Digital kids NEED networked teachers

There really are some moments when you come across someone who just inspires the hell out of you. When it happens it's incredibly special and I want to share one such experience of mine.

I have never met Jenny Luca, but one day, so help me, I am going to make it happen. When I first watched her TEDx talk, my head nearly rocketed off my shoulders as I found myself nodding so violently at each of her discussion points.

The parallels that blew my mind from listening to her story for me, include;

  • Jenny talked about "crossing over to the dark side" describing her initial feelings about transitioning from government education to private education. I began my career in government education but I've found my permanent home in Catholic education.

  • She began reading education blogs and created her own, I started with edublogs but was dissatisfied with the format constraints and so I created this website.

  • Jenny describes the experience of becoming a learner again with regard to technology and how her new mainstream was everyone else's idea of nerdy-weird. Learning to create, manage and share real classroom work and connect with other educators via technology has been a tremendous learning curve for me and one that I will continue to cherish, but I do get the sense that some of my colleagues suspect I am some type of geeky sorcerer. It's not magic, it's Twitter and Wix people. Get amongst it.

She speaks about the need for teachers to upskill to meet the demands of the technology. One of my favourite comments she makes is, "We started to use [technology] that changed the boundaries of our classroom walls, things that allowed us to work with our students beyond the time constraints of our classroom". It's my favourite point because that's exactly what initially excited me about sites like Edmodo and other such LMS (Learning Management Systems) but it is also precisely the reason some teachers cite as the major deterrent from embarking upon their own technological learning journey. The idea of being accessible to students more than they "have to" I would argue is a big, fat, obvious line in the sand. And it'll divide teachers into those that embrace the way technology and education are growing together from those who opt out and decide to miss opportunities to connect with modern kids in modern terms. Both groups will lose.

One of the things you learn when you create a website is a term called SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) the process by which you attempt to maximise the way your particular web content can be located and found by an audience through Google and other search engines. I do not pretend to understand the slightest thing about the secret genius formula Google adopts to determine which website comes up in which order according to particular search terms (I would hazard a guess that there are significant dollar amounts involved!), but I'd hope that searching for my name would at least bring people here. In fact, Jenny touches on this reality for students. How will their permanent digital footprint be formed in this information age? She suggests that schools need to encourage and facilitate students to create positive search engine optimisation for their lives. Schools taking an active role in offering and helping kids to share their voice and interests through social media in ways that will not leave them 'reputation bankrupt' and unemployable in the future. It's not uncommon to be asked in a job interview, "If we were to Google you, what would we find?" Are schools preparing students for this future in a concrete way? Simply telling them to be careful and leaving social media to after hours isn't going to cut it. That doesn't acknowledge the significant role online interaction plays in their lives and indeed for many others who embrace technology. Digital citizenship must be enacted with students, not simply an abstract concept.

So are schools going to be able to do this without nurturing the teachers who will lead these initiatives? Definitely not. And if there's already a big, fat, obvious line in the sand dividing those teachers who do and those who won't, I shudder to think of the education lottery that that would create for students.

They deserve more, so demand more of yourself. There are so many people out there who'll help you, learn with you, share with you and celebrate your choice. So go make it.

JS

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