As I enter my 17th year in teaching, I still feel like a first year teacher, especially this week as teachers reported back to school to begin new staff orientation, faculty and department meetings, and reconnecting with colleagues after the summer hiatus. Though I am very well prepared and ready to begin the teaching of my content, which happens to be sophomore and junior English, I feel a palpable ebb and flow of anxiety about this personal commitment I made to myself about getting serious about making technology more than just tools we use to create finished products. I spent the summer drinking from the “waterfall” that is Twitter (thanks @2footgiraffe) and I resolved to stop dragging my feet and really try to use Twitter, blogs and other web 2.0 tools not only to engage students, but also to reach out to parents and community members of Newton, MA. I would love for this blog to attract interested eyes from around the country and the world, but I’m starting off with humble goals.
Goal #1: To get parents and students engaged in the discussion about how make technology a key to our process of learning in the classroom.
I thought about doing this blog one night this summer while talking to a close friend about his travails as a parent encouraging his daughters to use technology to pique their innate curiosity and to utilize it to help them become better critical thinkers. He asked me to make it my mission to help my students see how fortunate they are to have the power to access all of the collective learning of the ages in the palms of their hands. He mused that the best and the brightest students would be the ones savvy enough to command attention by creating interesting, useful, and novel content on the internet while the average students will miss the opportunity by just using technology not to learn but just to access information or worse, just for entertainment purposes. This vision of the future scared me and at the time I felt like David about to face Goliath. I could not promise my friend anything. I told him I didn’t feel like I knew enough about how to use technology to actually teach kids differently with technology. Then last night, as I was reading my two kids a bed time story and they drifted off to sleep, I began to worry about that future that my friend described to me: one in which teenagers look at technology as a way to hook up with friends, watch random funny videos and basically to while away the hours. Will my own kids access the power of the internet to quench their thirst for knowledge about their place in the world or will they just use it to pass the time?
As I lay in bed last night with that question echoing in my mind, I reflected back on my day. I spent all day yesterday running an orientation for teachers new to my school and for the colleagues who would be mentoring these new folks. While discussing the challenges that come with mentoring new teachers with fifteen of my colleagues, I tried to allay their anxiety about the complexity of the task. I told them their primary job as mentor is to listen carefully to dilemmas that their mentees present to them and to help them see the way professional teachers approach problems, seek advice from teammates, look dispassionately at the issue from all sides, develop an action plan to rectify the most pressing problems, and then to move forward following that plan. As I recalled this moment that I had with my colleagues, I understood exactly how I needed to use this blog.
This blog is my action plan on making technology part of the context of learning for my current students, my future students, and for the students I will never have in my classroom but who have access to the internet.
This blog is my pledge to my friend that I will help his daughters use technology to be better critical thinkers than we were as teenagers.
This blog is my way of moving forward, not with all the answers, but with questions.
I invite you to engage in the discussion with me. You don’t have to have all the answers, just share your insight, your experience, or your support for envisioning technology as the teaching context.