Last week, I spent a day at another elementary school in my area, focusing on sharing some activities that integrates technology into the writing activities as a consultant with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. The principal of this school (who is probably reading this .. hey, Mike) has impressed me with his energy and also his commitment to helping pave a path for his staff to see some possibilities and start planning out more steps forward towards considering how media and technology are part of young people’s lives and how we as teachers need to start tapping into that for learning. It really does take the leadership of a principal and support of administration for teachers to feel like they can take that first step (even if it is handing over the pen to the interactive board to students for an activity). When a teacher feels isolated, and if they are already wary of technology, then change will rarely happen in the classroom.
The team at the school who brought me in wisely asked that I do some demonstration lessons, so I spent much of the morning in a first grade classroom (using Storybird), a third grade classroom (digital storytelling) and a fifth grade classroom (more digital storytelling) working with students while the teacher and other guests from the building and district watched. Then, I gave a presentation to the entire staff about the issues around technology, focusing in on digital storytelling in particular. Finally, the principal invited me to join a few others in a podcast discussion around technology and the lives of young people.
It was a fantastic day, all around.
Sure, I got to share some expertise of mine from my own classroom and work with WMWP, but for me, it was so wonderful to go into another elementary school, meet a really dedicated staff of caring professionals, interact with different groups of students, and become part of a larger conversation about what kind of shifts need to be taking place as we consider the changing nature of classroom instruction in the age of Common Core (which our state is part of) and digital media. It makes me wonder why we don’t do more school visitation programs.
The principal kindly sent me feedback and reactions from his staff regarding my day at the school.
I was impressed by how many ideas are now being sparked by what we did that day. Teachers are considering digital storytelling ideas for activities across the curriculum, envisioning new ways to use their interactive boards, having students become photographers for images that will spark more writing, creating Prezi presentations for their students and by their students, thinking of the ways that technology might motivate and reach a diverse group of learners and provide access to learning in new ways, and considering how to use technology do more cross-class collaboration projects.
Now it falls to the principal and his group to keep the momentum going (I still have a few hours to work there so we are now working on a follow-up plan), and he wisely asked his staff the question of “what do you need” from him to make progress. Again, the teachers were very insightful and specific with their recommendations. One theme: time to explore and time to reflect on how to make the technology meaningful in their classrooms.
As a consultant coming in from the outside, this school clearly has a lot of positive energy, and is inquisitive, and is on the path towards interesting things.
Peace (as the presenter),