Where are you going?

As an educator, I like to focus on three areas of my work:
  • Reflection related to what we've done.
  • Focus on the learning at hand.
  • Contemplation about next steps.
This morning's tweets and blog posts seem to focus on similar areas of education today which led me to reflect more about those areas with regard to my own work.

My classroom demeanor, focus and environment have changed significantly in the past few years.  I've moved from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered environment.  I no longer have a teacher desk, and my room consists of many more spaces for collaborative learning and project/problem base work. Tech is infused in about 50% of our learning, and much more time is focused on how to learn rather than what to learn.Overall the changes have served to empower, engage and delight students.

Further, our system's investment in PLC/RTI and Literacy Studio with expert visitors (Austin Buffum, Ellin Oliver Keene), teacher collaboration and focused implementation have served to move my work and the system's work related to student learning forward in substantial, meaningful ways. 

Learning at Hand
Currently the learning at hand is challenging for both me as the teacher and the students.  I've instituted an individualized learning program with regard to math computation.  Presently that takes a lot of teacher time.  As I infuse tech tools, students' investment and a pattern, my investment will become more streamlined and reasonable.  Students are also involved in movie making and a global conference which require new levels of skill, attention and investment.  Common core standards are woven into these projects.  Hence the learning at hand is vigorous with a substantial learning curve for all.  Again, after we embark on these projects for a first time, the efforts will begin to take on a more natural flow, rather than the extensive investment first-time teaching takes.

Next Steps
Next steps are obvious, but not yet within our ready embrace.  The next steps include the following:
  • The use of gaming to learn.  Many students are fluent at video games and gaming--they love it.  That engagement and the virtual worlds that gaming brings are a definite next step for classrooms everywhere.  I realize that some classrooms already embed this into their daily routines.  I need to learn more about this so I can implement the medium. Luckily I have a new colleague who is invested in this approach so that will help.
  • Onsite learning.  We need to take learning into the community in more vigorous, engaging ways.  Field trips have to become interactive field studies, and student learning, when possible, should positively affect the community and world they live in. Rather than exploring natural phenomenon in books, we need to take our iPads, cameras, iPods, notepads, questions and investigations into the field, then report back both our learning and our ideas for sharing that learning or impacting that environment.
  • Programming: Rather than teaching just "secretarial" skills, we need to invest students' time and attention into creating with technology as suggested by Stager.  Programming is an essential skill in that regard, and we need to teach this skill at every grade level in developmentally-friendly ways. 
  • STEM: We need to build more meaningful opportunities for students to build and create using engineering, science, math and other content principles.  Early experiences with engineering will build a more innovative, self reliant populous.
  • Science Lab: One reason we don't have enough scientists is that students' early experience with science in the elementary school is limited due to a lack of science labs, hands-on investigations and scientific experiences.  The current structure of elementary schools does not support this growth; this would be a simple change with a dramatic effect. 
  • Greater collaboration.  We need to move collegial collaboration forward so that we are serving children as well as we can.  With assessing the passions and skills of each other, and careful planning and targeted response, I believe we can serve children better.
  • Sharing ideas. It's past the stage where we wonder if teachers should share their learning and ideas. Now we must move towards how we'll share.  It's imperative in this age of information overload, that a continual conversation of ideas, learning and efforts is ongoing and present in every school.  Our school just started an online blog called, "Collaborate," to provide a platform for that kind of sharing. 
As you reflect, implement and determine next steps, how is your list different than mine?  What have I missed in terms of integral movement and action?  If you are an administrator, do you keep this kind of list current and visible for your entire system or do you simply share reflections and current goals rather than next steps?  

Where have you been; where are you now, and where are you going are important considerations as we teach children well.  Do you agree? 

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