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Frank Stonehouse (ITESM, Morelia)

Unit 4 - Professional Educator (The "P" in FLIP)

6 min read

During week 4 of our flipped learning online course, we are looking at some of the aspects and qualities of a professional educator, specifically:

  • I make myself available to all students for individual, small group, and class feedback in real time as needed.

  • I conduct ongoing formative assessments during class time through observation and by recording data to inform future instruction.

  • I collaborate and reflect with other educators and take responsibility for transforming my practice.

In addition to the above, we read some provocative blog posts concerning underespresentation of a code of ethics in educational technology that can be found in other fields where the art of craft and science also intersect. The notion of not harming in any way a student's learning path resonates existentially with me. In today's educational hustle and bustle to get this project done, that report written, those tests graded, and so on and so on, it's easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of being a professional educator: compassion by putting others' (students') needs front and center in a holistic manner. And, taking care to do so with empathy is foremost, yet academic objectives are not abandoned or excluded (but they are not the entirety of the end game either). It's a balancing act, one which requires more thoughtful consideration and implementation with intention. In an earlier unit of the course, we heard a TED talk by young student that emphasized happiness and health as an encompassing container for effective learning. I think these two themes go together nicely. Should a teacher keep an ever watchful eye on ethics and compassion, then students will both learn and be joyful. It's widely known and understood that learning is rarely effective in stressful, uncaring environments.

As far as making myself available for feedback, I have 2.5 hours every day, Monday to Friday, set aside for just that purpose. Students know that they can find me in the teacher's lounge from 8:15-10:15AM daily. I also advertise that I am always available for special apppointments when necessary. During in-classroom tasks, I am rarely in the front of the room. I move between and among the students giving on-the-spot formative assessments. Actually, I spend much more of my energy on formative rather than summative evaluation. As a right-brained predominant thinker, I have never been a numbers-obessessed tedious bean counter that needs to control and overly-organize everything. I think qualitative feedback and support are much farther reaching and more meaningful than quatitative. However, the reality is that we still live in a heavily left-brained, numbers-driven system. It's the job of the educator to dance around one system just enough to get the job done .... but to work more assertively behind the scenes with students to faciliatie their learning in a formative fashion. After all, 21st-century companies are looking for critical thinkers and good communicators, not employees that are rigid and stay within the lines.

It seems to me that there might be a bit of connective tissue between last week's material (thinking Andrew Miller's mantra of "revise and reflect") and this week's inspection of "formative assessment during classtime through observation and by recording data to inform future instruction." I think I covered that fully in last week's video, so I don't want to be too repetitive here. Just as a public speaker needs to carefully read his audience's faces and body language to see where adjustments need to be made on the fly, so does an educator need to constantly play dual roles of doer and observer. The observing teacher notices what works and what doesn't seem to work as initially intended. If outcomes are terribly off, it's time to rethink, reassess, and redesign instruction for the next go around. Similar to marketing strategies, an educator must know their client and meet their needs, not their own. Having said that, however, sometimes going off on tangents can lead to interesting outcomes. If that seems to be the case, then go with the flow and let flexibility and organic learning take its course.


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Another important point is building a personal learning network (PLN) with others, and not just other educators in one's field. While it is important to build professional alliances with others in one's field, the risk is always there that you are preaching to the choir or reverberating inside of an echo chamber of similar group thought. I think it is critically important, no -- essential,  to build networks in the periphery of your PLN as well. Sometimes the most creative ideas come from other disciplines that can be combined and complemented with your own. I have all sorts of people in my PLN (twitter, facebook, Pinterest, face-to-face, etc.) from different walks of life. The seemingly craziest ideas from someone that you least expect can elevate a project, approach, technique and so on to new and more effective dimensions. As they say, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten." I think there is a lot of valuable truth to that "dicho." Audrey Watters showed that to be true in her insights concerning being better educators by looking into ethical codes embraced by other fields of study in her blog post "A Hippocratic Oath fo Ed-Tech." Creativity and growth, the blending of academics and joy, don't come from being stagnant and closely guarded to what we already know. So, my challenge to readers of my post is to step outside of your discipline, peek around the corners of your blind spots, venture into other waters and create new boats and new seas to find unchartered places of truth and growth. The world is wonderfully connected, sometimes in ways that are not immediately obvious. Divergent thinking before convergent thinking is where innovation comes from. You can follow me on Twitter @metaweb20 where I have almost 2,000 followers and I follow over 2,000 people from a variety of backgrounds.

Reference: "Connectivism - Personal Learning Networks for 21st-Century Teachers" Frank Stonehouse, Leon, Mexico, 2008 (MexTESOL international convention).

P.S. I am really liking this "withknown" blogging tool and its ease of use. However, the lack of a spell-checker has caused me to have several unwanted spelling errors. Hope they add spell-checking to this tool at some point. I need it; my mind moves faster than my fumbling fingers do.