Friday, August 7, 2009

Building Capacity from Within (Part 6) - Adaptability

Habitude: Adaptability

Adaptability is perhaps the most important Habitude to have when considering how attitudes and habits are related to quality professional development. When a district is looking to lead systemic improvement and build effective instructional programs with strong student performance, there's a lot to be said for rising to meet challenges head on with the tools and resources that are sitting right in one's own backyard. Sometimes the greatest ideas are right there in front of you, but sometimes we tend to overthink or try to work too far beyond what is familiar. My 9th grade Social Studies teacher always said something to our class about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes the obvious is not nearly as apparent as it should be.

Creatively solving problems is one of the basic tenets of adaptability. However, in the troubling economic times we live in, looking "IN" the box is sometimes more cost effective than "OUT" of the box.

In nature, it's not always the strongest that survive, it's the ones that can change. It's the ones that face new environments and situations head on, and adapt to new surroundings quickly and efficiently.

We expect students to do this.

This week, I was teaching a 3 day workshop on Digital Storytelling. I've had my plan in place for months and was really excited about presenting this version of the workshop, as I'd have plenty of time to not only show some cool tech tools, but also keep the content and thinking at the forefront and have plenty of creation time.

During Day One, one of the participants mentioned that her daughter was one of the top Gloggers on We started talking about what the Digital Storytelling process could really become and that the products could be varied, differentiated, and multi-faceted. She volunteered her daughter to come in and show us her Glogs on day two of the workshop.

On Day Two, the woman's daughter came in for I what I thought would be a five or ten minute overview of her usage of this web tool. It turned into almost an hour of not only how she used it, but how motivated she would be to use this tool in the classroom. She eloquently articulated a sound pedagogical stance that sounded as though she'd been teaching for years. And this kid was sixteen years old. SIXTEEN!

Her description of the way she used Glogster was EXACTLY what I was trying to reiterate about process driven tasks and keeping the content as king, not being swayed by the flashy tech tool. What I'm shooting for in PD is ENHANCEMENT, not REPLACEMENT. This teenager was able to discuss what she wrote in terms of comprehension strategies like determining importance, nonlinguistic representation, summarizing, and even collaboration. And she was doing this on her own for her own purposes. Imagine the power that would have in a classroom.

This kid stayed with her mother for the course of the day and ended up helping other teachers work with some of the tech tools. I was again reminded that relinquishing a little control and being adaptable and flexible to new situations can bring a whole new realm of productivity. It also showed me that the expertise I needed in this context didn't need to extend into the outer realms of my learning network--it was virtually in front of my face. This situation allowed me to learn as much as I taught--and showed the whole room the value of how learning together is so much more meaningful than "sage on the stage."

I'm relaying this so that you understand that I'm practicing what I'm preaching. Though, for many of you, I suspect I'm preaching to the choir. Adaptability, flexibility, and a willingness to act on the teachable moment are all components of effective teaching.

Picture from Flickr's Creative Commons: courtesy of Barloventomagico at

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