This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Gail Adams
In November 2013, I earned certification as a National Board Certified Teacher. One might think that such an accomplishment could be construed as being on one’s “A game,” but what I quickly realized was that I had only begun my journey as a reflective practitioner. From that point on, nothing I taught was ever viewed through the same lens again. Lessons were tweaked, retweaked, and even scrapped in favor of trying something new, especially when it meant incorporating new technologies into my classroom.
The Common Core Standards came about during this time, and the saying “an inch wide and a mile deep” resonated with me. The units I created could be called massive rabbit holes, where I challenged my students to construct their own knowledge surrounding the themes of the literature we studied. For example, when we read “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, we studied the origin of the phrase the “butterfly effect.” We learned what is meant by a carbon footprint. We created infographics using Canva to educate others about ways to reduce our carbon footprint, but only after we had studied visual aesthetics, color composition, and font styles. Needless to say, my units took a lot longer to cover than my colleagues’ teaching of the same literature. I always felt like an anomaly because they couldn’t understand why I was so far behind them. Yet, in my heart, I knew what I was doing was in the best interest of my students. They were given the opportunity to construct their own knowledge, to develop their voice, and to have their voices heard by more than their classmates in my classroom.
Enter the Data and Technology Fluency Project (Fluency). When I first heard about it, I realized it was a way to revolutionize our thinking about our teaching, but—more importantly—about how our students learn and encouraging them to construct their own knowledge. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Core Propositions focus
heavily on teachers: Proposition 1: Teachers are committed to students and their learning. Proposition 2: Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students, Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning, Proposition 4: Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience, Proposition 5: Teachers are members of learning communities.
Fluency brings a fresh perspective to teaching: one of exploration and discovery through “deep inquiry, case-making and advocacy.” The focus shifts from teacher-centered to student-centered learning, with teachers taking on more of a coaching role to help facilitate learning. No longer do we have to have all the answers; in fact, it is perfectly fine that we don’t. With Fluency we team with our students to gather information, help them make connections to their personal experiences, and have a voice for a much wider audience. In the Industrial Age education model, rote learning was perfect for an industrial society, but that age is gone. Our society, more than ever, demands citizens who are critically thinking, active members of society who will be unafraid to challenge the status quo through the use of their voices.
Take a look at the value statements of the Data and Technology Fluency Project.
Our shared belief in compassion means that we approach our relationships with respect and acceptance, striving to understand and support each other, making space for vulnerability in service of our full humanity.
Our shared belief in equity means that, in design, we prioritize accessibility first, being intentionally inclusive, eliminating the barriers that prevent the full participation of all peoples, and ensuring the accessibility of information and technology.
Our shared belief in authenticity means that we are transparent in our purpose and process, aiming to be genuine to who we are in our work and with each other.
Our shared belief in agency means that we copower each other, promoting each person’s voice and recognizing their impact.
Seriously, isn’t this exactly what our world needs? If you were to read those value statements through any lens—as global citizens, as racially diverse people, as people of varying socio-economic statuses, etc.—they would be germane to how we build a better society. Now, imagine cohort after cohort of passionate teachers bringing the values of Fluency—compassion, equity, authenticity, and agency—to their classrooms. To quote a phrase from the 60s, the thought of this blows my mind.
While I still find value in becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I find my worth as a Fluency educator. The two programs complement each other, and I have grown from being part of both, but I feel a deeper connection to Fluency because of its holistic and humanistic approach to empower our learners. The world needs compassionate, empathetic, and articulate citizens who are unafraid to have their voices heard, and Data and Technology Fluency Project educators will play an integral role in preparing those citizens for the world they will inherit and, I hope, make a better place.
Gail Adams graduated from West Liberty University in 2004 with a major in Secondary Education--English (Grade 5 through Adult). She began a career as a teacher at Wheeling Park High School in English and Fine and Performing Arts. She currently serves as an Innovation Coach for Ohio County Schools.
Gail is the 2015 West Virginia Teacher of the Year and currently is a member Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Gail’s special interests include family, fitness, and friends.