The personal learning network for educators
This morning I had a somewhat disheartening conversation with a good friend. We get together every week to talk about education, what we see, our point of view, and give push back on ideas. He commented that he doesn't read his Twitter stream because there is a lot of noise. Educators are repeatedly talking about the same things and the conversation isn't changed. Topics I see repeatedly are reform, government oversight, 5-100 best ways to do something, the best apps, and more. The lack of anything new and innovative is disconcerting.
A keen focus for me is assessing if my own work as an educator is innovative. What creeps in is the noise I hear about how to do this or that or use this or that. The number one predictor of an engaging classroom is the strength of pedagogy being used. I have no specific data to support that statement but I do have hours of teacher coaching experience. My Spidey Sense tells me that knowing how to teach really well is the only key to student achievement. The teacher must be soundly aware of the approach being used to engage learning and learners. If this is absent, there is nothing a teacher can do deepen learning.
It is often said that technology deepens learning. As a tech integration specialist this is true but there is one condition that has to be met - strong pedagogical practices. Tech doesn't automatically make better learners in fact, it can make more distracted learners. The teacher must make the standards the focus. With a clear vision for learning, teachers use tech as a seamless and transparent tool to deepen learning. I am aware that some see tech as the panacea to cure our learning woes. This couldn't be further from the truth.
What about noise? There is too much distraction in the professional life of a teacher while in the classroom. Collect this data, use this formative, differentiate this, email, create online learning spaces, and make sure every kid is wildly engaged. Noise is the stuff that creates pedagogical confusion because the essential element of what educators do is being lost to other louder channels. Pedagogy is being washed out in favor of irrelevant noise like vendor assessments, apps, technology, textbooks, and testing. This noise drives away the notion that sound practice is the foundation of learning.
What's innovative then? Find your grassroots again, find your pedagogy. What should you be using to engage students in real learning? How will you change after you reflect? How will students know you are filtering out the noise and getting back to what is essential? The only real innovative practice to get to is knowing and using sound pedagogy.