Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So That's What I Think About That...

Yesterday, my friend Steve Wheeler posted an interview with me on his blog. I though I would post it here to. Basically we talked a lot about #edchat and my philosophies on education. It was great to sit and reflect on his questions and it was an honor to be asked to do this. 

How did you start out in education? I took a very traditional road to the classroom. I went to college wanting to be a teacher. For the longest time I thought I would be teaching music. I was in marching band all through high school and in college as a tuba player and thought that would continue into my career. In the middle of my sophomore year I volunteered in a Kindergarten classroom a few days a week reading to kids and working on colors and shapes. It was then I realized that I wanted to be in the classroom. So I changed majors and graduated a few years later with a degree in Middle Grades Math and Science Education. 

What inspires you to continue working in education? I love the idea of learning and I love to learn. The more involved I get in education through what I do, the more I get to learn. I enjoy spending time watching kids be curious and discover their world. While I work mainly with adults I cherish the moments I get to spend in the classroom talking to kids. It is the drive to constantly be better for them that brings me back everyday. I want to create learning environments for them that allow them to be kids. 

Why are you so passionate about using social media? Social media has done so much for my own personal and professional learning. Sure, sending tweets and posting on Nings has had a great impact on my thinking and doing but it's more than that. It is the personal connections that I have made with people from all over the world. My thinking gets pushed everyday because of my involvement in those spaces. And think about it from the seats our kids sit in. It's one thing to read about the Arab Spring in an article or watch a video on You Tube about it but it's a whole other, powerful deal to talk to someone who lived it. Or for some Kindergarten students see something like the weather around the world everyday, is just moving. I started in social media to share resources easily with teachers in a very small district. And for me it has grown in to something more powerful than resources and tools. It is a constant learning, growing and sharing experience. 

What is the idea behind #edchat? #Edchat started as an idea between Tom Whitby, Shelly Terrell and myself. Tom loves to ask questions and get people thinking. He is an instigator. He had this idea of a weekly chat where we asked a question to the educational community to get people talking and ideas flowing. Shelly and I helped, initially on the organization and getting the word out. Over 2 years and 100 chats later it has been an incredible experience to be a part of. Not only do we have our main chat at 7pm EST but we grew into a chat for folks in Europe and Asia at 12pm EST. And it has helped create other specialty chats in all sorts of educational topics. Some think of the chats as echo chambers and maybe sometimes they are but we always want people to share their action steps. #Edchat is more than talk. Its about action and causing real change wherever we are. 

What other innovative projects have you been involved with? In my district I have been involved with a big push to get kids learning about social media and their digital selves as early as possible. One of our elementary schools came to me and a colleague wanting their school to better understand the role social media could play in not only the learning of the students but the learning of the educators as well. So we worked with the school the entire year talking to the students, K-5, about digital footprints and how to be a good digital citizen. We worked the parents to help them understand the same and to help them see that social media and online learning can be beneficial for even kids that young. And with the teachers we developed a social media policy that embraced its use in the classroom rather than ban it. It was so successful we are working with more schools this year and our district leadership is looking at adopting the policy we create, district wide. 

What are the barriers to good learning? Most of the time it's adults. A lot of what I see are adults getting in the way of good, solid learning. There are lots of people who have ideas for what could be better or what needs to be better in education. And most of the time those ideas are self-serving. If we could let teachers teach and kids learn I think all would be well. 

If you could change anything in education, what would it be? I wish I could change perception. Take social media for example. There is a perception by some in education (and more not) it has absolutely no place in education. Because of the way celebrities use the products or the way people abuse the products that, to some, instantly means there is no educational value. The same can be said of the educational technology movement. Some say that computers, iPads, tablets, have no place in the classroom. Kids need to learn math and learn how to read and kids only use those devices to play games, not to learn. So to that end I just want people to know that kids can learn with social media and educators can grow and learn with it too. And cellphones, iPads, tablets, computers, laptops, games, pretty much the stuff I fight for in classrooms everyday, have value and can help kids learn and discover and grow. 

What is your vision for the future of education? I would like to see a point at which access for all isn't an issue. Access to information is power and all kids deserve to be powerful. So when all kids have access to information, what they learn changes completely. I would like to see more emphasis placed on creating, debating, communicating and collaborating. I would also like to see a point at which kids get to pick courses they are interested in. The Open Courses from MIT and Stanford are so intriguing to me. I think schools could be more like that and offer kids the opportunity to learn what is interesting to them. And those classes may be offered in their school or maybe online or virtually. So maybe the idea of school as we know it now will be different and I am excited about that possibility. 

What message do you have for teachers? Focus on kids. Forget about the other stuff. The reason we are in this business is for kids, plain and simple. When we spend our time and efforts and attention on them, then we can go home at the end of the day knowing we've done a good job. 

Thoughts? Feelings? Reactions? Leave some below. 
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