Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Keeping Up

One of my favorite sounds is the gentle swish of turning the page in a book. I love the way a book starts to feel warm and cozy after I’ve held it for a while. And don’t even get me started on how much I enjoy the smell of books! Using my senses while reading is just one reason why I love it so much.

I am often asked, “What is your favorite book?” I have several answers and one is my high school American History textbook. Yes, I know that’s weird, but there’s a reason why I love that book. On the day that textbook was issued to me, I was instructed to open the front cover and write my name in it. As always, I scrolled through the names of the other students who had that book before me. To my delight and to my horror, I saw my oldest brother’s name! I was delighted because I love my brother and I thought it was SO COOL to be receiving the same book he carried around for a year. I was horrified because I realized the books had not changed in many years. In fact, there were many students who had the book before my brother and according to the copyright date, the book was ten years old. As you know, so much can change in ten years. (This funny Buzzfeed list points out sentences that would not have made sense ten years ago and some of them make no sense to me now!)

I called my brother and told him I got his history book. He said, “Oh gosh. There are so many errors in that book. I can’t believe you have the same one. Look at the section about the Titanic. All it says is that it was lost at sea. No note of it being found!” I thumbed through the book and sure enough, there was the Titanic still in a shroud of mystery.

Over ten years, researched uncovered many things about many historical events and changed what knew about them, thus changing what we can learn about them. I was horrified that this book was just ten years old and practically ancient. Fast forward to today and we see the same issue. Only this time, it’s not just with textbooks but also with technology. And it’s not ten years; it could even be as short as ten days and there is a change. New items are constantly being developed, changed, and improved. And you know what? I really love that ever-changing pace!

Education had relied upon items like textbooks to be the same over and over – for ten years or more. But as we learned more about differentiation, personalization, and individualization, we discovered that the “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work for students with instruction, textbooks, technology, or any other capacity. Using the same tools in the same way over many years is ineffective. We also learned that things change quickly and it’s a daily challenge to keep up. 

All professions experience this. Imagine if physicians relied on practices from ten years ago. Would you want your physician operating without the newest and most effective methods? Imagine if automobile engineering, online shopping, law, fashion, online banking, and any other industry remaining unchanged for ten or more years. It sounds crazy because it is crazy. Would you want to have the cell phone you used ten years ago? They looked like thisAs things in our world change, so must we, but we must also remember our past and what got us to this point. 

We take existing knowledge and use it to build new knowledge and improve our practice. I will always fight for students to read real books as well as use effective, personalized technology. I’m not saying it’s always easy to keep up. I am saying we owe it to our students to try. 

I realize some things will never change. Like my love of holding a book and meeting a sea of characters. I know I will always love that American History book for waking me up. I know I will always have a deep respect for the impact those items had and continue to have in my life. But I also realize that I must build upon those longstanding traditions to make a true impact in today's classroom.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Here We Go! (Again!)

I love blogging. I always have. I started my first blog in the spring of 2005 and it is still so much fun. That blog is more personal and talks more about my family. I'm starting this professional blog to focus on my other passion: education. I'm excited about starting a blog again! 

There are many parts of education I am passionate about, the first being the science behind teaching and learning. The human brain is fascinating to me and I'm always looking for more information about what happens in the brain during teaching and learning. Adult learning isn't exactly the same as student learning so I love learning about ways in which to stimulate the brain  - at any age!

Another passion of mine is educational technology. That phrase has definitely evolved over time and, right now, it means something very exciting: student engagement. I heard this quote, "The person doing the work is the person doing the learning," and I see so many ways in which that applies to educational technology and engaging students to be more active in their learning. We became educators because we love students and we love helping them learn. If technology can help us be more effective, then I'm all for it! I am not a fan of arbitrarily adding technology into a classroom. And I have very strong opinions about adding technology for technology's sake and prescribing it as a "one size fits all" approach. But we'll get more into that later. 

I recently received a second Master's degree and obtained my principal's certification. Afterward, I was hired by ETS to write questions for the principal certification exam in the state of Texas. (I still do that on the side!) Educational Administration truly is a passion of mine and I'm always looking for ways to be a good administrator and to help other administrators in my district. 

My job as an Instructional Technology Specialist combines all my passions. It's the perfect job for me and I'm grateful every day for the work I get to do. Not to mention, I get to work with some amazing people and inspiring students. My plan is to use this blog as a platform to talk about my passions and connect to a community of educators from whom I have so much to learn! 

Thanks for being here and I hope you'll share your blogs with me so I can keep up with what you're doing!