Thursday, August 15, 2013

How's Your Posture?

When I was a student teacher (almost 20 years ago), my supervising teacher shared with me her practice of beginning the year with an informational scavenger hunt that got students up and learning about one another on the first day. The way this activity helped establish a positive culture with a new class made it an instant favorite that I repeated every year I taught.

The start of school comes with many such traditions that we have repeated and solidified over the years. And while these traditions contribute to the strength of our education system, they can also be the very thing that holds us back. If you do an image search for "Back to School" you would have to conclude that these traditions have much to do with chalk dust, musty books and freshly sharpened pencils. Does our familiarity with these very materials hold us back from employing the tools of a new generation?

This was a concern of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), last year when they published their report: Born in Another Time. Among their recommendations, NASBE points out that students need "real-world experience with technology in a way that prepares them to be college and career ready." This isn't just 'time in the computer lab' we're talking about here. They specifically charge us to "ensure that every student has adequate access to a computing device and the Internet at school and home." In Indiana, we've made huge strides in this - by many measures leading the nation. We have a long way to go.

To achieve even the goals set out in this report, we will need to take a hard look at our focus, and maybe... our posture. Dr. Scott Robison, the accomplished Superintendent of Zionsville Community Schools put it very well when he said that our job is "helping Indiana’s youth (and their teachers) lean forward into the possibilities." As you begin the new adventure that this school year provides, will you be leaning forward into the possibilities? Or will you be reclining in the time-honored traditions of our past?

Will you be the teacher that tries posting a video to reinforce your most important lessons? Or will you be using your overhead projector to cast a tired image of your syllabus on that new interactive board that you just haven't explored yet? Will you be the leader who explores the power of social media to engage your community, or will you protect the past by ensuring that "devices are off and put away." My sincere hope is that all of us who would call ourselves educators would lean forward with the posture of a learner. It is an exciting time, and we all have much to learn! Make it a great year.

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