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Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Gripe Jam: Getting everyone on the digital learning train

As our network continues to expand digital learning efforts, including spreading 1:1 mobile learning to scale, we are moving beyond our "early adopter" teachers and starting to engage our more technophobic colleagues. We know that buy-in is key and so have used two mantras to help drive our efforts: "Clear their plate - don't add more to it." and "Respect the learner, respect their needs."

Keeping this in mind, we start with a problem of practice they currently face. Teachers deal with a myriad of challenges everyday: struggling to differentiate with large classes/high numbers of IEPs, grading hundreds of papers a week, challenges with unearthing student metacognition, finding effective real-time assessments. I show them how digital learning can often alleviate or even solve many of these issues by using a strategy I like to call the "Gripe Jam".

This originally started off with me bringing a large, empty jar to one of their weekly staff meetings and labeling it "Gripe Jam". I put a few pads of sticky notes on tables and played a rock anthem like "We're Not Gonna Take It". They had until the end of the song to write down any and all issues they are facing in their classrooms. I took these sticky notes, went home and created a Google Doc / Spreadsheet showing how as many of these challenges as possible could be addressed by digital learning tools/strategies/sites/etc. When I returned the next week, I shared this spreadsheet. The teachers then voted for or select one strategy they'd like to learn more about. This is how we decided where we began our exploring of digital learning.

This crowd-sourced PD has been a huge buy-in generator. Acknowledging that many teachers respond better to new ideas when we first listen to their current issues makes them feel heard and respected. Showing them how what we're trying to sell is actually responding to these issues makes them interested. This then opens the door to learning more about the tools and how they can enhance other areas of practice. Teachers started seeing how digital learning could create new opportunities to make their jobs easier and solve problems they might not have realized existed. From there we've shared the SAMR model to guide their use of digital tools and shared ideas to transform teaching / learning for their kids (such as Challenge Based Learning). And even though this often created new helpings / tasks to add to their "plates", they were suddenly more amenable - and even excited - about this.

I don't always bring the physical Gripe Jar into a room anymore - I usually collect this through a Google Form and email the spreadsheet. Yet when I face an especially skeptical collection of colleagues, I break it out again. All the while, I try to keep in mind: respect the learner, be it a child or an adult, and respect their needs.

13 comments:

  1. I can see how this will move the "rowboats" but am reading correctly that this tool is also moving "rocks"?

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  2. I absolutely loved everything about this post! Starting any PD or collaboration with LISTENING to the students or colleagues around you is so important yet so underutilized. When teachers or students are resistant, hesitant, or simply overwhelmed, throwing something else at them will only reinforce those negative feelings. I also love that you take a practical step to SHOW your participants that they were heard. You marry your goal (professional development in digital tools) with their goals: solving practical problems of practice.

    Sharing this with my fellow instructional tech coaches to spark some ideas for next year. Thanks so much!

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  3. Love it! I might just have to borrow this idea myself. :)

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  4. Great idea, Jennie! Just giving teachers the space to air their concerns, annoyances, challenges, etc. makes it easier to consider new ways of doing/thinking.

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  5. I LOVE your ideas and innovation! How do you deal with the teachers whose gripes are more about environment, budget....things out of your control? I am just starting this journey in my new district.

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  6. I love the Gripe Jar! Great idea! As someone who is a little slow getting to the technology train I can understand other teachers hesitations and gripes, however, in the end it's what's best for students. And let's be honest our students are very techy and we need to catch up with them. I have been taking some technology classes and thankfully they are taught by fantastic teachers who have made it far less painful than I thought it would be. Since the classes I have incorporated more technology into my classroom and have gotten a very positive response from my students! :)

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  7. Smart approach! So many teachers are willing to try on digital tools when you DIFFERENTIATE your instruction based on the needs within a classroom or school. This makes so much sense!I've witnessed many colleagues running away rather than embracing tech simply because ideas being pushed out are not directly applicable to their most pressing needs. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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  8. Like I've said before...you're my hero. This is exactly the type of activity I've been looking for!

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  9. Jennie, I read this post just in time to start planning for next year's tech goals in my school! I love that you listen to the teachers' challenges and present how tech can address some of their issues. I am totally going to play the rock anthem also! I can't wait to use your idea! Thanks for sharing it!

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  10. I love this idea! Definitely will use the gripe jar this year! I also plan to use your Teacher IEP Template. Being a former Special Education teacher, this is right up my ally. Thank you for being so willing to share!

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