Friday, 26 January 2018

Reno your Pedagogy

Is it Time to Renovate Your Practice?

I may be risking being a bit derivative with this blog post.  There are lots of great educational innovators out there, folks who are driving change and doing it much better than I am - not to mention writing much better about it than I can.  But, this is where my head is at this week, so this is what I'm writing about.  

I was reading a new post from The Plugged In Portable, a great blog by David Carruthers who is a Technology Co-ordinator with the TVDSB, called "The Biggest Barrier Can be Your Own Thinking."  He was writing about how as teachers, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to innovation in education.  He got my attention with this:  "Far too often though, educators are quick to turn their backs on innovation. They see barriers without any thoughtful reflection, or questioning, regarding how these barriers can be overcome, or if they truly exist in the first place."  He goes on to say, "However, to a much larger degree, I believe these barriers are erected because of attitude, rather than any limitations placed on us by forces beyond our control."  That got me thinking about a staffroom conversation I had with a colleague a few months ago.

I was in the staff room with a few other teachers doing some self directed PD.  We were working on how to use and implement Google Applications in our classrooms.  A colleague noticed what we were doing and in the conversation that followed stated something to the tune of, "I'm interested in technology but I don't want to learn all about this Google thing and convert everything I do to that, so that in a few years the next new thing will come along and I have to start all over."  

My response was, "But, that's how life works, isn't it?"  I went on to explain that I had spent a lot of time and money renovating my kitchen not that long ago. The old kitchen still worked, but it had it's issues and it was dated.  The new kitchen is easier to work in, has more modern and energy efficient appliances, and the new lighting makes it a safer and more productive space.  Did I have to renovate?  No, but I had the means, the know how and the desire to improve it, so I did.  And I'm loving the change.  Just like in our homes, regardless of what we've used for technology in our classrooms in the past, things change, improve or need to be replaced.

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Since having this conversation, I've thought a lot about it.  David's post this week brought it and the the issue surrounding it back to the forefront for me.  We innovate, change and update things in our lives all the time.  I mentioned renovations, but we replace our vehicles, change our hairstyles, buy new clothes and pursue new hobbies on a pretty regular basis.  Why is it that when it comes to professional practice, technology in the classroom, or any change in the educational spectrum, that we can sometimes be so resistant?  I get it.  Change is hard.  Change can be scary. Change is work.  But not changing can be scary too.  You can get so comfortable with the way things are, that you fail to see how great they could be. 

I'm not saying everyone has to jump on every new innovation or idea immediately (unless you want to).  What I am saying is don't dismiss change or new ideas immediately, simply because they are a change or a new idea.  Think about them.  Reflect on how you might be able to improve what you are doing with them.  Pick something you think is doable, and do it.  You don't have to gut your house to improve it.  Start with something small like a coat of paint, a new appliance or some throw pillows.  In the teaching realm it might be doing some professional reading, taking a course, starting a professional Twitter account, joining a PLN or going to a workshop so that you can start a classroom website, get students blogging, or revamp how you are assessing student learning.  Challenge yourself to make one change in the way you do things this month, this semester or this school year.  

If you are reading this and find your back straightening up, your toes digging into the floor and you are thinking, "But, I don't want to change what I'm doing," I ask you to reflect on this... Do you really want your professional practice to be the allegorical equivalent of a kitchen with 1950's era appliances and bright orange countertops?

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