Progressive education means favoring change or improvement, as opposed to wanting to maintain the status quo. There will always be people who see opportunities for growth in education and in life. We need to ensure that we become and then remain people who are willing to explore and take risks. We can use proven strategies, but also need to remain lifelong learners in education ourselves if we want to be progressive.
Seth Godin (2014) asserts that there are people who like the old; they are comfortable there, so don’t necessarily want a change. Even when the changes are positive, they are afraid of the unknown or don’t understand the new. Sometimes they just don’t want to put in the work that comes with a change.
My mom went back to college in the early 1970’s after leaving school to get married and have four children. When I was in kindergarten at a Catholic school where my siblings attended, my mom completed her student teaching in a “progressive program” at the local public school. She decided to send me there the next year for 1st and 2nd grade because they had an “open classroom” model. It allowed for a first grade and second grade class to be combined with both teachers in a large room. I remember there being centers and we were grouped according to ability for each subject, rather than grade level. I remember feeling excited to go to school to learn those two years because every day was something new. I often wonder what happened to that concept. Apparently, somebody thought it didn’t work or was too difficult to sustain.
Since I started teaching in the early 1990’s, I have seen so many strategies, methods, and tools come and go. Currently I am teaching under a grant-funded program called TAP which was created by Lowell Milken and NIET. The idea behind it is that teachers are rewarded to learn and implement best practices to become more effective teachers, thereby maximizing student learning. I wanted to teach in the TAP system to grow as an educator. There are many teachers in the program in my district who feel the same way, but unfortunately many do not. They question why they must change something they are used to doing their way. They argue that they know how their students learn best. The problem is the data doesn’t show that what they are saying is true. It is too easy to blame other causes for low performance. Instead, I look forward to seeing the impact three years of quality instruction can have on our students. Godin said when we break the rules, we do so at our own peril. We are working to break some rules, so that’s a scary thought.
I didn’t think I would be focused on a revolution this year, since I don’t teach American History. Instead, I’m focused on a learning revolution. I am currently taking a class called Disruptive Innovation in Technology, so the revolution taking place is my stance on using technology to improve the learning that takes place is my school community.
One source for the class is Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (Horn & Staker, 2015). It is ironic that teachers don’t usually want disruptions in the classroom. We generally like to run the show. During the entire program, I have been learning that I need to give up some of that control. It is a challenge because I know where my students currently are performing and where I need them to be by the end of the year. It would seem the most efficient way to get them there is to lead them. However, for true learning to take place, I need their motivation, participation, and engagement. Because I want the most growth for each of my students, I need to take the standardized education and find a way to customize it for every individual.
I have decided to implement digital portfolios with my students. Ideally this could be an option for the entire student population at me school. Horn says that one opportunity educators have with technology is to reinvent the traditional model of education. The traditional model says that the entire group of students learns the same thing, at the same time, and at the same rate. Truthfully, teachers all know that students come to us as individuals. They have different aptitudes and interests. The digital portfolios will allow students to not only showcase their learning but provide a place for reflection also.
I am strictly tied to my curriculum which doesn’t allow much student choice or voice. Digital portfolios will allow students to showcase their aptitudes and interests, regardless of their learning rates. The reflection component of the portfolio will encourage my students to think about their thinking. Learning the technological skills necessary to create, maintain, and share their work will provide authentic learning experiences that will only enhance their educations.
I’m excited to explore all the options available and work alongside my students and colleagues to see where this revolution takes us!
Horn, Michael B. and Staker, Heather (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
I’ve struggled with my teaching this week. I don’t like the idea that a certain skill needs to be taught at a certain point, in a specific time frame, and using only one strategy. As a teacher, I long to build relationships with my students so I can inspire and motivate them. Sometimes, that gets lost among all the requirements and restrictions placed upon us as teachers.
The irony is that as I work in a school system that wants standardization, I want individuality. I can appreciate that some standardization is necessary, but I’m the same mom who taught my own five children (and others) at home for fifteen years. As a homeschooling parent, I noticed that there were many reasons my friends chose to teach their own children at home. My primary reason was always the fact that my children were individuals, and I could tailor their educations to their needs, interests, and abilities. I didn’t have to follow somebody else’s timeline. I knew the end goal, and I was able to continually make progress toward that finish line, even if my children each took different routes at different speeds.
I’m currently reading Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (Horn, 2014). Horn reminded me that no two children learn at the same pace or have the same needs, even if they are the same age (p. xxvi). Understanding that concept is the key to becoming a great educator. I’m glad for that reminder.
Horn, Michael B.. Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. Wiley. Kindle Edition.
As my second course in the Digital Learning and Leading comes to a close, I need to take time to reflect on all that I’ve learned. This course provided me with the time and encouragement I needed to really work on my personal learning journey.
At the close of the first course, I converted my new ePortfolio from Wix to WordPress. I used the bare bones of the platform because it was all completely foreign to me. During the 5303 course, each week I was able to add to my ePortfolio and explore options within WordPress. I changed the theme more than once and learned to add images to my posts.
In our online class meetings, the instructor led discussions about our learning and ePortfolio. I learned as much from our discussions as I did from any of the reading assignments. We were encouraged to work together to provide feedback for each other. This collaborative work was so beneficial in my desire to take risks. I saw elements that I liked in the work of my cohorts, and I received suggestions for areas I could improve. This partnering between classmates is something I want to facilitate within my own students. I imagine that it takes genuine effort on the part of an online instructor to enable students in a digital setting to feel that teamwork.
I look forward to learning and growing throughout the rest of the course, but I especially see the benefit in working with other students in the program. We are all shifting toward a growth mindset and are looking forward to taking risks. I really had no idea that when I started the Digital Leading and Learning program that I would be doing so much learning about learning itself!