So, a week has now passed since returning home from the Microsoft Expert Educator Global Forum In Barcelona and I have my own thoughts on what was, again, an extraordinary event.
To be sharing a platform with so many committed and passionate educators was a privilege that I will continue to value and draw inspiration from. There were so many nations represented over the days and it is remarkable to see what some people are doing on what amounts to very little access to technology. It would be interesting to have people re-evaluate their issues with access to technology when you hear stories that include one teacher 'smuggling' in her laptop so that some of her 100 students get at least some access to technology to broaden their horizons.
Again, I have to pay tribute to my own Principal who gave me permission to attend the Forum for the week in the knowledge that it will increase the school's profile and that it would have a positive impact on our students. Some teachers who attended the Forum had their wages docked!!! How's that for encouraging innovation in the classroom?? Awful!
It is also an opportunity to meet with and mix with a range of cultures during the event to learn from each other and see what the different approaches to education in each other's countries are. We were given a Learn-a-thon working group where, briefly, our team (which consisted of teachers from Hong Kong, USA, Egypt and India a well a myself) had to design a learning task that we would take back to our schools to use with each other. Although very difficult to organise given the significant language barriers, we had some modicum of success. However, share a pint with me and I will tell you the full story! ;)
What did come out of it was the chance to work with the wonderful Chelsei Fox and Debbie Chan as we pursued our group - One World, One Voice, One Choice - and look forward to working in partnership with these committed and excellent teachers in the future.
The Fosbury Flop of the title refers to Dick Fosbury who completely changed the approach to the High Jumps with his radical technique. Of course, by doing so, he also did one thing - raised the bar higher. Suddenly, it wasn't innovation anymore - it became a way of reaching greater heights and, ultimately, watching as others took the idea and crafted it to their way. But it was still the same technique that he introduced.
In this way, I feel that I might also be hitting that plateau. When does being innovative become the norm (not that I am suggesting that I am any more innovative that anyone else) and turn into an unstructured attempt to do things too differently - just to feel 'innovative.'?
I am always advocating that we, as teachers, should always be learners first. We should be evaluating our own practice and looking to see where it can be changed or improved upon. I think that I might have to do my own evaluation; a critique of where I really am right now with my teaching.
Should I be looking at the curriculum to see where I can change it, mash it up, 'technify' it - so to speak - to make it relevant to my class as I see it? For example, had planned to get my children to retell the story of Irish emigration through Scratch animation over the next few weeks - hereby increasing their programming skills as well as helping to understand a period of history (I hope). But then, is that only my interest? Might it not be better for their passage into Post Primary that I give them the facts, assess them on it and then move on? It's certainly traditional and something that would be more recognisable as teaching and learning.
Like most people I know in teaching at the moment, we are struggling to get by on the mountain of workload; embedding the curriculum; struggling with the new tech, wading trough paperwork - while at the same time trying to deliver lessons that are engaging and differentiated up as well as down. That doesn't include the plethora of other responsibilities - however, everyone works hard and this isn't a complaint.
I 'genuinely' think I'm running out off steam. The project that I took to Barcelona was, as I said in passing, 'just' a literacy lesson. And that's all it was - with a slight slant. But, was I doing it to give the children a valuable experience at the expense of other curricular time or did I approach the project in the way that I did because people expect me to do these things? That is something that I think have to evaluate. I know that they really enjoyed it and it was, when really examined, a good opportunity for the children to embed their Thinking Skills - the 21st Century Learning that Microsoft Education hold very dear.
I just don't know. Maybe it is a confidence 'thing'? Do I always want to be pushing boundaries I hope that there are a generation of teachers who are more than willing to think creatively and share it with others The success of TeachMeet Northwest is reassuring and I hope that future TeachMeets in NI continue to find that new generation willing to change things.