Living in a Digital World

D = Digital!
As I continue the ABCs for my #ReflectiveTeacher journey, I had so many "D" words that it was hard to decide on the topic for today's post. The final toss-up was between differentiation and digital "something," but because my new job is all about technology, and I'm working to reflect on that, I went with digital. (I already posted quite a bit about differentiation, and I know there will be a way to include that again, too.)

In my new job, one of my favorite (so far) sessions we provide is called a Digital Fluency Academy. I cannot take credit for this wonderful concept, but I was able to help update the session, so I feel my fingerprints are on today's version. The Academy is a 4-day offering where we introduce participants to the ISTE student standards, we help them understand the idea of what seamless tech integration really looks like, and we help them realize how they can accomplish tech integration in their own classroom or school.

I feel we're about to reach a key threshold in education, which is why I loved the image I found for today's post. As more teachers and students gain access to devices, I often see the deer-in-the-headlights look of "Now what?" There are demands from admin/district/community to jump in to use the devices, but some teachers receive little or no training on the why, how, and what of the device. (I feel that's precisely the purpose of my new job!)

In our Digital Fluency Academy, we first ask the participants to create a definition of digital fluency by describing differences between being digitally literate and digitally fluent. One participant used the analogy of learning a new language and being literate vs. being fluent in Spanish, which I thought was a great comparison.

Next, we direct the educators to this fabulous sketchnote and article by Tim Clark and the BYOT Network.  At this point, we hear a lot of "oops!" and "a-ha!" as some people realize they are working on the digitized side of the chart. It reminds me of when I received technology "credit" on my teacher evaluation for using the overhead and calculators. :)

In our Academy, one of our first slides is "Pedagogy first, then technology," which often brings a sigh of relief. As we go through the ISTE standards, we get to model creativity and collaboration, and we find ways to help others develop information literacy. We challenge the participants to embed digital citizenship in all aspects of their classrooms. Actually, my work partner insists we now use the phrase "Citizenship in the digital age," which I feel is more appropriate. (We also use "Learning in the digital age," rather than "21st-century learning.")

We sometimes overwhelm the participants with information, resources, and tools, but we also provide the most valuable resource--time--for educators to think, process, and share what they've learned.

I am thrilled that more teachers and students have access to devices, and that we now see more examples of how the technology can help us learn and grow...but I also need to remember to take it slow, to realize that we're all in different places on the journey, and we all have different needs, entry points, and experiences as learners. (Oh, there we go: I did get to include my why for differentiation in this post! "We all have different entry points into the learning.")

Always learning.


C is for Caring

Many years ago, a grad school assignment was to compose a teaching philosophy. Over the next few years, I fine-tuned some of my reflections, and I ended up modeling my thoughts after H. Jackson Brown's book Live and Learn and Pass It On, starting each key point with "I have learned..."

When I changed jobs this summer, I revisited my philosophy, and as I'm working to reflect on the new path of my career, I'm happy to see that most of my original thoughts are still relevant today. The point that is especially poignant this week (with the end of the semester chaos) is my belief that educators must take of each other. In 2004 as part of my philosophy assignment, I wrote the following:

I have learned teachers need to take care of each other. Teaching is a difficult job, so it is crucial to help others whenever you can, whether it is helping someone with his/her computer, teaming with other teachers to create lesson plans, or just listening when someone needs an ear.

As I adjust to new people, places, and responsibilities, I constantly see reminders that educators are some of the most dedicated, hard-working people (on the planet?). With pressures of school and district mandates, testing, and societal expectations, I think it's time for extra doses of caring and kindness. These posts share ideas about creating a culture of kindness and caring, and I found something wonderful in each of the articles.

Most of these ideas are simple: compliment a colleague's class, send a note of appreciation, tell an adminstrator thank you, take a break from work and have lunch with your colleagues... but all were fabulous reminders for me. I'm working to use these ideas to model a community of caring with the people I work with and with the educators I serve.

Always learning.


Reflect, Blog, Learn, Share, Repeat

I'm incredibly impressed with educators who make blogging a habit. (What are their secrets to a regular posting schedule?!?) I understand the importance of reflection, and I learn so much from others through their blogs and social media, so I feel obligated to reciprocate and share...but in the past, the time commitment overwhelmed me.

With my new job, my time structure is different, so blogging is on my priority list, first as a tool for self-reflection. I know all pro-bloggers say write for yourself, and I need to figure out my new place and roles. But because my job is about serving educators, I also want my blog to include my best finds.

To continue my #ReflectiveTeacher ABC journey, I'm sharing what I recently discovered about blogging, reflection, and habits.

When I first started exploring blogs, I used Google Reader to keep up with posts. I now use Feedly and the Mr. Reader app to access my subscriptions. In the past, I followed blogs via RSS feeds and rarely looked at actual blog pages, so when I started this blog, I wasn't too concerned about the theme, background, widgets, etc. I personalized this blog a bit, but it wasn't a huge concern.

Fast forward just 3 years, and now I discover many resources on Twitter and other places. When I click a link, I now get to see the actual blog...along with all kinds of creativity and more information! As Larry Ferlazzo points out in this post, if you plan to share your work, you must consider a myriad of social media outlets--not just RSS feeds.

Blogging Logistics
In an effort to update my blog, make it more personal, and add functionality, I explored the resources listed below. FYI, some of these updates required a bit of coding, so I'm glad I felt comfortable playing with a bit of HTML!

  • I first updated my template (after downloading and trying about 5 others, plus changing all kinds of options in Blogger.) Personalizing the social media icons, updating the widgets, and changing the header took more work than I expected, but I'm pretty happy with it now.
  • How to Make a Professional Website on Blogger inspired me to buy my own domain name, and I utilized the new Google Domain, which made connecting to Blogger a breeze! I also updated my favicon.
  • Emily LaGrange shares how to create a custom signature, and I've seen many cute ones on other blogs, but this is still on my "maybe" list. This post from Code It Pretty is a bit older, but I followed these steps, and I have a signature that I can also use elsewhere.
  • I never even considered updating an error page until I read this post from Hello Brio Studio.
Blogging Reflections - WHY and HOW

A few resources about the importance of reflection for growth and improvement:

Blogging Habits
Finally, I am working to change my habits for reflecting (thus blogging). I am currently reading Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives to learn more about habits and tendencies. I learned that I am an upholder, so by adding external accountability, I am more likely to keep a habit. I've started by adding "Update Blog" to my weekly calendar, but I may need even more external "pressure." We'll see. :)

Shout out to #MTBoS and "Made4Math" Mondays, which inspired me to start enter the world of educational blogging. I'm now open to any ideas to keep me in the habit of blogging, reflecting, and sharing!

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