Follow the Yellow Brick Road
12/7/2016 12:37 PM
As a veteran teacher with a background in special, general, and technology education, I knew the importance of a strong face-to-face presence in the education setting. I also realized that the world of teaching as I knew it, was changing quickly. Our district received iPads for all students and teachers. We went from one or two computers in a classroom to 1:1 iPads. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, waking up after the storm. I was suddenly in a new place. Always the educational adventurer, I knew there had to be a way to use this new technology to optimize my limited time in the classroom. I had the tools, now I had to figure out what to do with them. I surrounded myself with Professional Development, attended conferences, and used Social Media to learn more. Blended and Flipped Learning were just coming to the forefront. I recognized that an online presence could benefit my students. Students could reference my teaching 24/7 and they could move at their own pace. I searched for a way to provide myself, the face-to-face component, with more time to work 1:1 or in small groups with my students, rather than lecturing from the front of the room. I said to myself, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
I polished and slipped into my ruby slippers. I set off on my journey to the Oz of Teaching via the Yellow Brick Road. That was over six years ago. I made a goal to blend all elementary subjects within three years. I used my technological know-how and progressive mindset to “blend” all subjects in my classroom with technology. I met a tin man, Erik Cliff from CBD Consulting. He reassured me that I was headed in the right direction and helped me navigate. I began by using a learning management system (Edmodo) and by using my iPad to record my direct instruction. I tried one subject at a time. This was the magic! I was hooked. I persevered with the task of recording all of my elementary subjects in the same way. By changing the delivery method of instruction I gained more time. This also allowed students to learn to self-direct by choosing what and when they worked on assignments. They could work at their pace, not mine. Best of all it allowed for more opportunities for my students to create 21st-century examples of their learning on a daily basis. Students were now fully collaborating, creating, thinking critically, and communicating with the world outside of their classroom setting. In doing so, I was named the 2015 Outstanding Technology-Using Pre K-12 Classroom Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL). I thought I had reached my Oz. I was mistaken. I still had a long way to go.
Sharing the success of the Blended Writer’s Workshop with other educators at state, national conferences, and edcamps became my passion and led me to new places in my life and career. I met Suzanne Klein, CEO of WriteSteps, in my eyes; she is like Glenda—the Good Witch of the North. She believed in what I was doing. She had kept in contact with me because I was a passionate WriteSteps teacher. She asked me to consult and to help create a blended writing platform to be used by other teachers and students worldwide so they could share this experience. I began to create the video teacher portion, Captivators, for WriteSteps’ new digital writing platform, CaptivationStation. I retired from the classroom to complete the project and to share my passion for blended learning with a wider audience. I refined my focus on how to teach writing, a subject that is often put to the side by teachers due to a lack of time and resources, using a blended model.
I still wear my ruby slippers even though they may need a polish from time to time. Some may think that I have reached Oz. I don’t think any teacher ever reaches Oz. Teachers must be lifelong learners, continually on that Yellow Brick Road. Join me on my journey as I continue to learn and share what is ahead of me. I’ll share tips, tricks, and many resources for teaching students to write in the digital age. I can’t wait to meet more munchkins; I mean rock star teachers and leaders (like you) along the way. We’re off!