School Year Reflections

Like sand through an hourglass, so are the days of an educator...

2019-2020 - Year of Reactive Online Teaching c/o COVID-19

Well... what can I say about the close of School Year 2019-2020...WOW!
I hold an graduate online teaching certificate that I have always wanted to use in my present place of employment AND do so working from home. Welp! THAT HAPPENED all right... but hardly under circumstances that I had EVER imagined.

I was so excited about transitioning to the online environment in the beginning; after all my doctoral research interest is squarely about designing dynamic collaboration in online learning environments (See A DESIGN-BASED RESEARCH STUDY EXAMINING THE IMPACT OF COLLABORATION TECHNOLOGY TOOLS IN MEDIATING COLLABORATION). Of  course, the major finding of my research was that online learning is MOST effective when deliberately designed within the context of the established online class culture and social context of the activity system of transformative teaching and learning systems. What we experienced during Quarter 3 was nothing short of absolutely reactive to what we all came to realize was a WORLDWIDE COVID-19 PANDEMIC! Given THIS SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES, I'd say that educators, parents, school administration, and truly the community at large did the best we could. It was a CRAZY TIME that exposed digital access inequities in terms of internet connectivity and electronic hardware. It exposed the digital skill gaps of teachers, students, parents, and business-owners. It rocked the social emotional state of our those in professional position to serve the needs as their expertise. Personally, the experience gave me absolute clarity that my passion is to empower those with resistance to technology integration so that they can begin producing transformative teaching and learning experiences for their learners as educators or simply leverage technology with agility for daily life purposes of work or play come what may in terms of ever-changing technological advances. AGAIN, what must be underscored was the unprecedented circumstances under which we ALL had to shift into at the moment. By the end, I must admit... I WAS OVER IT! 

I don't know about you but... I have had a GREATER 1-to-1 touch with my students being online than F2F. I'm NOT saying one way is superior to the other... I AM SAYING that the tech has enabled multiple means of representation, action & expression. It's been exhausting...but empowering. (My June 3rd Facebook post)

On the bright side, all technology is being considered for its pros & cons, its best practices and its limitations. My greatest concern however is that the reactive online learning experience we all had to shift to-- as a first academic experience for most-- was largely perceived as negatively in terms of its utility for deep immersive learning. I can assure you that it is my goal to continue learning and involving myself in what's NEXT in elearning (AR,VR, machine learning or AI, and more) for more immersive learning and transferable skill development. #GOALS

One thing is for sure... the Governor’s Executive Order, which required the school building closure for this school year due to the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated or dare I say FORCED businesses and schools to rethink distance learning and confront head-on the ramifications of other big concerns with technology use: privacy, equity, accessibility, professional development, curriculum design, Universal Design for Learning principles, etc. 

I will be an agent of change in public education through direct support to my colleagues & other educators everywhere. STAY TUNED...

TO THE CLASS OF 2020... I celebrate you... It has definitely been something entirely unexpected on sooooooooooooo many levels... One for the history books to be sure... the personal diary, SnapChat &  IG stories, Twitter and Facebook feeds.  Nevertheless, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU MADE IT!!

2018-19 Year of a More Relational ME

"I want you to be my Black Momma, Mrs. Dr. Waddell..."  I heard this more than a few times this school year. What changed? Had my students changed? The school system? Nope. Largely, it was me; I had changed.
I made a conscious decision at the beginning of the school year that I was just going to essentially find my pace of grace this year. Meaning I decided that with all the unexplained crAzY in the world today that I would purpose to be the change I wanted to see in terms of social-emotional development learning modeling. Social-emotional skills support student achievement. Technology is ever-changing. Social norms are shifting. Change and general disruption bounds today in every aspect of our lives. This change can be distressing or exciting depending on one's mindset.
Even as a middle-aged adult, I had noticed my own stress levels rising due to what seemed like a never-ending quest to just RELAX and not take things so seriously. Further, in the past 3-5 years, I took notice that my students had become increasingly anxious, stressed and fearful as manifested by requests and almost the NEED for levels of student support that bordered on modifications to the general education curriculum over accommodations in a way that made even me uncomfortable to a certain degree. I wondered why students with mild to moderate learning disabilities required such support that tended to diminish returns on learning. It disturbed me. By definition, accommodations change HOW a student learns course content. A modification changes WHAT a student is taught or expected to learn. I'm the kind of educator who believes that learning is a holistic experience that goes beyond the mere learning of facts & figures. Learning for the 21st century should develop transferable skills that build character required to critically think and ideate unto innovate solutions to sticky global problems. Instead, it seemed that some accommodations modified the social-emotional learning outcomes that were to result in a more conscientiousness, emotional stable, open and altruistic student. Skills I believe are critical as a foundation for all the academic strengths a learner may possess that could determine his/her future relationships, interactions, and employment.

Coping skills are at a deficit these days in the common citizen. Understanding that I could truly only change my own behavior over that of others I decided that I would be more purpose-driven in my interpersonal engagement with my students. I would be sure to model peace, self-control, organization, openness, and interest in the personal lives of my students. THE RESULT. 
I experienced hopeful flashes of socially responsible behavior from my students one to another during my class period. We were a community of learners sympathetic to the differences of others with an openness to communicate our fears, frustrations, and concerns about our world. Empowered with this candidate feedback I suppose I responded less like a stern schoolmarm and more like a confidant this year-- I became school-mom. My students sensed my concern for their futures. They began to accept that all the academic demands I required of them (my expectations are high) were to truly prepare them beyond just the facts and figures of our state curriculum but to build resilience and wonder in them again. If my students learned nothing else from Dr. Waddell this year I know they understood that our world needs them to express the best parts of being human in the face of increasing artificial intelligence, robotics, and other automated systems.

2017-18 Year of Pre-Employment Transition Job Exploration

The future of work is changing for everyone enabled by technological advances that impact societal expectations and demand new skills. Individuals with barriers to employment experience unique challenges that must be addressed early. Given both circumstances, I purpose to empower every learner I have the opportunity to serve with intentional learning experiences that incorporate real-life authenticity and applied digital skill development.

Transition planning came alive this year with two very different job exploration field experiences. My students were given a rare opportunity to engage with conservation and entertainment from the perspective of employment and training. Our daily school work and IEP activities were made more relevant to my students. They began to understand that their high school coursework and the work of outside agencies like Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) exist to eliminate or reduce difficulties they may encounter in making the transition to adult life.

I will continue to open my class to Pre-Employment Transition Service opportunities through Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS). Next school year, I'd love for MRS to identify individuals who have disabilities and can offer first-hand accounts to share with students about their work-based experiences.

This school year I decided to incorporate the FREE resources of Google's new Applied Digital Skills Curriculum to teach and accomplish the challenging and long-term 10th grade research paper process. My students' understanding was supported using this tool being from a trusted 3rd party: Google. My students learned how to leverage technology to research and develop a research topic. The lesson included designing a research question; performing basic and advanced internet search strategies; evaluating the bias of digital information sources, and selecting sources of information for credibility, accuracy, and relevance. (Speaking of bias... I LOVE my Google products and services! I'm Team Android all the way...) I'm all about collaboration and Google just ROCKS in this functionality... ijs
Image result for google applied digital skills

2016-17 Year of Opportunity: Digital Literacy Partnerships

I love NoRedInk! Having introduced the platform to my coteachers McCarthy and Walczak last year and using NoRedInk with our students, this school year I was honored to participate in a pilot of NoRedInk's Writing program along with seven other UCS teachers. I was interviewed by Partnerships Lead, Ned Lindau to share valuable feedback towards the continuous improvement of the site. NoRedInk's School Partnerships Manager Marc McCann said of my contributions:
"Dr. Waddell is one of the few teachers across the country piloting a program this year that we hope to release in the future, and her feedback has been essential in determining what changes need to be made prior to launching the program. Her experiences in the classroom with students allow us to better understand the successes, concerns, and frustrations felt by our users. This information is critical for us to enhance student learning and ease the workload of teachers. Dr. Waddell's feedback resulted in our team providing teachers with much more flexibility and customization so that they can better tailor instruction to meet students' needs. She also helped us identify more valuable ways to organize and determine the amount of content students experience at a given time. These outcomes will significantly impact the effectiveness of teachers who use the program across the country and will help millions of students improve in fundamental writing skills."
During Teacher Appreciation Week 2017, I received an email from NoRedInk
Customer Success Manager, Jeremy Crouthamel sharing that my quote about NoRedInk's impact on my me and my students was featured on the homepage of What an honor!!
(Shown above and below) My students use NRI's newly designed passage structures with the improved mastery system. They truly appreciated the changes!!
At the beginning of this school year, I purposed to make active use of the district provided Office 365 cloud-based tools in my classroom. By year-end I challenged my students (and myself) to only use Office Mix or Microsoft Sway for our final projects. I was abundantly pleased with the level of collaboration, creativity, depth of thinking, and engagement this challenge wrought. My students most fearful of doing presentations really embraced the tools ability to give them voice. I was very pleased with this first attempt at requiring my students to produce content using Office Mix or Microsoft Sway. It will not be my last. 

2015-16  Year of Budget Cuts

This school year started with the elimination of my K-12 Instructional Technology Consultant position due to cutbacks. Many if not all "teachers on special assignment" were sent back to their classrooms to no longer function in their special duties.
  • Became Special Education Teacher Consultant again this year
  • Defended my doctoral dissertation, graduated Fall 2015, and was conferred my PhD
All was NOT lost... my impact to students was somewhat greater through my direct support to teachers at my high school.  This year my co-teachers integrated technology to facilitate daily student collaboration and greater instances of transformative teaching and learning experiences. We were so proud of our students this year as so many of them demonstrated deeper comprehension and synthesis of literary themes & social sciences to their own lives through their projects and presentations. Both our students and the teachers I co-taught with this year leveraged technology with greater creativity and digital efficacy.  There is opportunity for growth for us all... Desperate times require desperate measures. Leveraging technology helps facilitate this change! I'm very proud to be one of technology's ambassadors for personalized instructional interventions toward student/teacher academic progress and instructional improvement.

    2014-15 Year to Complete My Doctoral Dissertation

     December 2015 Graduation is my goal!

    2013-14 New Challenges / New Beginnings

    Some of the FEATURES of this school year included my:
    • Functioning in dual roles in my district: K-12 Instructional Technology Consultant & SpEd Teacher 
    • Passing Doctoral Qualifying Exams--written & oral 
    • Surviving the 2014 Arctic Blast & the Breaking the 133-Year-Old Detroit Snow Record 
    • Experiencing 7 unprecedented SNOW DAYS that required county school calendar adjustment
      I learned so much this year about next generation teaching & learning strategies and assessment methods: PBL, NWEA, MEAP Online Version, and Smarter Balance. I met new colleagues (NGLC committee) & forged new relationships throughout my school district (DLMD & NWEA support at the elementary level).

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