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Teachers Who Take Risks and Share Their Experiences- They Make the Difference

He and his classes were scheduled to meet with the front office of the Chicago Bulls and a CBS news anchor in Wisconsin, both moderated by Google’s Global Education Evangelist, Jaime Casap. Moriates’s students were able to Q and A live with both companies and they really had some

Written by CUE Member Kate Petty

Students learn in different ways today.

Students learn in different ways today.

I walked into Andrew Moriates’s 10th grade English classroom about ten minutes before he was going to do a classroom hangout as a part of Google’s Take Your Classroom to Work week. He and his classes were scheduled to meet with the front office of the Chicago Bulls and a CBS news anchor in Wisconsin, both moderated by Google’s Global Education Evangelist, Jaime Casap. Moriates’s students were able to Q and A live with both companies and they really had some amazing questions to ask.

How Cool Is That?

Wait. Did I forget to mention that Moriates had never attempted a classroom LIVE Hangout on Air before? And, in fact, he was tearing up his ceiling the day before trying to figure out how to get the VGA cable to the front of the classroom? Did I also fail to mention that, for the first 10 minutes, he wasn’t able to get his audio working for the Hangouts?

Did That Stop Him?

Nope. He realized he was going to be able to provide his students with an amazing learning opportunity and he was going to do it, no matter what.

What He Didn’t Realize…

Is that his students learned so much more than what was broadcast on those Hangouts. His students watched him struggle to figure out the room logistics and they also watched as he, very publicly, failed for the first ten minutes of that broadcast as he worked with the audio. Moriates’s students watched their teacher take a risk, struggle, fail, iterate, and ultimately succeed. Because of the learning curve Moriates struggled with that day, he and his students went on to participate in many more Hangouts on Air, including speaking with a Holocaust survivor as they read the novel, Night.

Last year I left the classroom to work at the district office in Mission Viejo, CA. I have the unique opportunity to teach our 1,500 teachers how to infuse technology into student learning and help our students become digitally literate.

There are two resounding issues I hear about when I work with teachers in a training. Their biggest fear is that their students will know more than they do when it comes to technology. Their biggest worry is that the network will go down in the middle of their lesson. Both of these issues are sound- however, I think they both speak to a bigger issue that is transforming education right now.

The access to information that we all have today is never going away. Our students will never not come to school with smart devices in their possession again. What does this mean for teachers? It means there is something in the classroom that is smarter than the teacher. As teachers, we certainly are not used to this. Little Johnny can now look up that statistic we might have just thrown out to emphasize a point and call us out on it- even if we were off by a miniscule amount. If we continue to compete with a computer, we will lose not only the battle, but the respect of our students. We are all first-year teachers in this era of 21st Century Learning.

What Is Our Next Step?

You’ve heard it before, the modern day teachers newest role is becoming a guide for our students. Many teachers don’t understand this new role until about one week into using 1:1 devices in our classrooms. We find we are sitting next to our students rather than in front of them. We find we are showing them how to find an answer rather than telling the student the answer. We find the students are showing us how to accomplish complex technical issues (I am still figuring out what cookies/cache are and why I want to clear them). What we find is a classroom of reciprocal learning and newfound respect.

The students are very willingly taking on the role of assisting in the learning process, and through lessons that utilize Project-Based Learning (PBL) and 20-Time, they are taking a direct responsibility for their learning.

As teachers, we have learned how to step aside from the center of the classroom and how we are no longer the sole repository of learning in the classroom. We are beginning to embrace the idea of teaching students how to find answers to questions in an inquiry-based environment. We are beginning to take risks with our lessons. We are learning what works in our learning environments, and we are finding many things that totally bomb. Rather than hiding our failures behind our classroom doors, we are sharing our struggles with other teachers to teach and learn from each other as we navigate this brave new world of education.

This idea of risk taking and learning from mistakes is key to education in the 21st century. Not only are we all improving conditions in education by sharing our success and failure in the classroom, we are also modeling a very important concept to our students- how we deal with failure and how we overcome our struggles to ultimately succeed.

It doesn’t matter if the 54 minute planned lesson actually only takes 10 minutes or if the network completely fails in the middle of the lesson. These struggles and this thinking on our feet are what makes us great teachers. We can figure out alternatives and get around issues. This is where Andrew Moriates’s struggles with Hangouts on Air in front of his students became so key to showing them that even teachers don’t get it right on the first try- how we go about solving the issues and our willingness to ask for help are the lessons that our students will remember for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, this is my last post as CUE’s Blog Editor. I leave with a happy heart after working with two amazing and supportive CUE team members, Dana DuRee and Mike Lawrence. I want to thank everyone who has helped me and our readers grow over through insightful blog posts and wonderful hallway conversations and Fall CUE and Annual CUE Conferences. I hope to see all of you again very soon.

Kate Petty

Kate Petty

Kate Petty is currently an EdTech TOSA (former secondary English teacher) for SVUSD in Mission Viejo, CA. She enjoys learning about all of the amazing things happening in education as she edits articles for CUE’s blog. She also serves on CUE’s Orange County Chapter Board of Directors and is a trainer at the Orange County Department of Education. She became a GCT in 2012 with #GTAMTV12 and is truly inspired by her amazing network of colleagues.

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