Day 14: Creating a Sense of Community

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I’m back to a normal schedule at the Middle School today, and am really being struck by a new idea this morning: creating a sense of community. We can discuss iPad and tech integration all we want, and there is a time and place for that undoubtedly, but it is all for naught if the community both inside and outside the school walls has not fully bought in and invested.
I was encouraged and excited this morning to see what is going on before school here with teachers and the new technology. WSR’s tech integrationist is offering what is coined “Tech Tip Tuesday,” a weekly morning session to discuss and learn how to implement new applications, websites, and programs.

20130122-085952.jpgThis is largely beneficial not only for the teachers’ competency surrounding new ideas, but for their credibility with students. I was reminded of what one of the high school students said last week…

“It has been a slow start with the teachers learning right alongside us. We’d likely be more positive about it if teachers were more proficient.”

I find it hard to believe that a teacher could get any stronger a message than this from students, only reinforcing what we already know: learners respect teachers with knowledge, confidence, and experience. In a technology-driven classroom, though, with “Gen Y” learners having been raised on technology, it is not an easy task for teachers to appear confident and competent. The best way around this is through a sense of community and a concerted group effort among educators, and this is where WSR is taking great strides in the right direction.
Each week teachers receive an email detailing the content of the session, allowing a sign up, and (while not this week) offering a chance to vote or suggest the topic for the week based on what is currently going on in the classroom.

20130122-090246.jpgToday’s topic, Google Docs (Drive), really excited teachers as they learned how to create collaborative documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Many schools and educators are already familiar with Google Drive, so I will not go into great detail here, but the collaboration it allows makes it an exciting resource worth mentioning. I encourage you, whether familiar with it or not, to take the 2 minutes and watch this quick video to see some of the great features Google Docs offers.

Video: Google Docs
(If you want any more info or ideas for use with these programs by Google, feel free to email me at the address in the blog’s footer.)

Ultimately, as I look at the changing paradigm in education we are a part of, it really fires me up to see educators working together excitedly to learn new technology with the desire and drive to pass that excitement to their students. What a great sight to start the morning!

20130122-091340.jpg
It is important to remember, though, that the community reaches far beyond the walls of the school, which is why our morning session with Waverly Light and Power was a wonderful coincidence exemplifying exactly what I’m talking about.

20130122-095539.jpgStudent took a break from their normal morning schedule to attend lessons and activities put on by the city’s energy provider. Today’s session focused on renewable energy and what the city is doing regarding sustainability. This was not a technology-heavy lesson necessarily, but for students to see a member of the community taking time to come in, utilize the new projector systems, and show their investment in education makes a world of difference.

20130122-100152.jpgLessons and activities like these, supplemented with teachers excitement to learn the technology portion and better connect with students, makes for a classroom environment that is invested in and enhanced by the involvement of that community as a whole.
Inside and outside of the school walls, it is increasingly apparent to me today how much difference a true sense of community can make in the learning experiences of our students. So, as you consider your own classroom, district, community, or students today, consider this: What can you do, with the resources you have, to create a sense of investment and true sense of community that is visible and encouraging to your students?

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