My learning manifesto
As an educator for 20 years, I decided to go back and get my Master’s in Technology and Leadership this year. Why, at the ripe old age of 42, would I decide to do such a crazy thing? Because, I feel like I would like to finish my career teaching others how to use technology in the classroom to further learning. I don’t know where exactly, or how, I will do this but it is for sure a long-term goal. One of my assignments for my masters was to write my philosophy of teaching, or learning manifesto so here it goes….
- All children can learn. Do they learn the same? No. Will what works with 75% of the class work with the other 25%? Most certainly not. I believe that all children can learn but as teachers we have to keep data and figure out how each child learns best. This is an almost impossible task to do some years but all we can do is our best. So we have to try to address as many learning styles as possible and vary our instruction to include these.
- Once a sufficient base of knowledge has been built, students should experience how learning will help them in the real world. This may not be very popular with some of my peers but it must be said. I am all for teaching in all the new and innovative ways. But if a child, say a kindergartener, does not know their letters and sounds, how will they learn how to read? Using technology to help this is great, but I think too often we as educators are getting away from the basics too much and trying to address too much. At the same time, my teenage son who is a sophomore at Career and Technical High School in Pasadena ISD will be earning his high school degree while also earning certifications in his chosen field of Computer Maintenance. Great way to use our schools and teaching to show kids what their “real” lives will look like. But he still yearns to know who is going to teach him how to pay bills and taxes, which is a valid concern. Can we use technology and our schools to simulate real life? I think we can.
- Pushing kids too far, too fast, especially in the early years, doesn’t work. The new common core, and here in Texas, our TEKS, are expecting children to do things that their brains may not be developmentally ready to do. With more kids than ever coming in with gaps in their learning, we are skimming over that and pushing kids to do things that are so out of their wheelhouse. For example, my district expects every kindergartener to leave on a guided reading level D. 20 years ago, when I started teaching, children who were developmentally ready to read picked up on it in the classroom without being explicitly taught to read. Do I love guided reading? Yes! I get so much useful information from these kids when we are working on reading in small groups. But do I think they will all fit into the level D mold by the end of the year? Nope. My own two children, who were before the push for guided reading in kindergarten, were very different in their approach to learn how to read. My son was content to wait until he had to, which was in first grade. My daughter taught herself how to read at the age of 4. By 4th grade, they had both mastered guided reading all the way to level Z, which is equal to 7th grade. Because they were able to read when they were more developmentally ready, they ended up in basically the same place.
- All parents are not created equally, so we cannot expect all children to come in with the same knowledge. Parents these days are working under such a varied number of circumstances, that expecting all the children to come in and, for example, know their letters and sounds in kindergarten, is not realistic. Some children spend large amounts of their lives in situations where no one is really talking to them, or reading to them. Technology, although so very powerful, has also become a babysitter of sorts for our youngest children. Keeping them quiet in restaurants and stores is the new normal. And while technology can certainly enhance a child’s learning, there still has to be some meaningful adult interaction with both the child and the technology. My children both knew their alphabets when they went to kindergarten and they learned that “organically” by reading alphabet books with me all their lives. Many of our children these days have one parent, or both parents working to keep the family afloat and spending less and less time interacting with their children. I use apps such as Class Dojo to keep my parents in the loop concerning discipline, and an app called Bloomz to share important class information, and more importantly, links to support learning at home. By using Symbaloo, I can give my parents access to web-based content that supports what I am doing in the classroom.
- Living in a state and working in a district that encourages technology and its’ use in the classroom has bettered me as a teacher and has really expanded my own children’s learning as students. The state of Texas, in 2013, earned an average of C- on DLN’s Digital Learning Report Card, putting it 12th in the country. This rating has helped to introduce new ideas in Texas, such as letting kids earn credit by mastery and not by educational hours and using funds in much better ways (Myslinski 2013). I really feel that the district that I work in is pushing the boundaries of education and technology. Of course, school districts always seem so behind the business world, but with support from our Education Foundation, teachers like myself have received grants for technology in our classrooms. And having the Career and Technical High School shows just how far we are willing to go as a district to prepare our kids for the real world. We still need businesses to invest money and time in our schools, from the very earliest age, to help us prepare children to be workers in the future they will face.
Technology in workstation grant
Myslinski, D. (2013). Digital Learning in Texas. Retrieved from http://excelined.org/2013/04/10/digital-learning-in-texas/