I have an incredible principal. I work in an urban district, and our school has struggled for years with AYP requirements, test scores, and the effects of poverty in our community. But every summer, when our staff comes back together and prepares for a new school year, our principal is ready and waiting for us. He never fails to find a positive outlook and an inspiring message to get us focused and motivated.
This year, his message to us was simple: "Bring it." These two little words are our motto, our mantra, our battle cry as we step into another year that is sure to bring both challenges and rewards. For the last couple weeks, "bring it" has echoed through our halls, our emails, and our social media messages—because I am also part of an incredible staff that has taken this phrase and decided not only to bring it, but to own it.
We have a lot of obstacles in front of us, but through those obstacles we have the opportunity to do great things. We must do whatever it takes to make our time at school an incredible and worthwhile experience for our students. It is time for us to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, become innovative thinkers, and create a school and classroom environment that not only provides the necessary elements for success, but accepts nothing less.
This new slogan from my principal is perfectly timed. The introduction of the CCSS has prompted great change in schools, and we are not alone in the need to step up our game. Behind the new standards is the belief that students need to be better prepared for the real world. They need to be critical thinkers, capable of complex reasoning and independent problem-solving. In essence, our students need to be able to "bring it," too. And if this is what we want our students to become, we not only need to model the behaviors for them, we must also give them the opportunity to develop the necessary skills. These abilities and experiences are the key to truly giving students the opportunity to invent their futures.
Technology plays a central role in this philosophy behind the CCSS. Technology skills are mentioned repeatedly throughout the standards, because they are imperative to functional literacy in today's world. But simply being able to use it is not enough. True digital literacy is being able to apply critical thinking abilities and manipulate technology to solve a problem or fill a need. So, how do we bring about the kind of learning that fosters the development of those skills?
On the surface, providing the necessary learning opportunities may seem incredibly difficult. But the truth is, these opportunities are everywhere if we just know what we are looking for.
Recently, registration opened for the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. The challenge is for a group of up to five students at the middle or high school level, with the guidance of an advisor, to create a concept for an app. The app must incorporate STEM principles and fill a need in the school or the community of the kids who are creating the concept. The entries are judged based on the idea and the presentation, so the app doesn't actually have to be built and functional. This opens up the challenge to anyone, even those who don't have the detailed technical knowledge or resources required to create an app. The winners will receive up to $20,000 in grant money, tablets for the students involved, and the opportunity to work with experts to make the app a reality. Proposals must be submitted by December 3, 2013.
Challenges such as this exist all over the Internet, and often don't require a lot of money to participate in. Such activities are an excellent method for pushing students to develop the skills they will need in the real world. It is imperative to give them the chance to become proficient in those skills by applying them to real-world problems. And yes, this also means giving them the freedom to struggle and fail before they get something right.
By reaching outside the familiar world of our individual school or district and actively encouraging our students to be innovators in the wider world, we allow them the opportunity to strengthen and refine the necessary abilities to truly invent their futures and live their dreams. To me, that is what it really means to "bring it" in my classroom.
If you are interested in participating in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, please visit the official website for the contest. You can also find other technology related contests on the Technology Student Association website.
Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.
© 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.