Laura Horan (@laura_horan) is the Curriculum Coordinator at Manson Northwest Webster. She has taught grades 3-5 and 7th grade Language Arts. She has been a part-time consultant with the Prairie Lakes AEA and was a member of the state Iowa Core team. She blogs at Opening Doors to 21st Century Learning.
As I think the importance of the Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation work and what it means for school communities, teachers, and students, I think about an article written by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel entitled, “I Just Want My Kid to be Happy…and Successful.” The authors express what we, and particular parents, all want for our students. They say we want all kids to be, “Happy, motivated, college-bound, work-ready and prepped for success…”
So, what does this mean? My connections with my own work and learning are a simple example. My definition of work has changed. Because of technology, I can now conduct my work from anywhere and it is more driven by results rather than driven by time and place. But more importantly, the way I learn has changed dramatically. My learning has changed from attending meetings and trainings, reading books and articles written by a handful of tried and true experts in the field of education, to attending webinars, reading blogs, websites and comments of experts and practitioners from all over the world. Some are educators, some are not. While I still value my face-to-face meetings with colleagues, my learning has expanded to include a greater community, and I depend on this new personal learning network as I learn, share, and do my job. My thinking has been challenged in ways that I never thought possible. I have become much more of an independent learner which in turn has motivated me to stretch and learn more. As I think of the IACoPi work, and the blended learning courses the teams are creating, I imagine students experiencing similar changes as we move away from the traditional classroom, instruction and learning. How exciting!
As we prepare kids for their future, we know that the traditional fact-based, rote curriculum of the past won’t cut it. We need the work of the Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation which is project-based, research-driven, and taps into the digital lifestyle our kids are growing up with. As I follow the Twitter hashtag #IACoPi, and read the Better Together Iowa blog entries, I’m excited about what is happening in the content teams. The curriculum is incorporating higher order thinking skills, technology, multimedia, and the multiple literacies of the 21st century. The teacher teams are striving to create the kind of online experiences we want for all students. And while some may still worry, “What about the facts and the basics?” the teams are not forsaking foundational information, but instead are creating experiences that enable students to gain that information through investigation and relevant activities.
These blended learning opportunities will create a new learning environment that will enable all students to be engaged, motivated, independent learners. Students will still have face to face contact and instructor support, but also experience expanded learning outside the classroom. It’s the best of both worlds and is what we need to prepare our students to be “Happy, motivated, college-bound, work-ready and prepped for success.”
The IACoPi teams are truly pioneers in the field of online learning. I want to thank Nancy Movall, the IACoPi leaders, and Iowa teachers who are creating the blended courses. Together you are reshaping what it means to teach and learn in Iowa.