A few months ago (and more recently), we asked for your help: we wanted real-life teachers to share what was happening in their classrooms technology-wise. And share you did! We heard from so many of you, and we’re going to be sharing your classrooms with our fabulous readers starting…today! I don’t know about you guys, but I find it so insightful to see what other folks are out there doing. Sometimes they mention a tool they use or an application for a particular device that I hadn’t thought of, and I wish I had been able to think of that particular thing so much earlier! This is why collaboration is so awesome, and important.
Today, we’re hearing from Dawn Casey-Rowe, who teaches at William M. Davies Career & Technical HS in Rhode Island. Dawn also the awesome teacher who shares weekly resources from Learnist here at Edudemic. Thanks, Dawn!
And don’t forget, if you’d like to share your classroom with us, please do! We’d love to hear from you!
This year I’m teaching Current Events and Science Fiction and Society. My courses change from year to year, but I teach 9-12 Social Studies at the William M. Davies Career & Technical HS. Davies Tech. Davies Tech is a unique regional technical high school operated by the state of Rhode Island.
This year is lucky thirteen. This is career 2.0. Before teaching, I worked as an appraiser/adjuster for a national insurance company, and I taught martial arts. My husband, Rusty, and I currently own two locations of iLoveKickboxing.com. I’ve retired from teaching martial arts, but it led me to teaching–teaching in that capacity made me realize that I wanted to teach in the classroom.
Technology enables me to do more, creatively, with less. I am able to have a greater reach with my students, invite families to participate in our learning, and provide interesting lessons that can be adapted or changed on the fly. Additionally, students can add more and share their work.
I am a technophile, but fairly new to edtech at the same time. This is only my second year blending my classroom. Two summers ago, I set about looking for technology I could use in my classroom. At the time I didn’t have computers in my room except for an older teacher station. I received a beta invite to Learnist. I realized that I could take advantage of mobile and social learning without having to have computer labs and equipment in my classroom, which can be expensive, constantly in need of upgrading, and though ideal, the expense isn’t always necessary. Since then, I have used technology to extend the classroom, encourage students to learn together, teach research, and allow student choice in materials.
This year, I do have five student computers in the classroom. I love having them. I think that having the right technology for the right goals is essential in adapting instruction and meeting students where they are. I understand that not every teacher enjoys using technology in the same way, but the truth is, that my students use tech. My students are my customers. I serve them. If I can’t meet them where they are, I can’t be successful in helping them reach their goals. Technology is essential in allowing me to do this.
I use Learnist for my material. This replaces texts, allowing me to use everything from primary sources to multimedia, maps, and anything, really. I link these boards to our class WordPress blog. As students learn digital citizenship–which I aggressively teach–they start to use the social features of the Learnist boards and blog to interact. Finally, I allow students to create and and this year, I’m going to have them write guest blogs as well. I tweet these things out on the class twitter. In this way, students first use, then interact, and then create using technology.
If we’re talking about a situation where I have unlimited funding, I’d like to see every student with a device and a system that can handle it. I’d like to have BYOD. That would make me very happy–devices for every student that the school doesn’t have to fund. Sure, a few don’t have smartphones, but we share and use class computers. It’d work out nicely.
The budget and procurement process is a hurdle in terms of technology. It’s very difficult for an average teacher to go through the process to get technology, or to make the necessary upgrades.
Also, having so many blocks to technology and platforms–such as social media, YouTube. Often, I try to make the change toward integrating technology–this year I wanted to move toward paperless–and I find the platforms blocked. Not that I need Facebook in class, though I’ve used it to reach out to mentors for students and such–I can do that at home–but many programs are authenticated by social media and tied in. When things are blocked, I can’t teach the best lesson, and it’s often happened to me when I’m prepped and standing in front of my class. I have to scramble and I find myself thinking, “How would we have done this pre-computer…” In other words, I’m thinking regressively, not progressively, in order to get around hurdles in the system. This often happens at schools. It’s based in fear–that we need to protect students from bad things online.
My response to that is good classroom management does just that. If a student does misbehave digitally, I have rules for that, just as they had rules when we misbehaved in our day, before computers were invented.
What I’ve done to overcome this is to work even harder with students so we can build in time for things like #geniushour and individual interests that supplement the mission of the class. This means they have to agree to do some of the work at home–sort of a “semi-flipped” environment because the lesson video will be filtered at school. When I ask them, they always agree because they know I’m providing a better lesson than I would with the books and paper. So far, it’s working nicely.
I love when students come back and said, “What you said was true.” I love when I’ve been helpful to them or when we make real-life connections. Most of all, I love the mentoring aspect of teaching, when I forge relationships, really find out what the students want, and then help them make it happen. There’s no feeling like that. The way I figure it, it was done for me in life, and it’s time to return the favor.
My ideal classroom is a BYOD classroom where I can teach anything I want as the need arises. I would integrate curricula, work with other instructors, and have a space where students could translate their ideas and passions into reality. Something between a makerspace and lab, I think–where students could direct their own learning at times, learn traditionally when appropriate, and connect with experts all over the world. They’d use tech apps and platforms to do this, link in with entrepreneurs, mentors, and experts in their future fields, and have the world be their classroom.
Ideally, in this dream world of mine, there would be little restriction no need to standardize curriculum, or worry constantly about testing goals and benchmarks, because it would all organically happen from the good teaching–students would have projects and artifacts to show. The subjects would connect to each other, preparing students for life.
My ideal classroom would set students up to do great things–be ready for college and career. It’d set them up to thinkers, solvers, entrepreneurs and creators. They’d be interested to succeed. There wouldn’t be pressure to graduate students to meet the numbers–student’s would be invested in the material. Students would be at the table creating curriculum.
My ideal classroom doesn’t end at graduation, because that’s where life begins. It continues, and teachers act as lifelong mentors, always available for a check-in or consultation. It’s sort of how I operate now. Social media makes this easier–alum can find me in life. We talk. We connect as real people, and hopefully, I remain helpful somewhere along the way. That’s how schools should be.
Somehow, in this transformation, I’d love to see society respect its schools once again. There’s such a movement to “disrupt…” and say that schools are failing and not serving society. I disagree. We service every student who comes through our doors. Amazingly at times. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s time for schools to really get their victories out in the press–to self-promote, and not allow the negative press to eat us up.
So, you asked about hurdles to change–I think the image of schools in society is a big one. I’ve spent the better part of the last year and a half on a tech mission with some great visionaries–the EdTech RI group, which brings teachers and entrepreneurs together to create edtech solutions, EdUnderground, which is a group of tech teachers getting the mission of technology out to even more teachers, and the Learnist team, which is using social learning to promote life-long learning in and out of schools. The more groups like that that evangelize the positive aspects of education, the better this will trickle down to the way society views learning, and by default, schools. I think there are a ton of rock stars in schools doing a great job. It’s time for schools to show that off and get the general public and the media on our side again.