Wednesday, April 7, 2010

You can learn a lot by looking back

Someone once told me that the view you get from halfway up a mountain is often better than the view you get from the top. That's why it's important to stop every so often and look back to see where you've come from - and often this can give you the feeling of accomplishment and confidence to face future challenges.

So today I have decided to reflect back on the past 8 months at my new school. At times it has been extremely frustrating, as I have documented before - at times I feel like I have stepped back a good 5 or 6 years when I compare what I am able to do now with what I have been able to do in previous schools - we have brand new iMac computers but often I feel the network and infrastructure problems we are facing here are getting in the way of me being a good teacher. Sometimes I focus too much on just getting the technology to work, when really what I want to focus on is the teaching and learning.

Anyway, today I am going to think about what we have been able to do and how far we have been able to move, and then when I return to school again next week I'll start to look forward again and hopefully be ready to tackle all the problems anew.

I think for me the biggest sense of achievement must come from integrating the IT into the units of inquiry in a more authentic way than seems to have been done before. This has been brought about by me attending an enormous number of planning meetings with each of the grade levels which has led to much more collaboration. As a result of attending these meetings it has been possible to start writing up an IT curriculum showing the IT skills, the integration of IT into the PYP units of inquiry and which transdisciplinary skills are being covered. At the same time I have set up a primary school web site to publish student work and to collect resources together in one place for the students to use both at school and at home. I see this website as a fairly short-term thing - I'm hoping that at some stage in the future I will be able to hand this over to the teachers once they know how to set up their own class blogs.

I have started training teachers so that they are more empowered and confident to use technology for teaching and learning. So far we have just made baby steps here - one teacher per grade level. We have covered blogging and twitter, but I want to get onto lots more web 2.0 tools that the teachers will be able to use with their students. I feel I need to take a step back from all the IT teaching I'm currently doing - I want the IT to be more truly embedded in what is going on in the classrooms, so that the class teachers and myself are co-planning, co-teaching and co-assessing.

All the above has become possible as a result of pushing for the introduction of a flexible schedule. This happened in January. I can't begin to explain how much of a positive impact this is having - enabling me to plan to attend meetings and increasing the opportunities for the students to use technology.

Hardware and software - we have got more sets of digital cameras and recently we got 10 proscopes from the Fund for Excellence set up by the development office at our school. We've managed to purchase a some software that is designed for primary school students too. However much of what I have done this year has been web based. Recently I was asked by a colleague when I was going to start teaching Word and PowerPoint. I thought for a while and then decided that I probably wasn't going to be teaching those again. I haven't used PowerPoint myself for a number of years and I very rarely use Word. Instead this year the students have used blogs, wikis, email, skype, VoiceThread, Bitstrips, Xtranormal, Glogster, xtimeline, Prezi, OurStory, Google Earth, ZimmerTwins, Scrapblog, and so on. To be honest, after all that, I think the students would find Word a little boring!

So what have I learned from looking back? Well, I think we have come a long way in a short time, though we still have a lot further to go. I think I also feel that we will eventually get there - though the destination keeps shifting all the time. It's like climbing a mountain that doesn't have a summit and perhaps that's why it's important not to focus on the top, but to stop now and then, look back and enjoy the view.

Photo Credit: The Altitude by Ria579


  1. Maggie, I read your post twice. I often am focusing on the top of the mountain view and forget to enjoy the view on the way up. It is difficult for those with vision to settle for anything less than the realization of the vision. This can cause us to stop recognizing the progress we are making. I am right in the middle of this right now. I so badly want the vision to be realized that I am not taking time to enjoy just how far we have come since I started 7 years ago. Thank you for the important reminder. I'm reflecting now and enjoying the view.

  2. Hi Maggie

    I'm always excited just reading about the things you implement! We can learn a lot from the things you do.

    I like the idea of the view from halfway up. In all sorts of contexts, it's easy to get despondent looking at what still has to be done, but focusing on what one has already achieved is so much more positive.