| May 03, 2012
QUIET! TEACHER IN PROGRESS
BY MRS. MIMI Being a teacher means embracing constant change. Yet all too often, teachers are told when, how and why to change. In this monthly column, Mrs. Mimi takes on creating change for herself by rethinking old practices and redefining teaching on her own terms.
May 3, 2012
Last month I visited a classroom where a teacher was using Google Docs to conduct writing conferences with her students. We’re talking live G-chatting with the teacher, amazing evidence of the evolution of a piece in the form of highlights and rewrites, plus a record of the phenomenal dialogue between a student and her teacher held in the comments section alongside the student’s actual writing.
Are you blown away yet?
Because you should be.
Now I know many of you are out there reading this while shaking your heads and thinking, “Well, I couldn’t do that because we only have four computers in my classroom. Three of them work okay, I guess, but the other one? It seems to only work every other Tuesday when the moon is full, so that just isn’t an option.” And to you I say, “I hear you. Some schools really need to step up their technology game.”
Maybe better technology in schools is similar to Kevin Costner’s FIELD OF DREAMS. “If you build it into our curricular plans, more reliable technology will come.” Or better yet (and perhaps more accurate because we teachers—including yours truly—have been known to get our complain on from time to time) “If you complain about it enough, more current technology will come…and you will have to use it!”
So let’s release ourselves from the budgetary upgrading nightmare that is getting all of our schools equipped with current, reliable, and worthwhile technological tools and instead focus on how we might
just use them to improve our practice.
Let’s go back to the example of the rock star teacher who utilized Google Docs to transform her writing conferences with students. This teacher’s purpose was two-fold. First, she wanted a tangible record of her dialogue with students, something that went beyond your average conference notes. Second, she wanted to encourage her students to be more at ease with drafting and revising directly on the computer. So for this teacher, using Google Docs was purposeful—the result of a well thought out decision to integrate new technology into the classroom in meaningful ways.
I’m going to be honest with you for a moment—brutally honest. I like shiny new things. A lot. So when someone wheels in a new computer, a new scanner, a new digital camera, a new digital recording device, a new video camera…essentially anything new and shiny and still in its original packaging…I must use it and I must use it now. This love of all things shiny has not only led me astray in the form of bad impulse purchases at the mall, it has also created situations in my classroom where I used the technology just to say I was using the technology and….well, it’s so shiny!
While some technologies shaped my practice in exciting ways, others created headaches, confused my students, and added nothing substantial to my instruction.
Last week, I visited a classroom where the teacher was using an anchor chart on plain old chart paper. We’re talking Magic Marker, amazing quick reminders in the form of silly drawings, and phenomenal evidence of an instructional artifact that grew from the students themselves in the form of kid-friendly language. This
teacher’s purpose was two-fold. First, she wanted to create a resource for her students to refer to in meaningful ways as they worked independently. Second, she wanted this artifact to represent her students, their thinking and their process. So for this
teacher, using Magic Markers and chart paper was purposeful—the result of a well thought out decision to integrate reliable teaching practices into the classroom in meaningful ways.
Are you blown away yet?
Because you should be.
Now I know some of you are reading this while shaking your heads and thinking, “Charts are so outdated! Magic Marker is a thing of the past.” And to you, I say, “Some things never change and isn’t that wonderful?” Mrs. Mimi is a pseudonymous teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of IT'S NOT ALL FLOWERS AND SAUSAGES: MY ADVENTURES IN SECOND GRADE, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
© 2012 Mrs. Mimi. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.