Learning. Leading. Teaching. An Afternoon with George Couros.

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Years ago, I saw Wicked in Los Angeles for the first time.  I left the show feeling entertained, but it wasn't until a day or two later that I realized how I was struck by some of the themes.  You could say I take some time to marinate on ideas.  At the time, I was working on my NBCT portfolio.  If you have attempted this, you may know why "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good" spoke to me in the trenches of writing four 15 page portfolio pieces analyzing every decision made while teaching a 15 minute lesson.  I didn't make that connection immediately after the show.

So, what is my connection here?  Similarly, when I was driving home after an afternoon listening to George Couros speak at Ventura County Office of Education, I felt entertained and motivated.  But it isn't until a few days later that I am digesting some of what we talked about.  So, allow me to share some paraphrased ideas, since I didn't write them down word for word at the time.

I'm not a technology person; I am a student learning person.  And I see how technology impacts student learning.
I don't know how many times I have been described as a "technology person", or heard someone else say "I just can't do that. I'm not techy like you".  But, you know what? I'm not a techy person.  My boss regularly has to teach me "Liz, that isn't really how it works" or "We don't call that a hub, we call it an access point".  You get the idea.  It isn't technology that I love.  It is students that I love, and there is a big difference. When we, as teachers, think of ourselves as technology people (or not), we limit options.  Don't avoid a good idea because you are "not techy".  And don't do something because you are techy if there is no meaningful student learning payoff.  The truth is-- we should all be STUDENT LEARNING PEOPLE and when we all see ourselves that way, we will focus on the best strategy for learning, which is often infusing technology into what we are doing in the classroom.

We take the most human profession and reduce it to letters and numbers.
That is just it. That's it.  I know it is report card season and it is testing season, and I am a fan of data based decision, but  still:  Remember the humanity of teaching.  Create relationships.  Tell students the greatness that you see in them. A wise colleague shared the idea that "the kids who need love the most are the ones who demand attention in the most frustrating of ways."  Truth! Be an encourager even to those with lower letters and numbers.  They need to know they are just as valuable as anyone else. Mr. Couros' point was to see your students as human, and let them see your human, caring side as well.

We have figured out email. We have figured out the internet. The truth is, we can learn to change.
I have heard several speakers lately address this idea of resisting change and it needs to be spoken about openly.  We do change.  We change a lot.  I have been teaching long enough to remember the September when the principal announced "I will no longer be printing the weekly bulletin for staff.  It will be in your email." *gasp from staff*  One of my favorite things about teaching is that it is never boring.  I can teach the same lesson 3 times in a day and it is different every time. But change doesn't have to be drastic.  Baby steps are fine.  A growth mindset says that we realize we will fail at times, but we will try, because that is the best way to learn.  Isn't that what we expect in students? We can learn so much from our students and what we expect of them.

So, thank you, George Couros, for sharing your wisdom, laughter and even a few tear-inducing videos and stories.  Because I knew you, I have been changed for good!

Introducing Google Drive

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Google Drive has become one of my favorites. When I became the Technology Resource Teacher last October, I decided to create all documents I need using Google Apps.  That even meant turning my back on my beloved Microsoft Publisher, it's true.  But I have found the transition to be easy and I am enjoying all the Googley Goodness!

So, my next step has been to encourage as many teachers to use Google Drive with their students as I can.  Most of the demonstration lessons I have done in classrooms have been to get students signed into their account for the first time.  In fact, I laugh now (okay, we laughed then, too) as I look back to my very first sign-in lesson with a class of 2nd and 3rd graders who were very excited. But, it was like herding cats!  All the students had to enter a captcha code, so their teacher and I were running like crazy. I think at the end of the hour, a third of the class had signed in. Funny... it had been so easy with my 6th graders!

Today, I met with a group of 3rd graders and their teacher, who is one of my favorite people, for their Google Drive Premier and I remembered to snap a photo of them.

They were so patient with all the times they had to try their password. It is definitely a one hour lesson the first time, just to sign in.  But they did, and then they created their first document and shared it with me and their teacher. I just finished reading though all their notes and leaving comments for them.

This one here... I had to take a screenshot. This is why I don't miss having my own class.  I get to have a lot of classes for a little bit, and that is pretty cool too!