Friday, June 29, 2012

From Fraud to Fellow in Five Days

Beyond the brink of exhaustion, I leave our first (Baltimore) day of the EdTech Link fellowship.  I get in my car and begin to sob.  I cry all the way home.  I spent over 20 hours traveling and less than 15 hours sleeping in the last five days.  I am hungry and tired.  

I am not crying because of any of these things I listed above.

I am crying because for the first time in my life I love my job.  I have spent four years not-loving teaching.  I have liked teaching.  I have even loved moments, days, and weeks of teaching. I do not love the job of teaching students with the pressure to sustain a broken system.  Today I started to believe that this could change, I could change, and the system of education could be changed.

I am crying because for the first time in my life I trust my co-workers.  I have spent four year skeptical of the teachers and administration around me.  Do not misunderstand me here-- I have been blessed to work with incredibly gifted teachers and mentors in my career.  I cherish these teachers that have guided me and I would never question their motives.  But I have never looked around a room of my entire staff and believed in my heart that everyone in the room had my best interests in mind, as a teacher and as a human being.  Today I believed my colleagues when they encouraged me to go against the grind, when they promised to support me, when they immediately reminded me that they have my back.  Today, I have true leaders and friends standing with me in this battle to take back our students' right to learn.

I am crying because I believe for the first time in four years I might actually make a difference.  I am starting to realize that I have spent all this time wasting time, running around and never really doing much that would allow my students to flourish or succeed.  I have been part of the problem.  I have been scared that their ideas, their thoughts, their noise would not be good enough for the "yearly expected growth" that I am required to produce from each child.  I have forced them to stuff it down and masqueraded as a teacher.  

So on the heels of ISTE and a whirl-wind first week of our fellowship, I am making a promise to my students and myself: 

From now on your learning will be real and relevant.  We will stop pretending.  I will defend your right to explore, engage, and be your real, whole self in my space.  I promise foster your passion, and if you don't have one, we will search until you find one. I will be better so you can learn differently.

What is it like to be an EdTech Link fellow?

This is a question I could not answer four days ago.  Now that I have spent the last week with this unique group of Baltimore teachers, surrounded by some of the most innovative thinkers in the fields of technology and education at the ISTE 2012 conference in San Diego, I think I am starting to understand what this "job" is all about.  I realized a few things about myself, but also about the endless stream of possibilities that are being put in front of me.  So, this is what it has been like to be an EdTech fellow:

1. You get to travel to paradise (San Diego) to attend the International Society for Technology in Education.  You get to travel here because if you want a team of teachers to flourish, you surround them with the most innovative thinkers in the field.  Us teachers, we just need to know that these ideas exist, that we are supported in our own crazy ideas, and then we are able to start creating on our own.  ISTE has allowed me to see what is possible.

2.  You spend all day flying across the country, and just when you think you cannot survive with resting, you get called to a quacking "meeting" in the co-exective directions room.  Huffing and puffing, you walk down to the room, only to find a brand new Mac Book Air awaiting you, accompanied by beautiful business cards for you to use to start networking.  Mind blown.

 3.  You get to spend three full days working with, collaborating, listening, and watching some of the most innovative ideas and their implementation that is happening around the world in the classroom.  You attend sessions given by education start-ups, teachers, researchers, computer programmers, software companies, and people that believe that we cannot wait around for someone to transform our educational system.  You get to be a part of a global network of people that care about education and that care about each other.

4.  In addition to spending all day at this magical land of learning, we sent the night hanging out at the Start-Up after party, hosted by the founders of Educreations, Class Dojo, and Remind101.  These guys are impressive; getting to know about them and their true mission to improve learning through technology is refreshing and inspiring.  As an EdTech Link fellow, you also get invited to the Google After Party.  This is an impressive event involving all the big-names at the conference and a bunch of free swag.  You can see the pictures below, they basically explain our evening.

5. As an EdTech Link fellow, you also gain (in four days) a tightly-woven network of people that all have common goals.  This is the kind of group that is able to sit around and "think-aloud."  These sessions tend to be the most invigorating part of working in a network.  You get a group of people that get it, and they get you.  You get the EdTech fellows on your team.  This is a group that morphed from relative strangers to a group diabolically working to get our flight switched at the last minute to spend three extra days in California (I still stand-by my prediction that I was only two "supervisors" away from making this happen!).  As an EdTech Link fellow, the adventures never end because we are constantly creating new paths.

In addition to everything that we gained from ISTE, I know I am starting to discover new aspects of myself as a teacher, learner, leader, and collaborator in this process.  I am in this fellowship because I believe there news to be a fundamental shift in the way we incorporate technology into the classroom.   The world has been revolutionized by technology, what is the hold-up in the classroom?  Andrew Coy said it in a conversation when he commented that our students' lives are so drastically disconnected from what happens in school that education has become irrelevant to them.  Let's start making it relevant.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Welcome to my EdTech Link blog.  I will be using this site to help document my journey as an EdTech Link fellow.  I will be posting video and pictures, as well as all the other really amazing stuff we do and learn this summer.