I sometimes have brainstorms about technical solutions to make the bureaucratic aspects of education more efficient and meaningful. I call these “edtech puzzles”. But when I sit down at the card table to put together the puzzle pieces, I often get stuck wondering “Is this puzzle worth the effort?” I wonder if my little time-savers and shortcuts are where I should really be focusing my energy. Do they help me build relationships and transport me and my students toward bigger goals? I have journeyed on the thought tracks pondering methods to assess my own ideas by comparing the estimated input cost of developing and teaching a new tool or procedure against the estimated impact of the tool. But these routes are merely spurs that always lead back to the main line on which this train of thought chugs into the terminal station asking, “What are my big goals in education?”
Many authors have written about the critical value teacher-student relationship hold in education. I certainly agree that is one of my “big goals”. Relationships build trust. Relationships give us knowledge of students’ backgrounds. Relationships open our being to transformation. I needn’t resurrect a phoenix that has already risen on the wings of others’ good writing. My concern is what do we do with those relationships? If we succeed in building a positive relationship with students, we have made ourselves vulnerable and accepted the responsibility of faithful stewardship of students’ trust in us.
Without a lot of to-do, I humbly offer these big goals for education as what we could be doing with the relationship we develop with our students:
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Christopher Blinn. Christopher teaches students with special needs at Richmond High School. He enjoys working with those who are developing their vision for life after high school. Outside of school, Christopher parents a four-year old and a two-year old with his wife Kate. He enjoys cooking, biking, gardening, and tea.
As a Kindergarten teacher I spent my first year with Canvas in a love-hate relationship. I saw all the new and inventive things other teachers were doing and wanted to do the same with my young students. I spent most of Year 1 getting frustrated because I couldn’t do what others were doing.
Then Year 2 came. I decided to stop trying to have my 5 year old students do what 10, 12, and 14 year olds were doing and just focus on the basics. This was a game changer for me. I stopped the negativity and only focused on the positives. The “what would work” instead of the “what wouldn’t work.”
So I started at the most basic task-logging into Canvas. Some may underestimate how difficult a task this is. Students must be able to match numbers and letters as well as be able to identify what is an uppercase letter and what is a lowercase letter to know when to use the shift key. (Anyone who thinks this sounds easy are welcome to stop in a kindergarten room in the fall!) We spent months learning how to log in independently, but we finally got there! Every single one of my students can log into Canvas on their own! (You’re welcome 1st grade teachers!).
With that hurdle crossed, we could move on to actually using Canvas! Yes, my kindergartners are using tools in Canvas. Are we using all of the wonderful parts and pieces? No way. But that is where I stopped worrying about using everything and focused on just a small portion. With the help of our e-learning team, my students can now record themselves reading their weekly book ,which saves me so much time from before when I would frantically try to get to every student. Now I can listen to them read at my own time and be able to plan small group lessons based on the type of errors they are making. My students also record themselves reading sight word lists during our center time.
Being able to use the media recorder and learning how to upload and submit their assignments has been the game changer in my room! For everyone that says the little ones can’t use Canvas-they are so wrong. Canvas just needs to be used at an appropriate level for them. It’s really about just giving them the opportunity to try. My goal was to give them a foundation to build upon as they move through the grade levels. My advice to those hesitant to put devices into their young students’ hands is to focus on what they can do and the rest will follow.
Melody Williams is a kindergarten teacher in her 9th year of teaching at Richmond Community Schools. She has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from IU East and a Bachelor’s Degree in Middle Childhood Education from Wright State University. Melody has previously taught Reading Recovery and Special Education although her passion lies in kindergarten. In 2015, she earned REA Teacher of the Month and in 2016, was named Crestdale Elementary Teacher of the Year. Melody and her husband, Lee, have two young children, Kyson and Kynsie, who keep them very busy. In her spare time, Melody enjoys spending time with her friends and family.
How did I get to this point in my career? I always felt like I was born to teach, and I worked hard in the testing grade levels of 3rd and 4th grade. I was devastated and nervous when my principal of 10 years retired and we’d be getting someone new. Little did I know, that new principal was moving on from the eLearning Team and would push me in new ways. My classroom became a place that was truly becoming student-centered, I was shifting to let students teach me, and we teamed up with Test to have a technology day. It was empowering for me and my students! I saw students become leaders in technology when they weren’t leaders in “traditional” ways. We utilized our LMS, Canvas, spheros, Sway, and more. I couldn’t wait to start this year doing it all from the beginning. I had no plans of leaving, until I did.
A retiring librarian position was not being filled, so it was listed as an eLearning position. I took a huge leap of faith and pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and applied. I interviewed, and the rest is history. Not only did I change positions and buildings, but I joined the Cadre.
The Cadre pushed me into redesigning this for the classroom, but I no longer have a traditional classroom. Thanks to a first grade teacher in one of my buildings, she took on Canvas assignments and creating weekly tasks for her higher groups to record themselves on their weekly phonics check. We even presented this at our January PD day. From there, I have done weekly Canvas discussions in my media center classes. I have learned to embed Flipgrid, use Chatterpix, and completed an iMovie project with O365 documents and Canvas assignments. I have worked with the district eLearning Team and am headed to Colorado this summer to present with Cadre members at Instructurecarn!
So, what has been my take-away? Or what do I hope your take-away is? Well, I hope that you take a leap of faith. Try one new thing with technology each day, each week, each month - just try it! Things have not worked flawlessly, but my students and I persevere and problem-solve together. I would have never dreamed a year ago that I'd be doing what I'm doing now. Making one change continued to push me and has enabled me to become the leader I am today. If I can be of assistance to you, please reach out to me.
Today’s post comes to us from Mrs. Sarah Vance. Sarah is in her first year as an eLearning Teacher with Richmond Community Schools. She runs two Elementary Media Centers, in addition to visiting classrooms to support technology. This is also her first year in the Cadre. Sarah is in her 11th year with Richmond Community Schools, where she spent 10 years as a classroom teacher in grades Second thru Fourth. Sarah earned the Rising Star Award her first year teaching, along with the No Excuses Award. She was the Charles Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2017. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University East and her Master’s Degree from Earlham College. Sarah and her husband, Adam, have 3 boys. In her spare time, Sarah chases after her 3 year old twins (aka “the twin-ados”) and watching her 6 year old play soccer and t-ball.