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Thursday, July 14, 2016

An Amazing Ed-Tech Journey Continues

I was drawn to social media in the early days when mailing lists were new and I was typing in client names on a Wang Computer as part of my marketing job at a wonderful multidisciplinary design firm, Sasaki Associates, in Watertown, MA. I was excited about the potential the computer held for spreading the good news. Though not social media as we know it today, it was a kind of social media since it was "connection-making" work.

I think I was most inspired by this because I was always an individual with lots of questions and not a great deal of ability to find the answers. I've yet to really delve into the reasons why I wasn't more aggressive about seeking answers to my questions, but I surmise it could be a combination that includes some of the following rationale. Perhaps it was because as a young child I was super obedient; I wanted to do what I was told to do (most of the time).  It could also be because I had a great imagination and at night I'd make up stories that would "answer" a lot of my questions. And, of course, it might be due to the fact that I had a very busy life with a very active family, neighborhood, and school--we were always on the go playing, hiking, solving problems, managing the house and kids, getting together with friends and family members, and so on. I also enjoyed school for the most part and much of the study I was involved in intrigued me and kept me thinking. Yet my sense of obedience and unwillingness to reach more with regard to my questions held me back quite a bit.

I've previously told the story of my desire to do an independent study about Martin Luther King, Jr., in high school after his death, but it holds value here so I'll tell it again. My teachers agreed to let me spend the semester studying MLK and then they let me loose in the small Catholic school library. The only books I could find were about Martin Luther--I was too afraid to ask if that was the same person and lacking the critical thinking skills to stop to realize that, of course it wasn't the same person, I pursued a study of Martin Luther instead of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Nevertheless, whether you want to call it stupidity or naivete, I spent the semester writing a paper on Martin Luther, a man I had little to no context for understanding. I don't think anyone ever read it, and I never asked, but I did pass the course. There were other similarly surprising and somewhat shocking incidents in my learning life as well, events I may one day analyze, yet events that do help me respond to the students I teach and children I parent when they don't know information or concepts I'd expect them to know. Life is a teacher, and everyone's life teaches different lessons. One could blame the teacher in charge, but, I know that my class had a good number of challenges so I know their hands were full, and I wasn't much of a worry--sadly that happened and still happens. Yet, we have to work against neglect like that in schools.

So when the computer came into my life and the distance between question and answer as well as desire and result were shortened--I was intrigued. Use of technology matched my learning style and accelerated my ability to learn and eventually my ability to teach. I loved the way that tech could shorten the gaps for students too and help them to learn with greater interest and ease. In the early days of tech, I could mainly use whatever I wanted to use and could access with the tools available. At this time, and still, I was inspried by +Kathy Schrock who invited so many educators into the tech world and still adds tremendous value to teaching and learning in so many wise and wonderful ways today with her expertise.

Then that freedom began to diminish. As technology and related staffing became greater, so did the rules that accompanied tech use. I was challenged more about using tech by district personnel--it became more challenging to integrate tools. I also began to be more challenged about my work in general--again challenges on a systematic level as I still mostly received wonderful parent/student support. That's when I turned to the Internet for support. I wanted to know if I was alone with these challenges, and by turning to the Internet I found like thinkers and educators.

Early on @dancallahan added me to his Massachusetts Teachers' list. I was honored to be acknowledged and added to the list. I remember thinking, Hey someone listened to my idea on Twitter. It came at a time when my sense of voice and choice in the schoolhouse was at an all time low. Around that same time +Larry Fliegelman invited me to partake in his blogging challenge--now 1,000's of posts later, I wonder if he knew the sleeping blogger he was about to awaken. Dan's follow on Twitter led to connections online and in real time with many more dynamic educators. In fact, I got up at four in the morning to drive all the way down to New Jersey one Saturday to attend Edcape to meet and learn from +Eric Sheninger and +Diana Laufenberg. At Edscape I also had the chance to meet +Tom Whitby  and +Mike Ritzius. Later I followed Dan's recommendations to attend Educon in Philadelphia as well. There I had the chance to meet, listen to, learn from and/or be in the midst of other notable educators such as +Meenoo Rami +Chris Lehmann  +Gary Stager  +WillRichardsonMedia  +Patrick Larkin  +Melinda Anderson +George Couros +David Wees +Mary Beth Hertz +Jose Vilson and so many more. I also started a practice of participating on #edchat's Tuesday night Twitter chat, a chat I now co-moderate as often as I can with Tom Whitby, +Nancy Blair +William Chamberlain +markewestonphd  Daily blogging, tweeting, Google+, Facebook, YouTube, and other online learning led to many more connections and opportunities to learn and/or present at venues such as MassCUE, Edcamp, NCET, MTA Summer Conference, and more. At my first Boston edcamp, I had the chance to meet Internet's premiere librarian, +Cybrary Man --that was a terrific opportunity to say thank you to someone whose helped so many of us navigate the Internet's many paths to better learning and teaching. MassCUE and Edcamp Boston also introduced me to so many ideas and wonderful educators including +Jennifer Leung +Laura DElia +Tracy Sockalosky +Liz Davis +Diana Marcus +Thomas Daccord The Global Classroom project brought me in touch with +Lucy Gray and +Steve Hargadon  and the work of +Alan November whose keynote during one of the Global Education sessions I listened to during my planning period at school.  Later I had the chance to present at The Intersection Event at Google with Steve and had the chance to meet one more edcamp founder, +Kim Sivick once again via Dan's leadership. Listening to +Suzy Brooks  and +Kevin Hodgson at the first MTA ED Talks was enriching too. As I write, I realize just how many more influencers I've had in the edtech world over the past ten years or so--so many valuable educators like +rafranz davis +Krissy Venosdale +claudia palframan +connie weber +Maureen Caramello +Susan Cherwinski  +Pernille Ripp +Starr Sackstein +Audrey Jackson +Rik Rowe +Maria Fenwick +Paul Toner +Megan Secatore  have influenced my work in positive ways. In fact, I want to be better about saving the names of all who influence my work so that I can bring these influencers to mind and give them credit when I meld their ideas with others to teach and share.

I've watched so many of these individuals soar in the years past as they travel all over the country/world sharing ideas and leading education development and change Those who lead the most are inspiring, well read presenters who speak well to teachers yet are unafraid to forward new ideas and challenge the mainstream. In fact, what propelled me, in part, to write today was a Will Richardson post, Schools in a Time of Chaos, that came across my screen this morning--a riveting, challenging post that all educators should consider as they teach ahead in view of the recent troubling events in our country. Another reason I'm thinking about this ed-tech history today is that I've volunteered to help out at November's Building Learning Communities (BLC) Conference next week and as I looked over the venue, I recognized names of many notable educators I've met and I've yet to meet--more wonderful educators to see and hear.

I have noticed that social media leaders somewhat mirror real time leaders. They're charismatic, well educated, and typically reflect mainstream leaders. Thanks to educators like +Chris Lehmann more voices are finding their way to social media/real time strength thus giving all of us an inside look at how people, not unlike the children we teach each day,  representing racial diversity, multiple cultures, varied geography, and differing perspectives view education and propose education development and change. These many voices are what we need to teach better--it's good to read a good collection of educators that speak to you and represent multiple points of view and perspectives, and it's good to add to your list now and then to keep it fresh and continue to challenge your work in this way to make it better. It seems to me that our Unions, both the MTA and NEA, are doing a good job at inviting greater representation and diversity of voice--this is advantageous with regard to teaching students to be "community ready" as Will Richardson emphasizes in his recent post.

Since touching base with these initial ed-tech mentors, there have been so many more, names and people I will consider with greater depth as I move forward--names for a future post. In the meantime, no one of us can be everywhere all the time. While it's good to hear many, it's also important to choose a direction that matters. I think it's okay when direction moves out to grow and then in to refine, but it's essential that we consult our mission continuously and revise as needed so that we are supporting our best contribution to education, education that provides a strong foundation to the country and world that we live in.

Lots to know.

Lots to learn.

Much to consider.

There are many to do the good work possible.

Find your path, and do your share.

With commitment, investment, and love.


Additional Gratitude to . . .

The #satchat crew: +Billy Krakower +Brad Currie +Scott Rocco  - a constant source of new ideas and support every Saturday morning on Twitter from 7:30am-8:30am EST

And +Shira Leibowitz and +David Culberhouse for deep thought and moving change.