Last week in our faculty meeting we were posed with the question, “What are we doing in our classroom that will prepare our students for the future?” At first I had no doubt that I was molding great citizens while teaching them how to be digitally literate students. I use a lot of technology in my classroom and I like to think that I am open to new ideas. All of these thoughts raced in my head until our principal showed us the YouTube video “Did you know, in 2028?” Video Here Yes, I use a lot of technology in my classroom, but is that enough? As the video stated, “Technology has the potential to enrich and empower learning, but there is also the risk that it will over-power life as we know it.” Instead of saying that I use a lot of technology, I should be asking myself how am I using technology to enhance my teaching and blossom creativity within my students? How am I going to promote a love of learning to create lifelong learners?
Looking at the “Continuum of Engagement” by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey (Article Here) showed me that there are many things in my classroom that I still need to change about myself as a teacher, as a learner, and as my students as learners. Many of my students are “compliant learners” as Bray and McClaskey would state. Compliant learners are not talking about their learning, following directions from teachers, or learning objectives taught by the teacher. Many teachers are trained to teach this way and to promote compliant learners in their classroom. I am guilty of promoting this. Sometimes I push my students to be learners at the “commit” level of learning, but that still is not enough. At this level the students have a relationship with the teacher and give ideas for projects and lessons they are completing. They take responsibility for some of the learning they need to do and the teacher will be seen conferencing with students. Reflecting back on the question asked by my principal and the “Continuum of Engagement” diagram, I know that there are many things I need to change in my classroom. I need to push my students to grow to the “flow” end of the spectrum. Students in “flow” know how to set goals and progress their learning. They are eager to learn and are inspired by the possibilities that learning can give. The teacher is there to act as a mentor and guide the students into presenting what they have learned.
It is hard for me to admit that there are very few times in my educational career where I have felt that I am in the “flow” stage of learning. Growing up I was taught to follow the directions of the teacher and to get good grades. I never questioned what I was learning or why I was learning it. Now the question I need to ask myself is how am I going to give up “control” as I know it in my classroom? How do I push my students to be in the “flow” stage of learning? I know that this is not an easy answer and there is not an easy “solution” to this question, but for the moment I think I have a path I would like to follow to get my students, and even myself, to “flow.”
I would like to start the 20 percent project in my own classroom. The 20 percent project was originally started by Google to allow their employees to research something of their interest for 20 percent of their work time. I first learned about this project at the GAFE Summit conference held in Apex, North Carolina this past summer. I had the privilege of hearing Kevin Brookhouser speak there about the 20 percent projects he started in his own high school classroom. He is also the author of The 20 Time Project.
It was inspirational to see how passionate he was about his students and to see that this can be implemented into the classroom. I am not sure how it will look in my second grade class or how I am going to help guide my students. There are so many unanswered questions I have but I am ready to get started and to get my “flow” of learning on. So now my question to you is, What is your 20%?