My Friends Don’t Know
How will we know?
How will their friends know?
What is the world counting on us to discover about our students?
What’s YOUR talent or passion?
Fast-forward twenty years, and the kitchen in our house is definitely my domain. When my wife and I went to the open house for the home that we now own, I actually sat down in the kitchen for twenty minutes and pictured myself cooking and baking for our family. Culinary discovery has been such a passion of mine for so long it’s something I hope carries over to my own children, and something I need to let my friends and students know about also!
This Time it’s Personal
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?
Are We There Yet?
Submarines are majestic vessels made to go deep. It’s what they do. Education can empower kids do the same if we reframe how we’re currently navigating things, but we’re not there yet.
I’ve been thinking a lot about pedagogy and the nature of learning lately. My thoughts have vacillated between two schools of thought. First, we need to ensure students master the vast number of state standards they are responsible for learning. In some ways, these standards are like mile markers, or buoys. The standards help us understand where students need to go.
I’m also in favor of reducing the number of standards so that we can facilitate deeper learning and discovery, and that brings me to my second point. We need to empower our students to innovate throughout their classroom careers. Students should have a voice in their learning, and we need to trust them to actually create some of the mile markers along the way.
This is a matter that is deeply personal to me. I want my own three children to have the tools and space to invent a future that none of us is fully capable of grasping. When they are navigating their educations alongside their grade-level classmates, I ultimately want them to be able to envision new markers in their journey. I desperately hope there is a space for that.
I believe kids can learn at a high level while being empowered to pursue their passions and curiosity. We cannot sacrifice curiosity for achievement; kids deserve both. (There really is no dichotomy.) I wonder if one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is not taking away their curiosity.
Are we there yet? How will we know when we get there? What are the critical drivers that will propel us in the right direction? How do you think we can create the conditions where high levels of learning, innovation, and curiosity reside?
Sometimes parents share special stories about how a staff member has been a “light” in their child’s life. It’s a privilege for me personally to see our staff do inspiring things each day for our students, and it’s also really inspiring to hear from families that are seeing the same amazing things.
This past month one of our teachers had a chance to share a truly special moment with her students. It was a moment full of light in every sense of the word. Students in Miss Jechorek’s classroom were included in a unique proposal, and they helped make the moment memorable by being their teacher’s “light.” After the proposal I asked Miss Jechorek’s fiancé, Zac, what the significance of the lights was. I wanted to share some of his comments and planning because it was a neat moment that our students played an important role in.
Several months ago, Miss Jechorek and Zac were talking and she pondered how she might know when he’d propose. He spontaneously replied, “You will know when you see 10,000 lights.” (He had just watched a breath-taking advertisement for a diamond company that showed a couple under a tree that was lit with what appeared to be 10,000 lights.)
Zac also knew how important Miss Jechorek’s students are to her, so he wanted to include them in his plan to propose to their teacher with “10,000 lights.” He found some small flashlights at a local store and the plan began to come together. Each flashlight had seven LEDs and when multiplied by 25 students (then multiplied again by all the facets in her diamond ring) brought the total close to his goal of 10,000 lights.
Life is full of defining moments; they take our breath away and are sources of great light! One of the many blessings we get to experience as educators is sharing this light and these collective defining moments with our students. Just like the proposal story…students are our light. They are the reason we aspire to be better than we were yesterday. We want to make a difference for our kids. So…on behalf of our entire school….thanks for sharing your 10,000 lights with us every day!