Hello, I am Shaelynn Farnsworth
, a high school English teacher at BCLUW
. We are a rural school located about 15 minutes from Marshalltown. We are also currently in our third year of 1:1 laptop implementation, meaning that all of our students have laptops that they take home with them. Last year I was given the opportunity to be part of Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation, I was excited for the opportunity and feel that this work must be continued to offer students in Iowa the best education in the world.
Being an educator at a laptop school, technology infusion and blended learning is status quo. IACoPI does this but in a community setting. Passionate teachers from around the state creating curriculum that is aligned with the common core in a collaborative setting has changed the way I teach and allows my students access to a multitude of engaging units. After reading the Iowa Education Blueprint
, it is clear in my mind that IACoPi must be continued and supported if we are to meet and exceed goals set by our Education Department. There are 5 points I wish to highlight that show the parellel between IACoPI and the Iowa Education Blueprint.
1. The Centerpiece: “Great Teachers”
The Blueprint specifically mentions the need for quality educators in each classroom to create a world-wide school and education for our students. Nothing is more powerful than when these educators are given time and means to collaborate together to plan, discuss, and create curriculum that is engaging, relevant, and aligned with the Iowa Core. IACoPI does this. Nancy Movall
brought together carefully selected educators to pilot the project. The time that we spent together was amazing. Broken into content areas, I met with 40 other English teachers across the state, and together ideas were shared, best practice strategies demonstrated, and innovative curriculum designed that would provide students rich content within a 21st century model. When my students work through the various English units they have 40 great teachers in their classroom not just one! If you ask any of the members of the group, they will all agree, the time we spent together was a key to success. A model that all of us wish would be replicated in the future.
2. “Learning how to design dynamic and engaging lessons and greater support”
is another important piece in the Blueprint on how to support “Talented Educators”, and although it states for new teachers, this should be a goal in every school district. If we continue to teach the way we always have taught, ignoring the ever changing world around us, we become dated and students’ learning decreases. IACOPi offers training in pedagogy and tools to aide in the development of the blended curriculum. We learned about Project Based Learning
, and Moodles
last year. Organically, we also taught each other. Wikis
were created, resources shared, and google docs compiled suggestions. In fact, I offered 2 webinars on how to blog in the classroom to support student learning. IACoPI offers educators opportunities to learn new skills and then utilize what they have learned in curriculum development. This support strengthens the groups knowledge and teaching practices.
3. Educator Leadership Roles – Under this heading it suggest “a weekly meeting with small groups of educators to plan and collaborate as well as a teacher-led curriculum committee.” Again, I feel that IACoPI is a perfect example of how powerful these opportunities can be for students. It would have been easy for the state of Iowa to purchase an on-line curriculum that is avaliable for use, this would not sit well with the educators in our state, and I bet would be under utilized. We know our students best, plus developing our own curriculum allowed us to align it to the Iowa Core, as well as, collaborate together providing students with a collective greatness found within the groups. We all have invested interest in this project. It is our work and our voice that is being represented. Supporting this would be a powerful message to educators in Iowa that we trust you and we value your talent and time.
4. Improve and Expand the Iowa Core – one key bullet is “under the direction of educators across Iowa, designng a rigorous ‘model’ curriculum that can be used as a starting point.” This is exactly the aim of IACoPI. Together, we created stellar units and paths for students to investigate and ignite an engaging learning environment. These units were created by Iowa teachers collaboratively, keeping the Iowa Core in the forefront. Our vision would be to continue this work, adding to the repository, units that meet all of the goals of a world-wide education teachers and students. Much like we have done this year, teachers could pull out these units and design a specific curriculum strand for each student. An individualized plan that is relevant, engaging, and chosen by the learner all while teaching the important skills outlined in the Iowa Core is a new vision of education for Iowa Students.
5. Finally – According to the Blueprint, under the Spirit of Innovation and Education section, “the plan to provide our students a world-class learning environment and curriculum praises educators who are always working to improve, innovate, and accelerate, who arent afraid to try new things and take chances. Educators who are evaluating approaches and continuously seeking to raise student engagement and achievement.” This, in essence, is what brought us all to IACoPI. We are life-long learners ourselves. We understand the role of technology in society and its impact on education. Students need different paths to recieve an education that is tailored to them. Many of them turn to dual credit or online classes. IACoPI provides these opportunities for our students. This blended state curriculum will only increase in demand as technology saturates our schools. We want to make sure that the blended curriculum that our students receive is up to our state standards. By supporting IACoPI we are doing just that, the momentum and excitement will only grow.
Thank you for taking the time to allow me to share my story with you. Three years ago, I would have never dreamed I would have the opportunities to change the future of education in our state. I urge you to continue supporting our efforts. In its earliest stages many stories of success have been shared. Iowa Community of Practice and Innovation Teachers are forever changed by being part of this group. Our students find fun and relevance in learning. They just need the right delivery system mixed with a collective energy from Passionate Iowa Educators! “Better Together Iowa” is a slogan that Nancy continually uses. I agree with this and hope that you allow us to continue the revolutionary work that is ahead of its time. We owe it to Iowa students and we have built a foundation in which to work from!