So here I am with my first blog post. I had been lurking, (and learning), on the sidelines for a year or so coming up with excuses of why not to start a blog or to be on twitter myself. The excuse that resonated with me the strongest was that with my position as a teacher, it was too risky for me to have a public face. How nonsensical when you think about it. I am responsible and smart enough to know what is appropriate to publish publicly. Then this post by George Couros at The Principal of Change was enough to give me the final nudge. So I now have a twitter account, @fjvitale, and a blog to share my thoughts.
That would be small potatoes if it were the only change to accomplish.
I am fortunate to work in a school district that values and gives me access to excellent technological tools. A few years ago, the math teachers in my school were given access to Smartboards and Smart Notebook software. I eagerly incorporated this technology into my teaching on nearly a daily basis. It was a step up in the way I could display and deliver my lessons. In truth, it only improved the way I delivered those lessons.
Towards the end of this past academic year, each teacher at my school was given an Ipad2 and a new laptop. For the next school year each room will also have access to an Apple TV set-up. The high school in my district successfully implemented a 1-1 Ipad2 program this past academic year and there appears a good chance that a 1-1 Ipad2 program will soon be implemented in my school as well. Exciting but somewhat overwhelming news. How can I incorporate all this new stuff in my classroom?
While "lurking and learning" I admit to having been somewhat skeptical of the overall benefits of a 1-1 environment, especially at the middle school level. But one Saturday morning in early May, an experience with my grandson, Emanuele, then two and a half, changed my thinking in an instant. He asked his grandmother, who was in another room at the time, if he could play one of his favorite games, Memory!, on her Ipad. She said yes, figuring he would wait until she came back into the living room where he was. Instead, Emanuele went directly to her Ipad and very quickly and deftly opened it, selected the game icon, navigated the choices he wanted, and got started before she walked into the living room. I watched him do all this in amazement! He had no previous instructions on how to do this - he had just watched his grandmother start the game a few times. It hit me like a 2 by 4 across the head. This is the world he will grow up in! These will be the tools he learns with and will use to learn! This is the world my students already live in and these are the tools that largely they will use to learn now and in the future.
Being May and well into the "difficult behavior" period of adolescents, I then thought about the common refrains I was feeling regarding my students lack of attention, lack of motivation, and lack of memory. How could they seemingly have forgotten much of what we had "covered" during the year as we were heading towards our state mandated standardized test! And I realized they were just plain BORED! And had been for quite awhile. The way I was teaching them had little relevance or meaning. In truth, they had been pretty tolerant of my "delivery" methods during the school year and, for the most part, were trying to overcome those methods the best that they could.
So armed with my new technological tools, the technological tools they possess and bring to school each day, and the knowledge that I have a lot of modifications to make in the way I teach, it has been a busy summer of thoughts of change and learning. It will not be easy for me. I am much more comfortable being the deliverer. But I will change my teaching - significantly. The situation and my responsibility as a teacher requires it.
One of the ways I will use this blog is to share some of the ups and downs of this transition. It may make for some interesting reading.
In addition, from time to time, I may post on topics that are not directly related to education. Hope you come back once in awhile to see how things are going.