Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Take a Risk

I returned from the annual CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference on Saturday afternoon.  It is now Wednesday evening, and my brain is still spinning.  I have so many great things I could tell you about!  From tips and tricks, to apps and web tools, I learned some really fun stuff.  As amazing as all those things are, it isn't what I want to focus on for this post.  Many of those cool tips, tricks, and web tools I will tell you about in later posts, but for today, I want to focus on my biggest takeaway.

The overarching idea, the thing that had attendees buzzing in the hallways is the shift that is beginning to occur in education.  Some are fully engaged and others are knee deep, but most teachers are still standing around the edges of the water, not even daring to dip a toe into the educational shift that is rising.  Something that we've been talking about for a while now, is that our kids are different.  The world they are growing up in is quite different from the world most teachers grew up in.  We are preparing students for jobs that don't even exist yet.  How is it that we plan to prepare these leaders of tomorrow with the education system of yesterday?  I am not saying that everything about that system is wrong, because I don't believe it is, however I do believe that the needs of our students today are very different from the needs we all had as students.

This brewing trend is seen as a shift away from feeding students large amounts of information and asking them to memorize it.  All the information they could ever need is available to them at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse.  We need to teach students to utilize this wealth of information in an appropriate way.  We need to teach them to tell good information from bad.  They need to learn to collate information and to apply it effectively.  They need to learn to collaborate and create, to be producers and not just consumers, to think critically and design purposefully.  Our students need us to engage them and to inspire them, to jump into the trenches and learn alongside them.  Are you ready?

The biggest thing I walked away with is the simple, yet not even close to easy, command of "Take a Risk".  It is easy to have conversations about all of this and think, "Yeah, this is great!  When I have some time I'll..." or "Next year I can...".  The time is now.  Take a risk.  Today, tomorrow, next week, or next month, just make sure it is sooner than later.  Start small.  Change one lesson, one unit, one subject.  Add something new.  Instead of requiring your students to write the same old 5 paragraph essay, let them pick the way they would like to show you evidence of their learning.  Instead of reading the Science or Social Studies text one day, ask students the big question of the lesson and let them research in groups to answer it.  Give them a time frame and make them present in some fashion what they learned.  Flip a lesson or even a chapter.  Start a genius hour or 20% project.  Maybe your risk for today is just Googling flipping the classroom, genius hour, and 20% project to figure out what they are.  Start somewhere, anywhere.  Start now.  Take a risk.

I took a risk and changed up a lesson on Monday.  It worked pretty well.  That doesn't always happen.  Don't be afraid to fail.  If we never model failure for our students, failure will devastate them instead of inspire them to do better the next time.  If you try something and it doesn't work, try something else.  Maybe even involve your students in conversations about what worked and what didn't and take their suggestions for how to make it better.  Taking a risk is just that, a risk.  You are educators, you know yourselves and your students, and you probably have a pretty good idea of how something will work.  I'm not suggesting you go off the deep end and try something extremely crazy that has little chance of success.  Do what you do best in the classroom, but take a little risk now and then.  Your students are worth it.

Thank you for stopping by the TeachingTechNix blog.  Stop by again soon to hear about some of the neat tips, tricks, apps, and web tools I mentioned.  I can't wait to share them with you!

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