Prior to this current school year I’d have to define my knowledge of technology as limited. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was pretty darn good at the basics. Internet, word processing, excel, and of course Facebook were no problem. That being said, I can’t say that I was using technology in my teaching. Yes, I let my students play the occasional computer game but I was not using technology to improve my teaching or my students learning. The reality is that I didn’t really know where to start, what to do, and I wasn’t completely sold on if it would truly be worth my time.
Agreeing to be a part of the Next Gen Leadership Cadre meant choosing to have an open mind, to learn, and to TRY. It meant choosing to get out of my comfort zone, to try things even when I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and often it meant asking for help. Starting out, there was a lot of apprehension. Maybe even a bit of reluctance. I know, I know – I signed up for this, but how could I use something with my students when I wasn’t even good at it yet? Ah, there’s that word. Yet. I wasn’t confident in the beginning but have become much more so and continue to improve. I have become comfortable with trying something new with my students even if I’m still learning it alongside them. (Well, mostly. Hey, still a work in progress here.)
What did I learn? I learned that my students are completely okay with me learning things right alongside them. I learned that there is an overwhelming network of support that I can call on when I need help. I learned that all that help truly wants the best for me and my students and will offer support in a safe, non-judgmental way. I learned that using technology can offer so much to my students. I learned that I’ve only scratched the surface of using technology in my teaching. I still have so much to learn. Has it been easy? Nope. Is it worth it? Absolutely! So for that, I will continue to choose to be a work in progress.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Kelli Barnes. A special education teacher for 13 years, Kelli has enjoyed learning from and working with a diverse population of students in grades 1 - 6. Being a mom of three young children has given her a renewed sense of patience and understanding of her students, as well as a lot less sleep. She generally runs on sunshine, coffee, and chocolate. Kelli has been married to a farmer for eight years and enjoys her life in the country.
Smartphones are everywhere. Literally. According to the Pew Research Center, about 77% of U.S. adults say they own a Smartphone, which is 42% more than just 7 years ago. Even in an article more than two years old, teenage ownership of Smartphones is reported at nearly 80%. These are what we call realities. The same was true when horse drawn buggies were replaced by automobiles. Wagon trains replaced by locomotives. Bus and car travel replaced by airplanes. Food cooked over an open fire to microwaves. I think you get the point. New technologies became prevalent and the old ones faded into history. It’s called evolution.
When processes and products change as a result of evolution, a person has two options, ok maybe three.
Option 1: Adapt and try to ride the wave
Option 2: Fight back
Option 3: Bury your head in the sand and pretend that things are not fundamentally changing
In education, I feel that we have an obligation to first and foremost be informed. We have to know what changes have occurred outside the walls of our school as well as try to anticipate what is coming next. Here’s the reason: we have dozens, or even hundreds, of students counting on us for that each year. You may not like that technology plays such a predominant role in our lives...ALL of our lives. If you are reading this right now, you are benefiting from advances in technology. You might think that it is devaluing relationships, making us apathetic, and is wreaking havoc on the employment landscape. These can certainly be true - but only if we let them.
I understand that not everyone will embrace the evolution and role that technology plays in our lives, but the fact of the matter is, it's not going to stop or slow down. It’s is only going to escalate. What is your role as a teacher? I mean REALLY, what is your role? Don Wettrick cites this role quite often as he interviews thought leaders, entrepreneurs and change agents on his StartEdUp Podcast. By the way, do yourself a favor and load some of those episodes up in your library! As he states, and I wholeheartedly agree, our job is to prepare students for their future. Period. It's not to prepare them for a future that you wish could be. It’s not to prepare them for jobs of the past. Its for their future. Although there are many, many unknowns, the one thing that we know with 100% certainty is that their ability to effectively use technology to create, collaborate, communicate, and automate will be essential to their survival in the workplace.
How do we accomplish this? We start by cutting back on the time we give kids to use to technology to consume and increase the opportunities for students to create and innovate. There are a number of studies that are drawing correlations to the increase in teen smartphone usage to depression and suicide. As a parent and teacher this is terrifying. I will leave it to you do the reading for yourself, but some of the correlations I have read stated that this is a result of everything from body-shaming to cyber bullying. A recent Time article even referenced a clinical explanation of link between, “media multitasking—texting, using social media and rapidly switching among smartphone-based apps—with lower gray-matter volume in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region involved in emotion processing and decision making.”
Back to Don, he had a conversation with Seth Godin about the recent school shooting and Seth said something extremely insightful. He said “a cat can’t be curious and angry at the same time.” He went on to explain that if we are engaging kids in meaningful, authentic, validating work that fosters curiosity, maybe, just maybe, they can stay out or come out of the darkness. The kind of darkness I’m talking about is the kind that makes mass shootings and suicide seem justifiable and the only option to kids.
If we refuse to give students opportunities to learn how to effectively use technology to create meaningful content, make connections, and illustrate their learning, then we are truly doing them more harm than good. In his book, Launch, John Spencer does am amazing job of illustrating the new “digital divide.” It’s no longer the division of students that have technology and those that so not, but its now a “Creative Chasm between those who passively consume and those who actively create” (p. 18). Ask yourself this: which student is better positioned to meet the employment needs of the workforce once they graduate? Better yet, which student is going to be able to carve their own path in a workforce where freelancers will make up more than 50% of the workforce.
So how are you handling technology’s evolution? Are you flourishing, fleeing, or fighting against it. But, before you answer on behalf of you children and students, maybe, like me, you need to put your own phone down and work on improving communication with those that matter.
Today's ideas come to us from Mr. Kevin Schamel. Kevin began teaching in 2006 and become one of RCS’s eLearning Specialists, where he has been helping to support and coach teachers, students, and administrators since 2014. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Miami University and his M.Ed from IU East. Kevin comes from a family of educators, is married to a middle school math teacher, Kristin, and has two wonderful boys at home, Jaxon and Greyson.
Time to Play
Play is the key to learning. Young children experience the world through play. Skills needed throughout life are developed while playing. Play promotes inquiry, experimentation, investigation, excitement, imagination, and collaboration. Play encourages risk-taking!
Children use play to try new things. They’re not worried about making mistakes or messing things up. They jump right in! Somewhere along the way, learning becomes serious business. Once we understand our strengths and weaknesses, we doubt our success at anything new. We question whether or not we can manage. We worry about exposing our insecurities.
In order to change, we have to shift our thinking. We need to shift the expectations we have of ourselves. It’s okay if we don’t have it all figured out! It’s okay to try and fail—the best learning happens in those moments! We can depend on each other to build on our weaknesses. We need to become more childlike in our approach to learning.
So…how to start?
Let go of your fear. It’s time to PLAY!
Today’s thoughts come from Brandi Jackson. Brandi is the Instructional Coach at Dennis Intermediate in her 15th year of teaching at Richmond Community Schools. She has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from IU East and a Master’s Degree from Ball State University. She recently completed the Principal Licensure Program at Indiana Wesleyan University. Brandi has previously taught Reading Recovery as well as multiple elementary grade levels. She and her husband, Daniel, have two children, Lydia and Benjamin, who keep them busy. In her spare time, Brandi enjoys spending time with family, reading, and enjoying the outdoors.