The school district that I work for implemented one student-to-one device six years ago. I began my first year of teaching during the second year of the one-to-one implementation. My teaching journey with a one-to-one environment has been a mixture of diving right in and slight hesitations in regards to the feasibility of some of my ideas. Yet, every step of the way there has been a colleague or an instructional technology coach to help me run with my ideas, so thank you to all of you!
I have embraced the technology available to my students because I find that I appreciate the power that comes with each student having a device available to them as part of their learning experience. Students are able to use databases for research projects, create products that demonstrate their learning in a variety of manners, and have individualized differentiation at the tap of a finger.
I have also had to acknowledge and genuinely enjoy, that I am a member of the staff that is of the generation that grew up with the use of computers in schools. From the lone PC desktop in the back of the classroom in kindergarten to the full computer lab full of colorful Mac desktops in elementary school, the introduction SmartBoards and laptop carts in middle school, and the disappearance of VCRs by the time I was graduating high school; my time as a student in American public education saw a huge shift in the use of technology in the classroom. And today, we continue to experience that shift as more schools move to increased student use of a device especially in one-to-one environments.
My school district is fortunate to have instructional technology coaches to keep up with the changes and coach the teaching staff and the students to continue to innovate our instructional practices with the power and abilities of the technology available to us in mind. One of the methods that our tech coaches have brought these new possibilities to educators is by hosting a technology mini-conference called i-Innovate as a summer professional development option. Even better, is that our technology coaches encourage classroom teachers to share their own knowledge and experiences with other classroom teachers by being presenters at the professional development to continue to promote a culture of innovation and collaboration.
The past two summers I presented at i-Innovate sharing my personal current favorite that I wanted to share with my colleagues. A goal of i-Innovate is for teachers to be able to take the information and experiences back into their classrooms for that upcoming school year.
This past summer I presented on the importance of teaching current events and topics of social justice in the classroom after my experience at the American Federation of Teachers’ professional development conference. Participating in the workshops presented by the Anti-Defamation League and Teaching Tolerance really resonated with me when the presenter from the Anti-Defamation League said, “when educators say nothing it validates the action or behavior as it does the verbal or written expression”. We as educators cannot stay on the sidelines, we need to actively ensure that we are building a learning environment where every student feels that their experience and opinion are respected because we know that this is exactly the kind of environment where students learn best and want to be in school. And that is what schools should be about: learning to engage in constructive dialogue and hear different points of view. Teaching Tolerance and the Anti-Defamation League have great resources in the forms of lessons and literature to help respectfully and age appropriately teach social justice and current events in any classroom.
The summer prior, I presented on my favorite, and at that time a newer, resource: CommonLit. CommonLit has become more well known as of late and has entirely changed the game for my instruction of many of the shared texts in my school’s curriculum. Every student can access a digital copy of the text with guided reading questions, language translation, and a built-in dictionary. In addition, there are high quality standards based assessment questions in the form of both multiple choice questions and constructed responses. CommonLit has grown so much as an organization to help aid teachers in an ever-changing classroom and promises to keep its resources free for teachers.
Presenting at the i-Innovate mini-conference the last two summers has allowed me to take a role of leadership while also providing me with the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues to share the innovate practices occurring within the walls of my classroom.