Sunday, July 12, 2015

Final Reflection

      As a digital immigrant and techno-traditionalist, the idea of “building/creating” a web-based application was a little overwhelming to consider. Thankfully, the pace of the class and emphasis on process versus product allowed me to venture with less anxiety than a final assessment would typically induce. The process provided me the opportunity to engage in a pedagogical reform that I can implement in the fall. Otherwise, applications and digital tools would have remained something I read about, shared with colleagues and mentees, and something “other” people did. You could say I was not a technology risk taker. As a result of being “pushed” into creation mode, I believe I will be able to create a hybrid pedagogy for my teachers and bring them along at whatever stage they are at; and I intend to grow and learn beside them.

        My decision to create a LiveBinder for my mentees was not my first choice because it lacks the creativity and beauty some of the other tools offer. It sounds simple, but something more visually appealing, colorful, and interactive interested me. However, the most practical resource that my teachers would find beneficial is LiveBinder. I typically provide hard and electronic copies to my teachers communicating everything from informational flyers and documents to official forms and templates that are part of the evaluation process or district mandated lesson planning expectations. Sending these documents clogs up email, becomes redundant and tedious for me. This system is weak; it is too heavily reliant on me “the person” in the system my teachers depend on to communicate this information to them. It is more empowering for them to have one location to access everything they need.

Although LiveBinder still requires my time, effort, and energy, it minimizes my revisiting the same documents and also provides one place for teachers to access these required documents in the event they lose or delete them from their email. They have more control of accessing information because is always “live” versus contacting me to pass information to them. This is important because as new and veteran teachers in the district, learning where to investigate for resources is important because they will not always have a mentor to lean on. Also, our PPSD district site tends to bury a lot of valuable information that teachers do not even know exists because it is simply too complicated to find or stumble upon when perusing the site. Hyperlinks, which is a new skill for me, will also aid in connecting my teachers to information!  

In addition, I am exploring LiveBinder as an opportunity to provide different avenues for professional growth in the form of articles, videos, and other topics my teachers may not have previously considered in their practice. For example, a binder with a list of children’s books that address prejudices could serve as an avenue teachers had not previously thought of exploring.

The first thing I did was populate my page with binder titles I knew I would gather materials for and populate: Who are our students?, Cross-Content Graphic Organizers, PPSD Employee Resources, Inspiration,  Children’s Books that Address Prejudice, Educator Evaluation Documents, ESL Resources, Group Participation Structures, Reading Strategies (before-during-after). Then I began populating the binders appropriately with my electronic collection of professional resources. As I was uploading and populating the binders, more binder topics flowed into my mind, which I will pursue as I continue to work on my site.

The other technology I am constructing is in the form of a blog where my teachers, although I will open it to all teachers in the community, can go to for support from each other. They can serve as professional resources to one another and build upon their own teacher leadership in the form of mentoring one another. This also serves as evidence for Standard IV of the evaluation rubric they will be expected to produce. More important than evaluation purposes, I am hoping to build an authentic professional learning community and safe environment where teachers can engage with each other in a “risk-free” zone to explore the successes and challenges of urban teaching and learning. It may be a lofty vision, but it could perhaps be a transformative step in their development as individuals as well as a community.  

         One small action step I plan to focus more on with my teachers in the fall is the critical eye towards media that needs to be developed in the students. Maybe my experience as an ELA teachers for many years leads me to take for granted the emphasis on evaluation of sources and questioning “evidence” before it is cited as fact, but this is a skill that teachers should be developing with teachers and I will make it a point to include this for them to consider when I lesson plan with them and works closely developing units. The theory on Wikipedia as a transparent form of information available to us due to system in place to evaluate the newly added information and the collective knowledge used to construct it was very powerful for me. I think teachers are quick to dismiss the site, but it could be a point of learning for teachers and students alike, especially because of its strong presence on the web and its important role in pop culture.
        One thing I can't wait to share with my teachers is the PechaKucha format for presenting!  I think the kids will have a blast with that!  I also think when we plan PD for our teachers, it could be a cool thing to model for them so they can see it in action and be inspired to implement it with the students! it found it difficult to commit to a script, but the creative/collage process forced me think about exactly what I wanted to say in the same way. Language for me comes more organically, so writing an actual "speech" was hard because I kept changing the ideas and words I tried to commit to, but with practice I could do it.  And my experience in doing my own will also be valuable for my teachers to hear about and giggle with me about how excruciating it was for me!

The most important action step, and what I believe will be the most impactful in terms of my own professional growth and intellectual engagement as a result of this course, is to not back away from technology or lean on “the boys” to produce, connect, or tap into all of the technology our team uses. I plan to collaborate more with one colleague in particular who will mentor me and invest time with me on new technological endeavors. I am hoping this will create a professional learning community among us, as learners and producers of digital technology. The idea will be to develop more of the technological side of the mentoring practice and work with teachers to implement hybrid learning experiences for their students as well. Some of the tools are user-friendly enough for teachers to dive into without a ton of studying or preparation, similar to the experience we had in class this session with immediately creating a blog and experimenting with the technology tools in small groups on the second day.

        By taking steps to create in the digital word, rather than always consume, I am at the very beginning stages of Noon’s techno-constructivist category. The biggest benefit I see as a constructivist is the empowerment that can be gained as a result of engaging in new media and contributing to the vast world the web offers. It has the ability to be the strongest form of personalized instruction and growth if one is willing to commit to the process and exploring exactly what exists and what can be developed.

This experience aligns me more to the youth I serve because I am “hacking” into their world. It will serve as another tool I can use to relate to them and share that will my teachers so they can do the same. This process has provided a great amount of growth in a very short time. It was the most effective use of classroom time I have ever experienced. 
narrative context -    X
Who am I? -                         X
3 course themes -                  X
something new -       X      
hyperlinks -                                     X       
writing style -                       X
writing skills -          X                                           

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