Engaging the Digital Learner – Part 1

The first night of the Engaging the Digital Learner dinner series planned by our District Helping Teachers was this past Thursday night (September 29).  What a great event! It was a full house (well over 100 people), full of excited, enthusiastic, and caring educators (teachers, administrators, district staff and senior management) who want to make a difference with the students in our schools.  🙂  Surrounded by geeks and geek-wanna-be’s, I was in my element!  I could be me and not be apologetic or feel awkward about having my computer right front and center.

We sat in tables of 8-9 people to listen to the message from our first series speaker, ChrisKennedy, superintendent of West Vancouver.  His presentation was interesting, engaging, and inspiring.  He inspired each of us to realize the huge potential of digital literacies and the importance for us to “Own it, Guide it, Engage with it.”

Chris talked about something that I strongly believe in: to have real impact, we have to have administrators lead in this innovation.  It is extremely difficult to be effective in this area without administrator support and, more than just support, their knowledge and willingness to learn and lead in their own learning.  Administrators don’t have to know it all, but need to be willing to take risks in their own learning.  How can we begin to expect teachers and other educators, parents, and community members to embrace, or even attempt to understand, this change and what mobile literacy has to offer unless we model this risk-taking?  I loved Chris’ message,

“We can’t do it without administrators!  It is no longer optional. It is no longer, ‘That’s great, but I do things in a different way – it’s just not my style.’ “

So, now what?  You may ask. How do we do this? How do we reach the administrators and/or district leaders who may not understand the importance of their involvement?  I think we need to start in a small, non-threatening way.  We need to first engage them in digital literacies. We must get them to understand and see the potential and the importance. When I look back at my own lack of insight of the importance of technology and think about what had the greatest impact on my perception, one thing surfaces above all as having the greatest impact: Twitter.  If we want to get administrators on board, we need to get them on Twitter.  They need to experience the power of networking. They need to be exposed to and impacted by the great knowledge out there.

As Chris Kennedy stated Thursday evening,

“Networks matter – for kids and adults”.

Part of our evening at the Engaging the Digital Learner dinner series included discussions with educators at our table. We discussed what was going well in our schools, with respect to digital literacies.  We talked about how we can further the appropriate use of technology and social media in our schools and with our students.  We discussed what we needed to enable further successes. We finished our discussion by making a commitment to our team member (we had to sign up for the series with a partner) about how we each were going to increase digital literacy in our classrooms (and schools). What a great way to end our session.

Our group went a step further, not only committing to the partner we signed up for the series with, but also committing to one another.  Our group commitment was for each of us to get on Twitter and start learning and tweeting together.  Since I am already connected with Twitter, I took the lead a bit and took down the names of all our group members and sent them each a follow-up email that night about our commitment together, links to Twitter and Tweetdeck, and some links of some tutorial sites they may want to take a look at as they take the Twitterverse Plunge.

Here are some of the things I sent them (in case you are interested in helping others around you):

Deanna Zandt’s post: A Non-Fanatical Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

@pernilleripp ‘s Video: Why Educator’s Should join Twitter

@MmeNero ‘s Slideshare: Twitter 101: Twitter for Teachers

Found this to send to them as well:

Why Teachers Should Join Twitter

I also shared this Twitter 102 tutorial about Tweetdeck that I came across on Twitter this morning from @stumpteacher:

In addition to sharing this information, I also set up my partner for the series, the principal with whom I work and learn (@cmburtonsd36 ), on Twitter and Hootsuite (I wanted to get her hooked up with Tweetdeck, but we need to put a work order in to get Tweetdeck installed on her work computer).  I added some hashtags to her feed and showed her how to add columns as well. She added some columns and she also started following some people.  Yay!  It was so exciting to see her so excited (yet, somewhat overwhelmed).

I think that is one of the main ingredients to making this movement attainable for administrators: to make it so it is not so overwhelming.  There are so many things in the day-to-day world of administrators that are overwhelming, we want to make this easy for them. If it is not easy, they likely won’t engage with Twitter and all it has to offer.

As I posted about before, it would be great to start a Digital Playground for Administrators (which I wrote about a bit here)  in our district.  Our first session could be just an introduction to Twitter – a really brief intro about the why’s and how’s (actually, that information could be sent out ahead of time for administrators to read/watch before coming to the session). The short, possibly 1 hour, session could focus on:

  • setting up a Twitter Account, downloading Tweetdeck (if we had a wireless site to do this) onto their district laptop  (or logging into Hootsuite)
  • adding columns
  • begin to create a “follow” list
  • and then once that is done, time permitting, they could just play with it for a bit

I think this is a do-able, non-threatening way to get administrators introduced to Twitter. Once they have an account, have some people they follow, and start playing a bit, I think they would be more willing to continue the journey.  Our first step needs to be just getting them started on the journey.

Hmmmmm….  I wonder how many administrators in our district would be interested in something like this?

In conclusion, as part of my own commitment to increasing the digital literacy with the classes I teach, I commit to getting my students on the computer more: exploring a few specific web 2.0 tools first and then getting them to use these tools to demonstrate their learning.  I also will continue to add to the wiki I created last week and try to learn more about wikis and what they have to offer my students and I.

It is exciting times in our district! I look forward to all the important new learning!

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

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