Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Beauty of Collaboration

After 3 FULL days of mapping, planning, and strategizing with 3 different groups of educators (administration, technology, and math teachers) from 3 different schools within 3 different areas of the United States, I can tell you that the Three-cubed prototype project was amazing. Every single day of my life I connect with my twitter PLN to become a better educator and I truly find great value in that. I also found great value in meeting with like-minded individuals to work towards a solution for the common good of Christian education.

As we walked into this meeting, the majority of us had met one other time, over a couple of days for a few hours, so to say there wasn't a huge "connection" between the different schools would be a fair assumption. After a day and a half of some really good "give and take" safe discussions we broke up into groups to create a "lesson plan" using some math standards. My group consisted of a principal from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, myself as an instructional technologist from Chattanooga, Tennessee and a math teacher from Chattanooga as well.

We went right into prep mode looking at our standards we had been assigned. Immediately the math teacher had ideas on what she would want to do. The administration looked at it from what are the different modalities we could use in order to reach the most learning styles and he started aligning the standards being reached based on the choices we started brainstorming. I, of course, started looking at what technology could enhance the learning objectives that could also be standard aligned. In a matter or 30 minutes of thinking and rethinking, asking each other questions and seeing the math teacher as the true authority of the group, we had a blended learning lesson that felt right with a prior night flipped video for a hook.

It felt good to talk it out amongst ourselves. To share ideas when we each got stuck on a certain point. To reiterate the value of certain objectives when it got lost in the discussion. To search for helpful alternatives for each modality. To share our concerns over things that had the potential to cause a bottleneck. To share our excitement on things that certainly would cause certain students to have a better chance at learning well. It was the beauty of collaboration. A collaborative opportunity that worked so well it felt like perfection. Maybe it was because we had spent so much time together pushing ourselves to think outside the box and to be open to new ideas. Maybe it was because we had been forced to think creatively for a while. Maybe it was because we were all invested in the concept and were ready to "see" it in action. Regardless of the why's, it was a lovely moment.

You know those kind of moments, I have had several as an educator: Like the time the third grader that had never spoken out loud in class that I had taught since kindergarten raised her hand and answered a question, or the time that a co-teacher told me "I don't fear technology, your encouragement has made me brave to try new things and with your help, I see the value of this tool in my classroom.", or when I walk into the classroom as a tech coach and a student looks up and sees me and starts clapping because he's so excited to get to use technology, or my all time favorite is when a parent comes to me concerned about technology use in the elementary school and leaves saying "you've opened my eyes, my student is fortunate to have you as an instructor." We have those moments that make us go "YES!" The last three days were like that for me. I love innovation, I love collaboration. I believe that iron sharpens iron. These days included all those things. If I could do that type of thing every single day and throw in some student interaction as well, I would be walking on clouds professionally speaking.

As a rule, the teaching profession has been silo-centered...teachers have plugged away in their classroom with 20-30 students with little accountability, being the sole authority, with no resources beyond the 20-30 minutes they MIGHT get for lunch and a brief planning period on some days that they choose to seek out if they want to. Administration tries to develop meaningful professional development as best they can within that as well. But times are changing- educators are seeing more support staff in their classrooms and they are being evaluated as they teach more often. I saw a quote today that made me smile-- it says "If we create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve." - Dylan Wiliam (University of London). I am a believer in this. I continue to seek out ways to collaborate for the greater good of the students that I teach. I have a strong desire to be a lifelong learner and never grow stagnant and "happy" with my teaching ability. I love thinking beyond "how does this affect my students" and looking at a broader picture. These last 3 days have just solidified that within me more and more. Thankful hearted today.