choose the right style for each situation.
In my practice I now adapt my leadership style to the “maturity” and willingness of my team. This has created a new level of complexity: How thoroughly I consider the willingness, motivation, and abilities of my followers can decide how successfully I will lead. I have learned the leader isn’t everything: I must include my followers in the equation.
Real-World Problem Solving and Innovation
In today’s world, problem-solving tasks abound. This course has shown me that
to be successful, students must be adept at generating and testing ideas in order to solve a problem with a real set of requirements and constraints. This is very different from the simple word problems that I had previously taught, which were simply practice at executing specific learned procedures.
I have started using data from students day to day lives or real world situations to help frame the problems I am asking them to solve. This also represents innovation by requiring students to implement their ideas, designs or solutions for audiences outside the classroom. Problem-solving in this sense happens when students must develop a solution to a problem that is real, or complete a task that they have not been instructed how to do. It can also mean designing a product that meets a set of requirements. Examples this year have been building their own island in Minecraft, to withstand a tsunami (part of our “Passion Project” on Fridays) and creating a board game with a simple electric circuit to help the new entrants learn the alphabet.
The most rewarding part was just “letting go” of the locus of control, by motivating, encouraging and allowing students to do their own research and projects, in their own way, over long periods of time. Students were taking ownership, developing leadership and using the programme to enhance and extend their learning. It broke down barriers within the class, increased conversation and promoted co-operative learning. Friendship cliques were superseded by a class-wide focus on working together online to survive and flourish on the their “own” island.
21st Century Learning Design. (2015). 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://pilnetwork.blob.core.windows.net/public/21CLD%20Learning%20Activity%20Rubrics%202012.pdf
Education Review Office. (2007). Quality teaching in years 4 and 8: Writing. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://www.ero.govt.nz/National-Reports/The-Quality-of-Teaching-in-Years-4-and-8-Writing-June-2007
Hersey, P., Blanchard, K. H., & Johnson, D. E. (2001). Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources. Eighth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.
Manktelow, J. (2011). Core Leadership Theories. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from Mind Tools: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/leadership-theories.htm
Reading, M. (2015). Collaboration with Google Drive. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from Using Technology Better: http://usingtechnologybetter.com/lesson-3-collaboration-with-google-drive/