Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Voyage?

Why voyage?  Why not? How can we grow and expand if we aren't out exploring the world?  I believe growth happens when we push ourselves to move beyond a place of comfort. So, I've decided to embark on the GCISD Virtual Voyage.  Some may wonder why I even chose to voyage?  I've always enjoyed embarking on new learning and stopping to ponder along the way.  I am looking forward to taking this journey.  Today, I was asked to speak at the GCISD EdCamp.  As I am sitting here trying to come up with a blog post that will tell my story, I keep going back to my thoughts from this morning.  So, I will just share them with you here (in a slightly modified version) .  I'm looking forward to sharing in the learning as we take this voyage/journey together.

I started on this journey in the fall of 2011 with one lone iPad I received from a Sonic Limeade for Learning grant. I was alone as I tried to find ways to use one iPad to change learning in my room. I often felt like a lone wagon out exploring the West with no resources to turn to during times of trail or celebration.

In December 2011, I joined Cadre 2 along with the six teachers of Cadre 1 to start on an even bigger journey, changing an entire room and curriculum to allow for the learning beyond our four walls.  Technology was opening doors that had yet to be opened.  Having others along on the journey made it easier to continue on as we built a community of support.

As we signed on for this journey, the term trailblazer or pioneer was often used and believe me, it felt that way. I remember one day in particular that I sat in my classroom and cried. I cried because things wouldn't work the way I wanted them to. I cried because it wasn't going according to my dreams. I cried because I was tired because after all, transforming a classroom is hard. At times I wanted to push my cart back down Grapevine Hwy to the ad building and end my journey. It's not easy being a trailblazer. 

I think back to those who blazed the trail for a new home and the feelings they felt when they travelled along and ran into something like the Grand Canyon or the Grand Tetons, something beautiful to behold but daunting to tackle. Sometimes, transforming our classroom is a daunting task. We know the rewards will be great, but it will require great effort.  Although the year was challenging, it had its rewards for sure. I saw students making connections and being engaged in their learning.

As each year goes by, those on the journey increases. We now have multiple elementary schools that are one to one with more being added and we have digital classrooms at all campuses. Our train is getting larger. 

There is so much that can be learned from those who are on the journey with you and many times, the path is easier because others have gone before you. However, just because a path has been trod, we can't get comfortable for fear of falling into a rut.
Some of the great things that have happened because someone veered off the beaten path.  This year teachers in grades K-8 devoted 96 hours of class time to coding.
1,923 students participated for a total of 184,608 hours coding. We integrated Google docs across our district?  Do you remember when we thought sharing via Dropbox and Evernote was the thing?  This year has taken us to new places! Veering off can be great. If we aren't careful complacency happens in ruts. We must learn from experience but continue to chart new paths.

For me, it was when I decided to venture off and become a PBL classroom that infused technology. It was a challenge and a new way of learning. At times, I stopped to question if it was worth it. This last month, I was able to take a student panel to the engaging net gen workshop. One of the questions asked was what learning was difficult but they look back on and feel accomplished. Many of them spoke about a PBL we had done that incorporated Google sketch up. One student wrote me to tell me it inspired them to be an architect. At that moment, was it worth it? Yes. When asked how they used tech outside of school, 3 of our 6 students discussed teaching various presentation tools to their parents who now use it in their workplace. Was it worth it, yes!

This year, I transitioned out if the classroom and into a new role. One of the exciting things I was able to be a part of this year was becoming a BYOD campus at CMS.  Through this, we've become a community. This next year, all of our classrooms will have a mixture of district and personal devices. This mixture of devices has forced us to chart our own trail as we learn how to infuse technology across platforms. I've been able to witness teachers push themselves to transform their classroom with the biggest change being in product of choice! Students are being challenged to show their learning in the way they choose. This next year, other secondary campuses will join is on this journey and we will learn from each other

Independence, Missouri was the beginning of the Oregon trail. Many set out from there on a journey. Times have changed and the looks of the starting point have changed. We aren't living the digital journey that was started four years ago. Our origin is changing for the better and each of us here are charting new territory and have something to add as we travel.

Today, I hope you learn, I hope you share and I hope you go boldly blazing your own unique trail of digital learning!