Like much of my person, my preparation for class is constantly evolving. The way in which I access information is so crazy different from when I was a young student in school. In thinking back on my college days, the sources for my own undergraduate dissertation were limited to
Yep. That was it. I wonder how much better my dissertation would have been if I had the resources of today. Wow. Well, such is life. Technology has deepened our potential grasp of all things geography, economics, history, and civics. I cannot change what was going down in 1999, but I can change my instructional goals. I also know this.
I do not want to teach class so that my kids are ready to write a 1999-grade-A undergraduate dissertation.
Figuring out how to do that is the problem. Here is where I am today, contemplating life for the Class of 2016. I have to think of how I will prepare them to write their dissertation four years from now. That means I have to not only use the Internet in my own classroom in ways that anticipates future learning, but I must also gear myself and my own instruction for planning in the same way. After all, I believe in learning by doing.
So, here are my top five commitments to help me help the college graduation class of 2020.
1. I will participate in on-line collaborative communities.
I am a huge fan of the concept of PLC schools. Unfortunately, my experience tells me not all my peers are with me. I am working to change that culture in my schools, but I do not have to wait for the collaboration part of what PLCs do.
Moreover, when I hear about amazing concepts in education like Common Core's College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework, Standards-Based Learning, Problem/Project Based Learning, and Student-Data Notebooks, there stands a great chance that I am not the first to think of this. (Um, I am most decidedly not.)
My solution is crazy: Collaborate with others. (Or maybe not.) I teach AP GOPO. So do about two thousand other people. I found an on-going collaborative community that is talking about trends in education, sharing articles, collaborating on assignments, and sharing EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN.
It's a closed community, and so we know that we are all working on the same mission and can speak frankly. We can share hardships and successes. And while College Board has a similar apparatus for folks who teach AP GOPO, I like this better because it is so simple to use. I already do Facebook and Schoogle, and this just feels natural.
2. I will talk (Tweet) with others real time.
On most (not all, by any stretch) Sundays at 9pm EST I break out my phone (much to my family's chagrin) and tweet with perfect strangers. On each and every one of my tweets, I add #hsgovchat. (which means in order to follow the chat, I have to search for #hsgovchat and allow the search results to report the live feed.)
Whoa, you say. Why would I do this in addition to the Facebook thing? Well, #hsgovchat is not closed. The twitter chat is hosted by a peer in the Gov Ed field, and that host will pose questions to the participants (usually six questions total by the time the hour is over). All participants have an opportunity to respond to the host, and each other. Side conversations develop, polite disagreements and a fair share of 'hell yeahs.' And it is great. It truly is. I still say one of the best experiences I had was live tweeting the SOTU last year with students and teachers from around the country. I even stayed on to debate tax policy with a student. And, yes. I learned some pretty great stuff from that brilliant student.
The host often (though not always) has a special guest... folks like Tamara Keith from NPR, the News Literacy Project, Your Weekly Constitutional, former White House Staffers, media affiliated with Congress, etc. So in addition to tweeting with other educators (and hey! there are often #hsgovchat all skates, where students are invited and encouraged to participate!), you are tweeting with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and it is amazing. The tweet chats are curated by Justin Christensen out of Cali on his Storify and the #hsgovchat website. Check them out to motivate yourself to participate! (I am pretty excited to report that I got to host one of them myself... that is how crazy cool this group is! All I had to do was ask!)
3. I will read more about my craft.
Other teachers who spend time reflecting on their craft are worth my time. So, I definitely do try to read up on what other folks are doing. Now, this does not have to be just government blogs. I have found quite a few (because it seems like all teachers publish now a days) that are so super helpful.
Ken Halla, a fellow teacher in my school district who is pretty darn amazing, is the one resource all government teachers know and recite by heart. His blog, US Government Teachers, is fabulous for the near daily updates on new and cool things in high school government land.
I also want to stay on top of my craft, so I do read up quite a bit on Edutopia and Richard Byrne's FreeTech4Teachers. I am checking out resources on websites like C3Teachers.org on how to overhaul my instructional practices so they are more affective and engaging for studentsre... Sitting down and thinking about the new C3 structure this summer has really improved some of my instructional techniques, as I am more focused on student ownership in the direction of our units AND the output they create.
Certainly, this is a short list of what I am geared into. If you know of more, share them in the comments section below!
4. I will listen to learn.
Podcasts. Did I mention they are amazing? Well before there was SERIAL, there were other ed-ready podcasts. When I am driving and NOT listening to NPR or Pandora, I am listening to something. I even have my kids listening to Podcasts. Right now, there are a few that are in heavy rotation, and I would recommend the hell out of them.
I also recommend This American Life (I have hyperlinked to one of my favorite episodes on Majority Rule, but also check out The Problem We All Live With on Integration), TED Radio Hour, and Stuff You Missed in History Class.
5. I keep on top of current events.
Sometimes the Sunday shows are not enough, and now that the Daily Show is off the air, what is a teacher to do?
Well, I try to keep on the news in my travel time. That means I have NPR on in my car. I have to balance NPR with a more conservative news source (I like the National Review) because balance is key... so I have my Flipboard keyed into all kinds of resources. (Which is great for those endless meetings that should have been an email.) You know, just like all other things I do this is a collaborative effort so if you ever wanted to be a contributor on this mag, click here. I use this Flipboard to then flip other articles into a magazine that I use to collaborate with my students.
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan