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