Monday, January 12, 2009

Collaborating Together: The 2nd Best Thing for Educators to Do

Tonight I had a little revelation brought to mind by a conversation that I had with a friend of mine back in Iowa. He called me to talk about an event I am helping to host at Wartburg in May, but it turned into a conversation about technology and AHS. I was sharing with him some of the things I was doing in my class with laptops, wikispaces, blogging, Diigo, and various other pieces of technology that I have learned or have used more as a teacher now that I am at AHS. What surprised me was that he had not heard of any of that stuff - none of it.

Which as an educator (I can call myself that even if I am student teaching, right?) really made me think. First of all, once again how blessed I am to be at AHS working with a fantastic Language Arts department and two of the best teachers at AHS (mind you his is according to the principal - sorry to the rest of the staff, you are all amazing too), but in a situation where I am so blessed and surrounded by technology.

Not to mention the amazing and so very humble and down to earth Karl Fisch. Who might I add decided to make me, and this blog, the topic of his entry today. Check it out here. Thanks Karl for the post, although it kind of caught me off guard. Am I even worthy to be put on The Fischbowl? I am only a student teacher trying to do his best at teaching students one period, every fifty-nine minutes at a time. Oh, and I completely agree with you Karl that the learning does not stop after the bell - at least at AHS. At other schools, my friend's in Iowa for instance, they do not have laptops. He does not know what a wikispace is or even how to create, write, or start a blog. This fact, although despairing at times, inspires me to do two things:

One, I want to be the best teacher that I can be for my students. I want to use the gift of technology at AHS to benefit, challenge, and inspire my students to truly make their learning rigorous and relevant to their lives. How can they truly create world change - even as a 9th grader.

Secondly, it's collaborating with other educators. When my friend called and I started telling him about all these really unique and neat things I am doing in the classroom I was so excited. I just have a passion to not only teach students, which is my number one passion and I think the 1st best thing for an educator to do. Although, I truly believe that the second best thing for educators to do is share what they are doing. That's why I love Karl Fisch's work, that's why I am inspired by reading what the teachers at AHS are doing, and that's why I love reading other educator blogs - to get ideas and to share information. Throughout my education at Wartburg I have had to complete an undergraduate research project. I decided to focus on specific and easy ways for educators without a lot of resources, unlike AHS, to start incorporating technology into their curriculum's and classrooms in relevant ways. It's still a work in progress, but sharing information and teaching tips with each other is one of the most relevant and realistic ways to do this in the 21st Century. Marc Prensky, a futurist, author, educator, and thinker (who I managed to come speak at my college in March) who wrote a piece titled: "If we share, we're halfway there." In it he believes that educators should be posting everything they write online. Well that might be a stretch for some, I truly believe that sharing what we have with other educators is one of the best things we can do for each other.

The old saying, "Don't reinvent the wheel," applies here, but just in a 21st century way. I love sharing my ideas with others, and that's what made my conversation with my friend in Iowa so special. I was not only giving him ideas about his classroom, but I was effecting an entire community. I shared with him Karl's "Did You Know Video" to help spur on the conversation as they begin to plan a new school in their district and invited him to come and hear Prensky speak when he is on campus in March. It's knowing that because of my small, kind words and a little experience with technology that I can help other educators become the best they can be. I can help other students, students I will never meet, become engaged in their learning, enjoy coming to school, and really learn the material in a way that is relevant to their lives. I think of the quote that I live by, which is posted on the side of my blog, about how education needs to be relevant to students' lives.

By just a few words of sharing I was able to equip a fellow educator with new tools to continue doing the best job he can in the classroom and to truly educate, challenge, and engage the Digital Natives. Maybe some day I can turn technology education, training, and giving small tips on tools that actually work in the classroom into a job. That would be cool and I have a passion for it. For right now though, I am going to stick to collaborating with other educators: The 2nd Best Thing for Educators to Do - at least in my opinion.

Which leads me to my last point - Karl, I don't think I could stop blogging. I love knowing that maybe someone, somewhere would read my ideas, take them, comment on them, and actually use them to go on and change students' lives one fifty-nine minute period (or instert your period length here) at a time. That's the hope at least.