I graduated high school 25+ years ago. In between then and now I have earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. I am certified to teach two different subject areas. I am certified to be a principal. I have earned Google and Adobe certifications, raised two kids, been a pretty good husband to one wife, and have attended countless professional development sessions, conferences, presentations, workshops, and even taught a few. With all that experience and all that expertise, I do not understand what it’s like to attend seven classes per day in a modern high school. I haven’t the foggiest idea what it’s like to complete homework today, or take notes from a high school lecturer, take a test, or do a group project with other high school students. I can’t relate to today’s students beyond my own understanding of being a professional educator.
Teaching is a rare profession in that we hardly ever consume the product we create. I’m not saying we don’t learn. I’m a constant learner, as are my colleagues. They work hard to be the best teachers they can be, but they don’t sit in a high school classroom all day every day. We attend professional development sessions, workshops, conferences, all those things that make us the dedicated professionals we are, but just because we’re professionals doesn’t mean we are the beginning and end to understanding what we do.
When a doctor is getting healthcare he can learn about what he does, same thing goes for a lawyer. The salesmen I know love to be pitched by other salesmen. It ups their game, teaches them. When these professionals engage in their own profession as a client they are authentically involved in receiving the benefits they provide others. How could you not grow in a situation like that? They have a stake in the outcome of their engagement, it’s important to them.
As much stake as that doctor has in his own doctor visit, our entire community has stake in the outcome of our classes. There has to be a way for teachers to experience the classroom in authentic ways. Making that happen would require a change to the education system as a whole. I am not authorized to do that. So, if a teacher can’t be a student in their classroom how can we simulate the experience, or at least provide a way to enhance the current system to bring us closer to that authenticity?
In 2016 I, along with my colleague Kristen Spain, started a student intern program called the TechnoCats. Our goal was to provide student voice in the lesson planning process. We’ve all been to student panels where students share stories about their experiences or voice an opinion, but I couldn’t find a place where students were active participants in the lesson-planning process. The teachers are experts at pedagogy. They are experts in their content, but the TechnoCats were experts at being in their classes. That expertise is valuable, whether the students understand the technical aspects of the learning process or not.
There are real, earnest, attempts in education to innovate the lesson planning process. In some districts teachers meet with their above and below grade-level colleagues for vertical teaming meetings. Some districts use Professional Learning Communities as a way to improve lesson plans. My own district uses the Schlechty Design Qualities in twice-yearly Design Sessions to better engage students using the type of instruction and assessment that the students find most impactful. They are all great ways to improve and should be celebrated and encouraged.
At my school, the Design Sessions have been greatly improved by including our instructional technology interns, the TechnoCats. Over the last year and a half of student voice in our design sessions there has been a definite, measurable improvement in the lessons created and in the teachers’ confidence that the lessons will be impactful. While it’s great for teachers to reflect on their students via the Who’s Your Who portion of the design process, asking students direct questions about the design qualities they find most impactful is easier, more authentic, and more efficient. Questions lead to follow-ups, which lead to clarifications, which leads to more questions. Then the students ask questions, follow-ups, and clarifications and, before you know it, lesson design becomes a collaborative experience where everyone who has a stake in the outcome also has a voice in how it’s taught, how the learning is expressed, and how the learning is assessed. It’s equal parts focus group, think tank, community outreach, and collaborative learning project. It’s authentic.
Our students have a vested interest in what goes on in our classrooms. We should provide them, in whatever way possible, the opportunity to contribute beyond their compliance with rules and ability to take tests.
In Google Docs there are great tools that can make a task easier. One of them is the research tool. The research allows you to research and refer to information and images online without ever having to leave the document. There are a couple of ways to open this tool. The first is to right click on a word and click on explore or define. The second way is to click on tools along with explore and then you are able to look up whatever you need. This tool can make writing a paper or defining a specific word much easier and decrease the endless amount of clicking back and forth.
As I sit here typing this down in google docs I just wanted to give a few tips to people like me who, before junior year, never used it in my entire life. To start, you can share your document with people by clicking the share button in the top right hand corner. You can enter a name or email within the school district and it will bring that person up, this gives the people you add the ability to type and edit your document. However if you just want to let the person ONLY view it you may click the little pencil to the right of the name box and change the settings. Another tip is if you don’t like the selection of fonts in your tab, you can click the font section, scroll to the bottom and add as many fonts as your heart desires! My last tip is that if you click the “add-ons” tab you will see a button titled “get add ons” click on that and there are many useful tools that could help you with your school work and outside of school projects!
Some teachers still feel uncomfortable bringing technology into their classrooms, and I can see why they would be afraid. A lot of teachers have been doing things one way, without technology, since they started teaching. But there is no reason to be scared of this change, it would have happened at some point, whether it were to start 3 years ago with my Freshman class, or 3 years from now, long after I am gone. It was an inevitable yet positive change that was bound to happen at some point to help move education in a more positive direction. Next year, every grade level will have new macs with them in their everyday lives, taking them to their classes for the new curriculums meticulously written for mac inclusion. There are bound to be bumps in the road. I saw many freshman teachers struggle with this new technological age and the laptops were polarizing in a lot of ways. All they had experienced with technology in the hands of students was mainly computer labs, and that wasn't even an everyday occurrence in classroom work. This confusion is what we as TechnoCats are here to do. Students being in a PD session could help teachers on their way down the path to a more successful, and more productive school year.
Here are some tools for creating a better presentation.
For those of you who are new to the Apple Computer, or just new to the idea of shortcuts, here are some common Apple Shortcuts that will help you when working on your laptops.
First of all, you need to understand the different keys on the Apple computer. Most shortcuts use a combination of Option (⌥), Command (⌘), Shift (⇧), and Control (⌃) and a letter. For instance, the shortcut for Select All is "Command + A" to copy everything you've just selected use
"Command + C".
With all that newfound knowledge here is a list of Mac Shortcuts that you are most likely to use:
This is not a complete list of shortcuts, only a good jumping off point. The more you use these shortcuts the quicker they will become a part of your Apple vocabulary.
- Jason Braddy
Wouldn’t it be great if students were active participants in their education? Most teachers would “amen” that. What if students were active participants in the education of other students? Responses to that question might range from “Amen, I guess?” to “What in the world are you talking about?” While educators are in the tall grass, searching for strategies to educate their students in ways that are simultaneously engaging, effective, and fun, the answers might be sitting in their classrooms.
The TechnoCats, McKinney High School’s student instructional technology team, have a goal: To help teachers teach better using technology. How do they do that? By listening. Answering questions. Giving advice based on their own experiences. Mostly, like any cog in a wheel, Doing Their Part. The TechnoCats have agreed to work with teachers on the kinds of authentic learning experiences that students will remember. I want our TechnoCats so engaged in planning sessions with teachers that they’re seen more as colleagues than students. They’re part of the process of designing great lessons and, therefore, designing learning.
Use the MHS TechnoCats website to schedule an appointment with the TechnoCats.
- Jason Braddy
Professionally I'm pretty much required to say yes. Class of 30? Yes. New PLC rules? Yes. 25 of the 30 kids get preferential seating? Yes. "Mr Braddy, can I go to the bathroom?" NO!
Sometimes we get to say no.
I'm happy to say yes to those things. 30 kids? Great, my program is growing. New rules? New rules means that someone is paying attention. Preferential seating? If I'm always on the move, then everyone is getting preferential seating. Better stay on the move.
It makes sense that, if I'm required to say yes so often, then everyone who supports me would also be required to say yes. I need ten new cameras. Yes! I want a day to visit with the other teachers in my field to add design principles to our lessons. Yes! I want to add this software to my computer lab so my kids can create 3D simulations? Yes! Of course! What're you, crazy?
I hear yes more than no, for sure, but there's always a no when I least expect it. The truth is, I never expect it. I always assume that everyone else has the same passion for teaching that I have. I assume that they see me as the professional teacher. Someone who's going to make miracles happen. If spending a little time with me and providing me with the support I need is all they have to do to be part of that miracle, they should be more than happy to do that. Why wouldn't they? We're making dreams come true. We're changing the world. We're.... you know... teaching school.
After 9 years in the classroom, I took a risk and stepped outside the classroom in order to work in one of those support roles. It's overwhelming, but we're making dreams come true... changing the world... teaching school. My plan? To say yes to teachers, and then figure out how I'm going to make it happen. After all, if spending a little time with someone and providing the support they need is all I have to do to be part of the miracles they're making happen, how could I say no?
- Jason Braddy