Sunday, March 8, 2015

Being Digital Isn't Just About Technology-#DLDay

Digital has truly made our world smaller. From the desk in my classroom I can travel to far off places and talk to friends via Skype or share my thoughts through my blog or experience historic sites like never before. The digital tools we have available to us for both teaching and learning is (and will continue to have) dramatic effects on both.

And there is a shift (albeit small) in professional learning as well. I am no longer bound by the learning prescribed to me by my district. I can develop my own learning goals and by using digital tools I can seek out experts, connect, learn, share and grow, anytime, any place.

Digital Learning Day celebrates the impacts these tools are having on teaching and learning. Educators, Schools and Districts around the U.S. will gather and share, both in person and virtually all that digital tools enable them to do and encourage others to adopt the same attitude.    

But I believe being Digital or using Digital Tools is more than just giving devices to kids or even providing professional development for teachers. For me it's really less about technology and more about relationships and attitudes.

Technology should never isolate us. Spending time together is how we learn. I will be the first person to tell you I use social media to make connections and learn with so many different people from around the world. But I will also tell you that nothing beats the face-to-face time I get to spend with people at conferences, meetings, or just over coffee. That face time is so valuable to my learning. So we have to get out from behind the screen often and learn together and from each other. Technology enables us to interact easier or across great distances, but there is still room for face-to-face time.

Talk Less and Listen More. Goes back to the face-to-face time right? And really, it's more listening than it is talking. As a leader we have to be willing to listen to ideas, suggestions, or complaints and use them to grow ourselves, each other and our organizations. And really listening should happen much more often than talking, especially when it comes to leadership. As leaders we have to be willing to listen and hear ideas, even if they make us uncomfortable or that we might disagree with.

Enable Collaboration. Ideas are made better when they are shared. This is another that doesn't happen enough in our schools, even though technology-enabled collaboration has made it so much easier. Share the good stuff. Let kids build, discover, and problem solve, together. (We should do that more as adults, too.) And share what happens. Let others take what you've done and build upon it and make it better so that can be shared with even more people. Just like before, we can learn better together. Your story is important and deserves to be shared but more importantly, others deserve to learn from your success and failures too.

"Care For" means more than "Care About." This leadership quality is an important one. Chris Lehmann has said many times before that  a simple change in our language can have a huge impact. Saying "I teach math." and "I teach kids math." have 2 differences in meaning. And it so true! We have to care not about our jobs or what we do. We have to care about who we are doing it for and that is kids. No matter what we do we always have to keep our kids in mind and make sure we are doing what is best for their interests. But most of all, we have to care about kids.

Unlocking Passions. School shouldn't be preparation for real life. It should BE real life. We've got to do better as leaders to help kids (and adults) unleash their passion. Providing time in the day to tinker, explore, reflect, learn and grow helps us all discover who we are inside. Kids will do incredible things, if we enable them and get out of their way. Schools should be safe and caring places for them to discover and peruse their passions.

What does Digital mean to you?