Friday, April 13, 2012

Lessons Learned in Vermont

Rather than outlining my third day in Vermont, which included a trip over to the 3-8 building (Williston Central School) to see kids blogging, writing pieces for the Vermont Young Writers' Program, skyping with an author, using Pixton to create graphic novels, I'll close out my reflections from the trip as a whole.

Here are my major takeaways:

Third grade classroom

Sixth grade classrooms
  1. In every classroom I visited, I saw kids sitting at tables--not individual desks.  This arrangement is a physical representation of the belief in collaboration.  I'd love to see our individual student desks replaced with collaborative work spaces like tables.
  2. Kindergarteners can and want to blog, tweet, video chat...and not for a gimmick.  These activities transform their learning, helping them explain their thinking, publish their work, and connect to the larger world around them.  I'd love to see every student in our building publish work and thoughts on a blog hosted by their teachers.
  3. Teachers who are connected via a PLN (personal learning network) can transform their instruction virtually (no pun intended) overnight.  Of course we should support the work of the teachers right next to us or down the hall, but why not reach out beyond our building to share best practice ideas with other teachers throughout the country and around the world?
  4. If we are truly child-centered, our decisions about schedules, facilities, access to technology, and curriculum and instruction must not be based on adult-conveniences but on what's best for kids.  We also need to figure out how to help parents understand our choices, offer them boundaries, and hold them to those boundaries so they do not interfere with their children's learning.
  5. We cannot depend on programs to define our instruction.  While teachers may benefit from following a set of lessons or a packet of resources, we must bring our understanding of best practice to everything we teach.
 Many, many thanks again to all of the people at Allen Brook School and Williston Central School who opened their classrooms to me and spent time talking with me.  Of course, I am especially grateful to Sharon Davison for coordinating my visit and for being an inspiring, motivating teacher.

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