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This GAME plan process has taught me a lot. Ironically, it’s the things that I didn’t like about the process that seems to be the strongest take away lessons for me. Goal setting is an important professional skill. But I naturally set goals for myself, and didn’t need a formal structure to help with that. I’m also pretty reflective, so writing down my thoughts each week was simply to share my thoughts with others, not for my own learning. Comments from others were sometimes valuable. Most of the time, they were just affirmations of my thoughts. What I really learned through this process was that I didn’t like doing something that felt disconnected from the rest of our curriculum. I also didn’t like having to do an additional task beyond the regular workload of other courses. It felt burdensome. As I shared last week, I’ve begun to use this experience to look at the tasks I ask students to complete. Clearly, there are some assignments that I could be more clear about how they fit into our larger curriculum. I recall Marzano talking about students needing clear learning targets. They need to know the purpose of the activities, not just the directions. Also, I recognize that middle school students need more direction in how to give both affirmations and feedback to other students in a way that furthers the conversation, not just repeats what was said by the first student.

Other reflections specific to the goals I set in my GAME Plan:
• Our building desperately needs a long-term plan for technology. I might be uniquely positioned to help create that vision. That vision needs to include both expanding the technology that is available for student use and providing teachers with exposure to new ideas regarding teaching and learning in the 21st century.
• Students are hungry for new ways of learning. In a world that is rapidly changing, school has become a constant monotonous process of reading and writing. They are hungry not specifically for technology, but for the diversity in learning structures and processes that technology can bring. They want to demonstrate their learning in more ways than just writing and speaking. They want to be creative and expressive.

Despite my frustrations with this GAME plan process, it has helped build my confidence in just jumping in and trying new things with students. Moodle and Google Apps are now regular tools in our classroom. I’ll be rolling out Diigo in the next few months. As I begin to use more and more of these tools, they become easier and easier to implement. As the learning curve flattens, the speed of implementation quickens. This is exciting for both me and my students.

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Although I did like a few aspects of this GAME plan process, I’m not totally sure I’d use this process with my students. I did like the individual goal setting, regular reflection and the peer-to-peer feedback and support elements of this process. I try to incorporate those concepts into much of our learning process already.

There were, however, a lot of elements of this process that I didn’t care for. I often felt like I was jumping through hoops. First and foremost, my work on my GAME plan was completely separate from my ‘academic’ work on this course. It felt more like an additional task added on top of everything else I was doing. I saw value in it, but I never felt like the structure of the course supported that value. It would have been nice if the GAME Plan and our weekly curriculum were more interwoven. I’m starting to realize that I have some things I do in class that have the same effect. For example, students do weekly current event assignments, but we never talk about what’s going on in class and connect it to our curriculum.

I appreciated that I wasn’t held accountable for achieving my goals (because I set goals that are important to me but larger than I could accomplish in only 8 weeks). But this lack of accountability also keep me for really applying myself towards my goals. Of all of the things I’m juggling, it’s the rubber ball that will bounce. I often think students feel the same way about their school work. Their extra curriculum and social lives (the hear and now) are way more important than completing homework and working towards long term goals of learning.

On the other hand, giving students more opportunities to set individual goals, and specific time to work towards achieving those goals could be valuable. Before I implemented this process regarding student technology goals, I think I would introduce it with a focus on more traditional academic skills because I think those are more central to our curriculum. Once students understood the GAME plan process, then I’d challenge them to apply the process to other topics like technology.

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Exploring my GAME plan has taught me a few things. Most recently, I’ve learned that my district is afraid to tackle the issue of student email accounts even though we have access to them via Google Apps for Schools. I realize there are some legal requirements around protection of students and email has always been a tricky area. However, when an email address is often a pre-requisite for using other online tools, this becomes an obstacle on my end. So I need to explore alternative options. I’ve heard something about being able to add “+” to gmail address that might be a work around. I’ve also heard of Gaggle which allows me as the teacher to manage and monitor student email accounts. But I want a solution that’s not going to require additional time and energy on my part. Is that too much to ask?

I’m still working on both of my goals, and probably will be for the rest of this year. So I’m not yet ready to set any new learning goals. There are still many of tools I want to explore and find ways to incorporate into my curriculum. For example, Selfari, Diigo, Glogster, Podcasts that are actually published online. I’ve already got a few podcast lessons figured out, I just need to figure out the online publishing portion. That’s probably my next step.

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Expanded Horizons

I’m beginning to see my goal for leading the development and adaptation of a longer-term vision for technology differently. I’m suddenly realizing that some of the ‘other’ things I’m doing actually fit within the goal too. For example, I have been a major leader in our building’s switch to standards based grading practices, especially on the technology side of things. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and appreciate for the video and written tutorials I’ve created for teachers and parents. My current work in developing an informational parent night will continue to further this goal.

The age-old adage about truly knowing something when you have to teach others has proven to be true in this project as well. My own knowledge and understanding of our gradebook program and the theory/practice of standards base grading has increased 10 fold in the last 6 months. I’ve discovered new features I didn’t know existed. For example, I have the option of including a break down of a students progress on each standards when generating progress reports. I’m no longer limited to reporting their progress as a serious of assignments and can now actually focus on mastery of skills.

I’m still a long ways off from identifying and implementing web 2.0 projects each quarter. With all of the energy I’ve been putting into preparing for our SBG parent night, there just hasn’t been enough time to research and outline these other lessons that I’d like to add to our curriculum. I do have a new idea for adjusting our student generated myth paper to become a digital story telling project. But I haven’t figured out what that might look like yet. I really no very little about digital story telling so I have a long ways to go to get it from just an idea to actually being a successful lesson.

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Small Steps Towards Long Term Goals

Normally, I’m a digger. That is, I quick to pick up an shovel and dig into projects. The unfortunately things about diggers is they can only hold so many shovels at once. Although I designed my action plan around topics that are very important to me, their implementation will likely take most of the school year. Perhaps, I should have choose goals more closely aligned with what I’m already working on, instead of things I plan to achieve in the future.

In terms of becoming a technology leader and visionary for my building, I’ve taken a few meaningful steps. I’ve had several conversations with my principle this week about how to best refresh our dying computer lab. There was clearly a lack of foresight, so we’ve been caught financially unprepared (at a time when money is already tight). Although we’ve find a short term solution, I’ve tried to emphasis the need to shift to long term planning. I have also tried to put forth the idea that our long term goals need to not only consider how to better maintain our current technology infrastructure, but we also need to figure out how to expand our infrastructure to make more computers available to students in classrooms (not just labs).

I’ve also created a new blog Technology for Enhancing Student Learning. I haven’t posted anything yet, but my vision is to use this blog to collect and share tools for teachers to use with students or tools for students. A colleague of mine already has a blog about improving teacher’s use of technology. Personally, I’m more passionate about shifting the conversation from what are we as teachers doing with technology and focusing more on what can students do with technology that will improve their learning. I realize this vision may not be unique. There are a lot of Ed Tech blogs out there. But having a place to collect the best or most worthwhile tools that I hear about seem like a valuable opportunity for me personally. If no one follows by blog, it won’t really matter. But I hope that some of my colleagues might. I suppose this action step actually relates to both my goal to be a tech leader and my goal to identify and incorporate Web 2.0 tools into my curriculum each quarter.

Honestly, both of these steps seem pretty minimal. I probably should have focused on assessment since we’re in the middle of switching to standards based grading practices. We also have a new online assessment data system that I’m trying to learn. But I have to do those things either way. I’d really prefer my GAME plan to focus on the areas I want to grow, but may not have outside forces pushing me.

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When I consider my goal of implementing at least one significant learning experience each quarter, I realize that the opportunities are endless. I only need to dig and discover a few ideas. I’ve been listening to several podcasts about ed tech stuff for a while. They often refer to and discuss specific tools, but rarely do I take the time to actually learn more about them. That would be an obvious next step. I also think it would be helpful if I shifted from just being a consumer of information, to actually being a participant in professional networks like Classroom 2.0. By actively building a PLN, I could interact and explore ideas and tools with other teachers who have more experience than I do. On that note, I suppose it may be time to join the “twitterverse” as well. My Diigo account is another great resource for searching for new tools to incorporate into my curriculum.

The reality is, I know the information I need to achieve my goal is out there. I even know where to look for it. I just simply haven’t found the time to sink my shovel in and really start exploring.

To achieve my second goal of advocating for the development and implementation of a long-term vision of technology in our school, my needs are slightly different. I need to identify resources that will help us create a sound vision for the future that is based on best-practices while still providing room for future growth. But even before that, I need to compile information that will help convenes my colleagues that this vision is important and worthy of their time and energy.

I’ve already stumbled across several videos that make strong cases for 21st century learning. A lot of the material that we’ve been exposed to in this program will also help support this goal. But I’m still feeling like something is missing. I’m not sure if it’s a resource that is missing, or something about the process of moving this agenda forward. I guess I just don’t feel like enough people are “drinking the kool-aid” yet. How do I make them thirsty?

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Technology is not longer an option, it’s the means. What cheep paper and pencil where to the twentieth century, the personal computer and Internet are for the twenty-first century.

But schools are lagging significantly behind the curve. Adoption of technology into every classroom is still focused on teach-centric tools like teacher computers, projects and document cameras. SmartBoards are just beginning to give students more opportunities to interact with technology, but even these are still primarily being used by teachers. Students need access to computers.

So what’s the hold-up?
Is it fear of what they will (and won’t) do with technology that is holding us back? Is it ignorance of the power of these tools to transform not teaching, but actual learning? Or is it simply a lack of funding?

Change Agent
What will be the “change agent” that will overcome these obstacles? Will change come from demonstrated student growth in the classrooms of pioneering teachers? Will pressure from the private sector like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills final grow large enough to force the change? Or will it take political reform, like Maine’s 1 to 1 initiative that was spear-headed by the Governor be necessary before meaningful change is achieved? Is it naive to think that public demand will ever be strong enough to shape education?

Regardless of where the change agent comes from, the issue of how to fund new technology must be addressed. In these times of shrinking government budgets, many are looking to private sources of funding as the answer. But I say we need a more stable, dependable and recurring funding source to support ongoing tech adoption. No a flash in the pan grant opportunity has ever fixed a problem long-term.

So I ask you, what role do you play in changing the system? Do you really have an option not to become a change agent yourself?

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