Tuesday, June 9, 2015

8 Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine if You Are a Relevant Educator

I had the opportunity to join Swivl's Summer Learning Series today with guest speaker Steven Anderson in which the focus was on being a relevant, connected educator.  So, what is a relevant educator? A relevant educator is one who keeps up with students and provides a quality educational experience that all students deserve.  The overarching thought: educators who are not connecting with one another to learn from one another are becoming irrelevant as education passes them by.
Mr. Anderson, co-author of the book The Relevant Educator, identified characteristics common to relevant, connected educators...those who connect not only to learn, but also to share.  So, want to find out if YOU could be classified as relevant and connected?  Here are 8 questions to ask yourself:
1.  How do you feel about learning new things?  The relevant educator practices and models lifelong learning.  For them, learning never stops!  They continue to acquire knowledge through active participation in social networks like Edmodo, and Twitter...or really, anywhere else dialogue among educators is occurring.
2. How do you view failure?  The relevant educator views failure as a part of the process of learning.  No one has ever been perfect in learning everything the first time.  Failure is a process  and should be viewed as an opportunity to learn.  "Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.  Failure is a delay, not a defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing."  - Dennis Waitley.  So, how do you connect while working through these detours?  Try blogging!  Blogs are a very public way of sharing, but they can almost be like a crowd sourcing of wisdom and ideas as readers comment on posts and offer encouragement as you go through the learning process.  Angela Maiers says, "In the 21st century, the smartest person in the room, is the room.  It is incumbent upon all educators to connect online with other educators who can reignite their passion for teaching."
3.  Do you share?  The relevant educator believes in sharing and collaboration:  Connected educators do not wait until they are leaving the building before they open files, lesson plans, and projects to share with others.  Relevant teachers share, so that students everywhere can benefit.  Imagine if we never shared as a society...where would we be?  How can you share? Certainly through websites like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, but also through capturing video (using Swivl).  Video is an excellent way to share what you know about a topic, a product, or a new technique that you are trying in your classroom.  (You Tube is proof of this!)

4.  Do you prefer to work alone or with others?  The relevant educator is willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.  Twitter chats are invaluable in that they provide an opportunity to engage with other educators at any time and in any place. Literally!  Twitter chats run from 3 in the morning (my time) to 11 at night.  A list of chats can be found online and range in topic from 1:1 Technology to Parent-Teacher chats.
5.  What tools do you use to learn and teach?  The relevant educator uses technology and it's capability of connecting to other educators to learn and teach.  Those connected participate in webinars, Hangouts, and Voxer groups to connect and learn from others.
6.  How do you personalize your professional development?  The relevant educator uses the tools of technology to personalize pd for themselves. Connected educators no longer rely solely on their school or district to meet all of their professional development needs.  There are too many resources readily available online. For example, it is not unusual to see postings for 3 or 4 webinars listed daily on edWeb, a professional online community for educators which features news, articles, and free webinars on a variety of topics.
7.  When is the last time you gave new technology a try?  The relevant educator is comfortable with new technology and regularly shows a willingness to explore.  Connected educators stay on the edge of their comfort zone.  They like to try and do new things.
8.  What is more important knowing the facts or constructing knowledge?  The relevant educator may put creation over content and relevance over doctrine.  The connected educator believes that at times it is more important for students to construct new knowledge rather just memorizing facts. The connected educator tends to hold firm to the belief that the learning process is fluid, not rigid.
So, did you find any areas for improvement?  I sure did, but I love the fact that until we breathe our last breath, we can all get better.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Course as an Aggie

     After watching the introductory video and completing the first assignment, I am more excited than ever to take my first course in Educational Technology from Texas A&M.  I love that in the Course Introduction, the instructor said that distance learning is current and relevant.  My first thought was that if the professor is eager to share information regarding this topic then I am eager to learn it! (Isn't it crazy how much a teacher's attitude can influence the student???)  Upon reading my first article, I quickly realized that the focus topics will be interesting, timely, and cause students to become more forward thinking.
     This is my first class at Texas A&M, so the fear of the unknown and wondering if I would be able to meet expectations were initial concerns.  I soon realized that there is no need to worry.  Project descriptions and deadlines are detailed on the syllabus and there is a Help Thread on the discussion board if further clarification is needed.  Already, everyone seems so nice and helpful and I realize that other students are like me in that they are seeking to grow professionally to better meet students’ needs. The available support helped reassure me that I would be able to be successful in this new environment.
     I think that what I will learn in this course will help me imagine new possibilities about education on a broader scale.  Too often I am limited by my own narrow thinking and the thinking of those with whom I surround myself.  I have witnessed first-hand that teacher leaders tend to repeat what they know.  Many educators, schools, and districts are doing school the same it has always been done, because that is all that those who lead know.  There is a saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, but the issue is that education is broken when decision makers continue to treat schools as factories designed to turn out identical products.  We can no longer believe that there is only one way of doing things. Consider this TEDTalk by Sir Ken Robinson:
     I think that it is time to dream and to ask, “What if…” questions often!!!  What if we more thoroughly integrated technology to better serve students?  How come we can't take a school-wide blended learning environment to allow for flexibility for our students?  Why not broadcast lessons around the globe for anyone who wanted to take a course or just conduct a virtual field trip to a small school in Louisiana? After just two days in this course, I feel more energized and alive.  I am eager to expand my vision and learn.  If you like me, have been a bit nervous about starting something new...don't wait any longer.  Dive in this summer, the water is fine:)