What does it take to push a teacher beyond the threshold of the ordinary? What is it that turns an educator into an innovator? Hear that knock on your classroom door? It’s me. “I’m the one who knocks.” Since that first knock, I've been privileged to participate in thousands of full-length classroom observations and coaching sessions with teachers as they transform the learning landscape across the country. I've been able to co-learn with teachers as they work to masterfully integrate things like Google Apps for Education. I nurture teachers as they leverage innovative methodologies and tools so students can solve problems and cultivate new content for international consumption. I witness children who have never owned a computer, work with teachers and peers to create 3D holographic images and 3D printed materials within the confines of their school. Day after day, I marvel at the learning transformation that is underway.
Sadly I also witness an all too common tragedy consuming blended learning initiatives across the country. As quickly as devices arrive in classrooms, some educators abandon them almost immediately in favor of the traditional pedagogies of their past. Often, not for the sake of student achievement, but for the sake of teacher comfort. That being said, teachers shouldn't shoulder the blame for this. Devices are being distributed with little to no pedagogical training. When we roll out devices and expect technology alone to transform teaching and learning, we observe individual success in the midst of systemic failure. That is to say, early adopters and pockets of already masterful teachers will, through grit and determination, find ways to use tech to transform their own classrooms. Systemically however, little will change for the majority of students in the school or district. So what is it then? What is it that separates transformative teachers, schools, and districts from those stuck in the routines of the past? My observations and conversations with the country's best blended teachers have uncovered the following commonalities: