This week was an amazing week of learning for me. I began the week excited about our districts PD day focused on technology. The rest of the week unfolded perfectly. I began on Monday connecting to educators on #tlap discussing technology. On Thursday I hosted a chat #sstlap and well since I have to come up with the questions, I created a technology inspired discussion. Friday finally arrived and our district tried its first professional development from home. We were able to engage in collaborative conversations via GHOs. I hosted a GHO conversation about professional development and use of technology. I was amazed at how many great technology resources my colleagues knew about or were already using. I am now spending time trying to learn about these ideas. I will share the link to these below. After our GHO and my exploration, I went on Twitter and found so many posts about #ICE14. As I started following the thread, I saw the link to the keynote by by George Couros @gcouros. I spent part of the afternoon watching a thought provoking and engaging presentation. At the end of the week I was filled with so many great ideas and resources.
Sorry for the big introduction, but it was a powerful week of learning. I have shared some of the great tools that I have come away with, but I first want to discuss the idea of technology integration. Here are the links Professional Develop Day Resources and Technology Resources. The first page is a compilation of resources shared by those in my district, and the second is from my own learning from Twitter and Edcamps.
Twitter, GHO, G+, animoto, Camtasia, Screen-cast-o matic, WeVideo, Google Apps, ipads, tablets, Chromebooks, etc. are all examples of powerful technology tools. Each has the potential to impact the learning environment. But at the end of the week, I had to take pause in my enthusiastic embrace of all things technology. Technology is a tool just like a hammer. When I first thought of the hammer analogy, I imagined the powerful image of it being used to build a house. This to me was a significant example, but then I dug a little deeper and made the connection to an experience I had several years ago.
As part of a school mission trip, I had the opportunity to chaperon a group of students from a private high school from a private Green Bay, Wisconsin to Canton, Mississippi. I was excited for this trip because I had recently purchased my first house with my wife and it needed some remodeling work done. I thought I would learn some carpentry skills and help out a family that needed our help.
When we started some students had never used a hammer before. They had never used power tools, and I spent the first two days teaching them how to use the tools. By day three I was no longer necessary to their ability to put the pieces together, I was now relegated to directing them to the next part of the project they would be completing. Students who had never used these tools before were creating the floor, walls, room, stairs and every part of the house.
It was a very powerful experience for me to see the growth of the students as we made progress on the house construction. They were given guidance and not expected to know and master every aspect of building the house on the first day. We learned together, they asked questions, I asked questions. We made mistakes, problem solved and even in 95 degree temps, had fun.
This alone made this a powerful experience and demonstrated the power of tools to make change, but this experience went even further. I knew we were helping a family, but I never expected this experience to impact me so profoundly. The family we were helping lived in one of the poorest towns in Mississippi. When it rained the entrance of the house would flood because the foundation had sunk. In spite of the poor living conditions, they were happy, and welcoming of these complete strangers. In fact, one day after talking to one of the organizers of our mission trip from Mississippi, I had mentioned my one previous trip to Mississippi during college when we ventured to New Orleans. I said to her on our last trip I missed out on trying real southern food. Well she must have mentioned this to the family because the next day they fed us the best fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread and mac and cheese I had ever eaten. I was moved by this tremendous act of generosity by people who I had only known for a few days.
This whole experience began with a simple tool, a hammer. It ended with one family having a new home that will impact their health and well being forever, as well as changing my outlook on life ever since.
What one simple tool can do when used appropriately. This we must keep in mind when introducing technology tools. They have the power to change the lives and experiences of students when used for meaningful authentic tasks. They are not a magic bullet for learning and student engagement just because you add them to your lesson or classroom environment. Students and educators need guidance in how to implement them, and when done well can be the medium for global connections and change.
Below are some images from our trip to Mississippi. I only shared a few, but wanted you to see the original house, and some of the steps that went into our week long progress. I end it with a group picture of some of the family members with some of the organizers from the foundation in Mississippi led by Harold in the lower right and Eleice in the upper left.
On a final note, when searching for this video I came across a site that has lots of Anti-Genocide resources, as well as a video project to make your own video. Even if you don't teach a subject where you could connect to Genocide easily, I like the planning guide they have associated with this project. If not about Genocide, how could you connect your content to real world issues where students create their own videos.