Laura K Spencer, Ed.D.

Make It Work: Project BYOD Runway in the Classroom!

This post was originally published on my old blog (September, 2013). I think the content is still worthy of conversation:

As we move towards a BYOD program in our district, one of the questions that comes up is, “How can I ask students to do something if they all have different tools for the job?” It’s interesting how we assume every student must have the same tool.
I watch Project Runway every week (I know, guilty pleasure!), and each week the designers are given a task to complete. Last week they had to design performance wear.  After the task is described, designers are given 30 minutes to sketch an idea – some use an HP tablet, while others use colored pencils and a sketchpad. They are then given access to fabrics, but not the same fabric of course. Each designer chooses a fabric that matches their vision for the task. Once they have their materials, each designer must come up with a pattern, and then create their look.
At no point in this challenge are designers lined up at their cutting tables and given a pattern which they all must cut out together. At no point in the challenge are designers encouraged to use the same fabric, or the same hidden slip stitch. Each designer must find their own way to meet the demands of the task laid out before them. It’s 21st century skills in action – critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and yes, sometimes even collaboration!
So why do we make the assumption that our students cannot function unless all doing the same thing, at the same time, the same way? I challenge you to, in the words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work!” and give students the freedom to be learning designers.

I think sometimes we have to remember that the world is moving forward around us, regardless of whether or not we keep up with it inside our walls. Education needs to be relevant, current, engaging, and forward thinking!

Change, Change, Change

The shift to Common Core has not only caused a change in curriculum and instructional strategies, but it’s also impacted every department in our school district. Funding has changed; assessments have changed; technology needs have changed; report cards have changed… and the list goes on and on.
As we navigate these changes, I am looking for ways to provide positive leadership that encourage and inspire, instead of cause fear and apprehension. Here are a few links I found that inspire me to keep going!
Why Leaders Matter – Key in this article is the reminder that district leadership is moving from “protectors of the status quo to change agents.” We can’t rest on what “has always been done” or “worked for us before.” We are navigating new, and sometimes murky, waters. How we do so sets the culture for the entire district.
What Makes an Innovative School District Leader? – This video from a school district in Canada, and the article attached, hammers home the notion that we have to provide “freedom to try new things.” There is no one answer. We need to establish the vision, provide the resources, and then be willing to adjust course as we move along the journey,
Managing the Digital District – A fabulous wealth of resources. Why reinvent the wheel or go at it alone when there are curated topics already at our disposal?
What other resources have you found that help you navigate through this time of change? Please share.

A couple months back I attended an executive briefing about digital learning and our 1:1 initiative. During the briefing, we were led through a SAMR sorting activity. Eight different classroom projects were shared with us. We had to sort the projects in to the SAMR level we thought it best fit. We then had to defend our decisions. It was an enlightening experience.

Back at the district, my ed tech team decided to recreate that opportunity for our students. Using ISTEs Student Profiles for learning as a guide, eight K-8 grade scenarios were created.

On Tuesday, teachers attending the “New to Classroom iPads” professional development completed the sorting activity. It led to fabulous discussions about looking at learning from different perspectives. Teachers commented that most of the lower level activities could have easily been modified to advance in SAMR level.
With so much focus on using technology meaningfully in the classroom, activities like this one give teachers a better idea of just how to create that meaning.