Stepping back to move forward

I’m struggling right now with finding that delicate balance between designing my learning experience with my own personal outcomes in mind and outcomes that will benefit the community surrounding me. Let me explain.

At a recent English department meeting, small teams of teachers were looking at various “scope and sequences” of English from grades 7-12. As I am new on the department, I had the ability to choose which team I jumped in on: assessments, texts, discussions / oral tasks, media literacy, and technology were my options. Guess which one I flew to like a moth to a flame?

While sifting through all of the survey data from teachers about how they use technology, I had a delightful “a ha” moment, inspired by my Cohort clan: the SAMR model would be a valuable way to sift all of these uses of technology in our English classes.

Technology Scope and Sequence copy
See the fuller explanation of our scope and sequence.

Not surprisingly, my sifting partner and I quickly noticed that we too (gasp) might be in the “trough of disillusionment”: most of our uses of technology were somewhere in and around the “substitution” or “augmentation” realm.

Enter the struggle: my current action plan is centred around how well my Grade 7 English program measures up to the standards of “21st Century” learning. But I realized through this conversation (and through reading Tim Rollwagen’s blog) that another possibility is to harvest for my department various possibilities for “redefined” English assessments and tasks that leverage technology in creative and innovative ways.

How can I balance my own personal goals / interests with what will clearly benefit my department? Is there a way to combine these two possibilities, without making my brain explode? I think I just need some suggestions or offerings from an outside perspective…this is my electronic SOS!

5 thoughts on “Stepping back to move forward

  1. Hi Celeste,

    I hear your S.O.S., and while I have not solutions, I am hoping that I can keep the Titanic afloat (am I mixing metaphors here?)! Firstly, look at the SAMR model closely, you’ll see that it is designed to assist teacher is redefining student learning experiences to deepen the engagement and learning. However, as I’ve posted to our Diigo group, and as Justin talked about briefly as well, not everything we do in the class, not every task that we put to our students needs to be in the “M” or the “R” realms. There is still value to solid word processing skills, and the grammar work that you’ve created from last year. SAMR just lets us see HOW we are using tech’ and to help us get past the ‘trough’…

    Check out this blog: read it the whole way through and you’ll see a really interesting image where the author aligns SAMR to Bloom’s taxonomy. I think that this could be a helpful place to start in answer the S.O.S.

    I think using the SAMR lens to analyse your scope and sequence is a great thing to do; however, don’t feel pressure to “R” everything. Technology gives us the opportunity to create really rich tasks – Assessments OF Learning is where I would focus on the “R”, and so your question could be “how do I get my students ready to redefine what it means to demonstrate their knowledge in English?”

    Also, I’d say that by examining your department scope and sequence through the lens of SAMR means you’re already benefiting your department. It’s not an easy question, nor one with a readily available answer – but then again, the good questions are always like this!

    I hope that this helps, and that you can see your way through the S.O.S. You’re doing a great job, and this thinking is already benefiting your department! Check out Jen Bibby’s recent post too!

    Thanks for this great post!

    1. Hey Garth,

      Thanks for this. It definitely helps to put things in context. This “stepping back” experience (and reading your thoughts) helps to remind me how easy it is to get slightly overwhelmed by all the possibilities that exist for us to explore in our curriculum design. There is no need (I need to keep reminding myself) to get it right all the time. I definitely was equating “Redesign” as the ideal, and I am definitely starting to see that there is value (and a need) for the other kinds of tasks as well. The challenge, I think, is when we never give our students opportunities for higher order thinking with technology.

      Onwards and upwards?

  2. Good call to use the SAMR model of classification, Celeste! I’m wondering if you might be being too hard on yourself by focusing on a perceived lack of Modification and Redefinition uses. Not all activities or technologies fit neatly into one category and even the ones that do can be bumped up into other categories with slight modifications. For instance, using voice-to-text software would normally be seen as a substitution for writing. However, given the number of times it screws up, you could also use it to teach homonyms or create grammar challenges for students in which they have to correct grammar and spelling mistakes the software makes from sentences they say. I’d classify that as a modification since it changes the dynamic of teachers creating problems for students to solve to students generating and solving their own problems.

    Furthermore, I suspect that some subjects lend themselves better to redefined or modified activities than others. Subjects like science and math are continually being changed by new technological innovations such as Smartboards, ipads, and smartphones, which allow students to view and virtually manipulate the world in new ways. I think English has lots of potential for modified redefined activities though a ‘new’ medium like Twitter, but I don’t know if schools are as ready to embrace Twitter as they were with Smartboards and iPads.

    I hope my comments have been helpful. I think you’re doing your department a fine service and they’re lucky to have someone so interested in finding effective new forms of learning. Best of luck with your technological review!

    1. Sandy, I think you bring up an interesting (and important) point that not all disciplines are as easily “redesigned” with technology. This certainly puts my struggles and aggravation in context. I think sometimes this just further fuels my fire and makes me desperately want to uncover / discover these potential tasks, but all in good time, I suppose. Thanks for your thoughts!

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