As I prepared for a job search this fall, I started with the typical steps familiar to most international educators. I updated my resume, revised my educational philosophy statement, and activated my files on various job search sites. This process naturally led me to reflect on my transformation as an educator during the seven years that have passed since my last job search. I knew what I was looking for: a 1:1 school, options for flexible learning spaces, strong technology integrators, and openness towards connected, blended learning environments.
What I didn’t expect was for these elements to come up in every interview, every conversation, and almost every question I had during the search process. Before I began interviewing, I had placed myself in between the Enhancement and Augmentation levels of Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model for technology integration; however, through my questions and conversations, I realized my transformation is deeper than I imagined.
When I moved to Abu Dhabi and began teaching in a 1:1 program for the first time, I spent a short time at this stage. Fortunately, we had (and still have) great tech integrators who helped classroom teachers move beyond substitution and purposefully plan for tech integration in their units. In searching for a new school, a 1:1 program with tech integrators for support was a non-negotiable for our family. All schools with matches for us already had these factors in place.
This is where I spent the bulk of my time before joining COETAIL. As a learning support teacher, I am always looking for the best tools for digital note-taking, speech-to-text apps, accelerated reading programs, and so on. For several years, this is the only way I used technology and thought I was quite cutting-edge because of it. I still think an important part of my job is finding better, more efficient ways for students to gain access to content. Recently, our tech integrator sent me 21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs, and my students and parents are happily trying out these extensions. As I spoke with potential administrators at the Dubai GRC fair, I found myself discussing these tools as an integral part of my teaching. I can’t imagine working without them, as they provide a base for most of my teaching. I see now, though, how I have moved beyond simply using tech tools for augmentation purposes.
One topic I found interesting during many of my interviews was collaboration. I have found our current PLC structure and grade-level meeting time so valuable for targeting skills and redesigning units, and I knew I wanted similar planning time carved out at my next school. Through this collaborative process, I have been able to share my COETAIL learning with my teams. We have redesigned a Week Without Walls project to include student choice in final products, which resulted in stop motion animation films, screen casts, imovies, and recorded slideshows. We’ve also been able to experiment with alternative assessment ideas, resulting in, again, more choice and less paper/pen tasks that can limit some students in showing what they have learned.
I am currently hovering between the stages of modification and redefinition. I find that in some cases, my team is reworking units to allow for students to create completely new products. In others, we are still at the modifying stage. In Kelly Walsh’s (professor and founder of emergingedtech.com) article, 8 Examples of Transforming Lessong Through SAMR, he presents several lessons across disciplines and gives examples of how to transform them according to each stage of SAMR. He states,
“To my way of thinking, it’s more about understanding the difference between a just replacing or augmenting a “paper” lesson with a “digital” one and actually evolving it in a beneficial way and exploring new possibilities.” (Walsh, 2015)
I am definitely exploring new possibilities, and looking forward to continued explorations at our next school: UNIS Hanoi.