As I work through Flex vs. Fixed scheduling, I have to say I could not have found a better place to layout my thoughts then the edblogosphere. I cant think of another place where I would have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of Doug Johnson, Christopher Harris, and Michael Arsenault (especially being in Shanghai) and have them respond to my thinking. I thank you for responding to my original post on Flex vs. Fixed schedules.
Taking the advice of Doug Johnson and Christopher Harris I read (3 times in fact) Dougs article True Flexibility. That led to the comments people left on the article and also to another document by Christine A. Hurley entitled: Fixed vs. Flexible Scheduling In Elementary School Library Media Centers: A Continuing Debate. Ive taken all this information along with the comment Michael left and with my personal beliefs (which seem to always be changing) and have tried to find how flex and fixed schedules work into my technology schedule and into the library schedule as well.
The first thing I believe is that my technology position and the librarian position need to be look at and reevaluated as to what our purpose is and what is it we want students to learn. In her paper Christine writes the following:
Within the flexible scheduling environment, teaching in the library occurs when a student needs to know, so that the moment of teaching and the moment of student application are concurrent. There is, according to van Deusen, no point in teaching search strategies or note-taking or evaluation of sources or locational skills if there is no information need (223).
If we agree that one of the skills students of the 21st century need is being able to learn skills when they are needed, then this makes sense to me. The future will demand students to be an untouchable as Friedman puts it in his book The World is Flat. Friedman lists the following as untouchables:
Special Michael Jordon, Robert Redford, Katherine Hepburn
Specialized Know things or can do things that others cant
Adaptive able to learn and relearn easily and quickly
Anchored direct services
I agree with this list and with Friedman that the one untouchable that stands out from the rest is the adaptive. This person will hold many jobs, will be able to learn and relearn easily and quickly, and be able to locate the information they need to adapt when they need it, also known as on-time learning. Where learning something because you need to know it is the way of life. If you think about it, on-time learning is what we do as professionals. I learn to do things not because someone (like a teacher) tells me to, but because I need that skill or knowledge at that moment in time.
This is way I dont have all 7 of the 5th grade classes learning the same thing. They learn what they need to know based on what is happening in the classroom. One class might be learning PowerPoint, while another class is learning Internet research skills, and yet another class is practicing typing. The students are learning the skills they need on-time when they are relevant to them and to what they need to know based on the lessons and projects assigned to them in the classroom.
In Dougs article True Flexibility he asks this question:
Granted those students whose teacher is cooperative get a superior learning experience. But what about the kids whose teachers are so isolationist that they dont even get to the library for book checkout, let alone to learn media skills?
Doug brings up a good point that in a flex schedule you are laying your trust in the teacher to make time in their schedule for library time and tech time in my case. This is difficult as teachers already feel pressured to teach more with less time, and to ask them to create their own time is just one more thing they have to do. It goes back to the old saying What is scheduled gets done and I would say thats true. If your library and tech time are scheduled then you have to go because someone on the other end is expecting you, but if it is solely up to you the teacher to make room in your schedule for tech and library, well then, it sometimes doesnt get done. I taught in the classroom for 6 years and know this first hand.
I would also say that this looks at tech teachers and librarians as another person and not as a part of the teaching team. In his comment to my original post Michael explains how flex scheduling looks at his school.
I would look to change the position of the tech teacher. In my district we have never had a tech teacher. Instead we have tech integrators (I am one of them). Instead of being locked into a teaching schedule I have full flexibility to be available to teachers as needed.
I provide professional development to the teachers of my building by appointment, afterschool open sessions, and occasional days when the principal gets subs for teachers to release them. Most importantly, I am available to team teach with the teachers of my building in their classroom. The classroom teacher will cover the content and I cover the technology. This provides a great professional development opportunity for that teacher (its not a special where they leave to correct papers). Typically, teachers will use me for the first (sometimes second) time they do such an assignment. After that they take it on their own.
This arrangement creates an atmosphere where technology is integrated into the curriculum (not divorced from it) and empowers teachers to teach with technology. I do this in the middle level, but it has been successfully done in our elementary schools as well.
UM can changing the name from tech teacher to tech integrator make that much difference? I love this set up as it goes with my belief of on time learning. The way Michael is used when the teachers and/or the students need to learn a technology skill that will be used in their classroom is awesome. Michaels time is fully integrated into what is happing in the classroom supporting both the teachers and the students in an on time learning environment. Furthermore, Michaels schedule allows him to empower teachers to integrate technology on their own. He is able to incorporated professional development into his schedule making the on time learning not only happen for students, but for teachers as well.
So, taking in all of this knowledge along with the discussions in the blogosphere about learning is conversation and focusing on information and contemporary literacy rather then technology here is my conclusion.
In the new media center that my school is building the technology and the library will be seamless (the word we are using to describe the area) therefore I believe its time we rethink our approach to 21st century information.
What if both the librarian and I were called TIMs: Teachers of Information and Media? (OK, so the name needs a little work)
What if students had a scheduled library time to check out books, therefore still encouraging independent reading practice; maybe 30 minutes a week? What if the rest of the time the TIMs were available in a flex format where they could sit in on grade level meetings, plan integrated lessons and team teach lessons with teachers. The TIMs would be used based on the lesson being taught. The TIMs could work together with the classroom teacher to teach the information and media skills needed in the lesson. This might include team teaching a lesson in the classroom, or a trip to the media center where the TIMs could teach skills that will be needed to complete the assignment or project.
Heres what it kind of looks like in my head:
After a long day of teaching 5th grade Jenna sits down to look at what is on schedule to be taught next month in science. Space is a unit that she needs to cover and it fits perfectly into her lesson plans for next month on a book they will be reading in language arts.
During their next scheduled meeting later that week one of the TIM teachers sits down with Jenna to brain storm the space unit. They remember using a webquest the year before and decide that using the webquest again this year with some modifications would be a fun activity for the students. Together they make a rough sketch of how the unit might look and what skills the students will need to complete the project. They come up with the following list:
Skills students need to know:
o Use PowerPoint effectively to give a presentation
o Research information about a given planet (both in books and on the Internet)
o Use Word to write a story about a space mission to the planet the student is studying.
o Prepare a blog article to connect learning and information found on the web.
The TIM teacher then takes these skills back and with the other TIMs they discuss how best to teach these skills, whether in the classroom with Jenna or in the lab with everyone at their own computer. The TIMs meet with Jenna the next week to come up with a teaching plan that includes both team teaching in the classroom and time in the media center learning research skills and how to successfully create PowerPoint presentations.
For this above scenario to work two things must be in place:
1. All parties must feel comfortable enough to team teach with one another.
2. That time is built into both the classroom teachers and the TIM teachers schedule to meet once a week.
The above still allows for students to have their Media Time to check out books, surf the Internet for information, etc. once a week and allows for on-time learning within the context of the classroom as the TIMs plan with the classroom teacher, all the while focusing on contemporary literacy and information.
I encourage your feedback!