As a veteran teacher of 20 years, I have seen so many changes in education – especially over the last 10 years. I remember getting a whiteboard, then an overhead projector, followed by an LCD projector that could project my screen onto the whiteboard. Finally, in 2008 I got a Smartboard. I was so excited, because each of these innovations improved my teaching and the learning experiences of my students.
But when I moved to Northern California in 2014 and was hired at a technology middle school in 2015, I was surprised to find that I had no Smartboard! For 6 years I had developed and shared Smart-lessons. I loved it, and it greatly enhanced whole-class guided instruction. Now I had 14 Chromebooks instead. I had no training, no idea of the possibilities, and I had never used Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc. Thank goodness they were very similar to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, in which I had intermediate to advanced knowledge.
I began this Master's program wanting to learn innovative teaching strategies in order to help me survive at a technology school. I didn't know that what I would learn would transform me so much from the traditional pedagogies of my past. I had strong convictions about student learning in a mathematics classroom. I was using the Smartboard and I was designing creative lessons, but only one or two students would come to the board and interact with the technology. Now with Chromebooks in my classroom, the students could work directly with the technology, create with it, and engage in more powerful learning sessions. The student experience became more personalized, and technology allowed for greater differentiation – something that has always been difficult, as we have students at all different levels with gaps in their learning in different topics.
As my teaching has transformed, my goals have changed. As PD lead, I brought much of what I learned with me, and shared it when time allowed. I want to continue to help teachers incorporate technology into their classrooms, and transform the learning experiences of their students. I want to ignite veteran teachers’ passions to the level of their earliest years, and I view myself as a bridge to assist them in that process. I know how overwhelming the transition can be without support, so I want to help all teachers, administrators, and district leaders to be connected educators who are able to keep up with the technologies that enhance student learning.
As a veteran teacher, I also see a need to synthesize the data in technology, brain research, and how learning takes place. The new research is hard to dismiss, and educators will not understand why these changes need to take place if they do not also have an understanding of the latest findings. Math in particular is in need of these changes. Some of the most powerful reasons are presented in Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler, a professor at Stanford who applied the research of Carol Dweck on growth mindset to mathematics learning. Like Boaler, I have a passion for improving mathematics education, and I am eager to share this information with other mathematics educators.
I appreciate the insights of my peers, and the way they are applying these innovative strategies in their subjects and various grade levels. I hope to continue this powerful collaboration to develop a website that helps other educators enhance the educational experiences of students everywhere, without investing extensive time in research. It has the potential to grow into a larger community, and I hope as we develop our sites there will be a place for sharing ideas globally, including products, lessons, and new research. I am thrilled to be in a cutting-edge program that makes this goal possible. I want my peers to continue to help me, encourage me, and challenge me so I can create high-quality work that is worth sharing.
I'd like to end with a quote from George Couros, writer of Innovative Mindsets: "Change is an opportunity to make things better!" I am truly excited to share some innovative teaching strategies, and want everyone to see that by transforming our students’ learning experiences, we are making education better and more personalized.
My daughter continues to be my main source of inspiration, as she just completed 6th grade. She was not at a technology school or BYOD school, and would often tell me "I wish my teachers taught us like that!" Even though I teach 7th grade math, she helped me to review a lot of my coursework, and helped me clear up any points of confusion that my students might encounter before I shared the lessons with them. I’m pleased to report we were recently notified that she will be placed in the advanced math program at her school.
On that note, my daughter mentioned that there are so few students in the advanced program that students had to be recruited from another middle school as well. This saddens me, as I can’t help but think that if her district used technology and inductive teaching strategies, they could have far more students achieving at higher levels of proficiency.
In the hopes of improving that situation, I have been sharing my work and my program with a parent that is very involved at my daughter's school. She can't wait to share our site with the other parents and the principal. If the information helps effect change at even one school, I will have accomplished my number one goal.
As I mentioned before, change is an opportunity to make something better, and there's no time like the present to make it happen!
The author is a proud mother and wife, living in Sonoma, Ca. She has 21 years teaching mathematics. She loves technology and how it enhances student learning, engagement, and achievement.