I’ve done a lot of presentations over the years — both online and in person — and at almost each one, at least one teacher asks me, “How do your students adjust when they don’t have these same opportunities the following year?” I’m going to say here what I always say then: we may all be at different points in our comfort level with using technology, but students will advocate for themselves, and change does happen. I really believe this too! This week I was convinced more than ever.
My class is very fortunate to have weekly reading buddies with Anne-Marie Tipping’s Grade 8 class. Anne-Marie is a wonderful teacher that is always thinking of new ways to support her students so that they all meet with success. She’s very creative, differentiates a lot in the classroom, and has her students producing some amazing work. Anne-Marie also thinks a lot before she does anything. I respect this! I love how she carefully considers what she’s going to do, why she’s going to do it, and most of all, how it’s going to best meet the needs of her class.
Since September, Anne-Marie and I have had numerous conversations about using technology in the classroom. While my students have access to a pod of computers to use, Anne-Marie only has a single computer in her classroom along with the computer that runs the SMART Board. Her students go to the computer lab once a week, but there’s not necessarily enough computers for all of the students. We spoke about options for the one computer classroom. I even shared with Anne-Marie a presentation that I did a couple of years ago on this topic. This helped! After viewing the presentation, she came back to me with more questions, and we worked out some options together.
Then came the BIG change: in the new year, Anne-Marie spoke to me about blogging. Anne-Marie doesn’t have her own blog and is new to blogging, but she was thinking about getting her students on The Commons: our Board blogging site. We thought that it would be a good idea to get Jared Bennett, our cluster’s consultant for 21st century fluencies and the creator of The Commons, to come in and talk to Anne-Marie about her ideas and about using this platform. As always, Jared was amazing, and quickly agreed to come in and help. The two of them sat down and talked about all of the options.
This was very new for Anne-Marie, and was maybe even a bit overwhelming too, but just like with everything that she does, she took some time, asked lots of questions, and really figured out how to use this platform to best meet the needs of her students. Jared was there to support her at the Board level, and I offered to help out any way that I could at the school level. Once Anne-Marie got started though, she really needed very little support.
Yes, the first time was hard. All of the students didn’t give Anne-Marie the quality of responses that she was looking for, and their comments weren’t as well thought out as she thought they could be. I shared Linda Yollis’ Quality Comments Video with her though, and we spoke about ways to model this form of writing with the class. Blogging really is a writing form, and just like with other writing forms, students need to be taught the process.
Anne-Marie didn’t give up. She believed in her students, and she supported them throughout the process. Then on the Monday following the March Break, she saw me during reading buddies and said something I thought I’d never hear: “Aviva, I think we’re ready to go public with our blog. The student responses are amazing! Others need to see what they’re doing!” Yeah!! If Anne-Marie’s students were writing these kinds of quality responses to each other, imagine how they’ll respond to a global audience. I can’t wait to see!
This was a process. It was a HUGE change for Anne-Marie and for her students. Change can happen though. I especially love stories like this one, as the focus for Anne-Marie was always on how to use this tool to help her students learn. Her students are definitely doing this, and they are highly engaged throughout the process. So please check out what Anne-Marie’s class is doing here, and maybe even leave them a comment or two, as I know that they would love to continue the discussion with you.
The next time that you worry what will happen the next year, I hope that you think of this story and that it gives you a different perspective. What other success stories can you share? I’d love to hear them!