Dan Spada is a library media specialist at Suffield Middle School in Suffield, Connecticut.
Dan spent his first two years in education as a seventh grade English language arts teacher, then taught literacy through technology for two years, and has since been a library media specialist for four years. As a media specialist he has the opportunity to create a space where students feel safe to explore their areas of interest, or discover things they never knew they had a passion for. Whether it’s robotics, coding, podcasting, creating videos, 3D printing, or a different medium, Dan wants students to have the tools they need to develop important future career skills.
Dan on Powerful Learning:
What’s a strategy teachers can use to incorporate powerful learning?
“I have been taking what I learned from my micro-credential of Practicing Reflection by allowing students the opportunity to choose how they’re going to learn and reflect on whether it was successful or not. Then they can decide if it was successful, how they can make it more successful next time, and if it wasn’t, what could they have done to make it successful. By taking this approach, the learning becomes not just about the content, but also the process of learning. Allowing kids to choose how they want to learn, and finding a way to connect the content to their passions provides a layer of meaning and autonomy that traditional learning styles don’t allow. And with honest and meaningful reflection, the students can explore learning styles they might not have tried, and this helps them tremendously on their paths to becoming lifelong learners.”
What book has influenced your thinking on powerful teaching and learning?
“Born Digital: How Kids Grow Up In a Digital Age by John Palfrey & Urs Gasser helped frame the world through the lens of today’s children. The world they know and grow up in is different in many ways, from the way they obtain information to the way they interact socially and globally. Keeping this in mind has helped me to shape the way I teach and present them with information.”
What do you hope education will look like in 20 years?
“In a perfect world 20 years from now, we will have used artificial intelligence to perfect adaptive learning. One of the biggest challenges facing teachers right now is trying to reach every single student at the level they need. Some teachers have 20, 25, almost 30 students in a class, and it’s nearly impossible to give every student the exact level of attention that they need and deserve. So my hope is that using artificial intelligence, we’ll be able to meet each student where they are.”
Ask Dan about:
“Reach out to me if you need ideas on how to allow students opportunities to learn your class content in authentic real-world ways. I am also very passionate about giving students choices in the way they learn, which can sometimes be overwhelming, so I am always happy to help teachers strategize ways to make that happen!”
“The Practicing Reflection Micro-credential helped me create projects that my students were personally invested in and design it in a way that shifted the responsibility for their learning from the teacher to the students. I used what I learned from this micro-credential to alter my style of constantly monitoring their progress and asking if they needed help, to the empowering the students students to monitor their 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. Not only were they more engaged and invested in their projects, but one thing I noticed was that students began to seek feedback and ideas from their peers. I’m really grateful for having the opportunity to access this micro-credential and receive the support and guidance I needed to take a really good learning opportunity and turn a good lesson into a powerful learning opportunity.”
Learn more about HP Teaching Fellows