Sunday, August 31, 2014


    The term DIYDo It Yourself – has been around for over a century.  Originally, it referred to those that would rely on themselves for everything from home repairs to various fix-it projects. 
     In more contemporary times, it was the anthem for the punk rock and alternative music movements that discovered that bands did not have to depend on large, corporate record companies, booking agencies or management entities to start their careers.  Instead, these bands could record and release their own music, book their own shows and take their music directly to the people without the corporate middleman.
     Education is no stranger to the DIY movement either.  Indeed, much of the spirit of charter schools was the idea that a group of like-minded educators, parents or community members could start their own schools based on the needs of their students.
     So, what is the DIY movement mean now to the profession of education in this era of technology integration, increased relevance and engagement, and the idea of all education becoming more personalized.
     Well, now more than ever, we live in a world where educators have the opportunity to DIY their own curriculum, project ideas, technology, professional learning, collaboration and more.
     Let’s examine the opportunities that educators have, among all professionals, for on-going professional development and learning.  At one time, all professional learning for all professions including education essentially took place at various professional gatherings (conferences, workshops, etc.).  Naturally, these did have professional impact (and still can), but they are now not the only or even the most readily available professional learning opportunities
     Educators can now connect, communicate and collaborate with other like-minded educators globally through thinks like Twitter and Social Media, educational blogs, thousands of web resources and more.
    There are now educators from around the globe that are sharing ideas and best practices on a daily basis.  These educators are not limited to their location, administrators, curriculum leaders, teacher unions, school district officials or any other allegiances.  They can connect with other educators who are passionate and have the common goal of creating the most impactful educational experiences for all of their students.
     In terms of curriculum, there is now an overriding opportunity more than ever for educators to combine various resources and ideas and create their own learning experiences for their students based on their interests, abilities and needs.
     Despite the extreme right wing hoopla over common core, the new standards are focused on 21st century skill development vs. specific content or curriculum. 
      The days of textbook adoptions and standardized curriculum are on the way out based on the fact that there are literally thousands of tools, web resources and curriculum being developed and implemented daily. 
     Even if an educator works in a very closed or narrow system, they have the ability to find and implement many different ways of connecting with and impacting their students.
     I understand that the DIY philosophy is not inherent in our educational system and will not be comfortable to all.  Indeed, too many educators are still too afraid or unprepared to create and implement their own amazing activities in the classroom. 
     Our teacher training systems have not prepared young teachers to focus on creativity and collaboration in terms of curriculum.  However, if they can get past the fear and adjust their pedagogy appropriately, it will be very difficult for various leaders, systems or agencies to discredit the amazing or awesome work that their students are doing.
     In other words, if students are engaged and learning at high levels, most people will join the bandwagon of that teacher or educator.  If one’s students love the learning experiences they are having, it will be very difficult for others to not celebrate and support them.
     The DIY philosophy has dramatically changed many industries.  The time has come for educators to embrace the DIY philosophy as well and unleash the creative and collaborative educator within.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Educators Must Be Practioners

       As a student, did you ever have a teacher that could talk the talk, but did not walk the walk? 
      Well, I’ll never forget having on obese PE teacher in middle school.  I am not here to discredit someone for being obese.  Indeed, as an adult, I too have become overweight.  The difference is that I’m not a PE teacher or someone who preaches health and fitness for a living.  He would tell us to run when he could not run himself.  I saw this as hypocritical and disingenuous. 

      How many of you had an English teacher who couldn’t spell or made lots of grammatical errors?  Again, I think it’s ok to make spelling or grammatical errors, unless you’re the person who teaches and preaches this for a living.
     Once I became a teacher, I worked hard not to repeat these examples.  So, as a Journalism and Media teacher, I continued to write, publish and produce my own freelance work.  Not only did that keep me fresh and relevant, but also gave me credibility.  If my students were wrestling with story ideas, being edited, getting published and more, I wanted them to know that I too still experienced the same.  I too wanted them to know that these things were still important to me. 

       As a Student Activities Director who focused a great deal of my teaching on service learning, I worked very hard to continue to my tradition as a practitioner.  As an example, when we hosted blood drives or did blood donor education, I made I sure I donated blood too.  When we did Community Service Saturdays, I volunteered as well. 
        As a principal of 21st century project-based high school that emphasized, among other things, things such as the professional use of social media, publishing, entering contests, presenting and more, I have again tried to model once again to my students that I am a practitioner at heart.
       So, I am active on Facebook and Twitter and work to show how they can enhance one’s career and PLN. 

       I have a professional blog too.  I publish regularly as a blogger not only because I enjoy writing and it also serves my own professional development, but also because it shows my students that I want to walk the walk.
      I regularly submit applications for conference presenting, awards and other professional programs in order to demonstrate to them that these are lifelong pursuits.
    How does this translate into our everyday roles as educators?  Doesn’t it seem both appropriate and expected that those who teach and educate should also continue to participate too?  Yes, educators must be lifelong practitioners too. 
     So, what should this look like? Well, for starters, how about these?  Math teachers should solve problems.  English teachers should write and publish.  History teachers should research and publish.  Science teachers should discover and experiment. Photography teachers should take pictures and share them.  Coaches should play sports.  Art teachers should produce art.  Foreign Language teachers should speak with native speakers.  One should get the idea here. 
     Probably one of the concepts, in theory, that higher education got right was the expectation that professors should publish.  It may, like many things, have evolved into something else, but the intent seemed to be about having them continue to do what their students were doing – researching, writing and more.
     In a world where education should continue to be more real and relevant to all students, educators need to be sure to model what we expect.  If we want students to be lifelong learners, then we have to be as well.  If want students to grow and improve, then we have to demonstrate that we are working to do the same continuously.    Educators must be practitioners.

(images courtesy of foter)