Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was from my aunt who sent me some old photographs of my dad…along with a heartfelt note. My dad passed away almost eight years ago without warning, so receiving the pictures was like an instant connection to him.
In the note my aunt mentioned that, “The memory of her brother (my dad) would forever live on in her heart,” and she thought I would appreciate having the pictures of him. She was right. I don’t have many pictures of my dad, so seeing him again yesterday was both beautiful and jarring. The package included pictures of my dad as a young boy, his wedding, my wedding, and more. I must have looked through the stack of pictures a dozen times yesterday.
I was chatting with my wife about the pictures as we were driving to get a sandwich for dinner. I asked her if we had any printed pictures of our family (and ourselves) to give our children one day. She responded in partial jest, “This is the digital world…we have passwords to digital pictures and video for our kids.” This got me thinking more about the digital world and the purpose of technology in schools.
As educators, we need to be really careful about the purpose we implore. We need to talk about pedagogy more often. (Not in short sound-bytes and 140 character bursts, but deeper dialogue.) I’m not naïve enough to think that my stated purpose for using technology should be your stated purpose. But we better be clear on our why each time we pass out paper and pencils, or digital devices. “Why” matters.
The transformative potential of technology does not rest solely in its ability to convert images and experiences to digital media. The power of technology is in how it can bring us together if we are intentional about it. Technology can support and amplify that which makes us uniquely human.
Through technology, our hurts and aspirations can become another person’s cause. The struggles that others share can activate our own empathy. Our ability to create, connect, reflect, wonder, imagine, innovate, express love, learn, share, and grow can be enhanced through technology.
If technology hinders any of these things we need to pause and reflect on the intended purpose. We’re hearing a lot about 1:1 initiatives as districts are striving to put a device in every student’s hand. I get why this can be a good thing, but I believe the ratio is wrong. The goal of any iPad or tablet initiative should be “1 to World” (or 1 to 7.4 billion people) because connecting kids to one another really does matter.
In addition to developing deeper connections and an understanding of others, technology can help us better connect to ourselves. I suppose this blog is a small example of reflection. Regardless, we need to better articulate the purpose and pedagogy for the technology we’re deploying. This brings me back to my dad.
There is nothing like holding a picture and touching the image of your dad. Every fold, fade, and discoloration of the paper can transport a person to a different time. There is a connection, for me, when I physically hold a photograph, book, or loved one. It is distinctly human. We need to be giving our kids this same perspective and opportunity when they are holding their devices.
Technology mustn’t replace connecting with others; the power of technology is its ability to extend and enhance how we connect to other human beings. How is your school leveraging technology as a tool that enhances relationships and learning? What is your why?
We’ve got an NAESP National Panel planned with some spectacular surprises. Join us for a conversation about innovation and connectivity in education. To get to know the presenters before the conference, simply click on the image above or download the DAQRI augmented reality app on a mobile device. (Just hover over the flyer while in the DAQRI app to launch into a 4D experience!)
Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Time: 2:00pm – 3:15pm
Location: Long Beach Convention Center, Room 201B
Can’t travel to NAESP in Long Beach? Watch for a Periscope link via Twitter to join us virtually!
We have an obligation to our students to invest in digital connections. They are counting on relevance and our connectivity as educators will facilitate the systemic transformation that’s of critical importance. Isolation in education is a choice and it is NOT best for kids.
This past week I spent several hours replacing a section of lights on our family’s Christmas tree. Each burned out bulb required removal and some intricate rewiring…which necessitated a lot of searching amidst the artificial branches laden with clusters of needles and burned out bulbs.
When all was said and done, I triumphantly summoned my wife to view the grand re-lighting of our Christmas tree. As I plugged each successive string of lights back into the socket I beamed with pride. It worked…all of the lights were back on. Then my wife pointed out a blaring discrepancy. The 50+ lights I had toiled to replace were completely different than the tree’s original bulbs. How could I have missed it?!
I took a step back to confirm what she noticed immediately. I had been so immersed in the work of replacing an individual section of bulbs that I had isolated my focus on one section of the tree to the detriment of the whole.
Many analogies could be drawn here, but I equate this experience to our educational system. It is critical that we work together and take time to connect and collaborate with stakeholders working in different states and capacities. The quality of education we provide each and every student is our collective responsibility. When educators connect kids win.
A system-wide paradigm shift is desperately needed. The utility of an antiquated pedagogy and misguided assessment practices must also be reexamined. Yet for each school or state that is entrenched in the status quo, there are countless others committed to real change; high achievement, creativity, and connectivity for each and every student.
It’s not about how brilliant any one classroom or school shines. Our students deserve a system that serves them well and illuminates the path to being #FutureReady. We can’t realize a paradigm shift working in isolation.
Educators and school leaders MUST cultivate the characteristic of “connectivity” to help realize real change and relevance. Our kids are counting on us to tap into the brightest and most abundant resource available; each other.
Call to action: Commit to cultivating skills for the digital age using digital tools to collaborate. Set-up a Twitter account and leverage it for professional learning. Reflect upon the degree to which you’re providing learning experiences for students congruent with the tools and technology they are exposed to outside of school. If you’re already serving as a “connected educator,” provide support to a friend that has not connected yet.