About two weeks ago, I attended Tech & Learning Live Dallas. The keynote speaker, Adam Phyall, pushed us to really think about our "Why", and his message really resonated with me. While the conference was centered around leading and teaching with technology as a tool, his keynote set the stage to reconnect with the reasons why we have all of these tools in the first place. I have spent the days after Tech & Learning Live reconnecting with exactly why I do what I do in the hopes that I will be able to help teachers reconnect with their reasons for doing all of the things we do to make school the best learning experience possible for students,.
For the past year or so, I have been privileged to serve teachers and students in my district by assisting them with all things digital teaching and learning. Long before this position, I was in love with technology tools to help my life easier. The thought of using devices to reach the needs of students at a much faster rate than I could on my own drew me in and lead me to explore and experiment in my classroom. When I was afforded the opportunity to help open the first STEM campus in my district as a sixth grade math teacher in 2011, I jumped at the opportunity. I can remember our principal's excitement at receiving a cart of netbooks and a case of iPods. Many teachers were apprehensive to use them, and looking back, I can't say that I was using them in the best way. However, I knew we were on the cusp of something, and I was eager to bring technology into my classroom every single chance that I could. My students would light up at the opportunity to complete their work on tiny screens, work that traditionally was completed with pencil and paper. I found myself adapting activities to enable students to use technology more and more simply because their interest and engagement was so much higher when they were given a device.
Fast forward to today. Now, I see myself as a technology evangelist, traveling from campus to campus spreading the good news of the power of technology for teaching and learning. However, I can say it often comes with what feels like opposition. While I love all things tech and surround myself with tools that make my life easier both at work and at home, I have found myself going back to connect with the why. Why do students need devices? Why am I pushing teachers and students to use technology?
In reconnecting with my why, I have also spent time thinking about all of the ins and outs of the edtech space. While I have only been in this space for a short amount of time, there are many observations I have made that have helped to reconnect with my why. In education, there are so many superstars, people who, good or bad, have contributed to the educational space in ways that have helped teachers and students both teach and learn in amazingly innovative ways. However, I have also noticed the drive, or almost a need for some, to be "the next edu-superstar". From quotes to tshirts to hashtags, there are so many people jocking to have their name in lights as the person who has THE next momentary big thing in education. The quote below posted by Danielle Reynolds pretty much sums up my thoughts and feelings about this. Simply put, your why cannot simply be about you. Students must be at the center of it all. Teaching and learning should be the center of all that we do in this space because the students we serve are depending on us to put them first.
....so why? Why do I want teachers to embrace the power of teaching with technology? Why does any of this even matter? Technology is a tool, an amazingly POWERFUL one, but it's simply a tool. Technology gives students options to not only do work, but to truly create and share their learning with others. How many worksheets go viral? How many times have your students connected each other outside of school or met virtually through the power of a worksheet or lecture? You get my point, huh? Technology opens so many doors for students and truly brings a level of excitement and connectivity to learning. This is my why! I want better for students. I want to give them tools, lessons, and strategies to connect with the curriculum in powerful ways. Students should see technology as a means to construct their own paths to demonstrate learning and share their knowledge with others.
What is your why? Why do you use technology or support teachers in an effort to use it with students? For the remainder of this school year, we should strive to remain connected with "The Why", and it should be our driving force as we support teachers in embracing technology for teaching and learning.