My Half Time Pep Talk for 2009

I heard  on May 2, 2009 on Twitter about a day for 24 Hours of Innovation.  The quote on the web site said, “We are happy to invite all bloggers to take part in the “My half time pep talk for 2009″ blog action, organized during the 24 Hours of Innovation event.”

My official time for participation is 5:15 PM EST this evening, but since I’ll be on the road, I’m posting early.

As an educator, thinking of writing a pep talk 3 weeks before school is out is like asking a sports player to write an essay in the locker room right before a big game. My head is not necessarily into a pep talk–instead, I am into all the things I need to be doing: the yearbook we haven’t finished, the testing going on and that I have yet to do, the organization of my room for summer packing, report cards, finishing all the teaching I yet want to do, etc. However, it is kind of exciting, too, to think about innovation as another school year winds down.

In education, we wryly talk about how it hasn’t changed for 100 years–how if a doctor from 100 years ago came into a hospital, he wouldn’t be able to “doctor” but if a teacher from 100 years ago came into school today, she WOULD be able to teach. She’d feel very at home in many classrooms and many schools. Yesterday I saw a question that asked, “If we didn’t have the schools we have today, would we create the schools we have today?” Both of these statements make me think about schooling, and what it should or could be.

You see, in my school, we have an iPod pilot going on, where a select group of students is trying them and reviewing what they try.  We have amazing parent volunteers who are spearheading clubs like Robotics (FIRST Lego League) and “Roots and Shoots,” a service club. We have some amazing teachers who are looking to involve students in deep learning–setting up STEM opportunities in summer school, and creating a STEM group for girls in afterschool. We have 100 students being redistricted, and so our staff is being shuffled–we’re losing some teachers to other schools, resource teachers will have different jobs next year (some going back into the classrooms) and it’s the end of the year, so money is available to get some “dream” items we didn’t think we’d be able to afford. It’s a year of change for us and some new opportunities for thinking differently are opening up.

Plus, at this time of the school year, we all start thinking of all the things we want to do differently next year, so educators sort of automatically do the half year pep talk anyway each year in May and June. Lots of conversations are occurring with each of us looking ahead hopefully and  thoughtfully about making next year better for our students.

Are there teachers, though, or principals, or superintendents, or school board members who are asking our STUDENTS what kind of change THEY want to see?

Last night our Technology Department presented our Tech Plan to our School Board–and they had kids presenting pieces of it and talking about what needed to happen.  One student talked about access–that students shouldn’t be held accountable for contributing to Google Doc for homework if they didn’t have access at home. Another spoke to the fact that while the technology in the schools may be equitably distributed, it’s the teacher’s knowledge and passion that allows student access and he has been lucky to have had courses that allow him lots of access to our technology.  He knows MANY others who have not.  I am thankful we have technology leaders in this division that put students on our county technology advisory committee, and that we have school board members who are lifelong learners and who see their job on our board as being listeners as well as doers .

It’s not just about the technology, though. It’s about the learning. It’s about the collaboration.  It’s about the creativity, the thinking, the sharing, the consequences, and the process. It’s about the future–and that involves what the kids think, and more importantly, how they feel.

The power of student voice.

The power of student action.

The power of student thinking and sharing

is the innovation schools need to embrace.

Here, fifth graders speak to the power of wikis. Here, architecture students speak to the design of schools. Here, a young girl initiates a change with her blog, “Twenty-five Days To Make A Difference.” **update**  Read this article about Laura’s “Twenty-Five days to Make  A Difference” and how it had a GLOBAL impact!! Here, people work to end hurtful words and MANY students blogged about this campaign to “Spread The Word.” Here, pennies collected by students made a HUGE  difference.  I could go on and on with links to what students have done when given an opportunity, but

what if we simply listened to students in our schools and let them make a difference in how they are allowed to learn?

This morning, I was fussing at my students for not completing their wiki work to the standards we had agreed upon, and one student said, “That would be me.” As we continued the conversation about expectations and I answered questions they had and asked my own, he opened a laptop and began doing something.  He continued to participate in the conversation as he also typed.  I looked at him, and asked, “Are you multi-tasking?”  He smiled at me and answered “Yes, I’m working on my wiki.” I couldn’t help but think that most teachers would have nailed him for getting up, getting a laptop and starting something in the middle of a group conversation. In our classroom, it’s an accepted way of work, as long as you can successfully do both.  Many students today constantly show they can.

We’ve met challenges in schools before, some better than others. The challenges we have today may be different, but teachers who are learners can meet this challenge. Educators who listen to students can help THEM develop ethics and their own filters in this connected world in which we live.  Instead of unplugging and/or locking down our technologies, why not listen to what students envision and try to help them learn how to do it, help them find the resources to live their dreams–or change and grow and evolve their dreams– and also help them learn to build safe banks on their own rivers of creation and information flow?

Thanks to The Board of Innovation for the opportunity to participate in the 24 Hours of Innovation!

24 Hours of Innovation

I heard today (May 2, 2009) on Twitter about a day for 24 Hours of Innovation.  The quote on the web site said,

“We are happy to invite all bloggers to take part in the My half time pep talk for 2009 blog action, organized during the 24 Hours of Innovation event.”

Having never done anything like this, I was intrigued and am interested in participating.  I don’t think it was intended for education, but if we can’t be innovative–and support our students in doing so, will there be innovators in the future?

So, if you’re reading this,  do you have ideas for innovative education?  Would you share links to YOUR ideas for it, or react to the ideas listed below that I may blog about?

  • the iPod Touch Pilot we have going on in our school.
  • meeting gifted students’ needs in a regular classroom–and how to innovatively differentiate for that.
  • planning for summertime professional development that makes a difference in the level of work (regarding higher level thinking skills) that students will engage in  the second half of 2009.

Thanks for any input you share.

I’ll be blogging May 15 at 11.15 pm CET or 5.15 pm EST as part of the 24 Hours of Innovation event.