Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's Get It Started!

Who would want to leave this face?!
2 days ago I was not very enthused about another school year.  Don't get me wrong; I love my job, but I have an 8-week-old baby and leaving Henry right now isn't high on my list.  I can happily say my mind is getting in gear!  I've had the awesome opportunity to hear George Couros and Catlin Tucker speak the last two days at our Liberty LEADS conference, and I'm feeling so inspired to tackle a new school year.  Blogging and engaging with educators online is one of my personal goals for growth this year, so here goes it!  I'm counting on you all to hold me to it.

As a new school year approaches, I'm pondering all of the to-do items for the beginning of the year. How will we get to know our students?  How do we establish class expectations?  How do we make sure the chaos in the classroom is focused on enthusiastic learning, not troubleshooting and keeping everyone focused?  How do we reinvent our methods of tackling these beginning routines to capitalize on the power of digital tools?  I'd like to launch a series focused on ideas for starting the year and share some ideas for using digital tools to engage with students from day 1.  But first WHY?

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It's amazing to me how pervasive technology is within our lives.  I never had the power to text message in high school and laptops were definitely not yet the norm even when I was in college.  Now I can't imagine going anywhere without a smartphone or working without my laptop.  I can message my brother in Boston, hear step-by-step driving directions, or snap a picture or video at any moment. Technology certainly comes with its pros and cons, but if one thing is certain, I'd bet it's not going away.  I'm inspired to think about how and why we can teach students the powerful opportunities they have because of the technology that is part of our lives.  So why begin the year utilizing technology?

Here are just a few reasons:

As I said before, technology isn't going away. The reality is that we can put our head in the sand and ignore the amazing tools that we have before us, or we can model for students what you can do with digital tools.  I've found that students are often wicked good at using digital tools for social or entertainment purposes, but they struggle to understand how to use digital tools for academic purposes. They probably won't make this leap if we don't teach students the methods and allow them the opportunity to make mistakes.

Let's be part of the solution by guiding students in building a positive digital footprint.  George Couros was incredibly honest about the reality that future employers will google our students before they are hired.  The question is what will they find?  We can critique our students' actions online, or we can help them to build a positive digital presence that represents who they are and where they want to go.  Building a powerful and positive digital presence may just lead them to opportunities they've never even considered.

There's an incredible opportunity to learn about our students using digital tools and build stronger relationships.  I'll never forget my colleague Stu telling me that he expected relationships with students to be less powerful when his classroom went 1:1, but the exact opposite happened.  When students send you a video response with questions, the ability to see facial expressions and hear how they articulate ideas is amazing.  Watching students record videos while holding their dog or sitting in their living room will help you connect with students in ways you can't with paper and pencil.

The idea of a school community will take on a whole new meaning.  When we create using digital tools, we have the opportunity to share like never before.  Consider creating a class hashtag where you and your students can share links to class projects.  Additionally, invite parents, colleagues, and other classrooms to collaborate via the hashtag.  Students are no longer creating just for the teacher when we use digital tools and create spaces for sharing.

I'm sure there are many other reasons to consider; these are just a few rumbling around my brain. Check back in the coming days for practical ideas you can use in your classroom as the school year begins, and please share your ideas with me!

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