It also gets me thinking about what I've observed and learned this year and how it will shape our district goals for the upcoming school year. For example, one of our schools drained its paper budget halfway through the year, which had more than a few teachers worried about how they'd manage to provide lesson materials for their students. Which begs the question, "What needs to change? And if we're experiencing these issues, aren't other districts as well?"
Change is tough; and it's usually based in fear--the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, the fear of leaving our comfort zone. But fear prevents us from moving forward, and moving forward is what we need to constantly do in education. Of course, change is scary. And uncertain. And yes, risky.
So teachers, don those Ray-Bans, crank up the Bob Seger, strip down to your tighty-whities, and take these risks in your classroom:
1. Attempt to Move More Content Online
Before you hit the copy machine to make another 30 copies of a worksheet, ask yourself, "Is there a way to do this online?" Make the move to digital content: post to your website, use tools like Wizer and Edulastic for worksheets and formatives, seek out online textbooks and Open Education Resources, direct students to create digital alternatives to research papers. Stop swimming in a sea of paper!
2. Let Your Students Teach Sometimes
Let go of the reigns once in a while. If 90% of what we learn is what we teach, then shouldn't our current model be flipped? Your students are already engaged in collaborative groups and jigsaw activities, so take it a step further: let them create mini-lessons. They'll be more invested in their learning!
3. Give Flipping a Try
Students today grew up with and presently maintain constant Internet access: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and a myriad of other digital resources. They're used to online content, so give it to them. Besides that, it makes sense to open up classroom time to working with students instead of sending them home to try out newly-learned (and often-not-yet-understood) concepts.
4. Transform Your Learning Space
Sitting in rows of desks is an archaic concept, and certainly not aligned with post-school workspaces--which are often designed for creativity and collaboration. Physical spaces are central to creating a new paradigm for learning. Change up your seating configurations, create purposeful zones, bring in mood lighting. Get some great ideas here.
5. Embrace Social Media
(See #3 above for justification.) Don't mistake social media for socializing. Besides, reaching out to students beyond the four walls of the classroom creates genuine connections and extends learning. Frankly, you can't be considered a 21st-century educator if you're not willing to adopt 21st-century technologies. Your students will be grateful for it!
Education is evolution. And it's worth the risk.
image via Flickr