Thursday, July 19, 2007

Connecting with Literacy

For me, preparing to teach a workshop for teachers is sometimes a long process. Beginning with a kernal of an idea, I create a description of the workshop that tends to summarize the concept of what I hope to get across. From there, I begin to look at all the supporting skills that will be needed as well as the background information that participants will need. This is where it gets a little messy. Many times I have so many ideas I'd like to convey but not enough time to do so effectively. So, I then begin to refine my thinking and try to let go of some of the content, no matter how cool I think it is, and focus on the simplest, most effective ideas that teachers could begin with - we can always build onto these ideas later.

Knowing about the technology is the easy part - I spend a lot of time trying to keep as current as I can on what's available online. Our district software is also familiar to me so, no problem there. Let's face it - some of the stuff on the web today is just way too cool! You get sucked into it right away and somewhere in your head you're saying, " Wow! I can't believe you can do this kind of stuff! This is too cool!" But, "cool" doesn't last too long when you're a classroom teacher pressured by the demands of the curriculum, the testing and any number of other concerns.

The real meat of the workshop, for me, really has less to do with the technology and more to do with the pedagogy - what teaching practices or research based strategies are teachers reading about, are currently in publication, or support the work I know is going on in our buildings. Even more importantly, what do I think teachers need to be aware of that they may not be aware of (new publications, new research) or that we can draw upon from their background knowledge in order to make connections to the use of the tools that we'll be addressing in the workshop?

The curriculum - research - professional literature - tools connections are important to me for a number of reasons. My job title used to be under the supervision of the technology department. That put me in a position of knowing a lot about the tools but there was also the larger misconception that I was technical support. More frequently than not, I was being asked for technical support rather than teaching support. In other words, no connection to teaching practice.

Now my job title is under the supervision of the curriculum department. That change is about two years old now. Before that occurred, I had begun to participate in the work of the district to construct better curriculum documents. By doing this, I was able to better understand the curriculum that was being established and could make some suggestions about how technology could support student learning in each of the content areas. The more I can engage a teacher in a discussion about their curriculum and their pedagogical practices the better advantage I have in helping to make that curriculum to technology connection.

As I continue to formulate this workshop, I'm using as my prime resource the second edition of a book titled Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Undersatnding and Engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. I read the first edition so when I saw that a second edition had been published I was interested to see what had changed. They've added lots of new content and I'm finding myself writing lots of notes about technology connections around the margins of the pages. Because I've been involved in data analysis related to our ELA assessments, I'm also seeing this book as a resource for strategies that teachers can use to address some of the needs we've been identifying. Another way for me to connect with the work of our classrooms!

So, I'm going to go back to work on the reading, thinking and planning and will make myself stop to reflect on my work by writing a little bit more.

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