Monday, March 3, 2014

Thoughts for my First SXSWedu

I am excited to say that I'm currently sitting in Austin waiting to kick off my first SXSWedu experience by listening to Diane Ravitch speak. I feel like there's a certain irony in that statement--the juxtaposition of someone very anti-privatization and commercialization of education kicking off a conference all about the EdTech startup.

Yesterday, as I was traveling to Austin, I had a very different set of thoughts than I did back in November as I traveled to Boston for NCTE.  In Boston, I was surrounded by other teachers, learning from other teachers, and sharing with other teachers.  When my team presented at NCTE, I was so nervous  because other teachers were judging the merit of what I had to say. A jury of peers is always more daunting than any other.  They know what you're supposed to be doing, and they probably think they know how you're supposed to be teaching it, too.  Let's be real, we're talking about teachers.  We all like to be right.

Anyway, in November it turned out that all my worry and stress was for nothing.  People actually showed up to listen to us speak, and seemed to be excited to hear what we had to share! As I headed to Austin yesterday, I realized I didn't have that same nervous feeling.  I think part of that is that I'm not just speaking to teachers here.  I'm also sharing the story of my classroom with developers who want to understand the "human element" of implementing 1:1 technology in the classroom.  I can imagine that when you spend your days with computers and adults, it might be hard to predict where problems could occur.  

Yesterday, I was talking to Dr. Michael Mills, who very kindly invited me to be at SXSWedu and who has co-taught several BYOD lessons with me in my classroom, and we realized that we've never taught a 1:1 lesson that has followed the lesson plan.  I wrote about one of our edtech fails last fall.  While this may not sound like a positive to some teachers, I reflected that those "fails" or "monitor and adjust moments" have actually helped my students learn more than they would have learned had we only been teaching the stated lesson objectives. By learning with and grappling with technology, my students are learning flexibility, patience, and creativity.  They're also learning to see their device as more than just a toy or a distractor.

The thing about the generation we're currently teaching is that they've been taught since a very young age that a phone or a tablet is simply a tool for their parents to keep them occupied or a tool for them to drive away their own boredom.  By the time students get to me in seventh grade, they're just starting to realize the social potential of their devices.  I really believe that it's my job as their teacher to help them find the purpose of a personal device as a "life tool." In addition to teaching traditional literacy, I think it's important for me to teach digital literacy skills, like effective search terms and website reliability. 

Now don't get me wrong, I fall into the same routine as my students when it comes to using my device as a time waster.  Yesterday, I watched "30 for 30: The Tonya Harding Story" on my iPad during my layover at the airport (it's awesome, in case you were wondering).  I checked Twitter constantly and kept up with my dad's progress in the Little Rock Marathon via Facebook.  There are a lot of times when I'm worse than my students when it comes to technology addiction.  I feel like that's ok sometimes.  lt gives us a place to "connect," both in conversation in the classroom and to extend the classroom conversation beyond the confines of the 50 minutes I spend with my classes each day. 

I'm excited to be at SXSWedu to share my perspective and personal experience with edtech, but I'm also really excited to learn from lots of people who have lots of experience that will help me grow in my work as a teacher. I'm looking forward to sharing my learning and my teacher tech goals at the end of the week! 

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