“It is essential to reflect on how and why technology is used in the classroom. As educators we cannot throw gadgets at kids and expect grand testing results. Innovative education is purposeful, designed, and reflective.” – Sarah Collins, USA

“It is essential to reflect on how and why technology is used in the classroom,” says Sarah Collins. “As educators we cannot throw gadgets at kids and expect grand testing results.  Innovative education is purposeful, designed, and reflective. As we face challenges such as unmotivated students, uninspired colleagues, or disconnected administrators we must approach them all with purpose, a plan, and our passion for excellence in education.”

Collins, who competed at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague as part of the US team, is a great example of approaching her work with a purpose, a plan and passion. Collins, her teacher partner Jo Sparks, and her third grade students at Moody Elementary School, “used technology to make their world a better place,” says Collins. Her students were hungry for the latest technology, but also faced the age-old dilemma of not enough funding. So, they created the Cans for the P.L.A.N. project (Proceeds for Learning and New technologies), which brought attention to the benefits of recycling on their school campus and in their community and also helped fund new technology in their classroom.  Collins’s students created and launched a marketing campaign by making promotional materials in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Paint. Was it successful? So much so, the project tied for second place in the “Extended Learning Beyond the Classroom” category at the US Forum.

Now, Collins and her students are now using Kodu to program games.  “Their goal is not to make games for themselves, but to produce educational games for specific learning needs of students on our campus,” says Collins.

It’s my pleasure to share today’s Daily Edventure with Sarah Collins.

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

Professionally, I have sought to advance innovation in education by sharing with other educators the importance of teaching 21st century skills and technology integration.  Whether speaking to teachers, administrators, and other school officials in my school district, or sharing and exchanging ideas at the national and international level, I have found communication to be a critical factor in promoting innovative educational approaches.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

Teachers who are often stifled by the pressure of state testing are seeing the potential and benefits of technology integration. They now understand that being innovative is not being elaborative with technology, it is leveraging it in an effective way to engage students.

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

Students are currently inundated with content to allow them to “pass the test.” My goal is to expand their educational experience by teaching them that they are capable of creating, designing, and publishing their own content, thus empowering them to solve real-life problems.  This approach has been effective in enhancing their interest in learning and helping them build knowledge.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

The United States strives to offer quality education to all children and supports programs designed to improve the educational experience.  Toward this goal, more work is needed to expand the use of problem solving approaches such as project-based learning.

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

Lawmakers need to listen to the dedicated teachers who are in the trenches daily teaching and encouraging students.  Moreover, more programs that promote the enrichment of teaching skills, such as Microsoft Partners in Learning, are needed.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Web sites like the Partners in Learning Network and Twitter offer teachers opportunities to obtain ideas and necessary support in order to step out and explore innovative approaches. Using these types of web sites, teachers can develop rich Professional Learning Networks where they can share and learn from others.

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

Get involved with programs like Partners in Learning and other teacher networking sites. Surround yourself with purposeful, motivated educators. Make the time to try new teaching practices in your classroom. As John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

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

Awareness of all educational trends can be beneficial. The key is to find trends that work most effectively for your students and to adjust these approaches to meet individual student’s needs.

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

I would give each child a device with Internet access.  Too many students do not have a way to connect to the greater world and the information it offers. Resources for online learning level the playing field and make educational opportunities accessible for all.


About Sarah Collins

  • Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas
  • Current residence: Moody, Texas
  • Education: University of Texas at San Antonio: B.A. History,  B.A. Psychology,  Lifetime Secondary Education Certification, Elementary Certification
  • Website I check every day: CNN, Facebook, Twitter
  • Person who inspires me most: My colleague Jo Spark who started her teaching career at age 60. She is an amazing, creative teacher who works tirelessly at seamless technology integration in her classroom.
  • Favorite childhood memory: Riding my bicycle in our neighborhood.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Family camping trip to Colorado.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? Last night. I took a picture of my 5-year-old and she said, “You’re not going to put that on Tweety (Twitter) are you?”
  • Favorite book: My favorite book is usually the one I’m reading at the time. Right now it is The Tale of Despereaux – I’m reading it with my girls.
  • Favorite music: All kinds
  • Your favorite quote or motto: The life you lead is the legacy you leave.

Project-based learning is a hot topic here at Daily Edventures. You can learn even more about it — and join the discussion — on the Partners in Learning Network blog: http://www.pil-network.com/HotTopics/project-based-learning 

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