“As educators we know that not all students are good at memorizing. Thus, many very gifted students think they aren’t ‘good’ at school and don’t live up to their full potential.”– Dayna Laur, USA

Dayna Laur’s favorite quote is, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In fact, a single step was all it took to start Laur down her current path as a National Faculty Member at the Buck Institute for Education. “My start with the Buck Institute for Education actually developed from a tweet that I composed,” says Laur. “Out of the blue, the power of that one tweet about project-based learning created the interest of BIE in me and changed the direction of my own career. Thus, Twitter has been a powerful connecting factor in my career. Even today, Twitter is the first place that I go when I need to make connections or find resources.”

Given Laur’s propensity to connect with other educators, Twitter likely sees her frequently. Laur is a proponent of “authentic instruction.” Or, in Laur’s words, “Instruction that has a connection to the real world in which we all live, advocates for higher order thinking, encourages conversation, and promotes depth of knowledge for ALL students.” One main way Laur creates authentic learning is by partnering with other educators. An Edutopia video featured Laur (teaching advanced placement politics) and her colleague Katlyn Wolfgang (teaching art) as they integrate their classes to create a powerful, real-world learning experience for their students.

“If we operate in our classroom alone, and we don’t expose ourselves to ideas of others or open ourselves to potential collaboration opportunities, then we’re not truly going to serve our students in that 21st century capacity,” she says. “In order to open yourself to new ideas, it really just takes turning to your colleagues next to you.”

Indeed. I hope you enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Dayna Laur.     

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education? 

I have won several teaching awards over the years and have had the opportunity to keynote several functions that have helped to spread some of the authentic learning experiences that I created for my students. It is amazing how I receive emails from teachers all over the country to inquire about using any one of those learning experiences in order to replicate the successful results that I have had in my own classroom. It is quite a humbling experience.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

Over the past several years I have found myself presented with more and more opportunities to impact teacher performance in the classroom. Whether it is through an on-site teacher training, a webinar, a journal article, or a conference presentation, in all instances I know that sharing my knowledge and expertise with teachers reaches many more students than I ever did in the classroom.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work? 

Teachers today are afforded few opportunities to be leaders in their profession. All too often, school districts impose new initiatives without turning to the wisdom of the leaders they have in their own buildings. This needs to change! Those teachers who are implementing innovative methods in their own classrooms need to harness the power of building their own personal learning networks and connecting with likeminded educators from around the world.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Personally, while in the classroom, I found that I had to be willing to not follow in the footsteps of my colleagues. From the time of my student teaching when I was told to “just do the same lesson I did last year,” to my first few years of teaching when I was told to “just show this video” or “do this worksheet,” I had to be willing to say, “my students deserve better!” This is often hard for new teachers, but it has to happen.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

While funding has been cut and teaching positions have been eliminated, many districts are still doing as best they can with less. Whether schools are allowing BYOD (bring your own device) or districts are sharing costs for teacher trainings in a train-the-trainer type program, overall districts are managing to still provide students with a quality education.

What conditions must change in your country/region to better support education?

As is typical all over the United States, funding needs to increase. Pennsylvania had a fabulous program which I was a part of for several years called “Classrooms for the Future.” It provided core academic high school teachers will technology training and a class set of laptops. Unfortunately, the program was stopped two years ago when the education budget was cut.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

The creative minds of students today are the best opportunity for innovation in education. We, the teachers, need to be willing to tap into that capability. We need to get past the thinking that as a teacher we must impart all of our knowledge onto our students. Teachers need to be willing to let students lead the way in their own education. Granted, we still must guide, facilitate, and manage the learning process and we need to fill in the gaps as needed. However, as most parents would agree, our own biological and adopted children have taught us more than we could ever imagine. We need to allow this to happen in our classrooms as well.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)? 

Move beyond teaching from the textbook and teaching to the test! In order to truly educate students you need to create learning experiences for students. These learning experiences are connected to life beyond the classroom and certainly aren’t contained within the text or the supplemental materials that come with it. Make connections with the significant content and standards to real life and you will engage many more students.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

The push toward authentic learning. When students are able to connect their learning to the real world, they truly learn the significant content. Otherwise, they are simply memorizing material and unfortunately that is what most testing today pushes students to do. However, as educators we know that not all students are good at memorizing. Thus, many very gifted students think they aren’t “good” at school and don’t live up to their full potential. Moving beyond the mere testing of “knowledge” and toward the assessment of understanding of the application of the content through communication, collaboration, and critical thinking is a goal all educators should strive to attain.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

Free and unlimited Internet access. Even here in the US, many schools block educational Web 2.0 tools, because there is a fear that students will use them inappropriately. We need to move past that and toward teaching students the appropriate ways in which to use these sites. Additionally, for those students around the world that do not have any Internet access or severely restricted access, the provision of this access could help to connect them to all walks of life. Experiencing connections of cultures would only serve to promote an understanding of differences and reveal similarities to bring us all closer to appreciating one another.


About Dayna Laur

  • Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Current residence: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Education: BA History: VA Tech,  MEd Curriculum and Instruction: University of Pittsburgh,  MS 21st Century Teaching and Learning: Wilke’s University, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification
  • Website I check every day: My Twitter account where I get great links from my PLN!
  • Person who inspires me most: My Mom has taught me that I don’t have to settle for the comfortable and the familiar, but rather that I need to capitalize on opportunities. She has been my biggest encourager and strongest supporter for as long as I can remember.
  • Favorite childhood memory: Going to high school football games with my Daddy and Grandaddy and having them take the time to explain every single play to me.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Hartford, Connecticut
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? This morning while reading my 3rd grade daughter’s journal where she wrote she really likes “hoses” when I knew she meant “horses”!
  • Favorite book: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Favorite music: Mostly alternative with some rock thrown in
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