Thursday, October 21, 2010

Social Media, Technology and Education

I was thinking about posting this on my blog that goes out to my district. Does this sound too harsh? Thoughts would be appreciated.
I was honored to be asked to speak at the 140 Character Conference in Detroit on Wednesday. I was asked to talk briefly about the impact Social Media is having on education. The interesting thing about this conference was that it was not an education conference. I was not surrounded by like-minded teachers preaching to the choir. I was surrounded by business men and women from all walks of life. These were people that were coming into this conference expecting to hear about best business practices they could incorporate into their work. I realized that I was going to speak to an audience that had already formed some opinion on education. If recent news is any indication, the opinion might not be a good.
The talk went really well and my ideas and lessons were well received. I was actually a trending topic on Twitter in Detroit. even wrote about what I said here. I was shocked by all of the positive feedback because it was so quick through Twitter. People let me know how they felt as I talked. Imagine if our classrooms ran that way. Think about the possibilities of instant feedback from students as we lectured. Questions could be asked by anyone and everyone. Conversations could be had without speaking up while we talked. These things are possible through social media.
One thing that really struck me at the conference was how positive everyone was. I have found that too many teachers are negative when new ideas are presented. I know I have been guilty of this from time to time and need to work hard to stop. However, maybe it is time to start looking at how things could work and how we can try to make them work instead of all of the reasons things are going to fail. As a certain Science teacher said at a recent staff meeting, we learn as much from failing as we do from our success, if not more. Not every new idea is going to apply to every teacher in every content area. However, that does not mean that all new ideas should be blocked out. Education is getting a bad reputation because there are bad teaches out there in the world. These are teachers that refuse to grow and change. Education is a constantly evolving world. I'm not doing the same thing I did 10 years ago because the kids are not the same and I'm not the same. Yes, it will take hard work and some long hours. If you became a teacher expecting it to be easy, you are in the wrong job.

Lastly, I really think I started to understand why people have such an issue with education. We (The entire educational system) are usually the last adopters. We are the last ones to look at new ideas or technology and incorporate them into the schools. There is a struggle to get everyone on board. By the time it finally happens, the idea is old and something new is already here. As teachers, it is our job to accept some change and see how we can connect with our students. I'm not suggesting everyone throws out all of their amazing lessons and replace them with new ones centered on gadgets. Technology, ideas, innovation are not “all or nothing” concepts. Everyone needs to look at what works for them and take baby steps in the right direction. The problem as I see it is that too many people have their heels dug in.

I challenge all teachers to pick one new tool out there and work with it. Play with it. Find out how it works and how you can use it in your class. By the 4th marking period (April or May) incorporate that tool into a lesson in your class. It doesn't have to be something super complicated. Everyone should choose a tool for their own skill level, but commit to mastering something and using it in class. No matter what content area you are in, there is a tool out there that can make class a little more exciting for your students. There is a tool out there that can inspire students to think differently about a project or idea. If every teacher picked one tool every year and shared that tool with others, we would all be masters of technology and students would be better for it. Who's willing to take the challenge?