Lone Ranger

Often I feel like a Lone Ranger at school.  It can be difficult being the only person on staff who loves and can see the incredible value that technology offers our students for creating and connecting.  Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.  I often feel like I lead a double life.  Most of the development and encouragement I receive as a teacher, tends to come from people I’ve never met, or who don’t work in my building.

The thing I probably long for the most, is being able to bounce ideas off of, and brainstorm with, those I work with, to do things collaboratively and cross-curricular. There are times when I wonder what it would be like to teach at a school that embeds technology across every grade or subject.  And times when I long for the opportunity a 1-1 classroom, or school, would provide.

It also means that I don’t tend to share what’s going on in my classroom with my colleague’s because some don’t understand and, to be honest, some don’t care.  When you start talking about wikis, moodles, and glogsters, it sounds like a different language.  And, in a way, it is.

Last week had one of those days when I am painfully aware of the deep divide in opinion that I have from others on staff about technology.  I’m not afraid of technology.  I think it’s neutral, what people do with it is good or bad.   And our students need to be taught how to  discern the difference at a relatively young age.

During our staff meeting, we had an open discussion about technology. While reviewing and talking about the rules governing cell phones, and their non-use during school hours, I had to honestly ask, “so what if I use cell phones in class?”  Because I do.  My students can take beautiful pictures of slides through a microscope lens.  We can then upload them to our wiki, and they become part of our on-line text.  It’s especially fabulous for students who miss the lab. And my students love doing it.

I also invited my colleagues to talk to me, if they’d like to learn ways to use cell phones in class with their students.  There are so many great uses for them.  Additionally, I talked about the importance of our students being googleable.  They live in a world that requires it, employers are going to look for it.  And as educators, we need to be proactive in teaching our students how to create a positive digital footprint, not just a social one, but one that displays their learning and critical thinking.

I also mentioned that I’m googleable.  We all should be as educators.  One of the immediate concerns was, what if somebody says something bad about me?  I have google alerts.  But then it’s out there.  Yes, it is.  But honestly, this isn’t something I’m concerned about. I realize it happens to teachers,  but the students at my school don’t even use ratemyteacher.com.   I also think by choosing to focus on all the potentially bad things that could happen, you can miss out on all the good that actually happens.

Over the past couple months, I’ve also come to realize that the world divides into two groups, those who understand Twitter, and those who don’t.  And I’m not sure there’s a lot of grey area in between.  I’ve tried to explain the value of Twitter to those who don’t use it.  Often they look at me like I have two heads. I think it might be one of those things you have to experience to understand.

Yet, for me, the value of Twitter is undeniable.  With the network I have, and it grows almost everyday, I could never attend another PD day for the rest of my career, and I’d be fine.  I have many more resources bookmarked, than I have time to read.

In fact, if I had the opportunity to plan my own PD day, I could spend several days, just reading all of the resources I have bookmarked, and playing around with different tools.  I would also love to spend time researching the feasiblity of offering an on-line AP English class for our division, since I’m an approved AP English teacher, but teach at a school that doesn’t have enough students to offer it.

The two things that have had the biggest impact on me as a teacher, are blogging and Twitter.  Blogging helps me to realize what I actually think.  It’s the digital version of talking things out.  And Twitter keeps me fed.  For the past four months, the learning curve has been so sharp, that at times, I feel like I’m drinking from a fire hose.   But it has challenged me, and made me a better teacher.

So if you don’t blog, I challenge you to do so.  Not only is it the process of writing that helps, but feedback from others, especially those who have divergent opinions. And Twitter is invaluable.  But it takes time.  It takes time to grow a network.  And it’s a tool that requires give, as well as take.  It’s a tool based on reciprocity.

I honestly believe that blogging and twitter, implemented in the right way, could revolutionize a school and teaching staff, and create communities of digital learning, with no Lone Rangers.

Picture cc Flickr courtesy of Duncan Cooper

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About shelleywright

I love education & learning, which likely explains why I'm a teacher. My areas are ELA, Sr. sciences, and technology. My classroom is best described as a student-centred, tech embedded pbl/inquiry learning environment. I am currently a PhD student in the area of Curriculum and Instruction. My focus is play-based learning in high school, and it's impact on brain development.
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27 Responses to Lone Ranger

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Lone Ranger | Wright'sRoom -- Topsy.com

  2. tcomfort says:

    Shelly,

    I am interested to know what the staff conversation was. Were they reluctant, apathetic? I know it is easy for me to be overwhelmed and I sometimes feel like I am pulled into so many directions. It must feel even worse for them when they have not even made a step yet. How do we get them to take one?

  3. doblhs says:

    Thanks for your comments – I feel like we are in the same “boat”. I use RSS rather than Twitter most of the time however … I have a hard time keeping up with all those “tweets”. Be encouraged! From all I have read you are a great leader!

  4. David Truss says:

    Great post and one I can really connect to.
    “The two things that have had the biggest impact on me as a teacher, are blogging and Twitter.”
    I agree 100%!

  5. Alan Stange says:

    I imagine I have nothing to complain about if I compare myself to our teachers who taught in rural one room schools. They knew what isolation was. Never-the-less I felt quite isolated for my first twenty years as a teacher. Twitter, RRS feeds, and forums changed that. It is not that we cannot sense a shared purpose with colleagues within our school. It is that I could never access enough conversation on my interests and goals. Social networking gave me that access and freed me from the constraints of the limited time the school day affords. We are so incredibly fortunate to be able to work in this new environment.

    I find myself increasingly proactive and assertive about integrated technology. Personal devices have a place in our classrooms right down to my grade five and six room. Our colleagues will have to come to terms with their reluctance at some point.

  6. elaanmarie says:

    Great post! I wish I could convince more people about the value of Twitter. There are many people who say they understand it, but clearly do not – or at least do not understand its whole potential. Thanks for fighting the good fight – and know that there will be more joining the ranks. Stay tuned!

  7. Evelyn Peavy says:

    Interesting. I have a small twitter network, and have only found a few who regularly post things I’m interested in. Haven’t tried blogging yet – mainly because I don’t think I have enough interesting things to say. But I’m working up my courage.

  8. Pingback: Shared Resources for the Week of January 10 « EdTech @ SIAST

  9. I so agree with you on the value of blogging for clarifying thinking. And I’m still so perplexed about Twitter. I fully understand its potentional. But what you said about it taking time to build your network… that’s where I’m stuck. I have no network… And I’m still not sure what I want to learn and therefore with whom I ought to network! I, too, am a Lone Ranger. But I wouldn’t have to go it alone if I could find the like-minded people. But first I have to define what we are all to be like-minded about! (I’m getting there… through blogging, of course.)

  10. Kirk Linton says:

    I can totally identify with the idea that connecting to these networks is like “drinking from a fire hose”. I have just recently started using twitter and blogging and, at times, it can be very overwhelming. Now that I’ve started actively participating in the online education community, however, it makes me wonder how I ever survived without it. Last year I had to fight to invite a guest speaker from another district into our school. This year, I have access to experts from around the world at the click of a button. Amazing stuff.

    I’ve been following your blog and found it really helpful in thinking about my own writing. Keep up the good work.

  11. Margo Nygard says:

    I absolutely echo what you said almost right down to the imagined conversation. I talked with a teacher today who told me that they don’t need any larger network than the one they have already and that some of the stuff I am trying to do isn’t needed.

    They concluded by letting me know they have already ‘done this’. Apparently I was on the back of Silver singing my Lone Ranger tune. Fortunately I know those conversations are becoming fewer and farther between.

    Well, until it comes to twitter :)

  12. smallwoodr says:

    I can relate to your feelings of being a “Lone Ranger”. I’ve been one for close to 40 years now. I hasn’t been until now that I haven’t been totally a lone ranger but now that I have local support, I have a hard time using it. To be honest, real change comes from those willing to be first to try something new. In education, change seems to come from those who have a need for their students to learn more, deep, faster or independently.

    You are not alone! We (all the other Lone Rangers) may not be in your school but we might be just down the street. We are most certainly on the web. I have my morning tea every day with about 90+ friends thanks to RSS ans Twitter. I can count on a Skype call every other day or so from some other Lone Ranger who has some idea to share or needs help on and it is a rare week that I don’t call one for help. We have come a long ways from shortwave radio and snail mail. Now is a good time to be a Lone Ranger; help is out there if you want it, so you can be only as lonely as you want to be.

  13. Paul Bogush says:

    Wow…I could take this and re-post on my blog and honestly say that every line is true for me as well. It can be painful to be a “Lone Ranger.” Especially when the rest of the staff doesn’t just ignore what you are doing, but thinks it is wrong and harmful. Tuesday we had a PD day snowed out, but part of it was supposed to include time to reflect on units in small groups. I think I was the only one looking forward to it!

    “It also means that I don’t tend to share what’s going on in my classroom with my colleague’s because some don’t understand and, to be honest, some don’t care.”
    Which one hurts more…not being able to share? or that no one cares?

  14. kellygoldberg18 says:

    Beautifully written, Shelley! My principal just sent us to your blog entry. Recently, we’ve had the blessing of learning with Silvia Tolisano and growing as global learners. I am most excited about how my PLN is growing exponentially, and I look forward to finding the time soon to contribute as a blogger. Off I go to start following you on Twitter. Happy Sunday!

    • Thanks for your kind words. Learning from Silvia Tolisano would be amazing. I’ve only read her stuff on-line, but I imagine she would be incredibly inspiring. “See” you on Twitter!

  15. Lauren Beversdorf says:

    Shelly
    Thank you for this post. My principal shared it with me and it really inspired me to keep doing what I am doing. I am the lone ranger sometimes too and it is difficult, but this post really encourages me to truck on and keep firing away with all the new things technology brings us each day, each moment!

  16. Pingback: But I Have Today | learningwhileleading

  17. @technolit says:

    Love your post, Shelley!
    I’m wondering if the Lone Ranger analogy is a just a stage…. I suppose I may be wearing my rose coloured glasses when I hope that it’s just another name for early adopter.

    I’m constantly touting the awe I feel with the PD I’ve gleaned from Twitter. And, yes, even though other teachers’ eyes don’t visibly roll when I speak of it, I sometimes get the sense they’re rolling on the inside ;~)

    Lately, however, I’ve seen glimmers of change on the horizon. I’ve been getting two or three emails a week from people in our school board who are interested in trying Twitter. I joined it in 2007 and quickly abandoned it because I didn’t “get it”. I like to let them know that. I tried again the summer of 2009 and haven’t looked back. You’re so right; it takes time. And I still don’t take full advantage of all it has to offer.

    Lone Rangers for now . . . but I really believe if we continue to pass along thoughts like the ones you’ve shared here, we won’t be alone for long. I’m off to post your blog on our district’s intranet!

    Sandra

    • Thanks, Sandra! I hope you’re right that it’s another name for early adopter. I think, and hope, that over the next few years it will become more and more common. But I think, as you mentioned, it is really important to let teachers know that there isn’t anything magical about it, at least at first. It takes time to build a strong PLN, and then the magic happens!

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