If you’ve ever found yourself in Baltimore and walked into Katie Dell’s classroom, you would see students personalizing their learning experience by choosing from an array of activities that are designed to help them work toward their learning goals. Dell’s classroom is a testament to the impact that powerful teaching and learning with technology is having in classrooms across the United States and Canada. As part of the Reinvent the Classroom initiative, a collaboration between Digital Promise, HP, Microsoft, and Intel, Digital Promise is supporting innovative elementary and secondary school teachers through the HP Teaching Fellows.
In 2019, 26 educators were chosen for the inaugural class. These educators demonstrate the Powerful Learning principles, which are a set of guidelines that support educators in designing learning experiences to engage the hearts and minds of learners. Powerful Learning is personal and accessible, authentic and challenging, collaborative and connected, and inquisitive and reflective. Throughout the fellowship, HP Teaching Fellows earned micro-credentials to demonstrate their skills in leveraging Powerful Learning in their classrooms. The following are reflections from a few of the fellows on their experience earning micro-credentials and the impact it had on their teaching practices.
Every learner is different and educators should foster a safe and supportive environment where learners have the agency to chart their own course.
Powerful learning, or any new initiative in a classroom, can seem insurmountable and overwhelming without professional development (PD), coaching, and support. Before engaging in the micro-credential process, I was excited but also worried that this might be added work that would not benefit my craft or my students. I could not have been more wrong. In earning my micro-credential, I found that the clear and easy-to-use rubrics provided me with everything I needed in terms of expectations and accountability.
Embarking on this micro-credential journey gave me the encouragement I needed to promote personalization in my classroom through student voice. The challenge of meeting the micro-credential rubric enabled me to let go of control in my classroom and embrace structured, student-centered learning.
The micro-credential process reminded me to use my best craft as an educator to facilitate student-centered learning in my classroom. Moving forward, this experience has reminded me that while I may always want to have control over the learning in my classroom, it is necessary to foster student voice and choice. The students in our classrooms have life experience, they have ideas, they have smarts, and most importantly—they have hope. Now when I plan lessons where I feel like I am in total control of every aspect, I ask how I can step back. When I take time to challenge myself, I can purposefully challenge my students, and I have found that they almost always rise to the occasion.
Work that has an audience and impact outside of the classroom encourages habits of lifelong learning and supports learners in becoming empathetic global citizens and engaged members of their community.
The entire micro-credential process forced me to be inquisitive and reflective of my own thought process to achieve the best outcome. In order for me to achieve my desired objective, I needed to reach a different level of understanding that made me and my students collaborate and connect with others from around the world. This ultimately made my students’ learning more authentic and challenging, as they had an internal motivation to become empathetic global citizens.
I found myself becoming more reflective as a professional and realized that creative learning and great lessons take time. Just like we tell our students not to rush through their work, we often do not practice what we preach as professionals.
When educators use technology to promote collaboration and connectivity, learners are able to discuss diverse viewpoints and solve problems together.
Prior to starting the micro-credential process, I thought I would be revisiting information that I had already explored online. Instead, it was a rich experience because the learning was based on research that reflects on the components of design thinking to apply in the classroom. I learned to develop empathy related to global problems, and I was able to share the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of that empathy with my students.
The micro-credential supported my learners to be successful by charting their growth throughout the process. Students’ collaborative skills were enhanced through opportunities to develop perspectives for better communication.
The micro-credential focused on developing perspectives for a thinking process with my students. I was able to learn the importance of pedagogical development with students and become a learner with them by reflecting on their skills. I was also able to develop experiences that incorporate several user-centered empathy strategies, as well as strategies to understand the design process.
Learners must not only retain new information, but also be able to ask questions to gain new insights. Educators who make inquiry and reflection a regular part of instruction help students develop these critical skills for their futures.
This past year I started an enrichment program at the middle school level for students who were ready to take what they’ve learned in their classrooms and apply it in a challenge-based setting. The program was met with great anticipation, and the students were instantly engaged in trying to solve problems in the school, community, and even the world. But something felt like it was missing. As I browsed through the selection of micro-credential offerings, the Practicing Reflection micro-credential stood out to me the most. I realized I was assessing the students as they went through the program, but they weren’t assessing themselves with any kind of self-reflection. In a project-based setting, this can be a critical component.
As a teacher, I often find myself excited to learn new strategies at professional development workshops, but then sometimes feel overwhelmed as I try to figure out how to apply them once I get back to my own classroom. Micro-credentials take those evidence-based strategies and support you every step of the way while you implement them. In addition to the research and resources, I used the micro-credential rubric guides and reminders to make sure I wasn’t forgetting any important pieces while I implemented the reflection strategies.
This micro-credential helped me take these projects, in which the students were personally invested, and shift the responsibility for their learning from the teacher to the students. Suddenly it went from me monitoring their progress and asking if they needed help, to the students constantly monitoring their own progress so that they could come to me if they needed help. I felt like the students became the drivers, and I was there to support them.
Interested in demonstrating your engagement with Powerful Learning? Apply to be a part of the 2020 HP Teaching Fellows here. Applications close January 1, 2020.