Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why We Need to Individualize Instruction

I've decided to start a new blog, not because I need one more thing to do, but because my other professional blog is intended to discuss technology in the foreign language classroom, and the more time I spend with my PLN, the more I find myself wanting to write about broader ideas about changing the way we go about "business as usual" in education.

My first post is an attempt to answer the question why do we need to individualize instruction.  The answer is becuase I'm still "that kid".  You know the one I mean.  I sat in a workshop this morning -- Promethean Boards:  The Basics.  I got bored.  If you've read any of the posts on my other professional blog, you're probably wondering why I would bother with a tech course entitled "The Basics" -- it's just asking for trouble.  Here's the backstory.  I am one of the few teachers left in my district without a Promethean Board.  So I made it my mission to find ways to use other technologies to do what I needed to do.  Then we were told that this fall everyone would have a Promethean board in their classroom.  So, in an attempt to play nice, and since our admins have been known to randomly stop teachers at random in the hall to ask "Have you used technology today?" I decided to learn how to use the Promethean properly, and signed up for the workshop.  Thank God for the internet, because I could have learned all the material covered in the workshop in about 20 min.

So I headed to hootsuite and followed a half dozen hashtags.  I filled out my paperwork, and exploded my pen (that's when I truly realized I was "that kid"). I browsed Promethean Planet.  I read a few blogs about using IWBs in class (incidentally finding many teachers of the opinion that they are merely expensive overhead projectors. -- See my other blog in a few weeks for my opinions.)  I also helped the teacher next to me who -- despite step by step instructions for everything we did, repeated at least once each time -- still just didn't get it.

This is in no way a knock against that teacher.  She's probably a math teacher, and I can barely count to ten -- on my fingers.  My point is that we all have our strengths and weaknesses -- just like our students.  This workshop did not meet my deeds, nor did it meet my colleague's needs -- she will likely be unable to replicate most of what was presented on her own.  I don't think the presenter was at all aware of the disparity in our learning, because we were all presumed to be beginners.

It is true that we may have started at ground zero, but we all came from different backgrounds, with different comfort levels regarding technology, and different learning styles -- just like our students.  As a professional, I was able to use the internet to quietly and independently expand my learning.  Johnny Brilliant in my class, however, might alternatively use his boredom to text his friends to coordinate a flash mob in the admin suite at noon when the educators from Japan are due to visit.  My colleague, as a professional, was willing to ask me for help, while Nora No Food in the House might get frustrated and just shut down.  We aren't all the same.  Neither are our students.

My challenge to you:  Try flipping a lesson on one small concept.  Create a 5-10 minute video or podcast for students to consume outside class.  Come prepared the next day to teach each student individually where they are.

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