As we all know, time is precious. Making the most of our time is critical as we strive to juggle many daily responsibilities and tasks. In our schools today, this is no different. One of the comments I often hear is, “I wish I had more time.” We all have the same number of hours in a day, and each of us chooses how we spend those hours. And, educators spend countless hours during and outside school hours, continually working to meet the needs of their students.
With that said, we all know reflection and learning is a paramount component of becoming effective educators. Reflection is such a vital part of learning, and yet, it is often the first activity to be set aside. Between planning, grading, and simply staying on top of stakeholder communication, the notion of taking time to seriously reflect on units of study or educational philosophy in general is lost to the feelings of being overwhelmed and tired. However, reflection is a key to growing as an educator. Today’s technological tools and resources can be used to help us grow, reflect, and learn. Tools like blogs and social media can be fantastic reflection tools.
Our professional learning is also a vital piece in building strong classroom environments for our students. With so much research, and so many great tools and strategies, our learning needs to be continuous, job-embedded, and worthwhile of our time. Professional development budgets are shrinking, and many educators simply do not want to be pulled from their classrooms for a workshop that may or may not be worthwhile in the end. And yet, if we are not growing professionally, we might as well close our doors and follow the script of a textbook. To do what is best for our kids, we must always look for the best way to reach them and help them grow too.
If we are not growing professionally, we might as well close our doors and follow the script of a textbook.
So, while these two are essential in moving forward and becoming better educators, both take time, often seen as our enemy. We need to learn new tools and strategies, but this takes intentional opportunities and time to do so. And, after we learn and use those tools, we need to reflect on how the lesson went, what students learned and gained through that lesson, and how that lesson might change in the future. Professional growth and reflection go hand-in-hand.
On a side note, I try to regularly blog, reflecting on educational philosophy and my quest to become a better educator and leader. When I sit down to write and reflect, my blog serves as one of the best vehicles for my professional growth. My reflections serve as one of the ways I learn, and it is here that I can think, celebrate, and explore topics of my choice. The power of my voice propels me to think deeper and clearer so that I may learn and lead.
So, through my own blogging and my quest to find a way for my staff to reflect and learn, a wild idea struck me. What if teachers could learn a new technological tool for students while also reflecting on a unit of study? What if professional learning and reflection happened simultaneously?
My vision for every teacher is to blog as a key part of professional growth. Many teachers on my staff have wanted to learn more about blogging, more specifically Kidblog and how this can increase engagement and writing in the classroom. More than that, our school goal this year focuses on increasing writing time and achievement in the school, therefore we have worked on creating writing units aligned to our new standards. And so, I felt a merger of reflection on how our writing units of study have been going so far this year along with learning about Kidblog would be a perfect combination. Let’s use our staff collaboration time to blog using Kidblog, utilizing our school goal as the topic. Time is not a factor; our collaboration time is built into our schedule. Perfect!
To do this, it was imperative that I scaffold this experience, since I am asking my staff to not only learn how to use a new tool, but also put their reflections out in the open for other staff members to view. Trust me, hitting the publish button is not always easy!
Planting the Seed for Reflecting
The casual conversations about reflecting on the writing units planted the seed for a reflection activity. I decided to integrate exit tickets into my staff meetings at the beginning of the school year, having teachers respond to an essential question on a piece of paper or note card at the end of our meetings. With one of the exit ticket reflections, I wrote a personal note in response to each teacher’s reflection, building trust and openness in the process. Furthermore, the reflection questions I was going to use for our Kidblog activity were written at the end of the writing unit teachers were currently teaching, making them visible to the classroom teachers long before they were in a blog format.
With the writing units well underway, I created a “class” for my staff in KidBlog. This is so easy to do! Each teacher received a unique username, but universal password. Within Kidblog, I made a new post with the reflection questions, leaving the structure open so teachers could leave a comment to the questions or write a new post. Reflections come in many forms, making flexibility a key to successful blogging.
The Flipped Presentation
Once we were ready for reflection toward the end of the writing unit, I put together a Google presentation, focusing on the importance of reflection and the how-to of getting into Kidblog and writing their post. I felt it was critical for teachers to know the expectations of their reflection for the writing unit before the actual collaboration meeting, giving them time to process the idea and even try it out for themselves. So, I screencast the presentation, uploaded the video to YouTube, and shared the video with my teachers about one week before our meeting date. Teachers could watch the 9-minute video on their own time, replaying it as many times as they liked, since I made sure I talked through how to log-in and either make a comment or a new post in Kidblog.
The Reflections Meeting
On the day of the collaboration meeting, I decided to jump into Kidblog to see if there was any activity yet. There was! A few brave teachers jumped in right away to give it a try, and their reflections were truly heart-felt and honest. At our meeting, I utilized the same presentation created before, talking about how important reflection is to our growth and learning. I wanted my staff to know their feedback is important; their reflections are growth and learning, and I find this truly valuable to our growth as a school. We talked briefly about Kidblog, how to use it with students, and how to navigate the site. While brief, our conversation was exciting! Teachers discussed and wrote. Within one hour, eight posts were done! My staff had time beyond this meeting to reflect, as I know each person brings ideas to the table at different times. Again, flexibility is key, so teachers feel they can truly sit back and reflect.
In the end, the teachers learned about a cool technological tool to use in their classroom with students and the ease at which to do it. Furthermore, they reflected, giving time to truly think, celebrate, and make notes on their teaching strategies. Reflection is a powerful tool. It was a leap for many, and one I hope some teachers will continue not only in their classrooms, but also in their professional lives through their own blogging efforts.
For all educators, thinking outside the box to make the most of the time we have is of utmost importance. To truly learn and grow, we must reflect. While blogging is just one of those ways, it is a powerful tool to catapult thinking to a higher level. Our students deserve our very best every day, just as we expect it from them. Reflective learning using technology to enhance the experience takes growth to a new level.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, LabyrinthX-2.