Friday, May 27, 2016

Part 5: Creating an Educational Ecosystem: Flow of Info

Water is an integral part of an ecosystem.  How much? Where is it? How does it move through the ecosystem and how are the organisms getting that water?  These factors determine the adaptations of organisms, the way they are shaped, and how large they grow.  Information is the water of your classroom ecosystem.  How does it flow through your class and how do your students need to adapt to get as much as they possibly can?

The space and interactions are integral in a digital classroom.  The manner in which your classroom is laid out and how you support the interactions in the classroom supports a way of working in the classroom.  Where is the focus? How are your norms supporting interactions in the space.  What is missing is the role of the teacher.

How does information flow through your classroom?

If you honestly reflect on your teaching you may notice that all information starts from you.  Does your ecosystem have a creek, is it a desert, or is it a rainforest?  A creek means that all water and information flow from a single source.  Are you that source?  A desert… If you are reading education blogs, I would assume that your classroom is not a desert.  Where information and learning is sparse.  A rainforest is starts with rain.  Rain falls on anything and everything.  That rain collects in many areas and rivers of runoff collect and move throughout the forest.  Information is everywhere.  It does not always come from the teacher, and when that information comes together it creates new information that travels around the classroom.

How are you supporting the movement of information around your classroom?  If you are the sole giver of information, then the students who pay attention and get close to you get the information (plants only grow next to the creek).  In a rainforest, information is encouraged from many sources, is not dependent on the teacher, and allows everything (every student) to grow.  Is can be painful to look back on a year and wonder what type of ecosystem you as a teacher support.  You can create a collaborative environment, develop norms that support collaboration, and still stand in front of the class and monopolize time and attention.

What can you do?

  • Put your instructions in writing.  Whether digital or on a whiteboard, you do not need to speak your instructions.  Let the students read them and get to work.
  • Time yourself.  There is nothing more convincing than data.  Time how long you talk to the entire class and record it daily.
  • Don’t talk to the entire class.  Getting every student’s attention takes time and stops work.
  • Get rid of the front of the room.  If there is no front, how can you get all their attention.
  • Implement Backchannel.  Allow students to interact with you and each other and have a simple method for pushing out information.
  • Let students time you when you start giving instructions.  Come up with a time limit and stick to it.

Reflecting on your ecosystem.  What culture does the learning ecosystem support?  If you have not read through this journey with me, then I recommend you go through the 5 parts of creating an Educational Ecosystem.  This entire journey started with the idea of having a vision, joining a conversation, and doing what is best for children.  The district will have a vision, a clear and simple set of goals, and an idea of what that should look like.  As a teacher, we need to join the conversation.  By structuring our classroom into an educational ecosystem, we are thoughtfully creating a space that support student learning with our vision for education.  It can be frustrating to feel like your voice is not heard.  Your actions and student learning shouts an undeniable and unmistakable opinion.  Be heard.

As you move toward next year, how are you going to redefine your ecosystem and how are you going to support student learning.

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