Often times in order to see the full picture it is necessary to step back and reflect on previous accomplishments. While experiencing this learning process, I created many posts, videos, visuals, and papers, but I did not realize how many and the range of significant materials within them. This culminating course in Lamar’s Digital Learning and Leading program encourages me to return to these, and what I have realized so far is truly remarkable. In just a year and a half I have refreshed my approach to learning and solidified what I knew all along: choice, ownership, and voice through authentic assignments are necessary in order to create a significant learning environment.
When all of this started, and I was first creating my ePortfolio and experiencing a COVA class, I really struggled. I wanted to know exactly what to do for each assignment and exactly how I would be assessed. I wanted a rubric that would show me how to get the A I wanted. Once I realized this was not an option, I tried trusting the process and stopped worrying so much about that A. Instead I focused on what I could get from the work I completed, which really paid off. Not only did I create final products that are useful to me and my organization, but I learned more about my own abilities and voice. I now trust myself and my ability to authentically create something. My reactions, both positive and negative, definitely impacted my approach to using COVA in my own classroom and with our ePortfolio initiative.
I would like to do a better job in the future of providing options and more open rubrics. Students should be given opportunities to show their creativity, and they should also be challenged like I was to trust the process and know that effort and understanding in any method lead to success. I am realistic with how I plan to do this because I know I will not be able to instantly apply it to every lesson and assignment I have. I would like to begin with one assignment per marking period. If I continue this approach each year, I will eventually have courses that are only COVA and CSLE focused. To help my students ease into this I will try to use examples and encourage communication. Those really helped me when I was panicking in the beginning of my Lamar classes, and I hope it will do the same for them. I also will wait to introduce these new ideas so that I know I have earned their trust. Buy-in is such a key component, and I need to first make sure my students know my motives are pure before I can ask them to be uncomfortable and change their opinions of education.
This is the same when it comes to impacting my school district and implementing my innovation plan. It was pretty easy for me to think about promoting change at Owen J. Roberts and using my own voice and focus to do so. I love my district and the people who work there, so I feel extremely comfortable introducing the ePortfolio initiative Ryan, Erin, and I have developed. The only reason I was hesitant was because I know how often teachers are bombarded with change. Eventually I realized that the key is understanding the whirlwinds, or everyday events, we are all experiencing and planning accordingly with adequate time and support. The Schoology courses we have created definitely do this and make our plan feasible. Because the ePortoflio innovation plan is something in which I truly believe, we plan to begin implementation this August at the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
Unfortunately, the education world right now seems to only focus on standardized testing. These pressures are the biggest limitations when it comes to implementing change. Through these classes, however, I have realized that the skills that are evaluated in these tests are also practiced when students are encouraged to be lifelong learners and given choice and clearly shown relevance. This is the biggest change in my learning philosophy: I now believe it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Before, I knew I wanted my classroom to be this way but did not think it was possible. Now I know I can develop that significant learning environment and prepare students for success on standardized tests and life. I am now reinvigorated and excited to be someone who leads change at Owen J. Roberts! From this new perspective, what was once a daunting and seemingly impossible task is now an exciting reality. As Drew Dudley highlights in his presentation below, everyday leadership deserves credit as well (TED-Ed, 2013). I have learned this through the Digital Learning and Leading program, and I now have the confidence and understanding to lead my students and colleagues into an environment of COVA and CSLE classrooms!