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Sharing Our Tools is Just the Beginning

Recently, I shared a tool I created to help make visible the thought process I use when selecting texts for my students.  I hoped it would be helpful for other teachers and I also wanted to hear what people thought.  Before I shared, I had two vaguely opposing thoughts: (1) This tool is cool! I'm on to something here! and (2) What if this tool actually stinks and no one likes it?  Now that I've shared and gotten feedback, I'm way beyond both of these (ego-centric) perceptions. The post sparked some great discussion about how the tool could be used and adapted to meet the needs of teachers in various contexts:

  • Marsha Ratzel responded with how she might use it to select texts for her middle school science classes, and where the too fell short in this context. We discussed creating a version of it tailored for content area (non literary) readings. 
  • Bill Ivey suggested adding mission alignment to the thought process based on his experience building curriculum in a school with a strong feminist mission. 
  • Cindi Rigsbee mentioned that she would share this with teachers who are eager to teach whole class texts, but hesitant, because other methods (levelled reading groups) have been the norm in their school. 

I also offered to share the tool in MS Word via email (wholenovels@gmail.com) to anyone who wanted it.  I received many  requests, and through these exchanges, got a sense of the wide range of educators who all have occasion to use a tool like this. A university professor of English, a middle school English teacher who wants to influence the direction of her department, though she isn't in a formal leadership role, a principal thinking about literacy instruction in her school...

This experience of sharing and getting feedback in a virtual community has been inspiring to me. We are all teachers. Reading is part of all of our teaching, so we have this in common, despite our diverse teaching contexts. Sharing my thinking via this tool helped me find ways to make the tool better and even create new tools, because of the additional perspective and critical thinking of others.

We should be sharing more. Sharing our tools is not an end to the process of creating the tool, but a beginning.  Sharing creates new problems to solve (!) but the new problems lead to better "products," if you will.  This is teacher-driven professional development in action! 

Marsha's last comment on the post was this:

And dare I add....offering a tool and then seeing how it fits your circumstances.  Cindi....would your teachers use this as a beginning and then make it meet their needs?

Wonder what would happen if lots of people did that and then shared back how they customized it to their school?  That would be cool.

Marsha is really on to something.  Using each other and our teaching contexts as reference points and resources, teachers can create solutions to meet our own needs and those of our students: a horizontal approach to unlimited teacher learning.

[image credit: www.igpssuccess.com]

1 Comment

Kevin Tierney commented on August 12, 2013 at 5:37pm:

Tech Coach

Ariel,

I am going to use this article as an introduction to a technology collaboration day in my district.  I'm a new technology coach and I'm implementing these collaboration days in an effort to get teachers to share their technology ideas with one another.  Sharing is inspirational and brings about growth in directions we never could have anticipated.  Thanks for shedding some light on this - I am in agreement that teachers should be sharing more in the interests of our professional growth, and, more importantly, in the interest of improving our students' learning.

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