Friday, 2 August 2013

Show Them The Value

Less than a year ago this was my phone

My middle school students laughed when they saw it. My family told me that I 'should get with the times'. I had this phone for a lot of years and it served my purposes well. I used it for emergencies and for texting the whereabouts and pick up times for my kids. It only ever rang a handful of times, usually in the middle of a staff meeting or other inappropriate time, and when it rang it either scared the wits out of me or I didn't hear it because it was in the bottom of my purse in another room.

Last fall, the phone rang while I was in my Visual Arts AQ (inappropriate timing) and it was my amazing husband ready to do the grocery shopping if I'd text him the list. Well ketchup NEVER comes up on T9 word!

This was when I saw the value of a QWERTY keyboard, a data plan and a new phone. It wasn't the cost, or the fear of learning the ins and outs of a new phone (if you ever see me roller blading you'll know I'm not afraid to try new things or to look unskilled), and it wasn't that I didn't want to 'get with the times' - I just didn't see value in it until then. I'm not the kind of person who has to have the latest thing just because it is the latest thing - I have to see the value in it (my 23 year old daughter still brings up the fact that she was the 'only' kid in grade 2 without a Tamagachi).

Technology was already integrated into my personal life and my teaching life - when it was valuable. My grade 7 class wrote better and thought more critically when they used kidblog for assignments, they learned to persist despite frustration when they made instructional videos for YouTube, and they were willing to carefully edit and revise their writing and perfect their illustrations for their dual-language digital picture books. They were engaged in their learning because they saw value in these assignments - not just because they were 'using' technology.

I see the value of my new phone, especially because it is easier for me to connect, to communicate, to collaborate, and to quench my curiosity whenever it is convenient for me. Another great tool that helps me do all these things is Twitter. Connecting with an amazing group of educators who teach me what it is that I don't know, urge me to question and to think in new ways, and show me the value of so many tools/ideas/strategies/resources etc.

 A question that often comes up on Twitter is 'how can we get more educators to connect, to collaborate, to integrate technology effectively, and get into the 21st century?' My answer is - show them the value in it.

Giving someone an iphone or ipad and telling them they should get on Twitter isn't going to do it - unless they do it to impress you because you are the boss. But we don't want them just to 'do it' we want them to like it, to get excited about it, to learn and share about it.

 I can blog, Tweet, or send emails to share my excitement about how my phone, Twitter, or ipad has value - but I think it is important to remember that people who aren't already virtually 'connected' value in-person connections.

 Sharing and showing in-person will help us meet them where they are at that moment.

Recently, a teacher who has taught me so much about teaching was showing me pictures of her beautiful garden on her new phone. She mentioned that while she loved the pictures she was upset that she had no way to show them to her sister who lives in another province. The smile on her face, the gleam in her eye and her "that is so cool, I didn't know I could do that!" when she learned how to email a photo on her phone was wonderful. This in-person connection diminished her fears and opened her up to possibilities.

If we want more educators to get connected and to integrate technology we have to meet them where they are and show them the value in change. Educators have to know how to use technology before they'll ever be able to integrate it into their lessons. And just like middle school students, educators have to see the value in something before they will open up to learning and trying new things.

Invite people into your classroom and visit theirs. Share your latest valuable find in the staffroom. Be open to learning about the needs and fears of others and help them. Eventually these in-person connections might lead them to open up and see the value in virtual connections, in collaborating and creating a PLN, and in becoming aware that we don't know what we don't know and that is a wonderful thing because it means we get to learn something new.

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